Category Archives: Uncategorized

New Year, New Server, New Site

One month knocked out of 2014 and things are going great!  In trying to be better at backing up my data, I’ve setup a DigitalOcean server with my own instance of ownCloud to backup my data.  I love Dropbox, but my photo library is growing too large and I wanted to find a more long-term solution.   I also upgraded this blog to the newest version of WordPress!

I haven’t been writing here much, as most of my blog posts have been directed at Software for Good.  Hopefully as the rest of my life gets a little more organized I’ll be able to start posting more!

Living in the Twin Cities: What I’ve Learned

I moved to Minnesota on June 10th, 2012, less than 24 hours before starting my new job.  It definitely was cutting things close, but I didn’t have many options and it was the only way I could make things work.  Over the past 9 months I’ve learned a few things, made a few friends, and have grown.  Maybe future generations, or just other people, will benefit from this.

(Illegal) Subletting is not the way to go

When I first moved to Minnesota, I sublet from a family acquaintance in Uptown Minneapolis.  The day I arrived I found out, “well technically I can’t sublet because of how my lease is written, but if you have any issues I can contact the guy who owns the place and take care of it for you.”  This was fine for a while, but quickly became a huge pain in the ass.  “Hey, there gonna show the place, so you can’t be there between 3 and 4pm.”  When my girlfriend moved in with me, “Oh, no I can’t get you a second key because then they’ll know someone is subletting.”  When the A/C unit broke, “I’ll tell the landlord to look at it.”  Needless to say the A/C never got fixed.  Simply having to go through someone was bad enough, but when we moved out he had assumed I would clean out all of his stuff for him (some of it had been left behind).  I was completely unaware of the fact and simply left with my things loaded, and received crude/immature text messages for the few days following.


Highways: Better than Chicago, worse than Milwaukee

There is an interesting highway system that runs through the Twin Cities.  Traffic never seems as bad as Chicago, but is always worse than Milwaukee.  As someone who enjoys the open-ness and usual 65mph speed limits of the highway, I’m annoyed by the 55mph and somewhat always traffic-y highways around Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

Chicago highways
Chicago highways
minneapolis
Minneapolis highways

Minnesotans love their beer

Surly, Summit, Fulton, Dangerous Man, Indeed, 612.  There are many micro-brew companies local to Minnesota who have fantastic beers.  With all those brew-pubs and their amazing selection of beers, it’s no wonder why Minnesotans love their beer.  That pride for local brews is shown at events like Twin Cities Beer Fest.  Erin and I attended it last Summer and it was a blast.

Downtown dies on the weekends

Both Minneapolis and Saint Paul shut down on the weekends.  The stores all primarily run off the office buildings and the people that fill them, so when Saturday rolls around they all close shop.  I’ve made the mistake of taking a “downtown weekend adventure”, only to be met with closed signs and quiet streets.  Parking garages also have weird hours.  I parked in one whilst taking Erin out to dinner, and when we got back after we ate I found the lobby doors to be locked.  I had to run up the entrance ramp to the third floor and drive back down.

Food trucks are awesome

Milwaukee first opened my eyes to food trucks (thanks PitaBros), but up here it’s a whole step up.  Hennepin Ave. is LINED with trucks during lunchtime, and there are so many different options and varieties to choose from!  My top two favorites right now are Simply Steve and Get Sauced.  The poor weather has kept them away for a while, but I’m excited to see them back out and about come Springtime.

Home isn’t exactly close

I’m originally from the suburbs of Chicago, and almost all of my extended family still resides there.  I have a sister and a few cousins in Milwaukee, some others closer to downtown Chicago, but all within about an hour and a half driving distance at most.  Minneapolis/Saint Paul is far away, taking around 7 hours if you drive.  I moved up here thinking I would be able to make it back when needed, but when my Papa was diagnosed with Leukemia a few weeks before Christmas, home was never close enough.  I’m extremely grateful that I was able to make it home for a few days and see him before he passed away, but I wish I could have spent more time with my family.  My youngest sister is finishing college, my cousin is working in an E.R., and I wish I could be at home with them talking about their lives and what is going on.

Freedom(Pop) isn’t (completely) Free

Oh how I hate blister packs
Oh how I hate blister packs

When I initially heard of FreedomPop I simply passed it by.  It seemed to good to be true.  “Free 4G Internet!!”  Yea, right.  I’ve gotten emails by the truckload offering me the same thing.  They sent me a few reminders each week, most recently offering to include a extra free 1GB if I signed up.  I finally decided to bite the bullet, as I was sick and tired of dealing with locked down airport WiFi when traveling.

During initial signup you can choose between a few different 4G devices.  A USB stick, a “puck” that allows multiple devices to connect, or an iPod touch case.  Each has a different deposit requirement, and I went with the USB as it was the cheapest.  It came in at $50, plus tax, plus ~$10 shipping.  They also automatically enroll you into a “to-up” program, where you get an extra 100MB added to your account for a few bucks once you get within 100MB of your monthly allotment.  I turned that feature off, and then was informed that by turning auto top-up I’m actually limited to 400MB a month, instead of the advertised 500, because the system won’t let me within 100MB of my allotment without top-up.

Yellow/amber indicates searching for 4G
Yellow/amber indicates searching for 4G
Green means connected!

Despite those annoyances, it seems to work just as easily as they say.  I hooked it up and ran a speedtest inside my apartment.

Not bad for free
Not bad for free

I haven’t been able to give it a great testing yet, and I’m going to be saving that sweet 400MB for when I’m outside my apartment, but I’ll be reporting further findings as I go.

Saving $50 with a 5 minute phone call

Humans are fallibile.  Programmers are human.  Programmers write automated systems.  So, automated systems are fallibile, and that proved itself this past month when I terminated my two year contract with AT&T.  I left them for Verizon, who provides better coverage and speed where I live, and I knew I would have to pay an early termination fee.

Doing my research in advance, I discovered that their fee was $325 minus $10 per month of your contract that you had completed.  Previously I was on a family plan with my mom and sisters, and one of them had used my “upgrade” to get a replacement iPhone 4S back in December.  At the end of May I migrated my contract off of the family plan and created a new individual account for myself.  A few weeks later I got my final bill for AT&T, but it said my termination fee was $295!!  Far more than three months had passed since December 2011, but apparently they recognized my account as being only “created” at the end of May, so when I cancelled my account in September only three full months had passed.  Needless to say I was a little disappointed.

While on my lunch break today I made a quick phone call to AT&T’s customer support line.  I explained my situation, and verified my existing account info, as well as the information of the account I previously belonged to.  After being on hold for about 60 seconds I was told, “We’re sorry Mr. Pintozzi, your final bill has been adjusted and you now only owe $245.”  Just like that I was able to save $50!

I’ve run into this a few times, if you ever feel like you’re being charged too much, just ask.  Worst case scenario you waste a few minutes, but it can really save you a good amount of money!

I Hate Politics

I just had to get off Facebook.  I truly can’t take any more of the incessant bitching and complaining about the damn debate.

Tomorrow at work we are having “Crocktoberfest”, which I’ve taken to calling “Rock out with your Crock out”.  It might not be the most politically correct phrase, but meh.  Half of my goods for the event will be brownies, and I’m backing them Butch Pintozzi style.  That’s right, DOUBLE BATTER!  In about 5 minutes they should be done and I can start frosting them, because REAL brownies have frosting.  After that I’m gonna have to check out Dishonored (PC videogame), because I picked it up off GreenManGaming, but I haven’t had much time to play yet.

It’s Back!

Erin and I are finally settled into our new apartment, and after getting the internet turned back on the blog is back up and running. Brad and Danny are up here helping me move stuff in, so I have to keep this brief as we’re getting ready to head over to Alarys Bar to watch the Bears game. DAAAA BEARS!

Call me a bee, ’cause I’m busy!

And that’s pretty much the long and the short of it.  When I was little I never understood why adults were always so busy, and now I realize it’s because there is so much going on in life.  On Friday last week there was a bank robbery downtown, so when Paul and I went to get lunch there were a few city blocks that were completely off limits.

No one allowed…

Work last week went smoothly, but there seemed to be a bit of a rush on Friday as a big project was going to be coming up that would require some snappy turn-around.  Time for “download meeting”!

Pale ales have been scientifically proven to help brain flow (citation needed).

It was something that really reaffirmed my decision to come up to Minneapolis and work for GoKart.  They seem to follow the saying “Work hard, play hard”, something my father has always told me my entire life.  While a meeting starting at 5:15pm isn’t exactly what everyone desires on a Friday, ingesting some delicious beer while doing so definitely made  it a comfortable way to work.

Friday evening we hung out with Val again (who you can learn about in this post), and made our way to Brasa and the Acme Comedy Company to watch some standup comedy.  Dinner at Brasa was delicious, and turned out to be a good suggestion by Josh (yet another coworker) as it was a decent selection of American food, of which Val really wanted to experience more.

Seasoned beef, cole slaw, candied yams, cornbread, red beans, and guacamole.

Ok, well the guacamole isn’t exactly American, but it was delicious.  After that we swung by the comedy club and watched a few amateurs, a good feature, and then the headliner, Pete Lee.  I quickly realized that a lot of jokes revolve around double meanings, innuendos, and other “tricks” in the English language.  The good news is that Val seemed to have a good grasp of the language and understand most of them, and when he didn’t I would lean over and do my best to explain the joke.

Yea comedy!
Double chin, for the win!

On Erin and I attended the 2nd Annual Twin Cities Beer Fest.  For $17 each, we got all-you-can-drink access to over three hundred micro-brews.  It was a total blast, and we definitely got our $17 worth.  I lost count of how many beers I had sampled after a while, and I just couldn’t hold the hammer straight while playing hammerschlagen.

Just a small subset of all the beer options
This is the first VW Bug I’ve seen that I actually wanted to drive
I hit it once, and only one.

We were home by 10:30pm and crashed.  When you start drinking at 3pm, you get tired so much sooner.  Overall we’ve been making a ton of new friends, and I’m happy with how projects at work are ramping up.  In my small amount of spare time I actually worked on competing in a programming competition at CloudSpokes, and I’d love to write about my experience, but until the judging occurs mum’s the word.

Memories

The human mind is a crazy thing. Recently I’ve been reflecting on all of the recent experiences I’ve been a part of. Camping with friends, buying a new car, driving on several 5+ hour road trips by myself. But even while I try to think about recent events, it pales in comparison to the 24 years I’ve lived on this earth. It’s the proverbial “drop in the bucket”. So last night I decided to just sit, and think about my past, think about where I’ve been and what I’ve done. I’m sure a day will come where even most of these memories will fade, so hopefully documenting them will preserve them ad infinitum (or at least until my hard drive and all my backups fail). So posted below are a handful of memories from my past.

The Pot

The earliest memory that I can recall is shitting in a ceramic flower pot. I don’t even fully remember the house that our family lived in at the time, but I remember playing outside in the back yard and really having to poop. “Oh hey! This thing kinda looks like a toilet!” So I sat down, did my business, pulled up my pants, and kept playing around. I definitely remember Mom and Dad not being too happy, but I was young and stupid.

Montini

Oh where to begin. Montini is full of tons of memories, from hot lunch days (don’t forget your lunch money!) to playing on the blacktop. I remember Patrick Truleson always being the troublemaker and breaking a tower I built once. Eric Net and Ryan Kranz ran around “monkey bumping” the other kids so that they would fall down (they would knee you in the upper thigh to induce a charley horse). I remember hating the uniforms, and Lucas Adams smashing a mustard packet with his fist, causing it to spray all over several students. Another Ryan Kranz moment was ding-dong-ditching the convent on the school grounds. Not typically something you would want to do, upset a group of nuns at a Catholic school, but he found it necessary. I remember liking all of my teachers, and even finding Mrs. Schotz to be really pretty. Of course you would, 8th grade me.

The Chair

Another strong memory I have from growing up was Omi’s house. For those not acclimated with the German language, “Oma” is the word for grandma. Apparently young Joe butchered the word and it became “Omi”. To this day I still love visiting Omi, but I’m not longer small enough to partake in one of my favorite activities: napping underneath her chair. It’s an oddly shaped chair, somewhat like a horse shoe with a platform in the middle. This created a little alcove that I was just small enough to fit in while curled up into a ball. It was such a comfortable place, and I’m not sure if it was the sense of security, the warmth, or just the general coziness that attracted me to it. I hope that when I have children someday, they have small nooks that they can claim as their own.

Girls

Can a young man ever forget about girls? Probably not, but we can go through the long list of girls I had crushes on growing up. My earliest “crush” (if you could even call it that) was on Heather Gebhardt. I don’t know why really, she was just the nicest and prettiest girl I had ever met, which I guess when you’re only 10 years old is about the only criteria you can rate girls on. I wasn’t exactly the most suave, or even outgoing for a grade school kid, and her friendship towards me was probably mostly sympathetic since I was a bit of a nerd, but all I can hope is that she’s still as nice to people today as she was to me over 14 years ago.

Tyler Foley

Next up though, first kiss! “WTF?”, you may be wondering. I thought the title said “Tyler Foley” (as you go back and re-read it). It does, but that’s because Tyler Foley is one of the most influential people in my life. As I mentioned previously, I wasn’t exactly a ladies man in my younger years (nor am I even now), but in high school I had a small group of amazing friends. One of those friends was Tyler, who has sadly since passed. I think about our friendship often, and got a tattoo to be constantly reminded of what an amazing person he was.

R.I.P. Tyler

That picture was taken only a few minutes after my tattooing session was done, so it’s layered with Vaseline and just bleeding a bit. Back to our story though, during our sophomore year at Marian Catholic High School, Tyler was dating Kim Pacton. Kim was friends with Sarah Kavouras, and the four of us ended up at a Marian basketball game. We were away at another school, and while I don’t remember which one, I remember eating two hotdogs that day. During some down time in the game, Tyler asked Sarah, “You and Kyle broke up, right?” “Yea”, she replied. “Cool”, he said, “Well now you’re dating Joe.” While probably not verbatim, that’s essentially how the conversation went. I’m sure I blushed, I know I felt awkward. Pretty girls didn’t date weird hot-dog-inhaling geeks like me. Or so I thought. But that was that, and Sarah and I ended up dating for a short while. As I had never kissed a girl before in my life, I was absolutely terrified about what to do. “What if I mess it up?!?!?! What if I do it at the wrong time?!?! I’ll be shamed for life!” I guess I got lucky, as Sarah got tired of waiting around for me to kiss her, and while at Kim’s house on a double date with Tyler and Kim, in the middle of Finding Nemo, she kissed me. It was no peck, I was definitely thrown into the deep end of the kissing pool, but I survived and didn’t make a fool of myself.

While Sarah and I only dated for 2 or 3 months, Tyler continued to influence my life in countless other ways. He invited me over for Halo LAN parties, which to this day are still some of the fondest memories in my life. I was able to be a geek, and still be social. He taught me how to play paintball in his back yard, and introduced me to a good percentage of the music I listen to today. Coheed and Cambria was a big one, and was one of the first bands I listened to where I realized that multiple songs could be strung together to form a story. There was also a heavy dosage of Linkin Park. Both bands I still listen to on a fairly regular basis, and while my tastes have more recently shifted to heavy metal, I will have a deep appreciation for the artists that created the music Tyler and I would just sit and listen to for hours.

The New

The saying is “out with the old, in with the new”, but in the case of memories, why not maintain both? This past weekend I’ve had the pleasure of hosting my younger sister Olivia, as well as my two best friends from high school at my new apartment. We had a blast, and while I was sad to see Brad and Danny leave last night, I had an awesome time with them and experienced many great things about Minneapolis. Every meal was eaten at a new restaurant, cafe, or diner. We visited several bars, and played a few rounds of billiards. Four days from now I’ll actually be down in Chicago, visiting them again and celebrating Brad’s birthday.

While I have many good memories past, I will continue to look forward, enjoy life, cherish those around me, and live to the fullest.

Another Week, Another Visit

This past weekend was a blast, and the upcoming one will be even better.  On Saturday Erin had a going-away party at the Ale House, followed up by a stop at Victor’s.  Many people attended, many beers we drank, and bottles of champagne were won at Victor’s Saturday night dance contest!  It was great seeing everyone, and I look forward to going back to visit and do it again sometime.

The end of the week is gonna be BIG.  Erin drives in Thursday afternoon, and Olivia flies into MSP on Thursday evening.  Then Brad and Danny drive in Friday around 5pm, so after I get off work I’ll have 4 guests staying over for the weekend!  There will definitely be grilling, a stop at the Mall of America, and hopefully many miscellaneous adventures!

And for something totally random, Jessica Hamby (Deborah Ann Woll) is the hottest vampire I know of.