Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Minnesota Prostate Cancer Coalition

I'm proud to be helping form the Minnesota Prostate Cancer Coalition, a new member of the National Alliance of State Prostate Cancer Coalitions.

Check us out at and the national organization at   

In 2009, I was one of 3,807 newly diagnosed cases of prostate cancer. That year, 534 men died with prostate cancer documented as the underlying cause of death on their death certificates.   Prostate cancer is the single most common cancer in Minnesota among both sexes.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Rick's Tree Service

We all like to complain about lousy customer service. This is the opposite - a story of great customer service.

On my 50th birthday, a Friday night @ 8pm, a very large branch broke off my River Birch and rested on my roof over my deck/sunroom. There was no apparent damage to the 6-month old roof or the 2-week old siding, but it was obvious this was no job for an amateur - any mistakes and the tree would have gone crashing through the sunroom. I had no power and we were expecting over 40 people on Sunday for a birthday celebration (can you say stress?).

I found Rick's Tree Service in the BBB "yellow pages" and called Rick at about 9pm on Friday night by lantern-light. Of the 3 companies I called, he was the only 1 to answer the phone - the other 2 were answering machines (1 firm called Saturday morning and the other Monday morning). On Saturday morning at 8:15, Rick was at my house and returned with a crew, including a VERY large crane, by 11am. Not his own crew either - they were unavailable this particular weekend - he contracted with other professionals to help (Charley's Tree Service with Charley being the guy doing most of the hard work in our tree).

By 1:30 or so, they were done. Our great gardens stayed that way - not a single branch was dropped where it shouldn't have been, ALL of the tree was cleaned up, and other than some grass stains on my driveway and a bit of sawdust, you couldn't tell they were there.

The crane was used to lift the tree parts (it had to be cut into at least 4 major parts) over the house from the back to the driveway where the crane was parked. Charley estimated that one of the 4 pieces they lifted was about 2,000 lbs.

In the end, the power was restored Saturday, the party went off without a hitch, and I had a good story to tell (with a photo slide show on the DVD player during the party). I couldn't have asked for more. My insurance adjuster mentioned on the phone that he couldn't believe how low the price was for this job.

Thanks to Rick,Charley, and the crane driver (whose name I didn't get). The service from them all greatly exceeded my expections!

Rick's Tree Service
Forest Lake, MN
651-464-0064 (office)
651-270-7096 (cell)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Garmin nuvi 750

I recently went on a long road from Minnesota and for the first time used a GPS with navigation capabilities (my other GPS was just for hiking and didn't do directions).

Short story: this thing was WONDERFUL!

What I like about the nuvi 750:
  • Most of the time, I didn't even have to think about how to get where I was going. I just put in the address of where I was going and followed the prompts and directions.
  • Since my wife has food allergies, our food choices were limited. Putting in the name of a known restaurant or fast food outlet allowed us to quickly get to a spot where should could eat.
  • We found parks and drove on roads we otherwise would not have found or driven on and this added to some of the randomness of a vacation that made it better, not worse.
  • A couple of times it found more efficient ways to get to hotels on the road than the directions found in our AAA tour books.
  • After really liking the ice cream at the Cold Stone Creamery, it was nice to be able to be in a city totally unfamiliar to us, tell the GPS to find a local store, and direct us there. One time we couldn't find where it said there should be one (it was a large mall complex) but the 2nd time we drove right up to one.
  • If you miss an exit or just want to take a different road, it's usually pretty quick (a few seconds) with the "recalculating" audible prompt and a new route is given to you.
  • I never cracked open the big AAA city or state maps - the GPS solved it all for us.
  • One of the addresses I had to get to was very, very rural (gravel road and all that). It had no problem at all with the address.
What I did not like about the nuvi 750:
  • Some of the time, I really did have to think about how to get where I was going. It told me once to turn right when in fact the road veered off to the right after the intersection. Looking at the map or paying attention prevented that. Another time I missed an interstate exit because it wasn't exactly where the GPS thought it was. Looking at the large signs should not be overlooked :-).
  • It directed us to a restaurant that was permanently closed. The points of interest aren't up to date. I've reported some obvious errors to Navteq but after several months, they haven't even responded to the online ticket yet. Google Maps has the same issue. The roads overlayed on top of a satellite view clearly show the road going through the middle of a large building.
  • Putting in routes that go via specific roads is non trivial and time consuming. It always wants to take the fastest route.
  • Going from pedestrian to car modes takes too many steps. You'll quickly realize you're in pedestrian mode when the roads it takes you on avoids all of the highways. There's no indicator to show you which mode you're unless you traverse the menus. It's also potentially dangerous since it can direct you the wrong way down a one-way road (pedestrians don't have the same restrictions that cars do).
  • The battery life is too short to take it walking and the batteries are not removable so you can't take a spare set.
  • Going through some large cities, it tended to take the interstate straight through a city instead of around it. Both work, but may not be the most efficient way sometimes.
Not problems but things I'd like to see added in a new model:
  • Construction areas. Although these don't have to be realtime, I'd like to be able to update the construction sites while my GPS is connected to my computer before I leave on a trip. Like Microsoft Streets and Trips does...
  • Toll booth information. I missed paying a toll in Chicago because the GPS told me to stay left but I had to exit to the right to pay a toll. Sorry, Chicago - I tried, really I did.
  • More up-to-date POIs.
  • A route should have "stops" as well as just "vias". Because a long trip can have multiple stops, you really want to program it as a collection of shorter routes rather than one 1 long route. If you go the single route approach, you don't get arrival times for the stops along the way.
Other thoughts
  • I'd really like to build the routes on the computer with a large screen rather than on the small GPS. However, buying the software for the computer as well as the GPS is expensive, especially since you have to then purchase updates for both of them. The GPS package should ideally include a computer version of the maps with an easy way to transfer the routes.
  • Garmin makes interfaces so that it's relatively easy for people to add custom POIs and proximity-triggered audio tracks. However, be prepared to spend a lot of time on the Internet looking for the good stuff... I expect that the user community around the Garmin will continue to grow and continue to keep Garmin as the market leader.

Welcome to my blog

This blog will contain some random thoughts on products or services I've used for a while, just started using, or just want to rant and/or rave about.

These won't be formal reviews, probably shouldn't be used to make a formal purchasing decision, but hopefully you'll find them helpful.