• Winter Biking

    Chicago had it’s first snowfall of the year yesterday. A few inches. But then it got quite cold and while roads were plowed and salted, the remaining water froze to ice. Since I have been biking all year and loving it, I wanted to keep the commute to work for as long as I can. I was a bit nervous about biking in the snow, so I decided to get up early this morning and bike to the grocery store, four blocks away. It was 14 degrees when I left. I was dressed well, so the cold wasn’t a concern at all. All I was worried about was the ice.

  • Car Repair

    My last car repair class at the park was a couple of weeks ago. While I sometimes dreaded getting in the car to drive over when it was already dark out, I enjoyed every single class. And I learned something in every single class. It was easily the best $60 I’ve spent in a long time.

  • Working with Wood

    I have written before how I’m trying to reuse the old lathe that I saved when I redid part of my house. The procedure was basically to plane the lathe, glue it together and then plane it to a smooth thickness. This has produced some very nice boards and I’ve made a couple of nice things with them. The problem is that I’m not enjoying the process. First of all, the planer is freakin’ loud. I wear ear-covering sound mufflers and it still sounds loud to me. I tried using a sander and wet-dry vac, but that’s crazy loud too. As I get older, one thing I’ve noticed about myself is that I like quiet. Another problem is that the planer seems to be breaking a lot. I’ve spent a lot of money on a new set of carbide blades, which have worked well, but cost $249. And I’ve replaced the belt twice. It also generates a tremendous amount of sawdust that gets all over the place. But the main problem is the noise. I like working in the mornings…the earlier the better. But I don’t want to make that much noise. I’m sure my neighbors could hear some of it and I don’t want to be a jerk.

  • Getting Built-in Sound Working with RHEL6

    I had a user running RHEL6 who no longer had sound. His computer has an Asus P8H67-M PRO motherboard. This board has a built-in Intel soundcard.

  • Chicken and Dumplings Soup

    I just made this chicken and dumplings soup. It’s ok, but it’s not great. My main problem is with the dumplings. They’re really heavy. And the soup is good, but I think there should have been an onion in the soup. So after thinking about things, this is what I’m going to try the next time I make it.

  • Bike Travel

    The bulk of my vacation time the past few years, has been spent with me driving to a city with my bike and then biking around the city. Sometimes this has been to go on official bike rides with thousands of other people on closed streets and others it’s just me riding around town on bike paths or in the street. I absolutely love doing this. The big rides are fun because the towns usually route the ride through interesting neighborhoods and past important landmarks. And the individual rides are fun because it’s neat to learn your way around a new town. It’s also easy. I can put a destination in google maps and have it tell me directions best for biking.

  • Could I Live without My Car?

    A couple of days ago, I hit 2000 miles of biking for the year. It wasn’t a goal to do this at the start of the year, but I’m rather pleased with myself. I actually thought it was a bit of an accomplishment until I read a blog post somewhere about a woman with MS who rode like 6000 miles for the year. I have a long way to go to reach that. But this got me thinking, do I really need to own my own car?

  • Oatmeal Update

    I had posted my recipe for oatmeal a while back. As it’s getting chilly, I’ve started having it for breakfast again. This time though, I had whole milk in the house because I had been using it for baking. I think this improves the taste a lot. So my new recipe for oatmeal is:

  • I Love Fall

    Autumn is my favorite time of year. My birthday is in October. The weather is usually nicely cool. The leaves on the trees turn giving beautiful colors to both the city and rural landscapes. I also usually start cooking again in earnest as the weather cools. In summer, when it’s hot, I don’t like to use my stove or oven. This limits meals to uncooked food, like salads. As I get older, I am getting better at eating salads regularly. But I have to admit, a salad is, in general, not a meal I’m going to love.

  • Ruby Iconv to Strings#encode

    I wrote a script in Perl, years ago, that lets users update their unix and samba passwords at the same time. This keeps them in sync so that people will have the same password whether they’re logging in via linux or at a windows computer. I thought it would be a good idea to rewrite it in ruby, since that’s the language I’m most comfortable with these days. Along with Google, the book that was most helpful was Programming Ruby 1.9 & 2.0 from the Pragmatic Programmers, which fortunately, I had.

  • Multiple Authentication Methods with Authlogic

    I have a website where users need to login to be able to comment on pictures. For the most part, users will use their university credentials to login. However, I’ve found a few recently retired people who would be able to help us identify people in the pictures. But since they are retired, their university credentials are no longer valid. So for these people, I’d like to be able to make a local account for them to login. My rails app uses authlogic to check credentials. And I’ve been authenticating against the university ldap server for a while without any problems, but mixing in local accounts is going to require a few changes.

  • Alternative DNS

    My internet connection went down today for a few hours. Technically, I guess it didn’t go down, but DNS wasn’t working. So I could ping 216.58.216.68, but I couldn’t ping www.google.com. I had been using the DNS servers from comcast that I got from DNS. I believe they’re 75.75.75.75 and 75.75.76.76. But since these weren’t working for me, I changed to the following:

  • Car Repair Basics – Charging System

    I’ve now had three classes is my Car Repair Basics class. We’ve just been covering the charging system, mainly batteries. I’ve learned a lot. Here are my notes.

  • Crazy Error

    I just updated some rails webpages to 4.2.4. On one system, I didn’t have any trouble. But on the other one, things worked fine on my laptop, but gave all sorts of random errors on my production system. I started keeping a list to see if I could figure out what was going on. Here are some of the errors that I was seeing.

  • Fun with Google Calendars

    We’ve started using Google Calendars at work to keep track of different seminars, colloquia, etc. However, we also like to keep our regular html calendars because they’re just easier to read and to get a quick view of all talks for a quarter. So what we want to do is have the + Google Calendar button appear on webpages, but not show the actual calendar. We’ll have all the information in our own html calendar. Yes, this requires us to update two calendars, but it makes it easier to read.

  • George’s Challenge

    My 10 (about to be 11) year old nephew George told me that he has to read 40 books this school year. Each book needs to be at least 200 pages long. He was not looking forward to this and thought that nothing could possibly be worse. Since we are a very competitive family, I told him that it was easy and I could do it no problem. Not only that I could read 40 books twice as long as the ones he was reading. Result of my boast is that I now have to read 40 books by the end of the school year. Each of my books has to be at least 400 pages long. Stupidly, I didn’t get the details of his assignment before I agreed to this. After we shook on it, I found out that I don’t necessarily get to choose all the books, but that they have to be in some specific genres. So, here’s what I have to read this year:

  • Links vs Buttons

    Now that I’m writing more websites, I’m trying to make them better. A lot of it has to do with making them look better so that people have a better (UX) user experience. I’ve been using bootstrap more, which is nice. But now I need to get into more nuts and bolts stuff.

  • I Prefer Fixes

    I bought parts for some new computers for our engineers at work. Everything arrived yesterday, so I started assembling them. When I opened up the video card that I bought (PNY NVIDIA Quadro K1200), I noticed that the bracket was shorter than the standard bracket. I’ve purchased many video cards over the years and normally, the box will include another bracket so that it can be used in a regular sized case. However, I quickly found that there was not another bracket in the box. I looked a bit online and found that this particular card was designed for a small form factor case. My first issue is that that information should have been much more visible on the webpages where I bought it. Anyway, since I bought the cards from our campus vendor with a purchase order, I really didn’t want to try to return them because it’s a big hassle. So my first solution was to simply take the brackets off. I could put the card in and use it without a bracket without a problem. The next step was to see if I could make a new bracket, which quickly sounded like a bit more work than I wanted to do. I returned to Google and found someone who said that they had an older NVIDIA NVS 510 card. He said the bracket from that card fit the K1200 perfectly. I didn’t have any NVS 510 cards around, but more googling led me to a local place that sold that bracket for $20. I ordered them and got them in two days. They fit perfectly.

  • Full Circle

    Lathe are strips of wood that are nailed to studs when building a wall. Before drywall was invented, plaster and lathe were how walls were put up in houses. My house had all plaster and lathe walls on the first floor. Here is a picture of the back of a plaster and lathe wall, as I was gutting the room that is currently my bedroom.

  • My Ting Test

    Last month, I switched cellphone providers from T-Mobile to Ting. In looking at past reports, I had been paying T-Mobile around $63 per month (including taxes). This didn’t seem bad to me, but I thought I could do better. A couple of days ago, I got my first bill from Ting. The total is $39.81 (including taxes). I’m happy with this. The image below shows the breakdown of all the fees.

  • Not Casa Loma

    My friend Ellen came to town for a vacation. Before coming, she had mentioned that she had a friend in Toronto that she wanted to see and I proposed a road trip to Toronto. I also suggested (strongly) that we take bikes and ride around while there, since this was my favorite activity when I was in New York.

  • Financial Independence

    The past couple of weeks, I have been obsessing about becoming financially independent. When I was a kid, I would have thought of this as being rich. But now, all I want to do is be able to do what I want, without having to think about money. I’d like to have the option to do things for people or not, based on whether I think it’s interesting or not, taking money out of the equation entirely.

  • Poppyseed Dressing

    There are few salads that I like. However, the poppyseed fruit and chicken salad at Portillo’s is one I love. I’ve tried poppyseed dressing at other places and have bought different brands. They just aren’t as good. I found a couple of recipes online that I’ve tried. The first one I tried used a grated shallot. I grated a pretty small one, but the result tasted way too much like onions, so that one didn’t work at all. This one though sounded better. Though since I had just had the failure with the shallot, I left the onion powder out of it. I also left out the lemon juice because I didn’t have any. The result though was great! So, since this is my repository of all things I want to save, here is the recipe I followed:

  • Capistrano 3 Issues

    I decided to give capistrano 3 a try with one of my projects. For the most part, I prefer version 2 to version 3. Mainly this is because I never have a staging server. I only have my development stuff and then I deploy to production. So having to specify the deployment server is just additional work that I always forget.

  • Counting Comma-Separated Values in Excel

    We have a bunch of spreadsheets where which have cells with values like this, R1, R2, R3, R4 or C45, C87, C22. It would be very helpful to have another column that could tell us how many values on in these cells (4 and 3 in my example). The way to do it is to use this function, which would tell us how many values are in cell H8.