Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dancing Grace

We enjoyed Grace's first dance recital this past Sunday - she performed beautifully and made us all proud. It looks better in "high quality" but the video stutters a bit.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Random Kid Stories

"Thanks my dance class, amen"
-- Grace, prayer

"Thank you for gravity, all the wonderful things on earth and baby Jesus, amen"
-- John, prayer

Mommy says, "Grace, stop eating the dough."
Grace grabs more dough to eat.
"Grace, *stop* eating the dough!" says Mommy in a stern tone.
Grace grabs more dough.
Mommy says, "Grace, look at me, didn't you hear what I said?"
Grace says, "yes" - as she grabs another glob
"Then why do you continue to eat the dough!?!" asked Mommy, nearing frustration
"'cause I like eading da dough" says Grace matter-of-factly
-- Grace & Mommy, cookie making dialog (while daddy diligently contains laughter)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Battery change

It's been cold of late... really cold. There's not much worse than going through the five minute operation that is "gearing up" only to have a bike that won't start - though such an event really warms the body. So with the [near] blessing from my local mechanic, I head off to Batteries Plus to get an Odyssey battery to solve all my problems. Only, I forgot which one. The clerks weren't much more knowledgeable than I - which is sort of scary come to think of it. After some time, I concluded that the PC-535 was the right one so I paid for it. Then... realizing he had a browser open, I ask him to do a search for 'advrider 1200gs odyssey fit'... which he obligingly does, returning a picture like this one.  So, second guessing myself, I think ok, well, return the 535 and I'll get that one - it's more powerful anyway, great. Only... I glanced at the picture and didn't see that tidbit about a seat modification to make it work. So anyway, I get my new PC-625 home tonight excited about riding tomorrow after much too long. During installation I found myself thankful for the recent feastful holiday because were it not for those extra pounds I may not have been able to stuff that big pig of a battery into such a small cavity.

With battery in place and wires reconnected, I decide to give her a test start. Push button... purrr... nice, I love it when things [roughly] just work. Man, I'll just put the seat back on and get to ride to work tomorrow. But... wait a minute... the seat doesn't fit anymore. A little Google-time leads me to this . Which leads me to my own little adhoc seat mod. I'm sure the angle grinder approach is perfectly sound, but I don't have one and it's late, the kids need to get to bed, and I have to work with what I've got so I take a faster alternate approach.

... and ended up with this...

and an up close view...

which, once you add the fasteners, ends up like this:

Now, I've got two fastening solutions in my toolbox and I went with duct tape this time. For a heavy-duty application like this I normally wouldn't rely on the lighter fastener but Gorilla Glue just seemed too "permanent" for this particular application. Man, I really need to find a middle ground...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Better Googling

Google does most things well, but a couple things really irk me when searching.  For example, when I search for something like:
... I'm expecting javadocs for the HashMap class.  It's not like it has any trouble figuring that out - it has long since found the relevant javadocs.  The problem is that it finds the wrong version.  I mean, how many people are looking for javadocs for a JDK that has entered the end of its service life?  When I do such a query, I expect the latest javadocs to appear.  I mean, with all the collective google genius, it's hard to believe they can't figure out logic to rank the more recent of two "like" resources higher - popularity isn't everything after all.

The other annoyance at the moment is not really google's fault but they're the application that I'll blame anyway.  I search for something and a result looks really relevant.  Clicking on it leads me to a "Sign in to see the answer..." page.  A site named experts-exchange.com is typical of just this sort of rude net-unfriendly behavior.  I don't want to see any results for such bad web citizens.  It's annoying.  I don't care if they have an expert going to personally answer my question, I don't like it one bit.

So, what to do?  It was searching for a filtering mechanism for this later problem that led me to stumble on Google Custom Search where one can create and customize their own search engine.  Using it, led to curing both ills.  I very quickly created my own developer friendly search engine wherein recent javadocs are ranked higher and bad citizens are excluded.  Problem solved.

Google creates annoyances, and google provides a toolbox to fix them... nice work.

Now, if I could get you to quit goofing off with useless stuff like this and focus on getting Picasa for the Mac ... Please....

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Darth Vader Pumpkin

This evening we finally carved out some time to work on John's pumpkin - carved out time, get it? The hardest part of doing his pumpkin was decided what to do. He went from Spiderman and Batman to Bumblebee (a transformer) before finally settling in on Darth Vader. Fortunately for him, Becca got me some cool new carving tools from the craft store. They're intended use is clay, but they work well on the overgrown squash too.

From Darth Vader Pumpkin

And with the lights out...
From Darth Vader Pumpkin

Carving pumpkins directly, using the depth of flesh to manage light is a whole new experience for me. In many ways, its actually easier than typical carving, in that, typically for a reasonably complex pumpkin design you have to think in the "negative" to figure out what an "outline" going to look like in the end. By carving a full design directly in the pumpkin and using flesh-depth to manage the light, you can know what it's going to look like at all times by carving with a light in it and a dimly lit room. Darth was my first experience with this style of carving, motivated mostly by a Food Network Challenge. I'm already thinking about what we can do for next year's squash.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Princess Pumpkin

Today we carved one of our pumpkins. John and I mainly. Grace saw the yukiness of the inside and was inclined to stay away - even though this particular orange squash was to be hers. In any case, John and I dutifully operated on it carefully cleaning its insides...
From Princess Pumpkin

There's something really fun about squeezing that goopy mess between your fingers...
From Princess Pumpkin

And after an hour or so with knives, files, drill bits, and a drywall saw, we end up with our princess pumpkin.
From Princess Pumpkin

Pumpkin Pickin

There's an orchard to our west having fresh apples and a genuine pumpkin patch so the kids and I ventured there yesterday. After a couple years searching for our pumpkin at a local farm stand where loads of gorgeous pumpkins lay piled up on hay bales, I decided this year we should have the real experience. It's not that the pumpkin selection at the farm stand aren't great - they are, in fact, near perfect. There's something about romping in the real pumpkin patch in search of the perfect plump squash though. The pumpkin patch is just down the road from the orchard run by the same farmers. Upon arriving, John selected a solid Radio Flyer to accompany us on our venture.
From Pumpkin Patch Pickin 2008
Grace served the Pumpkin Pickin team as the Chief Pumpkin Inspector, carefully inspecting each stem for the proper curvature.

From Pumpkin Patch Pickin 2008
And, of course, you never know what villains might lurk in the local pumpkin patch so John prepared for the worst by practicing his super hero stance - maintaining the tightest grip on the Flyer all the while.
From Pumpkin Patch Pickin 2008
Occasionally, you just need to get down and check out the pumpkin vines themselves.
From Pumpkin Patch Pickin 2008
So many pumpkins, which one should we choose?
From Pumpkin Patch Pickin 2008
Pumpkin selected... and tired...
From Pumpkin Patch Pickin 2008
... so we head next door to the apple orchard, where the apples were freshly picked and the caramel was warm...
From Pumpkin Patch Pickin 2008

And of course they were yummy...
From Pumpkin Patch Pickin 2008

Friday, July 18, 2008

Summer Camping

John and I went camping and fishing at Burke Lake Park last Saturday/Sunday. He packed his backpack and sleeping bag and was well-prepared for the adventure.

We went to the sporting goods store and got him and I fishing poles and him a headlamp. He was pretty excited to have a headlamp just like mine (except his is brighter:).

Burke Lake is nice because it has a nice little train ride and a carousel right in the middle of the woods. I think both of us really enjoyed the train which went nearly roller-coaster fast. Next time, he'll ride the carousel solo though.

After making camp and riding the train and such, it was time for dinner. I brought the portable grill to make things easier and kept it simple with dogs and chips. John approved.

And of course, no evening camping would be complete without some s'mores.

I don't think John's quite ready for ghost stories by the campfire so we opted instead for silly faces into the camera while we're both wearing our headlamps.

I've got to say that I was reluctant to spend the extra money on the Weber Baby-Q but am now glad I did. It's proven itself with dogs, burgers, etc., but baking cinnamon rolls to perfection definitely makes it worth it.

They were *really* good too...

Unfortunately, the fishing part of the trip didn't go quite so smoothly. I went into the sporting goods store intending to get a cheap Zebco 404 because that's really all I've known. I think the guy in the fishing department must have thought it'd be funny to make me look like a complete idiot in front of my kid or something since he recommended an open real combo deal. Anyway, John and I get out there and he's happily fishing away with his new Superman fishing pole...

... while I'm in the background desperately trying to figure out how my reel works. It turns out the guy who put the line on got some wound up in the gear on the inside so I had to take it apart and clear the gear out, rewind a bunch of line, then spend another 10 minutes figuring out how to cast the silly thing. Meanwhile, John is looking back saying, "Daddy, why don't you just do it like me?".

Unfortunately, no fish were caught that day or the next morning but I caught part of someone else's fishing pole.

We both had a blast and are looking forward to taking the girls out and teaching them how to go camping like the big boys do.

Bean planting

Rebecca and I rode up to our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm last Saturday to help out a little. I love that we can get great quality organic produce picked the same day at prices that are at or below the supermarket. The idea is that we share the risk and reward with the local farmer - if it's a good season, we're all happy, if it's tough season, then the farmer is guaranteed income anyway. There's also the invaluable benefit of supporting a good hardworking local farmer too.

The idea of a CSA is that the community also comes out to the farm during the season to help out with the farm work. This serves several functions: it helps build the relationship with the farmer, it helps lower labor costs, and it helps us appreciate and be mindful of all the work going into putting food on our table.

Anyway, as I was saying, Rebecca and I went out Friday to help out.  The job of the day was bean planting.  It's amazing to me how much more thought and science goes into organic farming.  I mean, with a chemical enhanced farm, you could just throw some seeds in the ground and compensate for soil quality by spraying.  With organic farming, it's critical to factor in how you might inject nutrients into all phases of the growing cycle.  With our beans for example, prior to putting them in the ground, we had to coat them with a thick sticky syrup (Yucca extract, I think) that will allow them to produce their own nitrogen and ultimately lead to a more productive crop.  Of course, the downside is that it makes planting slow and difficult - imagine molasses covered seeds.

Farmer Allen has a cow down right now too.  During the birthing process, it pinched a nerve causing its hind legs to be temporarily paralyzed.  He thinks they're no longer paralyzed and that it's just afraid to try now so in the meantime, he's having to flip the cow over a couple times a day and give it physical therapy.  We walked over to the pasture to help flip it over too.  First time either of us has been cow-flipping.

All and all, it was an interesting experience.  Now that we know what to expect, I'm hoping we can get out there with the kids a few times this season too.  Rebecca and I were also hot after working for a few hours and needed a way to cool down.  The farm is enticingly close to the Shenandoah River, so we found a tube rental place and took a couple hour lazy float down the river.  It was a nice compensation for our earlier farm work:)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Axis2 and Rampart troubles

Trying to deploy the rampart-1.4.mar module within Axis2? You created
the axis2.war file using by changing to the webapps directory and
using the create.war ant task. It would seem that the Rampart people
didn't communicate with the Axis people the dependency on
'axis2-codegen-1.4.jar' for they explicitly exclude it in the
create.war ant task! Copy the previously mentioned jar file into the
WEB-INF\lib directory.

[ERROR] The rampart-1.4.mar module, which is not valid, caused
at java.lang.ClassLoader.defineClass1(Native Method)
at java.lang.ClassLoader.defineClass(ClassLoader.java:620)

Someone apparently thinks its been fixed since the issue[1] has been
closed. One of us is doing something wrong I reckon.

[1] - https://issues.apache.org/jira/browse/AXIS2-3213

Friday, June 06, 2008

First update

So we left out around 7 this morning heading west on 50. So far the
weather has been decent but just as we stopped for lunch here in
Huntington, WV its started to really heat up. The Ohio River Byway was
nice in parts - wasn't all that I'd hoped for though. We doing good on
time and will probably make the side trip Jenny Wile Park. Current
plan has us camping tonight in Breaks Interstate Park.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Preparations for a foul economy

So the state of our economy is a common topic around our house.  Rebecca and I frequently talk about how bad it could get.  For more than 5 years we've been saying that the irrational rise in housing prices and fascination with personal debt can only lead to one huge mess.  We've been continually baffled that average people like us see this mess while economic experts are convinced it's somehow limited to the sub-prime market and worried about some artificial technical statistic that would indicate a recession.  

Anyway, I reckon an argument for how ugly this might get is a topic for another entry.  This entry was meant to let everyone know that we are prepared - well, John is prepared anyway.  Upon finding the right sized cavity, he enjoys attempting sleep.  
Seriously, we're hoping that it's more a boy's fascination with doing weird stuff than an appreciation for where poor economic conditions could lead.  In any case, Rebecca and I are boosting our savings so that we can afford larger, perhaps even wax-coated, boxes for everyone...

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The plan

The current plan has us leaving San Francisco Saturday morning - after
one last trip through Little Italy for an espresso and pastries. We
head up to Napa Saturday and down to Yosemite Sunday. Then we'll
spend one last night in Fisherman's Wharf before flying out Sunday.

I think the kids are enjoying the experience so far. Me and John were
the only ones capable of finishing our Ghiradelli Sunday. I think
we've earned a second trip to the ice cream shop but I'm not sure if
we're going to bring the girls since they had such a pitiful ice-cream
eating performance.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Eating well...

After starting the day eating an over priced hotel breakfast, we
headed to North Beach or "Little Italy". Leave it to me to drool over
tons of Italian pastries and settle on an apple fritter - not my
proudest moment. We then found a well-respected local cafe, Cafe
Trieste, where I enjoyed an excellent double espresso.

After the coffee it became clear that we needed a stroller- ok, Becca
was right we should have packed the McLearen. So Becca took the kids
to the play-park while I walked through China Town in search of a
stroller. Proudly returning with my prize, I quickly learned Becca
had a double stroller in mind. Oh well, tomorrow.

From Italia, we took the Muni downtown to get me a fleece - its quite
a bit cooler than I expected.

After picking up the fleece, we headed to Pier 39 via the old style
cable car.. We saw tons of seals hanging out and even got to see one
rather rude seal pushing the other off into the water. I suspect
Becca and I were more excited about the seals than either of the kids.
After the seals we went into Pier 39 proper, where I had the good
fortune of helping a guy mount a six foot unicycle - I know, weird
huh? We couldn't miss out on an opportunity to make the parents dizzy
so we took a spin on the carousel.

Leaving the pier, we dined at Rainforest Cafe which we were familiar
with from Virginia but ours has closed down before the kids ever
experienced it.

We now sit tired in the hotel and debating whether a Ghiradelli ice
cream sundae is doable.

By the way, we got some cupcakes last night from karascupcakes and
they were phenominal. Becca went through a cupcake kick about a year
or so ago where we tried many different bakeries and they were all
only ok. Katas was great. The staff seemed to downplay the vanilla,
but knowing the challenges of making a really good and moist vanilla
cake, I think it was my favorite.

As far as the bridge, I'll let you know when the fog lifts or we get
closer to it. We're thinking about doing a fire engine tour tomorrow
which would get us close enough to appreciate it.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Mediocre eating...

Freshly arrived from a long flight,we were hungry and didn't want to
overthink the selection. So we picked pretty much the first sit down
restaurant we saw. Well, turns out we were sort of tricked into going
into the restaurant next door, Nonni Rose's, which was only alright
and that's being pretty generous. The bread was sub-par for San
francisco. The chowder was decent - everything else, not so much.

We're staying at the Holiday Inn, which we got for a ridiculously
cheap $89 - thanks Hotwire.com. The hotel is clean, decent, and
perfectly located. Highly recommended basically for being good in a
great location.

Virgin America

I'm impressed. I wasn't enthusiastic when Becca booked our flight on
Virgin America but am now pleasantly surprised. The coolness:
- media players in all seats with pretty good tv stations
- comfortable seats
- reasonably sized restrooms
- reasonable legroom
- flight crew seems genuinely happy to be onboard helping out. A huge
change from the bitterness I've experienced from other airlines' crew.

The negatives:
- headphones are terrible. Sound was great from my iPod headphones

Very enjoyable, good work Becca!

Sent from my iPod

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Taxing Fast Food

I never thought I'd actually say I'm supportive of a new tax, but here
it is, I think taxing fast-food might be a brilliant idea.