Well, that escalated quickly.

Today I was driving and my tire pressure light came on. Sigh. It does this about every two weeks, and I drive over to the nearest gas station and fill up the tire again. It costs a dollar in quarters every time, but I figure it’s cheaper than buying a new tire.

I returned home, parked in the garage, and as I was heading into the house I heard a hissing sound. Looking more closely, it was that same tire… hissing as the air escaped at a steady rate. Sigh.

So I drove over to the local Tires Plus and asked them to plug it. They told me they’d call me with an update. A few minutes after I returned home, they called to say there was a huge nail in the tire and it wasn’t reparable. I’d have to replace the tire. Sigh.

Well, you never replace just one tire– you need to do at least a pair. I asked about that, and he said, “All of your tires are pretty much bald. You should replace all of them.” Since it’s winter, and in fact snowing pretty heavily today, I suppose it makes sense. So sure, go ahead and replace all four tires. Sigh.

“Oh, and by the way, your alignment is way off.” How much is that? Another $150 for an alignment today and for the rest of the lifetime of the car (actually not a bad deal). Without the alignment, the tires will wear unevenly and all sorts of other bad things. I suppose I also won’t be able to drive on I-70 through Kansas without touching the steering wheel. So sure, let’s align everything too. Sigh.

$800 later, I walked out of the shop. All because of a nail.

On a humorous note, “that escalated quickly” reminded me of the old “I saw a spider” meme:

there-was-a-spider-i-panicked

Sometimes it’s good to be a geek

Today I’m in Dallas, attending a NASA meeting in hopes of finding ways to expand our web application amongst various groups within NASA. It’s at a Marriott hotel, so I spent the bulk of the day in a conference room watching presentations. Between those presentations (and, I admit, during some of them), I was checking email and writing to various people.

A bunch of my emails bounced back to me as undeliverable because the receiving servers refused them. Apparently the outbound IP address here at the Marriott is on a spam blacklist. Awesome. Most likely, some enterprising guest (or many of them) decided to use the hotel’s wireless connection for their fun and profit at some point. The bottom line was that I couldn’t send email through my servers because the origination point was being blacklisted.

Fortunately I’m a geek. After a few minutes’ thought, I set up an SSH tunnel to one of my servers and used it to route SMTP traffic through a local connection. I was able to completely bypass the hotel’s IP address as an origination point for the email, and when I re-sent those blocked messages, all was well. I kept the tunnel up for the rest of the day, and all of my ongoing messages worked fine.

Bam. SSH tunnels rock.

Slime

I was looking through some old photos (long story) and found this fun picture, taken ten years ago when we were making slime for a science experiment.

0014

Hah, that was fun. I need to find some polyvinyl alcohol and do that again.

Now that’s a tooth

Zack has the same problem Laralee and Alex do: he doesn’t have any permanent canines in his mouth. So he has baby teeth that don’t have anything above them, and they’ll never get pushed out of his gums. That’s not entirely bad– Laralee was over 40 when we finally had those two baby teeth removed as part of her whole braces saga. But we had Alex’s removed, and the orthodontist was able to shift some things around with Alex’s braces to make his mouth look good. Now it’s Zack’s turn.

The dentist told Zack he could attempt to pull the tooth himself by wiggling it over the span of a month or two. Since it’s just a baby tooth, working on it can eventually loosen it so it can be pulled. That would save us the $80 extraction fee for the dentist to remove it. So Zack worked at it– every time he was watching a movie or reading a book, he’d be tugging at this tooth. But he didn’t feel like he was really getting anywhere.

Yesterday he visited the dentist to have some cavities filled, and Laralee decided to go ahead and have the tooth extracted. As it turns out, it seems unlikely Zack would have been able to pull it himself by just wiggling it:

zack-tooth

That little sucker had a root that was about 3/4″ long! It wasn’t going anywhere…

Saving the world

My latest board game is Pandemic, which is pretty quick to play and a lot of fun. In it, diseases are breaking out all over the world and it’s a race to cure them before they cause outbreaks and epidemics.

pandemic-1

pandemic-2

The game developers did a good job of balancing things so the game is a bit of a white-knuckler. You’re either right on the brink of disaster when you triumphantly save the world, or the diseases explode out of control and kill billions. A nice way to spend an evening!

Ack… bar

I’m toying around with a new Linux command-line tool called ack. It’s a replacement for the old standard, grep. Possibly the best feature I’ve found is the “bar” option, which does this:

# ack --bar
                      ?IIIIIII7II?????+
                   ~III777II777I?+==++==+:
                  ???I7I???I7II++=====++===
                 ??+??????????+===~~=+++??==+
                ??+??II??????+==~=~~=+++++==++
               I+?????????+?+====~=~==+==++?==?
              ?????II?????+++++=======?===~~~~==
            ,?????II????????++++====~===::~~~~:~
            I?I??II?+++??+?+++==~~~~:~:~:,:,,:::~
           I??????+==+???++++=~~:~:~:,:::,:,,,,,::
          +I?++++=+=+????+++=~~:~~:::,,,,::,,,:,:
          I??+?+====+???+++===~~::::,::,:,,,,,,::
         I????=~===++?+=+=~==~:~~:,,,,,,,.,,,,,:~
        =??+?=~~~~??+?+===~~==,==~~~~,,,,..,,,.:=
        II++==~~=++++++=~~=~,~+=?+?=I?++=..,.,,:
     IIII?+?=====+~+++~=~~~:::=~+~===:,,,,,.,.::
    I?=?I+??+=~=~?I?=+=~~~::,~~=~::~=::,,,,,,::       ---------------
    ?+I??++=++~,::+++~~~:::,,=~~=,~,..,::.:          / It's a grep! /
    ++=+?++~=:~::I+,~=:~,:,,,,:~~......::~,,,        ---------------
     ~=~=:.++~:,.,~=::::.,,:,.:~,:=...==~,::              /
     =~?++??+=~~,.:?~.:,:,,,.,::,,~:=~=::,~              /
     ++~~:~===~:~,.~::,~=~.:,..,:,,:==:.,:7             /
     ~~,::...:=:,::+:~:.,~,...,.,,,,::~,,::~=          /
      =~===+=~~,.::,,,:::,..,,,,,,,,,,,:,..,=+?
      ~=~=~::~~~::,.,,,~:.+,..,,,,..,,,,...,+I?
      ~==~:~~:~~,~=~~:,:~,:,,,,,,....,,,..+?I?I
      ~=~=+,:~:=,:~~~~~~::::,.,,.,,.,,,..~+????I
      ~=~==~=:~~:,~~~~~:::,::,.,,,..,,,I77I?+??II
      +I7:::~~=~:,::~~~~.=.,~,,,,...,~7III?+??II7
     777?+~:=~=~~:,::~~:::.,,,,,,,,,777II??I777777
     777I==:=~::~~~~::~:::,:,:~:::,777I???777777777
    7777+,~===~:~:~~~~:::,.~:=,,:777II???77777777777=?
    777I~,~~~=~::~:,:,,,:=~~,,:7777I???I7777777777+=++
  I7777I,,:,.==::::,:,,,,::::7777I+??I77777777777??I7I7,
 ,77777I::,..~~:,,,,,,.,:~I7777I+??I777777777777?I7777777,
 77777777,...~~:,,,,,.,77777I7???II777777777777+?7777777777
77777777777:,~~~,,=7777777I???II777777777777777+77777777777
77777777777777777777777I+7?7II77777777777777777+777777777777

Genius!

Brrrtimate

Today we played our first lunchtime pickup ultimate game of the year. At game time it was about 24 degrees. Brr. The field was covered in snow, of course, and it was about four inches of hard crusty stuff (from two snowfalls ago, melted and re-frozen) covered by about two inches of powder (from our last snowfall). So it was a bit treacherous, but we managed to crunch through it and over the course of running during the game, we carved out a field-shaped area of packed snow.

It was great to get out– it’s been about a month since I played, and I really needed the exercise. Oof.

Icy ice

It was bitterly cold last night, so when we woke up this morning, the trees had a really pretty layer of ice crystals on them. I took a few pictures.

icy-branch

icy-branch-2

Dad says it’s hoarfrost, possibly from the calm, dense fog we had last night. Cool!

Home remedies aren’t always remedies

The headlights on my car have been foggy for a while– there’s a natural build-up of grime that eventually makes the plastic look dull, with a corresponding decrease in brightness of the lights. When I talked to the local Honda shop, they said it would cost $80 to clean them.

So I poked around the internet a bit and found many people who recommended a home remedy: buy a tube of toothpaste and rub the toothpaste onto the headlights. There’s a slight abrasive in toothpaste, and it can remove the grime. Hey, better than $80, right? I bought a tube of high-quality toothpaste for 98 cents.

pepsodent

Then I spent about ten minutes rubbing it onto the headlights and cleaning it off. The result? No change at all. Sigh. I guess home remedies aren’t always home remedies.

Steps

Laralee has an old pedometer that’s been sitting on her bookshelf for… years, I guess. I picked it up the other day, more out of curiosity than anything else, and decided to find out how many steps I take in an average work day. I strapped it on in the morning as I headed to the office, then checked it that evening.

The answer? About 1,200 steps. That’s pretty horrible, considering everyone is “supposed” to get around 7,000 in a day. Other than buying a treadmill and setting it in front of my standing desk, I’m not sure how to be that active during my days in the office. But it does tell me I need to do something to get some exercise! The cold January weather has cancelled our pickup ultimate games, although I hope we’ll have a chance to play a few times later this month. That’ll rack up some steps!

This afternoon it’s about 25 degrees but sunny, so Laralee and I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. I grabbed the pedometer, again out of curiosity, and when we returned to the house I figured we’d probably done around 2,000 steps. I was wrong.

steps

Hah, one walk a day will pretty much give me my “recommended daily allowance” of steps! This was a little over three miles.

Next up: wearing it during an ultimate game to learn how many steps (and miles) are involved. That’ll be interesting.

Shiny and new

Mom decided she’d like to try her hand at blogging, so I set up a new WordPress installation for her. It should be fun. As part of that exercise, I decided it was time to update the look of my own blog. I’ve had that old black thing for a while, and it didn’t perform very well on small screens, and also had a number of code-level customizations that I had to maintain through upgrades to the core system.

I shopped around a bit (and by “a bit” I mean about three minutes) and found a nice simple template that suits me well. After about four more minutes of customization, I’m happy with it. So here it is.

Tito the Snowman?

Last night I was in Boulder most of the evening, and although it wasn’t snowing there (more like a fine cold mist), up in Longmont I guess there was about four inches of the white stuff. I came home late and almost ran over a little snowman in the middle of our street.

tito-1

By “little” I mean it was less than a foot tall. Weird.

When I came inside, Zack asked me if I’d run over Tito. Apparently he’d built the little guy after shoveling the driveway. He took a little selfie with Tito.

tito-2

I guess he, Kyra, and Laralee also made snow angels in the middle of the road, but I didn’t see those…

Achoo

My family thinks I sneeze too loudly. Hey, people have quirks.

I was working in my office (in the basement) just now, and sneezed. I got a text from Kyra, who is upstairs, two floors away.

Screenshot_2016-01-08-16-18-01

Okay, maybe my sneezes are loud…

Merry Christmas

It’s been a while since we visited mom and dad in Missouri, so we headed “out east” for Christmas. Here are a few photos of moments in the journey.

At one of our stops along the drive, there was a gorilla statue for reasons beyond my ken. Zack and I had a little fun with it.

christmas-0012

Gorilla surfing?

christmas-0013

Bucking gorilla, seen in many a rodeo:

christmas-0015

In St. Charles, the weather was quite nice– temperatures were in the 60’s, which made for a decidely not-white Christmas. But it was a great opportunity to wander Old Town, peeking in some shops and watching the parade. Of course we managed to find a few nice hats:

christmas-0016

christmas-0017

There was another store that had a big sign by the hats which said “Do not play with the hats!” I guess they had too many kids like Zack passing through or something. Anyway, Zack found a mini-hand, which for some reason fascinates him.

christmas-0019

As always, mom did a first-class job decorating everything. The house was beautiful.

christmas-0020

christmas-0024

We opened gifts, and apparently Kyra’s gifts for me, Laralee, and Zack hadn’t arrived yet, so she wrapped some nice notes for us:

christmas-0026

christmas-0031

christmas-0032

I later learned that “hadn’t arrived yet” was code for “hadn’t even been ordered yet”.

Christmas dinner was amazing, and the table looked great.

christmas-0033

christmas-0034

christmas-0036

Alex– err, Elder Schroeder– called just as dinner was starting, and since it was one of two times during the year we’re able to speak to him, we took the call. We had a great time talking to him for about 45 minutes.

We’d originally planned to come home Monday, but the weather was looking pretty sketchy. A deluge of rain on Saturday led to floods on Sunday, and I-70 was closed in parts later in the day. In addition, a huge winter storm was sweeping north through Kansas (right along our route) and would likely close I-70 on Monday. So we decided to leave Sunday, and the drive was fine. Whew!

All in all, it was a great time and a wonderful chance to hang out with the fam for a few days. Merry Christmas, and to quote Tiny Tim, God bless us, every one.

Furafic Fark

On Saturday night, the fam was sitting on the couch poking around on our tablets, and I stumbled across this:

furafic-fark

Holy cow, I laughed for probably five minutes straight, to the point where my sides hurt and I was crying. I don’t know why it was so funny, and the rest of the fam was mystified as well. I still chuckle just looking at it.

The internet is so awesome.

Ginger

I saw this on the internets and thought it was hilarious.

ginger

It was really her facial expression that cracked me up, probably because it reminded me of our 2014 Christmas card photo shoot, where Kyra had some hilarious facial expressions as we snapped pictures of us running for our “Jurassic Park” card.

ginger-kyra

Yep, it was good.

Yesterday the fam and I headed out to Longmont’s new theater to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We ended up with tickets to a 3D show, because it was the most convenient time given other things going on that day. As it turned out, the 3D was really well done– it wasn’t one of those instances where it felt like the 3D effects were over the top just because they could be.

And yeah, the movie was awesome. Like many people I know, I intentionally didn’t go hunting for plot spoilers on the internet. Also, secretly, I didn’t get my hopes up too high. I remember The Phantom Menace all too well. So it was a pleasant surprise to find that J.J. Abrams did a marvelous job– along with screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

The special effects were amazing, as they seem to be in big-budget movies these days.

force-awakens-1

Daisy Ridley was incredible as Rey, who was a great character. It’s interesting to see how many books and movies in the last few years have featured strong female leads. I suspect that next Halloween we’ll see a lot of little girls dressed as Rey, just like we saw a lot of Padmes a few years ago.

force-awakens-2

I admit that I shook my head about a spherical robot… what a horribly inefficient design. That said, R2-D2 has probably the least useful mode of propulsion of any robot ever invented, so maybe BB-8 is an improvement. My take on it: there seems to be a lot of hover technology in the galaxy– heck, they even slapped it on a chunk of carbonite– so they should just build robots that hover. But anyway, I digress.

And finally, it was fun to see some familiar faces. Harrison Ford was brilliant, and I like what Abrams did with his character. He threw out some great lines and had that familiar happy-go-lucky swaggering attitude.

force-awakens-3

I’m excited to see it again next week with Dirk. He and I probably watched The Empire Strikes Back a hundred times on sleepovers when we were growing up, and can still quote pretty much every line.

Well done, J.J.

Meet my friend Mr. Franklin

So it’s a bit of a long story, but we received an interesting Christmas package. It had nine thousand dollars in cash in it. I’ve never seen that many Franklins!

100-1

In another story, also somewhat long, we decided to give it back… but not before we took a few pictures. Zack kept asking, “Can I hold it?” So of course he did.

100-2

He kept asking, “Can I have one? Just one?” I suppose he hoped to get lucky or something. I posed with it as well…

100-3

I felt like one of those cheesy billboards advertising a casino, or maybe the lottery. It was kind of weird to have that much cash at once, even for a short while…

FatBooth

So apparently there’s an app called FatBooth. Zack has it on his tablet, and when I saw the photo he took it cracked me up:

fat-z

I was laughing so hard I was crying. I don’t know what it was that made it so funny, but whatever.

Kyra also took a stab at it, using her “crying or maybe scared” face:

fat-k

When I used it, my head just turned into some kind of potato thing.

fat-j

This is the kind of stuff that Zack does with his tablet. Isn’t technology wonderful?

Choke hold

In celebration of a certain impending movie release, Dave went down to one of his company’s client sites dressed as an Alliance deck officer. Unfortunately he ran into Darth Vader there, and had to be taught a lesson.

choke-hold

That’s exactly why I don’t have on-site meetings with my clients.