Current Events

I don't usually post about current events but I think it's important for people to know how I feel.
I believe, without any supernatural power influencing us, that it is in all humans nature that being kind and respectful to all is normal. Those being violent and destructive are not well and make up only a small fraction of the people on the streets (both the public and law enforcement, it's very nuanced). However, the violent and destructive actions seem to be the things people are reporting on because that is what gets people attention and clicks.
I find it difficult to parse exactly what's going on, who is doing what. Things reported on social media are done with bias views and designed to attract attention. There are accounts that are designed to manipulate people to subscribe to particular views, so I don't really give much attention to random posts.
Traditional media can have a bias or be incomplete so that they can be the First to report. They also need to attract as many eyeballs as possible because advertising revenue has become the last thread of funding for their organizations. Sometimes this comes at the expense of accurate reporting (it's sad really, subscribe to your local newspaper please). Weather or not what's being reported leans left or right, I take a lot of reports with a critical eye.
With the difficulties trying to sort out what's going on, I also have two kids, a full-time job, and we're dealing with this pandemic, so time is at a premium for me. I find it difficult to devote much time to make an informed opinion and be able to articulate it in a way that is accurate and won't offend anyone because I left out a little detail.
I am also aware, being a white guy raised in a midwest college town, that I am highly privileged and feel like I have a responsibility to use that privilege to help people who are not. How do I balance that with my and my family's needs? I am not very good at confrontation and would rather avoid an argument, but I know that I should do something.
So, this is my post. I believe what's been happening to the Black community today, and for generations, is not right. We need to listen and take action to make things right, in whatever small way we can. This article seems like a good place to start being an ally. I'm also going to try to recognize and say something when I see something not right (again, I avoid confrontation by default, so this will be difficult for me). I'm going to vote for people who I believe will listen and take actions to make things better. I am going to listen (that's something I think I'm good at).
There is no one thing that will fix this all, and it's not going to happen in a few days, months, or even years, but we can strive to continue to make progress in the right direction.
Thanks for listening.

Upgraded Car

While I was in Portland for DrupalCon, Gaila managed to wreck the Kia.  She is fine aside from a bit of a bruse from the seatbelt.  The other car had no damage. The Kia was determined to be totaled (just barely). So we took this opportunity to upgrade our vehicle. We ended up with a 2012 Ford Focus. It's newer, has more features, and better gas mileage. Plus we got below 2% intrest on the loan.

2012 Ford Focus Totaled Kia Spectra

New Computer! MacBook Pro with Retina Display

MacBook Pro with Retina Display

I finally got around to replacing my 5 year old MacBook pro with a brand new MacBook Pro with Retina Display.  The new machine is maxed out with 16GB RAM and a 256GB SSD. The thing boots in just a few seconds and wakes from sleep instantly. Compared to my old computer, the drive is twice as big and is SSD instead of a 5400 RPM ATA drive. It also has 4x the RAM.

The Retina Display is very nice and makes my 20" Apple Cinema Display look like crap.  The attached image shows this website in the iPad with Retina Display simulator, actual pixel for pixel (it doesn't quite fit in portrait).

Gaila ended up with my old MBP to replace her Aluminum PowerBook G4.

Here's to another 5 years.

Movie Posters in the Basement

We have movie posters mounted and installed in our basement entertainment area. It has been our weekend project the past couple of weeks acquiring the posters via the campus poster sale and eBay, plus ordering frames and mattes to make all the posters fit in the same size and spacing. We wanted it to look halfway decent. I think we are satisfied with the results.

The list of movies:

  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Star Wars
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Airplane!
  • Spaceballs
  • Robin Hood: Men in Tights
  • The Horse Whisperer
  • Shawshank Redemption
  • The Blues Brothers
  • Ghost Busters - Glows in the dark
  • Ferris Buller's Day Off
  • WALL-E

I wanted to get "Back To The Future" in the mix, but aparently Gaila doesn't like it for some reason. I believe I comprimised to get "Ferris Buller's Day Off" with "The Horse Whisperer."

Next on the list of things to do down there is finish the trim work and get a surround sound system.


Goodbye Taurus. Hello Spectra

Ford TaurusFriday night, August 26th, my Taurus finally kicked the bucket at I-235 and 19th st in Des Moines. In the last couple years it has been in the shop for numerous cooling system repairs. One of the coolant hoses ruptured and my engine over heated. We had to get an after-hours tow and get a ride back home form my dad who was coincidently in town. Also, many tanks to Gaila's aunt and uncle for entertaining us for the evening.

The shop in Des Moines fixed the ruptured hose and found because of the overheating I had blown the head gasket. A repair that would take over 10 hours of labor, pushing the repair cost to over the value of the working car. I ended up striping the after market audio system and junking the car for $250.

I've driven this car since my leaner's permit back in 1998 and only about 40,000 miles on it. Since then I put it through 100,000 miles of use. As recently as the summer of 2009 I drove it 1,000 miles out to my brother's wedding in Penn Yan, NY. It has been to Kansas City, Chicago, St. Louis and an infinite number of places in between. Almost every other weekend in the fall 2004 I drove it to Yankton, SD through the winding roads of the loess hills to spend time with my future wife. The best way to identify the car was the trailer hitch that was used more for bruising shins than for hauling the fold down camper. The best picture of the Taurus I could find was when a deer ran into it.

Kia SpectraLast Saturday I bought a new (to me) car. A 2006 Kia Spectra with only 45,000 miles on it. I still need to get an antenna and cruse control installed as part of the deal. Then I need to figure out how to install auxiliary audio so I can play my podcasts from my iPhone on my commute.

I hope to run this one for at least another 100,000 miles and more than 15 years.

SEO Presentation for Drupal Corn

I did a presentation on Search Engine Optimization for the Drupal Corn group. Attached is the presentation slides that include links to the modules and resources I mentioned.

Download PDF Presentation



Helpful Drupal Modules

mod_security in .htaccess not working

I got mod_security from EPEL for my RHEL 5 setup. Apparently the binary you get from EPEL was compiled with the switch -DDISABLE_HTACCESS_CONFIG. I have been pulling my hair trying to get Apache to not throw an error 500 every time I wanted to selectively put in any mod_security directives. I ended up just throwing the directives directly into the VirtualHost or other context and reloading Apache.

Google had a hard time finding the problem, so I hope this blog post will help someone else.

Marketing with QR Codes

example QR codeI've seen QR codes popping up in the last few months. When I first encountered it in the wild, I saw a 2-D barcode and thought why it was so prominent on the advertising. I've seen 2-D barcodes on other things such as my at&t bill that turns out to be some sort of reference number. Being a geeky person, I decided to see if there was a 2-D barcode reader for iPhone and actually see what data was encoded in these codes.

Turns out an app I had that scans regular 1-D UPC barcodes could also scan QR codes (I had to enable QR for RedLaser by going to the Settings app). The first code in the wild I scanned was at Jeff's Pizza. I figured it might be a coupon or some sort of interesting information. I was disappointed that it was just a geo-location that brought up a non-mobile version of Google Maps. Not really a good experience.

Later I received a flyer in the mail for Cyclone basketball. On it was a QR code to scan to win a pair of tickets to a game of my choice. I won, but the experience of filling out the information on my mobile browser was not optimized for a mobile device (thank god it didn't require flash).

There are so many things you can do with QR codes. If done right, it can be a positive experience for the user. Since an encoded URL is not really seen by the user on the print, you can easily embed campaign codes to better track your advertising effectiveness. It also makes it much easier for the user to get additional information and engage the user in your message. However, if it is not done right, it may be confusing or even be a detriment a person's opinion of your message as it was for my first experiences with QR codes.

I've put together a few notes that might help people implement QR codes effectively:

  • Since a lot of people don't know what a QR code is, perhaps offer instructions and a link to download a scanner somewhere near the code.
  • Make sure you label your code with a call to action so the user knows what scanning the code will get them. "Scan this for today's coupon!". Just throwing a QR code up because it's the hip thing to do is not going to be effective.
  • If you are linking to a website, make sure it is mobile optimized. You want to make it as easy as possible for your user to find the information they are looking for. If they have to zoom, scroll, and navigate to get the information they are looking for, you are going to lose them.

I'm sure there are other things that can make using QR codes easier and more fun, but following the points above will put you well ahead of most of the implementations I've seen so far.

Plans for Accomplishing Goals

Here is my plan for accomplishing these goals/resolutions. A few of them, I may need your help.

  • Play Xbox on a regular basis with my brother
    • Set a recurring time, hopefully on a weekly basis, to play.
  • iPod connection to my car stereo
    • Need to figure out how to get to the back of my deck to plug into the AUX input. If anyone can help me that would be great, otherwise I will take it into a car audio place and have them show me how to do it.
  • Do a website for hire (outside of work)
    • Anyone have any leads? Don't really want to advertise on Craig's List. Would like to work for a local small business.
  • It has been almost a decade since I've wanted to start learning Cocoa.
    • Set aside a couple hours every Saturday. Let it grow from there
  • Give a presentation at Cocoaheads (dependent on above)
    • See above
  • Be physically active at least once a week
    • Does anyone want to go bowling or something once a week? Perhaps Frisbee Golf when the weather gets better?
  • Be less anti-social. Hang out with friends more often.
    • Could kill this one with the above. Also, now that the bar is done I should just invite people over.
  • Get or build a new desk for my office
    • May have to wait 'til spring to be able to work in the garage. For now, make some measurements and look at perhaps a trip to Ikea?
  • Get rid of clutter and items we don't use anymore
    • Got a box for things to get rid of. Wednesday nights post things on Craig's List, Freecycle, E-Bay
  • Visit my brother in Philly
    • Determine if Gaila is coming with. Main issue is budget. Want to go the week of June 6 to catch Phillies Vs Cubs.

The Bar is Done

Gaila and I finished a bunch of work on the bar just before New Years. It has been functional for about a year, but we never got motivated to finish. Now, all that is left is a little bit of trim work. The rest of the room still needs some movie posters and the media center area needs some rejiggering. Check out the pics:



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