Alex and The Morning

Alex has been getting up in the morning and coming into our bedroom:

Tuesday, 6:13am: Alex climbs into my bed and asks me to bring him downstairs. Half awake I say "Sure, I'll help you down". He climbs down from the bed, walks around to my side and reaches his hand up to my face. "What are you doing?" I ask. "Helping you out of bed."

Wednesday (some ridiculously early hour): Alex sneaks into our room, stands right in front of my sleeping face and says (as if I were totally awake and responding to him, which I wasn't) "Daddy, let's go downstairs!" Slowly I wake, and in an effort to keep him from waking Christine, I strike a bargain with him. "Ok Alex, I'm going to hop in the shower and when I get out I'll take you downstairs. Can you go play in your room till I get out of the shower?" He replies "Sure!", makes his way down the hall to his room and closes the door. A few seconds later he opens his door and sees that I'm still in bed. He walks down the hall, gets right in front of my face again and says "Daddy, get in the shower."


Google Homepage Modules and Fame

Over the past few months I've put together a few Google Modules. A Flickr picture viewer, a bookmark display, and a 30 Boxes calendar viewer. I put a fair amount of time into them to make sure they were robust and full featured. These were basically for myself and my family, and there turned out to be some was modest interest from other people on the net.

When Google came out with their calendar my family quickly pushed to cut over from 30 boxes to Google's Calendar. They were like a force of nature sending invites every few minutes till I gave in. I think this is payback for all the tech I push on them. The thing is the 30 boxes module I wrote put all my calendar events on my Google home page where I would see them and it worked really well. But Google has yet to release a Calendar Home Page module.

I found that with some minor changes and the removal of a bunch of the cooler recurring event features I had added, the 30 boxes module could be converted to work for Google's Calendar. So I made the changes in about 15 minutes and threw it up on the web.

Unlike the other Modules I've written, the Google Calendar Module wasn't tested much and definitely wasn't robust. Based on the changes I made I knew it didn't work except in the most specific situations. It was meant as a stop gap so that I could move over from 30 Boxes to Google Calendar and share info with family before Google released a real calendar module. I'm sure
they will any minute now. There were a bunch of threads on talking about the lack of a calendar module, so I posted a link to the module homepage and told people they could use it as a short term stop gap...

So here I am, I've put a lot of time into writing some really robust modules, and the one I don't test and know doesn't work all that well gets posted to (not by me) and then makes the front page! 600 digg's and going... Pretty cool huh? My 5 minutes of internet fame ;) I guess branding helps. I called it the "Unofficial Google Calendar Homepage Module". Perhaps I should go into marketing?

A few days after it hit digg I started getting contacted by developers interested in getting it to work with recurring events. Oddly they started emailing me at my actual email address as opposed to the throwaway one I published on my module website. Privacy on the net is dead. I'm not sure it ever lived. Anyway, I traded ideas with one guy in particular and in a few days he was able to take the module and seems close to getting recurring events working. Here's a link to his version of the module

I like this open source development thing. You have an idea and other people build on it. You need something you can build on other peoples stuff. Its all very friendly and mutually supportive. Best of all I get my google calendar module and still have time to finish my homework.


Projects Lessons Learned: Advice From My Dad

My father gives great advice. Shortly after the basement raising he sent me this email. With no shortage of projects I'd probably be in the middle of all of them if not for this email.

From: My Dad

To: my brother & me

Date: Jan 3, 2006

Subject: Projects - Lessons Learned

Now that you have moved into the realm of "major" projects, you may
benefit from some of my lessons learned the hard way.

  1. Define the scope of the project very clearly before you begin. This
    will prevent scope creep and force you to finish.

  2. Always finish a project completely before you move on to another
    project. (See why rule 1 is important!) The most obvious aspect of a
    "do-it-yourself-project" is that it is always unfinished. Normally this
    is in some form of details (like a piece of molding or something). I
    have seen it get as bad as a floor or a ceiling. You will never go back
    to the project to finish it. You will never feel like you accomplished

  3. Always document infrastructure changes. This is particularly
    important for electrical and plumbing changes. Make detailed wiring
    diagrams of any changes and keep them. I use Home Architect. It works
    great. You can use anything. Visio is also good. Make the documentation
    part of step 1 scope statement. Trust me!

  4. The only real difference between a professional and a good
    do-it-yourselfer is speed and specialization. A do-it-yourselfer will
    take more time (researching how, finding parts etc and using standard
    rather than specialized tools). If you want to get good results, accept
    the fact that it will take you longer than a professional. Professionals
    sub out parts of jobs. Guys frame and guys sheetrock and guys tape but
    they are never the same guys. A do-it-yourselfer has to be able to do it
    all. It is not that hard. You just have to accept the fact that each
    skill is new and approach each one as an activity in and of itself. The
    benefit, in my experience, is that you actually get what you want and
    sometimes do it better than a standard pro.

  5. A new tool is not always the best answer. Some tools are best rented.
    Most are not necessary. If you are going to buy a tool, buy the best you
    can afford. Always buy a known brand. Make sure the commodities that
    make it go are readily available (nails, screws, oil etc). Sometimes the
    start of a project is a good time for a tool purchase if it will enable
    a faster or more professional job. I bought my detail nailer when we
    decided to re-do all the molding and install crown molding in our house.
    I completed three doors using the nail and hammer and concluded (1) a
    detail nailer is really better functionally than a hand hammer for
    molding (if you are going to do enough) and (2) unless I had a helper or
    a third hand, a detail nailer was essential. Volume normally dictates
    when a tool is required. There is nothing we did cutting the 2x4 that
    could not be done very easily with a hand saw (if you have a decent one
    and know how to use it) or a jig saw like John's. Most do-it-yourselfers
    will announce that they need a chop saw to do the job. [ Note from Paul: He is totally talking about me here. It took him a few weeks to talk me out of a chop saw. The table saw he convinced me to buy instead is one of the most useful tools I own. ] Although is
    possible to justify a chop saw for the task, unless you are going to do
    a lot of cut-off work over the years, the work can be easily
    accomplished with a circular saw and a template - or a Jig saw and a
    template or a hand saw and some know-how. In my opinion, a circular saw
    and a template is the most accurate approach and is only slightly more
    labor intensive than a chop saw (and I mean slightly).


Little Projects

Reader Notice: I started this blog so I could look back in a few years and see where all the time went. At some point a bunch of people started reading it. Some of you I know, and others of you are distant relatives of people I don't know. For those of you that are not me, be forewarned that this is one of those entries for me to look back on. You're welcome to keep reading, but really, if your not me, this isn't meant for you.

The past several weeks have been really busy with big and little projects:

  • Repaired Alex's chair: Alex has a kid sized table and chair set. One of the chairs was wobbly and needed to be tightened for the second time. We took it apart one morning. I held the chair and he unscrewed all the screws. Then we put goopy stuff ( a.k.a. glue) on the screws and tightened it back up. Alex did almost all the work. I like having a helper.

  • Backdoor Screen: Its warming up outside so I dug through the land fill that is the unfinished portion of my basement and found the backdoor sliding screen. It was a 2 second install. Reza actually helped. I think he was hurt that I had taken it down for the winter. I could have had something to do with his involvement in my induction into the screen spliners guild.

  • Basement Ceiling: John Reza and I installed a ceiling in my basement room. I had estimated the project at 3 hours. It took 15, and we worked fast.

  • Elliptical Machine: Conner and I picked up an elliptical machine form sears and stumbled on a place that was able to fix my watch. After finishing the ceiling Reza put it together. I'm not sure where he got the energy. I could barely move.

  • Seiko Watch Sizing: Christine gave me this really cool kinetic watch for Christmas. It has a metal band so I went out and got watch repair tools and learned how to size it. Unfortunately when I size it its either too tight or too loose. I called Seiko to ask them if they had a solution. Their answer was a bit odd. Before I had even finished explaining the situation, the Seiko rep (a very nice woman) finished my explanation of the problem and went on to explain that this has been a problem for as long as she has worked at Seiko. "Ten years ago they had this kit for sale that you could use to fix that, but they stopped selling it." The place Conner and I found was able to put a new clasp on the watch that allowed for more granular resizing.

  • Curtains: I put up curtains in our Family Room, Kitchen, and Living Room.

  • Replaced the printer and DVD player: Our printer and DVD player gave out the same time. Getting new ones was easy, but the DVD player we got required a different type of audio cable. I learned that co-axial cables can have RCA end connectors... Who knew??? The strange thing about the new printer is that when I try print a PDF it sometimes hangs and then a day or two later the PDF prints out. yesterday I went to print something and just before my PDF printed a list of games Cristine tried to print a few days earlier startred printing.

  • Recycling: We recycle about 3x as much stuff as we throw away. In our house that's a lot of stuff. One of my chores is to sort it all out and take it to the recycling center on weekends. The recycling center is maned by volunteers. When Alex and Conner get older I'd like to take them there to volunteer.

  • Fixed kitchen drawer that had come off its track

  • Spent a Saturday morning at the Car dealership having our car serviced. I brought a laptop with me, and while they didn't have an Internet connection, I still got a bunch done by reading ruby ri documentation

  • Mounted 3 dressers to the wall so that if the kids climb on them they wont fall over.

  • Rehung a door on my dresser

  • Cat litter. Just another chore.

  • Hung a chalk board for the kids

  • Oiled Conner's bedroom door

  • Cleaned out the garage: this was an 8 hour job. Over the winter the garage had become the dumping ground for all of the basement construction supplies and garbage. It became so cluttered I had to stop parking in it. Now I've got the entire thing back.


Wrapping the presents & sort of hiding them

When I arrived home from work I walked in the front door and the following conversation immediately ensued.

Alex: Daddy! We wrapped your presents!

Don't tell him where they are!
(to Alex, as fast as she could get it out)

Alex: We hid them in my closet!

Me: (picking him up) Hi Alex. Presents huh? Cool. I think that's supposed to be a secret... Do you know what a secret is?

Alex: Yes. Lets go upstairs and open your presents Daddy!