Tag Archives: hobbies

Weekend hacking… much progress

This was one of the most productive weekends of hacking that I’ve had in a long time. I finally managed to get all my fixes for the drupal epublish module upstream. And, as a bonus, I wrote a first pass at exporting the data via views because I needed that in order to make the Featured Veggie block on the PFP website work. I’m actually hoping this is going to turn into an epublish 1.6 release before the end of the month.

On the PFP site I completed the last few things I committed to as part of the winter feature additions. This now means that instead of featured programs on the front page, we’ve got features, promoting columns from our upcoming (or just released) newsletter. I also managed to pull of a bit of a back flip and via the afore mentioned epublish views, figure out what veggie was most recently highlighted in a newsletter. Thus creating the featured veggie box.

The mid-hudson astro site saw a bit of work as well. My lending module is now pretty robust, and ready for review to become an official drupal module. Hopefully it will get some testing over the next month and we can have start transitioning to it come April.

And lastly, I managed to connect up with some of the NY State Senate developers working open government initiatives. Hopefully we can get one of them to come down and give a lecture at MHVLUG, as I think a local talk on open government would be really spectacular.

Passing of Gygax

I remember very vividly being introduced to D&D at the age of 12.  A friend of mine from junior high, Travis Dudley, had all five 1st edition boxed sets.  Our first coupld of days with them were mostly creating level 55 characters and fighting Dragons.  Not high art, but incredibly fun.

A year later 2nd Edition came out, and we started being interested in things besides just battles with dragons.  I remember getting issues of Dungeon Magazine, and DMing adventures out of there.  D&D lead off into other RPGs, like the teenage mutant ninja turtles universe, shadow runner, cyberpunk, and a range of table top games.  It even lead to my friend Chris and I writing our own table top game (85 page rule book), that had 3 generations of game play mechanics at the age of 15.  Yes, at 15 we spent our spare hours writing an 85 page rule book, printing out drafts on my dot matrix printer (which took about 3 hrs), and doing play testing and editing.

But it all started with cracking open Gygax’s D&D and a realization: with a few well crafted rules your imagination can take you to places you never imagined.

RIP Gary.

Thoughts on a smarter home

While our new woodstove insert is really great, and is definitely reducing our oil usage, it causes a bit of an issue when it comes to distributing the heat through the house.  When running on wood heat we get warmth right up the center of the house.  The office at the end of the upstairs hallway ends up being the warmest room in the house.  It is far too easy to make the upstairs unlivably warm, while the rest of the house is quite cool still.

Fortunately, we have a central air HVAC system, so the solution is to just turn on the furnace fan to redistribute the heat through the house.  This works pretty well, and at least mellows out the hot spots.  Ideally we wouldn’t run the fan all the time, but would duty cycle it on for some portion of an hour.  Honeywell makes a thermostat that has a cyrc fan mode, which runs the fan 35% of each hour, which was an option, but something else caught my eye.

The Proliphix Internet Thermostat NT20e is quite a nifty device.  It has a bit more programing than our current thermostat and has the advantage of having a web interface.  You plug the device into your ethernet network and get a web interface for all the controls and programming for the device.  What’s even better is that Proliphix designed this with further customization in mind by publishing an HTTP API to the device as well.  This makes is very easy to have a computer create further logic for the device, like forcing the fan on for certain hours of the day, while leaving the defaults for programming in the device itself.

I’ve now ordered mine, and it is on it’s way.  I can’t wait to get this thing hooked up.

The Hudson River

Today was our first kayak outing of the year, timed very nicely with the first greater-than-90-degree day of the year. We hit the water at about 2, and got off at 6, stopping twice along the way (including once to visit with my friend Nick who was working on his sailboat). 6 miles in all, about 2 of which was pushing against the current.

The Hudson River is the defining geographic element around these parts. They don’t call it the Mid-Hudson Valley for nothing. πŸ˜‰ Given that it is pretty amazing how few people really use the river for much. As we were kayaking along there were a bunch of things I realized that people who don’t spend time on the river don’t realize, so I decided I’d write them down for river neophytes out there:

  1. The River is Tidal, with Tidal delta about 3.5 in Poughkeepsie. Tidal affects occur all the way to Albany, where the river is dammed.
  2. From this, it follows that the River has saline content. Once you get a far North as Poughkeepsie, it is pretty dilute, though the area is still considered estuary, as it isn’t pure fresh water.
  3. The 3.5 foot tides also mean the river changes direction 4 times a day. The river runs almost as fast upstream as downstream (over 2 mph), as anyone who’s spent much time on a boat on it will tell you. The first time you realize the river is going backwards, it is definitely a shock, but as you understand it a bit more it makes sense.
  4. Whenever the river direction changes there is a very violent wave period for 30 – 60 minutes. I’m assuming the reason has to to with part of the water still making it downstream, while another part forces up. I’ve experienced it enough times that it is something very real, and becomes and interesting period of time to be in a kayak. πŸ˜‰ I’ve tended to call this “the river fighting itself”, but I’m sure there is a better term for it.
  5. There are a bloody lot of giant Carp in the Hudson. I’m not sure where they come from, if they winter over, or what. But they are there, and this time of the year they are breading, so are seen quite a bit.
  6. The river flushes every year. From March -> June there is a ton of debris in the river (it seems to mostly flush out come late June). The debris is mostly water logged wood, which doesn’t do any harm to a kayak, but can do some nice damage to motor boat engines.
  7. There are Bald Eagles on the River. I’ve seen two now (one on July 4th last year), and they are pretty spectacular.

I’m sure there are other fun facts that I should add, but all of those seem to be bits that even people around here don’t know. If I think of anything else good, I’ll post it in future. If you’ve got anything else good, please stick it in comments.

A Day of Hiking

Picture courtesy of Mike Kershaw

Yesterday, Susan, Porkchop, Mike and I spent a really great afternoon off in the Gunks. After talking with people at my table during leadership class, I’d realized that in my 8 years in the Mid-Hudson Valley, I’d never actually been there yet. I found that even more amusing when I realized that I already had bought the maps for the Gunks probably 7 years ago, and they’d been sitting in my topo map pile ever since.

We hit the trail about 2:15, after stopping in New Paltz to grab lunch for the trail. After doing a leisurely stroll around the lake in Minnewaska State Park, we started at a more brisk pace to get out to Castle Point. Given the names of some of the features near there, we thought there might actually be structures there, so it seemed like a good goal. In reality, it was actually a cliff face that gave you a 200+ degree view of everything East, South, and West. It even had a small scrambling trail down over the edge, which I explored a bit. Mike’s ankle stopped being happy just about as we got to Castle Point, so he was a sad panda during the way back.

I did the hike in walking shoes instead of my normal trail running shoes, which was the right call for the 4.5 hours that we were moving. I think that I’ve realized my feet are just weird enough that 2 hours on them in almost any shoe isn’t fun. Nike / New Balance Sneakers seem to be the exception, which means the era of trail running shoes for me appears to be over, and back to sneakers it is. It had first noticed this on a whim last weekend when at the Natural History Museum with the family. Normally I end up needing to sit down quite often towards the end of the trip, both my feet and back hurting. With my white soled New Balance walking shoes on (white soled because they were gotten as Boat Shoes) it didn’t bother me at all.

The End of Curling Season

Today was the final day in the curling adventure for the year, and a lot of fun was had by all.

The day was setup as a mini Bonspiel, with the 8 teams lined up into a series of matches. The rules:

  • Each match is 3 Ends
  • 0.25 points for ever point scored by each team
  • 2 bonus points for the winning of the game over all

With 2 sheets, and 8 teams, the inevitable breakdown was Group A (A, B, C, D), and Groub B(E, F, G, H). After the first round, winners played winners, loosers played loosers in the same group. So everyone got to play 2 games.

The net result is the folks from Poughkeepsie represented quite nicely, taking 2nd (D), and 3rd (B – our team) over all. After all was said and done, we managed to get in 1 last 2 End game with the Poughkeepsie team, ending in a 2 – 2 tie (which was 1/4 inch off a 3 – 2 win).

I was throwing largely short all day, and I didn’t sort out why until the way home. I had actually stopped using my wrist (which many other folks were still doing to get the extra oomph). This meant my lines were quite good, but all my power was coming from my legs (as it should), but I didn’t really correct for it until the very end.

We also had the fun of dragging out both measuring apparati that the club had, one to determine if a shot was in, and one to determine which of 2 stones was closer.

It looks like Curling is the new sport of champions for all of us. With any luck we’ll all be doing it again in the fall (I’m pretty sure I’m in, we’ll see what the attrition rate of everyone else ends up being.)

More adventures in Curling

I was too busy last week to give the blow by blow for Day 1 of curling, but Pyg did, so I don’t feel too bad.

The day started with brunch, with the normal crew (Mike, Porkchop, Pyg, Gargos, and myself). After a quick resync at the homestead, I swung out to Pyg’s place, and we were off.

Today was about drills:

  • Throw a blocking stone
  • Throw a stone that hooks around a blocking stone
  • Throw a stone between 2 other stones
  • Throw a knock-out shot

In general, we were pretty bad at all of these things. However, over the course of all the drills I finally figured out the way in which I need to hold the broom, so I stopped toppling over on my throws, which are doing reasonably well when it comes to straightness. That got me much more comfortable on doing shots, and let me stop thinking about not falling over, and start trying to sort out all the other things I should be thinking about.

Our team is formed, the Fighting Berungies (sp?), with Jay, Pyg, and Jason (who we paired off with on Day 1, and we all work pretty well together), so we got to play a 2 End competition at the end of it. We drew 1 – 1 at the end of it, which is pretty respectable, given the other team had a ringer from the club to bring their 3 person team up to 4.

For next thursday I think we are definitely all in need of some more drills on throwing blocking shots, as we either were stopping dead 2 feet from the hog line, or blowing past into the back.

Until next time… good curls.

Curling, End2

After a bit of hemming and hawing, it appears that the gang is all in for the $50, 4 day curling class at the Norfolk Curling Club. I have to say, I keep thinking about my last throw in the last game, which didn’t have quite the right spin to go where it should have gone. However, other than that, it was a good throw. It would have been nice to get a few more shots after that to understand what I did wrong, and how to do it better.

Given how aweful the last winter was down here in terms of being able to get out and do anything, curling might actually be a fun new hobby to pick up.

Curling… Freaking Sweet

Sunday was a day of adventure. After a bit of cajoling from the local gang, I tagged along to the curling open house at the Norfolk Curling Club, which was about a 1.5 hour trek from Poughkeepsie.

We arrived at 1:30, a bit before the open house officially started, and soon found ourselves in an incredibly crowded lodge, as apparently more than a few people got the Curling fever during the recent Olympics.

The first hour on the ice was mostly doing little drills, which was interesting, but got repetitive quickly. We eventually left the ice so that others could have a change. However, after being inside for about 10 minutes Pyg aptly noticed that part of the court had freed up, and maybe we could get some more time out there.

After a few rounds of throwing stones, I decided to grab a broom and see if I could manage this sweeping thing. That presented a couple of new challenges. There was the challenge of running the whole court after the stone without falling on your butt, the challenge of sweeping with great vigor, without falling, and the challenge of hearing the difference between the words “sweep” and “up” from the skip at the far end while the din of stones moving across the ice, and while concentrating hard on the not falling part. I only screwed up the not falling part once, but that can be excused, as while I was managing running on the ice, and sweeping hard pretty well, the addition of trying to avoid stepping on the kid that fell in front of me was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Anyway, after about 30 minutes of that I’d had quite a nice aerobic workout.

And then, the really cool part happened. It was about 4:15, and people kept peeling off the ice (I was about ready to hang up my broom after tiring from sweeping). One of the guys from the club noticed that there we 6 of us left out there, Jay, Pyg, and I, plus 3 high school kids that seemed to know each other, so he asked if we wanted to play a real game.

All I can say is… FREAKING AWESOME. My lack of throwing practice clearly showed itself, however the fact that I actually spent time learning sweeping technique helped a bit. We played 2 ends, with the guy from the club playing skip for both of us and giving us advice. In the end we lost 2 to 1, through a nice knockout on the hammer by the other team.

All in all, a very fun experience. If you ever have a chance to try it, do!