Road Trip and Anniversaries

Just got back from a trip to Rocklin, CA. Had some great time visiting with Stacy and Justin McEwan, and their two children (Dominic and Audrey). Both are very cute and fun to be with (along with their parents, of course). We were able to spend some time with the grandkids while Justin was studying and Stacy was in training for her new RN job at Kaiser.

We went to the park for the swings and slides. We made a quick trip to the pool in their condo complex; the weather was nice enough for the kids to swim. Both are very comfortable in the water with their life jackets.

We had lunches and dinner together (Round Table Pizza; took Taco Bell to the park, and of course The Habit for burgers, fries, and crunchy onion rings).

The other main purpose for the trip was to visit our son’s Jason’s gravesite on the anniversary of his death. It is at the Newcastle (CA) Cemetery, which is a pretty and peaceful setting. Fresh flowers and cleaning off the gravestone, plus a few moment to contemplate.

Pam and I also visited our daughter’s (Erica) grave (she lived only a few hours) in Rocklin, also a nicely maintained cemetery.  And we had a visit with my 95-year-old mother, still doing well at her age (she still drives; the CA DMV extended her license another 10 years last year). Most say that she looks like a 75-year-old. She mentioned that there are 110+ children/grandchildren/great-grandchildren/spouses, and each still get a card from her on their birthdays and anniversaries. She keeps busy organizing photos and family history.

I finished up a redesign of Jason’s web site (www.jasonhellewell.com). The content is mostly the same, at the moment, but it has a new ‘responsive’ design so that it will be easily viewed on any device. There will be some new scrapbook pages put up later — Pam is quite productive in that department.

And I delivered my Raspberry Pi Media Server project to the McEwans. It was a fun project to do, and the Media Server part works fairly well. More info on that project later; I am building another one just for me.

A nice trip – although the long 13-hour drive is tiring, but we arrived home safely last night. It was great trip!

WordPress Plugin Project Done

I’ve been working on a WordPress plugin that stops comment spam from ‘bots’. It uses a technique that I’ve built into a package of custom programs that block comment and contact form spam. The technique is quite effective. When I put it on a web site that gets spam from ‘bots’ (automated programs), the spam immediately stops.

The details are on the FormSpammerTrap web site; that’s were spambots go when they try to submit their spam on a form that I’ve protected. The whole thing is free to anyone that wants it (details on the site).

It was interesting to write and debug (with those steps repeated). But I got it submitted to the WordPress overlords, and it is now available (here, if you are interested).  Of course, there are tons of other plugins that purport to do the same thing, but I think mine is more clever than theirs.

I’m thinking of some enhancements for it, but also thinking of a new project involving the new Raspberry Pi 2 . The RP2 is a small computer about the size of a deck of cards, but it can be quite powerful. Although Linux-based, Microsoft has announced that Windows 10 will be available for it.

There are lots of projects that use the RP2, and I have found some good (and some not-so-good) tutorials on the project that I am interested in.

The RP2 is not quite shipping yet, but I will be ordering one soon, and it might arrive before the end of this month. More later.

Weather Stations and USB Servers

A recent trip to Costco netted me a Acurite Professional Weather Station (model 0232C – http://www.acurite.com/environment/weather-stations/8-pro-digital-weather-station-with-pc-connect-01036.html, which lists for $169.99, available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00NI57C14/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00NI57C14&linkCode=as2&tag=chaosreviews-20&linkId=5SWQC6FMGKCJAMDU for $113); at Costco, the price was under $85. I have always been interested in getting a weather station, but most cost even more than $170. So when I saw the one at the local Costco (it doesn’t appear to be available on the Costco web site) at that price, I decided to get it.

Setup was fairly easy, although at additional cost. “Siting” a weather station is important, but I had a good spot in the corner of my yard – no fences, lots of open space around it. In my case, there was a solid tree stump at that corner, so a trip to the local Home Depot netted me a 1” galvanized flange, a 1” to ¾” adapter, and a five foot ¾” galvanized pipe, plus four 2 ½” lag bolts, and a can of beige spray paint (to help the post blend into the neighborhood, since it is visible from the street). The weather station is mounted on the ¾” pipe, although it does include mounting to a wooden post. All of that got the weather station installed in a great spot, and so far, the neighbors haven’t complained about the placement (there is an HOA involved, so don’t tell them).

The outdoor unit communicates with the indoor color display wirelessly. The display has a USB port to connect to a computer, and then you can send your data to a place like Weather Underground. You can also install an app on your Android or Apple device to display your data. But you do need to connect the display to your computer via the included USB cable.

And that was my problem that makes all of this related to computers.

In my house, the living room is the desired location for the color weather display. But the desktop computer is in the office upstairs. That computer doesn’t get used much, since my wife and I both have laptops that we use to connect to our home wireless network. But the desktop is connected to the laser printer (via a network printer device) so we can use that. The desktop is also used as the backup for our laptop files, which are backed up to the ‘cloud’ with Carbonite. (We use the Microsoft SyncToy to sync files from laptops to the desktop.)

In order to get the weather data to Weather Underground (WU), the weather station comes with an app that is loaded on a computer. The weather display is then connected to the computer via the USB cable, and then the desktop app sends the data up to WU. So my layout was not going to work, unless I used a 50 foot USB cable (which won’t work).

A search (with a bit of help from fellow CMR advisor Eric Pobirs) eventually got me to the Monoprice company web site, which had a USB server that allowed USB devices to connect to a computer via IP (http://www.monoprice.com/Product?c_id=105&cp_id=10521&cs_id=1052103&p_id=5343&seq=1&format=2). The list price at Monoprice is $24, but who pays list? A search on Amazon didn’t find a cheaper price. The listing there was $28 (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002JTR620/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B002JTR620&linkCode=as2&tag=chaosreviews-20&linkId=XT3ATAL62DXT2ZQT ), but there were a couple of used ones for under $10 including ground shipping (the used ones may not be available). The device specs and features looked good, and losing a sawbuck (for you youngsters, see http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=sawbuck ) was OK if it didn’t work, so I ordered the used one.

It arrived a few days later in a padded package: the device, the power supply, and the mini-CD with the device application). A simple installation process: connect the weather station USB cord to the USB server, plug the server into the router (which is in the same location as the weather display), and connect the AC adapter. Then upstairs to the desktop computer to install the device software from a mini-CD on the desktop. A few clicks, and a search via the app to find the USB server on the network, and the weather display was connected. (The device used DHCP to get its IP address, although you can assign an IP address with the app.)

I switched to the Acurite weather application, and it saw the weather display that was connected over my LAN. It all worked.

The USB server device can support a USB hub, so you could connect more than one USB device to your local network. You can also use it to connect a non-network type printer to your local network. If you have multiple computers, the USB server software will allow each computer to connect to any USB device, although not at the same time. The software does have a way to send a message from one computer to another to release control of the USB device.

The USB server might be most useful for sharing non-network-enabled printers at a reasonable price (although wireless-enabled printers are not that expensive). And, in my case, to connect my weather display to the desktop computer through my local network, which allows me to share my weather station on Weather Underground (here http://www.wunderground.com/personal-weather-station/dashboard?ID=KWAPORTL19 , if you are interested).

Web Sites and Weather Stations

The low-carb-beat-type-2-diabetes fight continues, with some success. My weight has gone down to 263, but bounces about 2 pounds higher. There is a steady but slow decline.

Walking continues, although the weather here in the Olympic Peninsula has been cold and rainy (go figure). We had a bit under 3 inches of snow last weekend, and cold (20-30F) before that. Today is warmer, mid-40’s, but overcast and a few showers. But I am still walking, at least once a day, and usually twice, on my .6 mile walkabout.

Working on a few interesting web sites, one for an author that I discovered and volunteered to help out. He has written fantasy novels before, but came out with a thriller of the  Jack Reacher variety that I really enjoyed. I went to his web site and saw a few things that could be improved style-wise. I volunteered my services – it is something that I enjoy, and keeps me occupied – so we’ve been working on a redesign of his site. Not quite ready for the public yet, some minor styling details to hash out.

Also working on a new site for the POS-FFOS group; the suicide survivor support group that I did several sites for. It is mostly done, just waiting for some final administrivia staff to get up to speed with managing the site.

And, I have been working on a bit of writing. It’s a story that may turn out to be novel-length. It starts with an interesting (to me) premise. I’m still on the first draft; I have about 210 pages done, but not quite sure of the overall direction and ending. I have a few ideas percolating about that. It is interesting, and something else to keep me occupied.

Coming up on the holidays, looks like there is a trip to see both daughters and their families (and grandkids). Some bit of driving involved (Utah first, then California), but don’t mind that. It will be nice to see the grandkids (and daughters) again.

I did install a weather station outside. Put it on a 5-foot metal pole for stability, and painted the pole a neutral gray color so the pole would blend into the background. A neighbor objected to the placement and complained to the HOA, which is quite active and has quite a few different rules, including getting approval for yard plantings and house colors. The neighbor complained that it was an antenna (the weather devices communicates wirelessly to an inside display), which are verboten according to HOA rules. The neighbor finally realized that argument was no good, and the HOA wasn’t inclined to agree with her. I agreed to paint the device (which I had offered at the very beginning) the same neutral color as the pole, which resolved that neighborhood dispute. I found the whole thing amusing.

Changes Implemented and Reviewed

The last post detailed my plan to deal with the diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes. For those that were paying attention, the plan and results are, one month later:

  • Limit carbohydrates at each meal to 60: this is regularly done. There have been a few meals where the carb total was a bit above that, but on average, Goal: achieved.
  • Limit carbohydrates of snacks at 30: when I do have snacks, I try to keep them low-sugar (and therefore low carbs). Fruits, nuts, beef jerky, grapes, apples. Even though some fruits are a bit higher than my self-imposed limit, the extra fiber in them helps reduce the sugar/insulin hit. Some snacks, like beef jerky, are full of protein (to help with the ‘full’ feeling), but have only very small amounts of fat. Goal: achieved.
  • Reducing portion sizes: this one can be harder, but overall I try to keep within the ‘serving size’ as shown on the packages. And I am slowly moving away from my long-standing practice of filling up the plate and then eating everything on the plate.Goal: achieved.
  • Increasing fiber (fruits and veggies): I try to have snacks and meals with fruits and veggies. That has increased the fiber, which I have noticed helps out when I visit the ‘library’. Goal: achieved.
  • Increase physical exercise: I now take a 1/2 mile walk, usually twice a day. My average pace is 2.2 mph, and there are some small elevation changes (about 80 feet total). So by the end of the walk, my heart rate is a bit elevated, as is by breathing. That seems to me as a good result.Goal: achieved.
  • Start taking metfornim (it makes sugar processing a bit more efficient, among other things): Done. Goal: achieved.
  • Start monitoring my blood glucose level: I measure every morning before breakfast, and usually once in the afternoon. I took a printout of my readings (I enter them into an app called “Glucose Buddy”, which lets you email your entries) to the doctor on the followup (one-month) visit after the initial diagnosis. He was quite pleased with the numbers (they are in the range of 110 to 170), and said to continue everything I am doing so far. Goal: achieved.

I had hoped with these changes that my weight would go down. And — huzzah ! — it has. I started out at 178 on the first day after my diagnosis. One month later, my weight is 168. I think that’s a good progression!  It is not a steady decrease; the morning weight fluctuates 1-2 pounds, but the overall trend is going in the direction I want.

And I have noticed the difference. One skinnier notch on the belt loop. Easier to bend over and tie my shoes without my stomach getting in the way.

So, I will be continuing the same plan. Perhaps increasing the length of the walk a bit. And maybe some other exercising. My research indicates that increased exercise, and carb-watching, can only be helping my efforts to reduce (perhaps eliminate) my diagnosis.

Huzzah for me !!

In Which Changes are in Order

Now that we are firmly ensconced in our new home in Washington state (we now have WA drivers licenses, and vehicle license plates, and are registered voters – we are therefore assimilated), it was time for us to get established with a primary care doctor.

My appointment was last Tuesday. I arranged to get copies of my medical records to the new doctor (conveniently located in our little village here). After the obligatory weigh-in (I had worn my lightest clothes, of course), blood pressure, pulse, etc., I met with the doctor. We reviewed my medications and current illnesses (sleep apnea and atrial fibrillation, both controlled). He then looked at my last blood tests. Cholesterol and other things were OK, but the blood sugar was a bit high. So a blood draw was done.

The next day, I received (by email, since the office uses an on-line medical system), the results. The doctor told me that I was the latest winner of the “Type 2 Diabetes Lottery”.

Shoot. I didn’t know that I had entered.

So changes are in order. I knew that I was overweight, although my weight has been stable for several years. That, and a mostly sedentary lifestyle (we computer geeks don’t get out much), and my age allowed me to be that latest winner.

I did a bit of on-line research (well, I am a computer geek), and determined the beginnings of my plan:

  • Limit carbohydrates at each meal to 60
  • Limit carbohydrates of snacks at 30
  • Reducing portion sizes
  • Increasing fiber (fruits and veggies)
  • Increase physical exercise
  • Start taking metfornim (it makes sugar processing a bit more efficient, among other things)
  • Start monitoring my blood glucose level

And then I implemented that plan. I am now taking a walk around the neighborhood twice a day, each walk is a bit over 1/2 mile, with some minor elevation change. (I plan on increasing the distance as I get used to walking; there are some good walking paths around here.)

I now look at nutrition labels, and plan my meals and snacks to be within those limits (at the same time increasing fiber intake, since sugar with fiber is digested more slowly). And I have a new glucose meter.

I have since visited with the diabetes counselor at the nearby hospital, and the dietician, who I met with today.

That visit was very positive. She looked at my glucose readings over the last 3 days (when I first got my meter), and they are well within range. The dietician said that my carb plan was very good. She liked my meter readings, and my commitment to exercise.

So, I think that I am on the right track. My long-term plan is to lose a bunch of weight (30 pounds would not be unreasonable), and continue with more healthy eating habits.

So far, a week into the diagnosis, I am on-track.

Catching Up

After a long weekend … wait, every weekend is long when you are retired … still plugging away organizing things in the garage. Got another 24” cabinet, and put that together, so now there are three. That gives me some space to get things out of boxes into the cabinets. At the previous house, all of those things were in the equivalent of eight 24” cabinets, so I will need to be careful about how things are stored.

And I have noticed that, over the years, you accumulate multiple ‘copies’ of things. For instance, I have now found five tape measures. No, wait. Six, including the free one I got from Harbor Freight on the way back from SLC last trip. Not sure why I even need more than two. But, there are six. Including one that I had from our second house we lived in starting about 1980. That might make it an antique. Still works, though.

I did a bit of gardening. Well, mowed the lawn (that only takes about 10 minutes if you go really slow). Half of the front yard is bushes and a few trees, and the lawn area is about the size of a large living room. I’ve got a nice gas mower, but you could probably do it with a manual reel-type mower. But you use what you have.

I also replaced a couple of the sprinkler heads in the front bushes area with an eighteen inch extension pipe and a shrub sprinkler. The existing sprinkler head was a popup type, and the bushes were getting in the way of good coverage. So the extensions poke up above the bushes, and will give better coverage. I should be able to reduce the watering time on that circuit with the better coverage. That will help with the water usage a bit (and the subsequent bill).

The weather here has been ‘hot’ – at least that is what the locals call it. Anything above 73 degrees F is hot around here. It is unusual for a house to have air conditioning. Our system, like most, is a heat pump. It can function as an air conditioner, but we haven’t needed that. We just open the windows a bit to keep the house cool. The nice weather here includes a slight breeze, so it is quite enjoyable.

Pam and I were sitting on the deck last evening, and saw a fox trotting up the street. That was nice to watch. We have also seen a few deer here: a female with two fawns once, and a solitary female another time. They like the berry bushes around here, which are showing lots of ripe purple berries – I think they are huckleberries. I tried a few the other day, they are quite sweet. Probably should gather some up and freeze them for use with ice creama.