Ideas

It's weird. I've just spent the past two hours making myself a calendar. I was wondering how to design it and it just popped into my head that I have pictures from the early 2000s to now. Why don't I use some of my own pictures on my calendar? And then find some quotes I like and put them over the picture. It's a really simple idea, but I love it. I'm going to get a calendar that has motivational or inspirational quotes and I can look at pictures of things I've done which brings back those memories. Totally going to make me happy.

I had wanted to read a book tonight, but I finally got my bluetooth speaker working with my laptop. So I felt that I had to listen to music. I can't really read when there's music playing that I can sing along to, so I gave up reading pretty quickly. Then I was thinking that I need to start tracking that I'm eating vegetables, so I need a calendar. And making calendar on the computer is something I can easily do while listening to music. I don't know why, but now that I don't have a tv, I feel like I'm getting more and more good ideas for projects. Or maybe it's just that I have the time to do them, since I'm not sitting in front of a tv. All I know is that I'm loving getting more and more ideas, so I hope they keep coming.

UPDATE: Just printed the calendar. I have a cheap printer and it says it prints on 13x19 paper, which technically it does. But on a few pages, everything was a little skewed. So I think it has a hard time handling paper that big. But it's printed and hanging on my wall and I love it!

Happy 2019!

Got a decent amount of sleep last night, so I'm starting the year off right. Just went for a short walk to the mailbox to pay some bills and now I want to think about things for the coming year...and beyond.

I think it was Bill Gates who said "People overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years." I completely agree with that. In fact, I learned that around my 40th birthday when I decided to learn ruby on rails. I had very little programming experience and I recall that it took about four years for me to produce something usable. Now I'm still not a programmer, but in a pinch, I can put together something that can solve a problem for me. And that's all come from my few years investment in learning a decade ago. So while what I'm going to list here are my resolutions for this year. I'm also hopefully laying the groundwork for some longer term things that I want to do.

I'm old enough to know that if you set up good habits, it's much easier to "trust the process" and get to your final goal without being miserable. Most of the difficulties in life that I have are due to bad habits that are very difficult to break. Just look at all the people who fail at quitting smoking. I'm fortunate that I didn't take up smoking. But my bad habits tend to gather around eating. I don't plan meals that much, I snack a lot and I eat far too many sweets. It doesn't take a genius to know why I'm overweight. So my first resolution is the same as last year. Basically, it's eat more vegetables. (Quite frankly, this is a resolution for life.) But in order to track things, the exact goal is to eat at least on vegetable per day. I just read a book on eating and the ideal is to make 50% of each meal to be fruits and vegetables. I'm actually ok with eating fruits. I have fruit every morning with breakfast. I know me and it's the vegetables that I have an issue with. So I'm going to try a bunch of different kinds of things and cooking them in different ways. Hopefully, I'll find something that can be a go-to meal with vegetables.

My second resolution is probably quite funny, considering that this is being read on a blog. And that's to get away from screens of all types. I'm far too distracted when I work on my laptop. I always have mail open and immediately check any new messages that come in. When I'm at work, that's fine...it's my job. But when I'm at home, I need to start shutting that off. I sort of started this last year when I switched to using an android phone from my iphone. It's not as nice to use, so I didn't want to use it as much. I also deleted all (except instagram) of my social media accounts. And took all the apps off my phone. I can still check instagram, but I have to log into it on my computer. That's painful enough that I know I won't do it very often. My overall goal here is to be more present. When I'm visiting or talking to people, I want it to be about that connection and not have some electronic devices in the way. I'm not getting rid of all my electronic devices. I work in IT and knowing how to take care of them is my job. And I'm still happy to help people who are having trouble. But the random pull my phone out because I'm bored or am not enjoying the conversation needs to stop. If I'm that bored someplace, I should just leave and go and do something more productive.

Related to the previous goal is to do more with physical objects. Again, I started this last year with doing more DIY projects and I'm all for continuing with that. But this also includes, writing more in my journal and seeing friends face-to-face instead of talking through text messages. The journal writing has been wonderful. I've been going to the coffeeshop on weekends for the past few months and just thinking and writing down ideas. I usually just take my journal, pens and a book to read. Is it an expensive habit? Yep, I probably shouldn't be spending $10 on lattes every weekend. But I think it's very worth the benefits I get from sitting and thinking for an hour or two every weekend.

I pretty much do this a lot already, but I'm putting it down because it's very important to me. Bike more. I am almost always happy when I'm riding a bike. It's good for me, the environment, saves money...the list of benefits seems endless.

Fail more. This may seem kind of odd, but I think I've gotten too comfortable with life. In general, I'm not a risk-taker, but I think I've flipped to the too risk-averse. I need to try some big public things where I can look like a complete fool when they don't work out as planned. And yes, people will make fun of me for them for the rest of my life. That's fine. It won't kill me and perhaps I'll actually achieve a crazy goal.

The items above are my actual resolutions for the year and my life essentially. But there are some other things that I'd like to do or try, but I may not really commit to them this year. I'm putting them down just to note them.

  • meditation--though my coffeeshop writing is already a sort of meditation
  • yoga, tai chi or some other practice that will help with flexibility and focus
  • drawing or calligraphy class
  • try making a bullet journal for my garden and maybe some other projects
  • find people who are interested in the same things as me, maybe start going to meetups about stuff I'm interested in
  • do a 5k
  • look into shorter-term volunteer opportunities
  • do a metric-century (62 miles) bike ride
  • learn about being a landlord
  • learn electronics
  • get the garage set up for welding
  • try more difficult sewing projects
  • do more repair...look for a repair cafe to join
  • host people in my house more
  • read more books

I think that's enough. It's funny, when my mind is calm and I can focus, the ideas just seem to pour in. Yet another reason that I should always carry a little notebook and pen. Sometimes I need to write things down quickly.

Happy New Year!

2018 Year in Review

Another year has gone by. It was a fine year. I have no complaints. Took Jack and Annie to Europe and I turned 50. I think those were the highlights. This is also the year that I've put the 'pay off the mortgage' idea into overdrive. For the past few months, I've basically been paying two payments each month to get it paid off. If I make a big payment tomorrow, I think I have around 18 months to go. This makes me very happy. There's really no reason that I need to pay this off so quickly, but I like the idea of being completely out of debt. Financially-speaking, the year has been good. I've saved 37% of my take-home pay, which is good. Not great, but good enough. I'd like to say that I'm about 15 pounds lighter than I was at the start of the year, but I'm exactly 1/2 pound lighter, which is basically a wash. I had been doing good up until my birthday, at which point I proceeded to regain all the weight I had lost throughout the year. Oh well, I'll try again. Let's take a look at my goals for the year and see how I did.

Eat a vegetable a day. FAIL. I wish I did, but I don't even remember when I stopped tracking this. However, this is a really good goal. I'm going to try again.

Get the lead water line changed. FAIL. I don't think I have enough saved up to do this yet. The good news is that Janet gave me a filter to use. And even better, the city gave me a very fancy pitcher/filter system with a particulate matter detector. So I'm fairly confident that there isn't any lead in the water I'm drinking. The water I'm showering with isn't great, so I still want to get the line changed, but I feel that I can wait a bit.

Get back in the habit of biking to work. PASS. I did bike more this year than last year. 1122 miles according to my phone, noting that I don't turn on the tracker when I'm going short distances, like to the grocery store, library or tutoring. And I'm still doing very good at biking to those places. Looking at my calendar, shows two rides in January, one in November, none in February, March and December. I rode quite a bit in May-October, so overall I'm pleased. I could still ride more, but I'm happy with that.

Better gardening. PASS. I got a ton of tomatoes this year and gave them away. I also got some zucchini which was pretty good. And I found that I love leeks, which I'll be planting again.

More DIY projects. PASS. Even though I was working way too much until around August, I feel I was making a bunch of things. Offhand, I'm thinking about the stools I made for the brewpub, which turned out pretty well and on which I learned a lot. And then I got the sewing machine, which was the best purchase I made in the year. I love it and have already made gifts on it and have a bunch of other projects in progress.

Connecting with people. PASS. Here I was mainly thinking about volunteering in the community. I still go to the literacy center and I'm enjoying that. It's twice a week, so it's a bit of a commitment, but I'm happy to do it.

One thing that I've done a lot less this year is post to this blog. And I see that continuing for the time-being. However, this does not mean that I'm writing any less. For the past few months, I've been going to my favorite coffeeshop on Saturday and Sunday mornings to get a latte and write in my journal. I can't say how satisfying this has been. Taking just an hour or two every weekend to sit and think about my week and what I'd like to get done has been great. I feel so much more organized and this has let me accomplish so much more without feeling overwhelmed. And I seem to be in a phase where I'm trying to work on the computer less and more with physical things more. I feel it's good for my sanity to get away from screens.

I've also basically deleted all my social media apps. The only one I haven't completely deleted is my instagram account, but I have deleted the app from my phone. So I probably won't be posting to it anymore. I can still see my feed if I go to the website and login. But since this is a hassle, I probably won't do that, which is the point of deleting the app.

I'll get into the reasons why I'm doing some of this in my 2019 plans post that I'll put up tomorrow. But to sum up 2018, it was a good year and I feel incredibly lucky to have my life.

UPDATE: Just got home from dinner at Julie's and saw that my odometer read ~66150 miles on the car. So for last year, I drove 66150-44800= 21350 miles. That's a ton. However, I lent the car to John and Ted for a few weeks and they did a ton of driving when they were in the country. I just checked my credit card and see that I only bought $800 worth of gas for the whole year. That's a little less than I paid for gas over 2017. Even taking into account that gas has gotten cheaper, I'm thinking that I probably drove about the same amount that I usually do (~12,000 miles) and that all the extra mileage was from people I lent the car to.

Project Time

I'm getting back into doing DIY projects at home, which makes me very happy. In general for the past few months, I've been thinking way too much about work and not doing things that make me happy. I'm shifting things back into proportion that will make me happier. The other day I finally bought myself a new sewing machine. It will get delivered soon, which makes me happy. And I'm going to use it for a big new project, which should be fun. I've also made a few stools for my brother's pub, which was fun. I still wouldn't call myself a good woodworker, but I'm improving which is all I can ask for. Still haven't done much welding though and I would like to get into that. But today I spent a good chunk of money on supplies for my new hush-hush project that's going to be a gift for someone. I'm looking forward to working on that for the next few months.

Living Life

I just realized that this website has been down. I'm not sure how long that's been true. Probably since I had to reboot after the last round of updates I installed. Is it a big deal to me? Nope.

Of late, I haven't been posting much here. That is not to say that I haven't been writing or trying to learn new things. I've gone full force into writing in my physical journal. For about a month now, I've even been scheduling some time each weekend at my local coffee shop. Each Saturday and Sunday, I head there and get a small vanilla latte. Then, I write for a bit in my journal and read a chapter or two of a book. I find this very relaxing, which is a nice balance for days I don't go to work. And I like setting aside some time to just sit and think. I think it's definitely helping with my overall happiness. I also am liking the feeling of physically writing things down, much more than I enjoy typing in this blog. Perhaps that's because I'm on my laptop so much at work during the week. So having some non-digital or non-screen time is quite enjoyable.

This now leads me to think of what I want this blog to be. I'll have to think about this next week when I'm back at the coffee shop.

Getting Started with the Google API for Reading Public Calendars

I have a few public calendars at work that we use to show events taking place in various departments. I am creating a digital sign for one of our buildings and I'd like to be able to grab the events for the current day and display them on the digital sign. I'm most familiar with ruby right now, so I'm writing a ruby script to do this.

The first thing is I need to install the ruby google-api-client.

$ gem install google-api-client

Since all of the calendar data that I want to grab is on public calendars, I can use an API key to get all this data. Instructions for generating an API key are here: https://support.google.com/cloud/answer/6158862. You also need the calendarid for the calendars you want to grab data from.

In order to see if I have things set up correctly, the following script will grab all the entries from the calendar specified by the calendarid.

require 'google/apis/calendar_v3'

Google::Apis.logger.level = Logger::DEBUG

calendar = Google::Apis::CalendarV3::CalendarService.new
calendar.key='YOUR_API_KEY'
puts calendar.list_events('GOOGLE_CALENDAR_ID')

$ ruby simple_test.rb
...all calendar events show...

With the key working correctly, how can I limit the results to just a single day? And only see the fields that I'm interested in? For us, these are the summary, description, start date_time and location.

require 'google/apis/calendar_v3'

calendar = Google::Apis::CalendarV3::CalendarService.new
calendar.key='YOUR_API_KEY'

events = calendar.list_events('GOOGLE_CALENDAR_ID',
	always_include_email: false,
	time_min: '2018-04-23T00:00:00-05:00',
 	time_max: '2018-04-23T23:59:59-05:00'
)

events.items.each do |item|
	puts item.summary
	puts item.description
	puts item.start.date_time
	puts item.location
	puts "====="
end

I hope to have this script do a bit more. So I've put it on my github page. The repository is here: https://github.com/maryheintz/google-calendar-api-ruby

Root Logins with Key Required

I love the fact that I still have so much to learn. I was thinking that I should set things up so that root can ssh in to a computer but only if they have keys set up. One very quick google search and I had my answer.

[[email protected] ~]# grep PermitRoot /etc/ssh/sshd_config
PermitRootLogin without-password

I had just assumed the settings for PermitRootLogin were yes or no. It's great that the programmers also had thought of this other use. People are so much smarter than me.

Splitting a PDF File

I had a pdf file that was too large to email, but I needed to email.  So I quickly broke it up into two smaller files.  I used this command:

$ gs -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH -dFirstPage=1 -dLastPage=34 -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -sOutputFile=physics1.pdf -f Physics\ Faculty.pdf 
$ gs -dNOPAUSE -dBATCH -dFirstPage=35 -dLastPage=68 -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -sOutputFile=physics2.pdf -f Physics\ Faculty.pdf