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.

Time for Change

On October 29, 2013, I bought unlocked iphone 5s for $689.56 plus $99 more for AppleCare. The phone works ok, but the battery wasn't lasting very long. If I listed to music and tracked my ride to work and then went to the gym after work, it wouldn't last through a short workout. That seemed pretty short to me, so I bought a new battery from ifixit to replace it. I put it in this morning. First of all, it was a royal pain to take the old battery out because it was basically glued into place with sticky strips. I had to just continually pry around the battery to get it unglued. And while I was prying, I know I cracked some plastic stuff. As far as I could tell, I got everything back together. However, when I turned the phone back on, I got a message that touch id didn't work and the speaker wasn't working either. I don't use touch id at all, so I don't care about that. The speaker is a bigger deal. I don't know why it doesn't work. I've taken the phone apart three more times to check all the connections and it still doesn't work. Most importantly, the phone will no longer take a charge. So it's basically junk because the battery is now dead. I find this incredibly annoying. I should not break my phone by just changing the battery. I'm done with Apple because this is bs. I'm basically paying $200/year for my phone, not including the service. This to me, is ridiculous. So I'm looking for a new phone. And the primary feature that I'm looking for is repairability. Here's the list I'm looking at:

iFixit Repairability List

I'm looking at phones that have come out since 2016 or later only because it'll be hard to get parts for the older models. So right now, I'm looking at an LG G5, which has a score of 8. (Ironically, the newer G6 drops to a rating of 5.)

On the plus side, I now don't have to deal with a phone for a while, which is mildly relaxing.

My Latest Obsession

In my second summer of gardening, I'm thoroughly enjoying it. This year, in addition to tomatoes and peppers. Ted also gave me some beans, watermelon and pumpkin. And I also had zucchini. The pumpkin was weird. The vine grew like crazy all over the back of my house, but then died for some reason. I ended up getting one pumpkin, about the size of a 16" softball. It was green when I picked it, but as it's been sitting on my counter, it's turning more orange. I picked one small watermelon and there are a couple more still growing. I haven't yet cut it open to see how it looks or how it tastes. The tomatoes have been reliable. I planted some miniature red peppers and I like eating those the best. There are a lot of green ones out there now, so I think they tend to come a little later in the season than the tomatoes. I got a few good size zucchini. However, after I picked them, the plants seemed to die. Since I think I planted them too close together, I ended up pulling them out last month.

Now however, I'm thinking about what's next. I had a bunch of lettuce plants in one of my boxes. After it got hot, I noticed that the lettuce tasted pretty bitter. So I was mainly letting them grow to get the seeds, which I ended up not harvesting. Oh well. But in their place, I planted some green onions. They went in the ground on Labor Day. Yes, that seems pretty late for planting, but I feel like we're getting longer growing seasons now. The past winter wasn't really that bad and this summer didn't get blazingly hot. Of course, this is just my own judgement. I haven't consulted any tables of temps in Chicago. But it seems like climate change is starting to affect things. With the hurricanes this year and crazy high temperatures in San Francisco, I think we've reached a tipping point. So, if our winters aren't as cold, perhaps we'll have a longer growing season. Again, I haven't quantified any of this, but I'm planting now because I feel like it's a good idea. Today, I also moved some pea plants and lettuce outside. We'll see if those take.

So, my latest obsession is to try to garden year round. Now I don't think that we won't get any snow, but I feel that it might be workable for growing. I need to build a greenhouse of some sort. I tried a cold frame last year, but that didn't really work with my simple box and plastic window on top. I think if I were to use two pieces of glass (my own double-pane window) and perhaps put some thermal mass inside the greenhouse to collect the heat during the day and distribute it at night...I may be able to grow stuff year round. I've been spending most of the afternoon looking stuff up to see how I might do this. And it's another crazy idea, that I totally would like to try.

Keyboard not working with old program setup

At work, we use some very old programs. In one program (layout), it opens up the other program (specctra). The weird error was that the keyboard would not work in specctra if it was started from layout. If I started it by itself from the command line, it worked perfectly. I looked at the logs when it started and found a lot of warnings that looked like this:

Warning: translation table syntax error: Unknown keysym name:  osfActivate
Warning: ... found while parsing ':osfActivate:            ManagerParentActivate()'
Warning: String to TranslationTable conversion encountered errors
Warning: translation table syntax error: Unknown keysym name:  osfBeginLine
Warning: ... found while parsing ':osfBeginLine:           ManagerGadgetTraverseHome()'
Warning: String to TranslationTable conversion encountered errors

Searching for this message brought me to this page. And the directions there worked perfectly.

[~]# cd /usr/
[/usr]# mkdir -p X11R6/lib
[/usr]# cd X11R6/lib/
[lib]# ln -s /usr/share/X11 .

After I created that link, the keyboard worked fine however specctra was started.

The Back Part II

On July 21st, I got up as usual and did some stretches for my knee, as I had started doing again a few weeks before, and was putting my shoes on when I felt a sharp pain in my back. I don't know why, but I do know that I had done this before. So I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. It is now 10 days later and things feel pretty good. I started to be able to do normal things without a ton of pain after about a week. And as I noted in my previous blog post, ice is better than heat. And lying flat on the floor is quite helpful. Though, getting up from lying on the floor is quite painful. But I think it'll be back to normal after another week. I'm mainly writing this to note how long things take to get better and how often this is happening.

I also think that I might look into joining a gym where I could work with a trainer. Since I had literally just finished stretching and was putting on my shoes, I fear that perhaps I'm stretching incorrectly. And a trainer will work on stretching all my muscles, not just the ones that hurt. I'll have to look at things to see how expensive this might be.

Uninterruptible Sleep

Recently, I've upgraded some servers at work to RHEL7. I've had a few things that I didn't plan for, but that's to be expected when you do a major upgrade and you can't test everything in advance. However, I have had one issue that is still causing problems. And ironically, it seems to affect my own account the most.

On most mornings, when I ssh into our server, it takes a really long time to login. I assumed this was an nfs issue because I almost always assume slowness things are related to nfs. After logging in, I run top and can see the load on the system go up. There's no single process that looks to be out of control. I did notice though that an imap process under my name would jump to the top every so often. Since I had Mail on my mac open, I expected that. However, since I wasn't doing anything with mail and I didn't see any new messages, I didn't understand why it would suddenly cause a high load. I thought it was just coincidence, but after a few days of this happening, I figured something was there and I googled "Mac Mail High Load". This brought up High Mail CPU with El Capitan as the first result. And I was running El Capitan. I ran the top command and looked for processes in the uninterruptible sleep state and found me with a bunch of them. I have a few because I'm checking a few different email accounts, some are under my username and others are under a user called ichep.

[~]# top -b -n 1 |grep D
  PID USER      PR  NI    VIRT    RES    SHR S  %CPU %MEM     TIME+ COMMAND
  476 ichep     20   0   19776   3208   2204 D   0.0  0.0   0:00.12 imap
  946 mary      20   0   20052   3348   1992 D   0.0  0.0   0:00.14 imap
 1101 mary      20   0   19296   2400   1928 D   0.0  0.0   0:00.00 imap
 1166 mary      20   0   19044   1996   1672 D   0.0  0.0   0:00.00 imap
 1167 ichep     20   0   19044   1812   1524 D   0.0  0.0   0:00.00 imap

I followed the instructions in the webpage and turned off "Move deleted messages to the Trash mailbox" and closed the preferences window. Then reopened it and turned off "Compact mailboxes automatically".

Now when I run mail, I don't appear to get those processes in the uninterruptible state. However, I still think there's an nfs issue causing those processes to get into that state. I'm not 100% sure though, so I'll keep an eye on things over the next week to see if I find anything. The weird thing about this is that I tend to notice the problem the most, the first thing in the morning when I initially login. This makes me think it's an nfs issue, as the disks that I'd normally use would probably be unmounted. My logging in should cause autofs to mount the disks I need. And I think there's a disk that my .bash_profile uses to source something that is causing the problem. The only "proof" that I think it's an nfs issue is that I check another mail account on a different server. On this second server, everything is set up exactly the same, except that my home disk is a local disk, not one mounted via nfs. And on this second server, I've never seen any issues with this type of delay or uninterruptible sleep states.

New Big Project

For quite a long time, I have wanted to write a book and try to sell it. For a multitude of reasons, I haven't. As of yesterday, no more! I signed up for 30x500 to get started. I'm hoping to find out ways to determine if my idea will actually help people, thus making it worth doing. Am I sure about this? Absolutely not. Who do I think I am to write a book? I'm not an expert at anything. It will probably be the worst book ever and will sell zero copies. However, I've decided that this is something I want to try. I've decided that being afraid of failure is worse than failure itself. I want to give it a try. And the 30x500 class is a way to help me hedge my bets. It cost me $1900 and my goal is to make that back within the next three years. (Official date: March 8, 2020) Doable? I have no idea. But I'm going to put in the work on it. I've deleted everyone I follow on Twitter, except people that I know personally. So I shouldn't be wasting any time there. I've also deleted all the bookmarks for blogs I like to read and youtube videos I like to watch. Again to not waste time. Lastly, I've created a new account on my laptop to use for studying and writing. So all of the programs and things that I have on my laptop aren't available to this second account and thus I can't have them open while I'm working. I've created a website for it. http://www.pickabout.com Let's get started!

Random Thoughts

It's an early Sunday morning and I'm relaxing with a cup of coffee when I thought I'd post some random thoughts I've been having.

1. What's the point of this blog?
So, I really don't have a point. I love to read other people's blogs, so I thought I'd make my own. At first, it was just to learn how to set it up. But now, it's because I like having it. The most successful blogs have a general theme that they follow. Either most of the posts are about personal finance/becoming financially independent, woodworking, making, sewing, etc. My blog is not like that. I guess my entire blog is just a collection of random thoughts. More accurately though, I look at my blog as a place to put things that I want to remember. Since I only eat oatmeal when the weather gets cold, every fall I'm trying to remember how I made it the last year. Thus, I posted my recipe for oatmeal. If I spent a long time at work or at home, figuring out how to configure something on my computer, I'll write a post about it. It's a very satisfying feeling when I then google that same problem a year or two later and my own blog post shows in the results. This is also why I have the comments turned off. This is really just for me. The information here might be helpful to other people, which is why I let anyone read it. I have had a couple of people send me a tweet that they found something here useful and that's pretty cool. But I'm really not trying to build a community or gather people to a cause. And I find it hard to believe that anyone is really interested in what I've written here. Checking the analytics for my site, over the past month, I've averaged around 500 unique visitors per day. I'm guessing that the majority of these are bots for search engines. However, if you are a real person reading this blog, welcome! I hope you find something useful here.

(Nuts, it took me so long to login to my account to check the anayltics that I forgot what my other points were going to be. I'll see if I can jar the old memory to get the back to the front.)

Oh, right.
2. Cars. Since I've been tracking my expenses in software since 2004, I have a lot of information about where my money has gone. I was shocked to find out that since 2004, I've spent over $53,000 on cars. Ok, yes, if I average that over 12 years, it's only around $4400 per year. And two big chunks of that were in 2012, when I started getting a bunch of repair bills on my van and then sold it and used my sister's car (and made her car payment) while she was in Germany and then 2013 when she came back and I bought myself a car. But still, seeing that much money go to cars sort of bugs me. I'm happy to say that as of right now, in 2016, my car expenses are under $1800. I think I have to pay insurance at the end of the month, so I'll probably end up just under $2500 for the year, which does not sound too bad. I'd like to think that I'm getting more reasonable in driving. I have been biking a lot more. Though I will admit that I gave up biking to work somewhat early this year just because I didn't feel like doing it in the colder weather. Yes, I am a big wuss.

3. Gratitude. In addition to this blog, I also have been keeping a written journal. I'm doing this because I like the physical act of writing on paper. I also enjoy working with paper. I made personalized stationery as gifts a couple of years ago and recently I bound my own book. These were totally fun projects. So I decided to use a blank book that I had as a sort of journal. When I remember, I'm trying to include something I'm grateful for. I've read that keeping a gratitude journal helps with happiness and I'm inclined to agree. I haven't been doing this too long (a little over a month), but I am happier when I remember that life is good and I have a lot to be grateful for.

4. Cashflow. I've been increasing the contributions to my retirement accounts steadily over the past couple of years. It's been good because I've felt that I haven't really noticed that I'm bringing how less each month. However, over the past two months, I have felt like I've been a running out of cash a lot quicker than normal. Starting in January, I'll finally be maxing out what I can contribute. While I'll only be bringing home a couple of hundred dollars less than I am now, I have a feeling that it's finally going to start hurting a bit more. So one thing that I'm going to have to look at in my yearly review is what other expenses I can cut a little. I think I'm doing ok, but I feel like I'm still wasting a little money in certain places.

5. Election. I was hugely disappointed with the outcome, but I have accepted that Trump is the president. I don't think he'll be good for anyone in the world, but I'm hoping that he'll surprise me. And I've already made a contribution to the ACLU because I'm thinking they're going to be busy for the next few years.

This post is now long enough, so I'll stop. It's sort of blowing my mind that it's already December and that the year will be over soon. And while I still think that life is good, I'll be happy to see 2016 end.

Sewing Machines

I took the sewing machine that was given to me in to get tuned up. The repairman called and said it needed a lot of work and that it would cost around $250-$300. For an old sewing machine that I didn't like all that much, it was too much money. So I let them keep it for whatever parts they could salvage from it. I don't sew a lot, but it is a tool that I'd like to have. So I've been researching sewing machines.

One thing that I did was look at the type of sewing that I do. I have never used any stitch except a straight stitch. When I was looking at a bunch of home machines, they all bragged about having 50 or 100 different stitches. This is not a selling point for me. I've also never made an article of clothing in my life. I'm trying to remember if I ever repaired one and I'm not sure that I have. What have I made? Quilts and curtains. What would I like to make? More quilts and curtains. But also, bags and tablecloths. I'd also like to be able to work with leather. It would be nice to be able to make a leather bag or a leather book cover. And in the far future, I could see me trying upholstery. So I want to get a sewing machine that can handle thicker fabric.

After googling around a bit, I think I want an industrial machine. You can get those that run on regular power in your house, which is what I'd like. A lot of them come with a large table, which would be fine. I don't need a portable machine. I'm leaning toward a Juki machine because they seem to be really good and there are a bunch of very old ones still in use. I was looking on Craigslist and found a couple of used ones. And then I also looked up new ones, which don't seem to cost that much more. Plus, there's a distributor in town who will give you a free hour tutorial on any machine that you buy from them. I think that would be a great idea, since I'm pretty much self-taught on sewing machines. I'm sure there are some basics that I just don't know.

For now, I've set up an alert on Craigslist to let me know anytime someone posts a Juki. If I find a really good deal, perhaps I'll get a used one. Otherwise, I'll save up my money and look into a new one.

Frustration!

I thought that I would take today and try to finish the curtains that I'm making for my bedroom doors. My mom gave me a new iron, which works fantastically well. I also got an ironing board, which also makes ironing so much easier. So I was making great progress with ironing and sewing the side seams. Then, I ran out of thread on my bobbin. No problem, I thought. I learned how to thread the bobbin a while back and even made a youtube video of it. So I thread the bobbin and get back to work. But I don't get back to work. For reasons I cannot determine, the machine is not moving the material forward. If I press the reverse button, it goes back with no problem. But it won't go forward. So I screw around with it for a while. What did I do? No idea, but the material starts to move forward slowly. (Reverse goes backwards much quicker than the material is going forward.) So I try again, but things still aren't right, as the thread is bunching on the bottom. I remember the rule that thread problems on the top of the seam are usually due to the bobbin and problems on the bottom are usually due to the needle. So I rethread the needle and it's just not working correctly. By and large, I have a decent amount of patience, but this drained ALL of it. I can guarantee by neighbors heard the slew of obscenties I spewed. I then decided to buy a new sewing machine and started researching them online. This gave me some time for my blood pressure to drop and to calm down.

I hate it when my tools don't work properly. The bad thing about this sewing machine is that it was given to me and I have no manuals. But the good thing about this sewing machine is that it was given to me, so I paid nothing for it. I had thought when I spent all that time making the movie about how to thread it and practicing using it, that I had the operation down. However, now it seems like that isn't the case. I've also googled all about this model and can't really find any information on it. So I'm very much leaning toward getting a new one that I can learn how to use properly and get repaired if needed. But since I don't really have the money right now, I'll probably struggle along with this one for now.