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 

Cost Per Mile

I have some time to kill before podcast recording tonight.  I was balancing my checkbook and took a quick look at the report it generated for last year.  I noticed that all my auto expenses for last year were $2532.10.  It breaks down like this:

Fuel $839.25
Insurance $806.00
Service $545.16
Registration $222.69
Parking $99.00
Tax (tolls) $20

And since I drove for 10,400 miles last year.  I’m basically paying (253210/10400) 24.3 cents per mile.  This isn’t taking into account depreciation or cost of the car because I don’t know how to figure that.  Based on just this, each time I bike to work I’m saving 12 * 25 cents or roughly $3.  I didn’t bike that much last year, just 1082 miles.  But that’s a savings of $3246, which is kind of impressive, I think.  Makes me want to keep biking.  And I’m happy that I biked to tutoring and the library last night, even though it was 5 degrees.  It was a painful (approximate) mile to ride, but I saved myself a quarter.  🙂

Low-Carb it is

About a week ago, I went to the library to return some books.  Since I didn’t have any other books on hold to pick up, I head over to my usual aisle (the last one with books about learning different skills) to see if I could find anything to read.  Luckily for me, pretty close to the books on making stuff are books on gardening and cooking.  I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but totally based on their covers, I grabbed the book “Unbowed” about an environmentalist in Africa (which I haven’t started yet) and “Why We Get Fat”.  After I read the second one, I thought because you eat more calories than you burn.  How could there be an entire book about that.  I was going to put it back, but I didn’t see a more interesting gardening or woodworking book, so I kept it.

I started reading when I got home and basically read it straight-thru for the rest of the day.  The idea is that it’s carbs that make us fat.  I probably don’t have the details exactly right, but it’s insulin that’s the problem here.  When you eat carbs, you generate more insulin that stores the fat in your cells.  If you don’t eat carbs (even if you eat a lot of food), your body will pull the fat out of your cells to use for energy.  Honestly, I wasn’t quite sure that I believed this.  But, I had a very slow weekend and was a little bored.  So I thought I’d do an experiment.

The author said that if you eat a high-carb meal (say like a bowl of cereal with milk and a banana) you’re insulin it will store the excess in your fat cells or something like that.  The net result is, your weight will go up.  Since I’ve been weighing myself daily since 2011, I pretty much know my daily weight.  And I was in a stage where it was pretty consistent.  So that night, I had a small bowl of cereal with a banana for dinner.  The next morning, sure enough, I had gained a pound and a half.

That was interesting.  But then, the next day, I ate low-carb and I ate what I thought was more than usual.  Scrambled eggs with cheese and blueberries for breakfast (minus the tortilla I usually put it on), a salad for lunch and half a rack of bbq ribs for dinner.   I had some nuts at work for a snack as well.   The next day, my weight was down 2.4 pounds.  Hmmm.  Could that have been a fluke?  So I did it another day, down another 1.8 pounds.  The next day, weight stayed the same.  The next day, down 1.1 pounds.  This brings me to today, down 1.3 pounds.  Apparently, this is working.

The bad news is … this past week I’ve eaten more red meat than I have in months.  I honestly had been considering becoming a vegetarian lately because I thought it would be good for me and the world.  But right now, I’m not good enough of a cook to become a low-carb vegetarian.  So I’m going to keep eating the meat and then as I learn how to cook better vegetarian meals I’ll hopefully be able to shift away from it.  I don’t think cholesterol is going to be a problem, but I’ll see how it looks at my next doctor appointment.

The good new is … I feel great.  I have a good amount of energy, my right knee isn’t feeling achy and (aside from last night) I’ve even slept through the entire night.  I know it hasn’t even been a full week, but everything the book described seems to be happening.  We’ll see how long I can keep it up, but I think that as I learn how to cook different things, it will get even easier.

Let’s Get It Started

The weather has gotten unseasonably warm and melted all the snow. It’s supposed to get cold again, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to bike to work a couple of days this week. The second day was in the rain, so my backpack, jacket and pants all had a huge muddy streak up the back. Fortunately, that came on the ride home, so it was good.

But the wonderful weather has pushed me even more into gardening mode, so I decided to get started. A few days ago, I brought all my garden stuff in from the back porch. Mainly so it could warm up a bit. Then yesterday (and today) I washed all of my seed starting trays. Apparently, lots of diseases can grow in old dirt and you’re supposed to wash everything before you start seeds. I learned that because I’ve been reading tons of gardening blogs and websites. So I did that. Then I found out that some of the vegetables that take the longest to grow are leeks and celery. Just now, I decided to plant three tray holders of each of those. Another thing I learned from all my research is that you should stagger when you start your seeds. This way, you won’t have them all being ready to be picked at the same time. Instead, they’ll be spread out more over the summer. Since I could never eat as many tomatoes as came up last year, I like that idea. I also decided to start some flowers because I think I’m going to make the dirt next to the garage into a cutting garden. I want to have a ton of flowers there. And it’s been so cold that I’m looking forward to some color.

Here’s my pile of seed holders drying after I washed them.

And here are a small number of seeds that I started.

Here’s hoping for a successful garden!

Starting Off Right

When it was below 0F last week, I saw some people out biking and admired them. I thought if it got above 15-20F, that I would ride too. So this morning, I had a nice, slow ride to work to start the year off right. It’s around 27F, so a little chilly, but pretty nice compared to last week. I felt good, though, a second thin pair of socks would have been helpful. But that’s ok. I want to start riding to work more and this is part of the process.

My ride in .