Archive for the 'General' category

Back to Basics

Jan 01 2017 Published by under General, JavaScript, Lab, Technology

TL;DR: Go here: https://bit101.github.io/lab/

Long time readers of this blog may recall what existed here before “blogging” was a thing – the BIT-101 Lab.

Back in the late 90’s / early 2000’s there were a bunch of people running Flash “experiment” sites. Basically, each day they would post some kind of visual, animated and/or interactive Flash piece, often open sourced. Josh Davis’s Praystation, Jared Tarbell’s Levitated, Robert Hodgin’s Flight 404 were some of my favorites. In August 2001 I decided to blatantly copy them… I mean… jump on that bandwagon. My site at the time was called “KP Web Design”. Sigh. I started doing some experiments and decided I needed a better domain, so I came up with bit-101 and moved all the experimental stuff over there. It went live on September 11, 2001. Yes, THAT September 11th. So nobody really noticed it for a while. But over the next four years I posted just shy of 700 open source Flash experiments that explored all kinds of neat techniques. The site won an award (FlashForward 2003 – Best Experimental Site) and really pretty much launched my career.

In 2003 I started this blog. And by 2005 the lab was retired. I blogged heavily for several years, but in the last few years, not so much. I’ve had other interesting projects over the years, but nothing was quite as exciting as those lab days. Recently Zach Lieberman posted about his 2016 project of posting a sketch each day (sketch/experiment, same concept). It inspired me to get back to basics.

Of course, I would not be doing Flash anymore. I haven’t opened that program on my own volition in several years. (I did need to use it to examine or fix a few things for work a few times.) My weapon of choice these days is HTML5 Canvas and JavaScript.

I’ve spent the last week or so creating a site and a workflow. All the source will be posted on github at https://github.com/bit101/lab. And the site uses github pages – https://bit101.github.io/lab/. So literally, the site IS the source IS the site.

I have template files and a script to create a new daily sketch / experiment based on the templates. This goes into a dev folder where I can work on it. When I’m ready to release it, I move it to the dailies folder, update the index.json file, add, commit and push. This updates the source and publishes the new file to the site. Because the site IS the source… etc.

One thing you’ll see in there is the use of a couple of libraries, bitlib and QuickSettings. You might be familiar with the latter. But the bitlib library is something I’ve been working on quietly for a while. It’s really just for my own use. It’s not something that I want to promote and convince other people to use and then have to wind up supporting. It’s just a compilation of the functions that I wind up using over and over. It’ll grow and change over time. Feel free to use it as much as you want – at your own risk. I make no claims for it’s production-readiness.

The site code is pretty rough. Again, I banged it all out over the last week in my spare time. But I’m quite proud of the calendar UI I created from scratch. And the tag searching and indexing. It’s even responsive and stuff. I have plans to take a screen shot of each experiment and present a visual index as well. And I’m thinking about ways to automate that index / tag generation portion. But it all seems pretty good right now for starters.

Anyway, I’m pretty excited about this. I know that on day one, there’s not a whole lot to be excited about from your end, but hopefully as the calendar fills up, it will become a fun place to visit and play with and learn from.

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Back to GNU/Linux

Sep 17 2016 Published by under General, Technology

My computing platform history in a nutshell.

1984 – First significant interaction with a computer. A Commodore 128 I inherited at work.

1989 – Bought my own Commodore Amiga.

Early 90’s – Was given a pc built from spare parts by a programmer friend. This was upgraded and evolved piece by piece, sometimes completely replaced throughout the 90’s / early 00’s. Eventually jumped over to laptops. This saw me through Windows 3.0, 3.1, 95, 98, 2000, NT, XP.

2007 – Got a Mac Book Pro. Fully switched away from Windows over to the Apple world.

2010 – After 3 years, while overall happy with the software and hardware experience on Mac, I was growing increasingly annoyed by Apple’s ever tightening grip over its users and developers. I moved back to Windows.

2010/11 – I then spent almost two years immersed in the GNU/Linux world. It was my daily OS. Loved it probably more than anything else.

2012 – Intrigued by Windows 8, I jumped back over to the MS platform to see what that was all about. I wound up staying longer than I had intended. Note that even while I was back on Windows as my daily OS, I always maintained a Linux tower PC that I used as a file server, media server, etc.

2016 – No major complaints with Windows 10. But it was time to get back to my favorite over the years. GNU/Linux.

Actually, I had tried to jump back about a year or so ago, trying a couple of different distros – probably Ubuntu and Mint – on my Yoga 2 Pro. I ran into a couple of major hurdles.

One was the high dpi screen on the Yoga. 3200×1800. Even when I initially got the Yoga, Windows didn’t handle it too well. And even to this day, a lot of Windows programs just don’t handle high dpi screens well. You wind up with tiny text, tiny icons or controls that get chopped off. Ubuntu was just getting to the point of addressing it, but it needed some work.

The other issue was video production. I make videos for Coding Math, Egghead, and occasionally other customers. I need software that does decent audio recording and editing, full screen capture and decent video editing.

For audio, I use Audacity, so I was covered there. Screen capture generally worked well, but I couldn’t find a decent editor. Every one I tried either didn’t have the (fairly basic) set of features I needed, or – more commonly – just crashed about every two minutes. There were a couple of others that didn’t crash but the workflow was way too complex and the performance was abysmal. I gave up and went back to Camtasia on Windows.

But recently I’d heard some positive words about video editing on Linux and decided to give it another shot. Starting out on my tower pc, I tried OpenShot. Last year it was crashing constantly. It seemed relatively stable and has a nice workflow. I was excited.

I took the plunge and installed Ubuntu on my Yoga again. I was really impressed. 99% of everything worked perfectly out of the box. I did need to tweak the trackpad a bit. The high dpi support was great, but in the end, I wound up lowering my resolution to 50% – 1600×900 anyway. It looks just as good to my eyes, you get much better performance, and any lingering issues are totally handled. It felt dirty to misuse all those pixels like that, but after a day, I never thought about it again.

Did some screen recording, fired up OpenShot and started cutting up clips and … crash. Not as bad as last year, but often enough to make it not worth using. Discouraged. Well, let’s see what else is out there. Another top contender was Kdenlive. Crossed my fingers, and tried it out.

I liked it. Used it some more… liked it a LOT. Is it crash free? mmm…. I can’t say that. But I can get through a full video editing session with 0 to 1… maybe 2 crashes, which I can live with. And so far, every time I’ve had a crash, I reopen the file and it auto recovers it to the exact point where I left off. So it’s a minor 20 second annoyance rather than something that destroys work.

There was one issue I ran into with screen recording. The solution to this issue led to some really cool discoveries that I’ll go over in another post.

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I made a Chrome Extension

Jul 16 2016 Published by under General, JavaScript, Technology

The other week I got a new Chromebook. Mainly just to see what the user experience was, but I surprised myself by liking it a lot more than I expected I would. But that’s another story.

I started being more interested in Chrome Apps, which work in Chrome on a regular PC or Mac as well, and started looking into the development process of Chrome Apps and Extensions. Pretty cool stuff. So here is my first extension, Chrome Apps Shortcut.

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/chrome-apps-shortcut/eobiahopcndogkgfjedmneomoghnpjpp?hl=en-US&gl=US

It barely does anything. Literally a one liner in terms of code. But I made it as a solution to an actual problem I had. Your Chrome Apps are displayed in a special page in the Chrome. If you use the bookmarks bar, you can add a shortcut to that location there. Or, if you use the default new tab page, there’s a shortcut there. I don’t use either of those things. I use a custom new tab page. So the only way to open the Chrome Apps page was to type in “chrome://apps” in the url field. Furthermore, because this is a custom url scheme, most methods of creating a shortcut to a web page do not work with that. At least none of the methods that I usually use. I looked for an extension that would do what I wanted, and there wasn’t one, so I made this.

All it does is put an icon up in the extensions area at the top of Chrome. You click it, it opens the Apps page in a new tab. The Code to do this is here:

chrome.browserAction.onClicked.addListener(function(tab) {
    chrome.tabs.executeScript({
        code: chrome.tabs.create({url:"chrome://apps"})
    });
});

And even most of that is boiler plate. I just added the chrome.tabs.create({url:"chrome://apps"}) part.

There’s also the manifest, and all the icon files…

{
  "manifest_version": 2,
  "name": "Chrome Apps Shortcut",
  "short_name": "Chrome Apps Shortcut",
  "description": "Opens the Chrome Apps tab.",
  "version": "0.0.1",
  "minimum_chrome_version": "38",
  
  "icons": { 
    "16": "icon_16.png",
    "48": "icon_48.png",
    "128": "icon_128.png" 
  },
  "browser_action": {
    "default_icon": "icon_48.png"
  },
  "background": {
    "scripts": ["background.js"],
    "persistent": false
  },
  "permissions": [
    "tabs",
    "https://ajax.googleapis.com/"
  ]
}

And then in order to publish, you have to set up your Chrome Developer Account ($5 one time fee) and create screenshots, descriptions, blah blah blah.

All told though, from concept, to published in store, was maybe 2-3 hours. Most of that was looking up how to do stuff.

I want do dive more into packaged apps next. There are some great possibilities there. Learn more here:

https://developer.chrome.com/home

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Amateur

Mar 28 2016 Published by under General

The word “amateur” has gotten a bad meaning over the years. Amateur is the opposite of professional. It has come to mean someone is sloppy, or someone who doesn’t care about what they are doing. But really the unprofessional part is more literal – you are doing something that is not your profession. You are not paid to do this for a living. This largely comes from the sports world. A professional athlete gets paid to play the sport. An amateur does not.

We’ve conflated this meaning of professional with another meaning of the word – to take pains to do something carefully and with good quality. Thus, we think of an amateur as someone who does shoddy work because they are inexperienced.

If you look back at the etymology of the word, amateur comes from the Italian “amatore”, from Latin “amator”, lover, from “amare”, to love.

So an amateur is someone doing something they love, without getting paid for it. This seems more like something we should praise people for, rather than using the word as an insult.

Of course, in this day and age, it’s far easier to move into a position where you can start getting paid for doing what you love. If you make stuff, you don’t have to do a long apprenticeship and open up a brick and mortar shop somewhere. You can just sell it on Etsy or wherever, or set up your own site with a shopping cart. The lines have blurred, but still useful to keep these definitions in mind.

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New job: DreamSocket!

May 27 2014 Published by under General

At the beginning of March, I was laid off, along with a few hundred others, from Playdom/Disney Interactive. Due to a very generous severance package, I was able to, and in a very real sense, was required to, take a 60 day sabbatical. (Think of it as a paid vacation with full benefits.) No complaints there. I had a great time. But like all good things, it came to an end. Not that I mind working, not at all, but if I could find someone to pay me to do whatever I want for the rest of my life, I’d jump on it. I guess that’s called retirement. If so, I’m looking forward to it.

But anyway, time to move on and get back to work. While I was off, I explored several opportunities. I even went through some interview processes at some big name companies. None of those panned out, but in the long run I’m glad. I don’t think I’m a large company kind of guy. All those HR processes and red tape and forms for this, forms for that, etc. rub me the wrong way. And being a small cog in a large machine, handling some small details of some large application that someone else built years ago, is, to me, about the most mind numbing thing in the world. This was most of the work I did at Playdom. Not all, but a good deal of it. So I’m not sure why I was applying to other large companies.

Actually, I was looking into tech writer / dev support / evangelist positions for a while. But as I started actually looking for and applying for jobs, it became obvious to me that I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do in that field. Some of the developer support positions wound up being more in the realm of tech support call center things. Nope. The tech writer jobs seemed to be largely writing API docs. Hmm… Not exactly creative either. So all in all, it’s most definitely better that none of those things worked out.

What did work out was that I was contacted by Kenny Bunch, a name I’ve known for ages, back from the old Flash community days, but not sure we ever met in person. Kenny started up a company called DreamSocket years back, at first doing lots of Flash stuff, but now mainly native mobile and web apps. We talked a lot and I was really impressed with the work they are doing and got a glimpse into some of the technology they’d developed to do things and was even more impressed. It’s a small company and one of the big draws was that the dev teams are usually a single dev or maybe a couple. In other words, I could own a project from start to finish, not just bang on Jira tickets from some massive code base that I barely understand. So after a few conversations, I got and accepted an offer and started last week.

So far, I’m honestly very excited and happy to be working here. There was a certain prestige about working at Disney – working for the Mouse – but that wears off really quickly when the work itself is not satisfying. What I’m doing now, even in the first week, is really fun. I’ve finally got a reason to buckle down and do real native Android dev. And eventually brush back up on iOS and Objective-C, though it’s only been about a year or so since I did much with that. And there will be some real web work as well. I’m not going to bash Flash, but if I never have to work with the mobile AIR publishing process again, I’ll be perfectly happy.

I’ll still be working remotely, which is nice as well. At least I’ll be on an east coast schedule. Working at Playdom, I adopted a mostly west coast schedule. I’d start working around 11:30 a.m. and go to around 7:30 p.m. Having the mornings was nice, but I also just got lazy and often accomplished nothing in the mornings. I think I’m happier being back on a tight morning schedule. I get up at 6:00 a.m., go for a run, come back, eat, walk the dog, take a shower and start work by 9:00 a.m. And I’m done in time to have dinner with my family, not at my desk.

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Hire me!

Apr 05 2014 Published by under General

Well, as previously reported, I got caught up in a big layoff from Disney Interactive / Playdom. Considering the amount of time I was there, I got treated pretty well and that has allowed me to take a couple of months off completely. Actually, without getting into details, I kind of can’t start another full time job until early May. But it’s all good. Very good. I’ve been enjoying the time off immensely. I could get used to this. But eventually, the clock will strike midnight, my coach will turn into a pumpkin, I’ll have to leave the ball and go back to scrubbing cinders.

I haven’t been job hunting in earnest, but have had some interesting conversations that I need to follow up on. I guess over the next few weeks I will have to get more serious about this.

I did manage to pick up some contract work. I’ll be creating an online video-based course to teach basic JavaScript. This will be six lessons, each 30-45 minutes of video each. I spent the last week finalizing the outline and getting to work on Lesson 1. I’m really excited about this and I’m having a lot of fun doing it. This is exactly the kind of work that I would love to be doing full time. And it’s a nice extra income that pushes off that pumpkin deadline a few more weeks into the future as well.

I already mentioned this in my previous post about being laid off, but since then I’ve been doing even more “soul searching” about what I want to do and this is it. All recent controversy aside, I’d love to get into someplace like Mozilla, working with the MDN documentation or something similar. Or any other company that has an API, a service, a language, system, framework, etc. that they want people to understand and use to its full potential. I just love learning something, then analyzing the hell out of it in order to teach it to others, showing them A. why they might want to use it, B. how easy it is to use and how to get started, and C. some awesome things you can do with it.

Alternatively, I’d also love to get into something even more purely educational, such as Khan Academy, Udacity, Lynda.com or something like that. That’s basically what I’m doing now with this JavaScript course contract. I’d be happy to continue doing contracts like this, though the illusion of job security with full time employment still has a hold on me.

I’m also not at all averse to continuing on in a straight up developer role somewhere. But if so, I’d love to be somewhere where I could start projects and do some creative work, not just be a member of a large team handling a conveyor belt of Jira tickets on some system created by someone who no longer even works there.

So, I’ll be continuing to do a more traditional job search kind of thing, but figured it couldn’t hurt to throw out a shotgun post like this. If you know of any leads or have any contacts in any companies that might be looking for people in positions like any of the above, please send them my way!

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Playing With Chaos – Alternate Formats!

Mar 24 2014 Published by under General

Since I published Playing With Chaos on the Amazon store, people have been asking for alternate formats – PDF, epub, print. Well, I finally got around to cleaning it up and formatting it for PDF. Generating an epub from the Kindle .mobi format was easy enough. So you can now purchase DRM-free versions of the book from Gumroad:

https://gumroad.com/l/playingwithchaos

When you buy, you’ll get all three versions – PDF, epub, mobi. No DRM, so you can read them anywhere. Hopefully you won’t go crazy sharing them. Think of the children.

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Goodbye, Magic Kingdom

Mar 09 2014 Published by under General

Well, that was a bit fast.

At the beginning of last April, I started working at Playdom, the social gaming division of Disney Interactive. As part of the Central Tech team, I wound up working on maybe a dozen different games, from Star Wars to Pirates of the Caribbean. I’d usually just go on to a game team for a short time to help out with something specific – build process, some library integration, optimization, implementation of some specific feature, etc. – then I’d move on to some other team that needed some help.

A couple of months ago, there were some big internal reorganizations and a couple of key execs left the company. Then, a few weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal posted a story claiming there were going to be huge layoffs from Playdom. I didn’t hear about the story until the following week, which was after the supposed layoffs were allegedly occurring. Although I was told it was an unfounded rumor, I felt that there was probably some truth to it. Maybe the timing was off, but I suspected something was in the works. Lots of internal factors, such as major reorganizations, shifting production schedules and shifting technology decisions, made me wonder what a lot of employees were going to do.

So last Thursday, when New York Times announced that Playdom had laid off 700 employees, it didn’t come as a huge shock. Well, the fact that they used the past tense, and nobody in the office knew anything was a bit strange, but obviously something big was happening that day. It was an odd day to be a remote employee. But eventually I got THE CALL. And so, now, I am unemployed, along with 700 or so of my former coworkers.

As it turns out, it seems like Disney took pretty good care of the people it let go. I can’t complain at all about the deal I got, especially considering I’d been there just under one year. Without getting into details, it works out that I’ll be taking the next two months off. That sounds extravagant, but it’s not just me being lazy. It’s just how it’s going to work out, and it’s the only logical option. So I’m pretty psyched about that. In my 11 months at Playdom, I didn’t take a single vacation or sick day. So I feel like I’m ready for some time off. Two months to chill out and reboot and do some soul searching about what I want to do next. I can do some other projects or small contracts though, so if anyone would like some help on a project, let me know.

Some thoughts: I’m not sure I really want to go back into a production coding environment. Yes, I can track down and fix bugs in my or someone else’s code. Yes, I can implement new features in existing code bases. Yes, I can optimize and convert existing code. But I’d much rather be building things from scratch. And with my recent Coding Math series, it’s become clear to me that one of my strengths is in education. I’d love some kind of position where I could write documentation, tutorials, do videos, seminars, workshops, sample apps and implementations. So if anyone has a line on such a job, let me know!

Some of the projects I plan to work on during this “sabbatical” are:

1. Playing With Chaos. Several people have been asking for a non-Amazon version of the book, either PDF, other format, or print. I’d started the conversion of this a while back, and got back onto it recently. It’s mostly a lot of formatting work. The Kindle/mobi format is basically reflowable HTML, but PDF and print are page-based, so I need to go over each page and look at how it lays out – code line breaks, image spacing, etc. Anyway, I think I should have some alternate versions available very soon. And then I’ll look at a print version.

2. Coding Math – I was doing three videos per week, which was getting to be a bit much. I was about to post something saying that I was going to cut that down to two videos per week. But now that I have some free time on my hands, I think I’ll keep up the three-per-week schedule for a bit. Last week I only got out a single video due to the drama at the end of the week.

3. I’ve had a couple of game ideas floating around my head. I may try to get those out the door finally. And I need to do some updates to Falling Balls.

4. Woodworking. This is a recent hobby I’ve picked up. Still in the noob stages, but starting to create some half decent items. I have a small basement shop, so I’ve been concentrating on small boxes, toys and puzzles. I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. After so many years of making virtual goods, it’s quite a change to be creating physical items. Here’s some of my stuff. https://www.etsy.com/shop/SquareKWoodworking

5. Get back on track with current web technologies. I was getting into this more last year, but at Playdom I was back in the Flash/AIR world mostly. I still love JavaScript, but have probably fallen a bit behind on the current popular frameworks and technologies that all the cool kids are using these days. I’d like to ramp back up on that really quickly. Suggestions? I’ll probably go to a bunch of local meetups too.

6. I also started learning a bit of Unity at the end of my Playdom stint, as it seemed like we were going to be doing a lot more with that. I may spend a little time continuing to look at that stuff.

7. I’ll probably reboot my running activities. Since my third marathon last October, I’ve been in a real rut. Just can’t get into a steady running schedule for more than a week or two. Maybe with a little extra time, I’ll be able to get back into it.

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Coding Math Application Series

Feb 10 2014 Published by under General, JavaScript, Technology

Last week I kicked off a new series on the Coding Math Channel. It’s the Application series.

I was thinking that it’s nice to present new concepts in each video, but there is a limited amount that I can do with them. I try to make the main episodes be 10-15 minutes long. I can explain a concept, do a few drawings, show some math, write some code, see it in action, and maybe iterate on that once or twice. And then, that’s it for that topic. Hopefully the brief example was good enough, because I’m moving on to something else now.

So my thought was to start another series where I actually build some simple app or game, or at least the barest outline of such. With some real world applications of the principles that are covered in the other videos. Each video will be in the five minute range, adding just one or two small features to the current app or game. Each feature may make use of one or more of the concepts from the other videos.

The first game is something I call Ballistics. It’s just a simple idea where you aim a gun and it shoots a cannonball that you try to hit a target. Like the old QBasic game, Gorillas.

gorilla2

In the first episode, we use a bit of trigonometry, including arctangent, to aim the gun using the mouse. In this week’s upcoming episode, we’ll actually get a cannonball firing, so that will use the particle class, with velocity and gravity, and lots more real world application of trigonometry. But each one is a bite sized piece of an application. We might hit the same concept over and over in different parts of the same app, or in different apps. But that’s the whole idea, to see many different ways you can use these concepts.

So now, we have the main episode each Monday, a Mini episode – shorter 5-minute simple concept – on Wednesday, and these Application episodes on Friday.

I want to thank all of you who have supported me on Patreon.com. It really makes doing these videos more justifiable in terms of the time I spend on them. And if you are a supporter, know that only the main Monday episodes are Patreon sponsored episodes. The Minis and Applications are on the house.

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2013 in Review

Jan 01 2014 Published by under General

For the last few years I’ve done a year in review type of post near the end of the year. I guess I blew that already. But January 1st isn’t a bad time to do it.

2013

2013 brought a big change for me. After almost 6 years of working at Infrared5, I left there to work at Disney Interactive. It was a tough decision. I started at IR5 because the people there were my friends. And more friends arrived over the years. But the company had started as a Flash shop and with the slow decline of Flash, I felt it was facing an identity crisis. Long story short, I felt I was stagnating there the last year or two and needed to move on.

Moving from a small company to a massive one like Disney is tough. Oddly, I find myself back doing a lot of Flash work. But really touching all kinds of stuff – Objective-C, C++, C#, JavaScript, Unity, Java. For a month or so I became the go-to Jenkins guy, setting up build servers for a bunch of different teams. That was a lot of fun. It can get a bit frustrating being on a massive team where you only own a small portion of the code and other people are working on other parts. I honestly prefer smaller projects that I can start from scratch, do the architecture and then start fleshing it out, with another person or two helping to do parts. Thus far at Disney I’ve mostly been jumping around assisting in ongoing projects for a few weeks to months. A kind of strike force of one. But when I’m done with the current project I’m on, I have a project lined up for 2014 that I’m very excited to get onto. Nothing hugely glamorous, but something I’ll be able to start up myself and be a lead on.

Other than work, I’ve started a couple other projects. Of course there was Playing With Chaos. That took up a few months of my spare time, but was a ton of fun and hugely satisfying to be able to pull off the self-publishing of a book. One thing I’ve realized publishers are good for is publicizing your book and driving sales. So it hasn’t exactly been a runaway best seller, but honestly, I don’t think it was ever destined to be. It’s a niche title. A labor of love.

And I started the Coding Math video series. This has also been very satisfying and keeps me excited on a weekly basis, planning out new subjects, writing scripts, recording and editing. I’m almost at the point where my own voice in my own ears doesn’t sound like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. And learning lots about the process as well. I can see myself that the quality of the videos has come way up since the first one, but still has a long way to go.

Earlier in the year, I decided to build an arcade cabinet. This never fully materialized, but did spark a new interest in woodworking and an old interest in electronics. I dabbled in both a bit, but both got pushed aside when I started working flat out on Playing With Chaos. But both will come in handy for a new project I’ll be doing this year…

Personally, things are good. I ran my third marathon on my birthday in October. It wasn’t my best, but not my worst either. Since that race, running has taken a back seat for me. Marathon training is a four-month process that takes a lot out of you. I’ve gone through it three times in the last two years.So the last month or two I’ve taken a break. I’ve also gained some weight. So I start this year temporarily in the worst shape I’ve been in in a couple of years! But still, it’s better shape than I was in the previous 10 years.

I got a dog! I never was much of a dog person. Could take them or leave them. Some people at my last job believed I hated dogs. Not true. There were something like 5-6 dogs in the office and it was a major distraction all too often. Anyway, my daughter Kris has been dying for a husky for years. I kept saying no. My wife was on the fence. She finally joined my daughter’s side and they ganged up on me. So now we have a husky named Yuki. They promised to do all the work, including taking her for long walks twice a day. Of course, at this point, I am the chief dog walker. But this has had its benefits. At any rate, Yuki has totally changed our lives and is a really awesome addition to the family and home.

A husky needs a lot of walking. So I’m out with her 30-45 minutes or longer twice a day. This has lead to a couple of new hobbies. One is history. I’ve been into audiobooks for a while, listening during my long runs. But I started listening to history lectures from The Great Courses. You can get many of them on Audible.com and I can also get a lot from the library as well. (Side note: my use of the library has rocketed since I discovered that you can go on line and search for and order books, movies, and audiobooks from a huge network of libraries around greater Boston and suburbs. I can find almost anything if I’m willing to wait a week or three.) I’ve listened to a couple about the American Revolution, the Rise and Fall of the British Empire, The Fall and Rise of China, and the Rise and Fall of Soviet Communism in Russia. On deck are ones on Hitler’s empire, more about China, and the French revolution. And a few non-history subjects I wanted to learn about. It’s been a fantastic learning experience so far, and I’m able to bore my family to death with fascinating (to me) facts.

Also, while walking the dog at night, I started looking up in the sky. When I started, I could recognize the Big Dipper and Orion. And from the Big Dipper, I could sometimes locate the North Star. The rest was just random specs of light. But they were up there every night so I started looking closer. Tried a few different star chart apps, and settled on Stellarium. I just use the desktop app, spot a few things to look for before I go out, try to find them while I’m walking the dog, spot some other patterns while I’m out there and try to figure out what those were when I come back in. I have an app on my phone too, but it’s tough to use when you’re walking a dog and listening to history lectures. 🙂 I got up to the point where I could find and name more than a dozen constellations and more than a dozen stars as well as other features, including Jupiter and Venus. This past week I started thinking of getting a telescope to take things to the next level. Much of what I read said to start with binoculars. So I got a half decent pair and took them out last night with my daughter. Holy cow! The moons of Jupiter, the Andromeda galaxy, the Orion nebula! I’m now honing up on telescope basics and reviews. I need one.

2014

So what’s in store this year?

1. I’d like to get out a printed version of Playing With Chaos. This requires formatting a decent PDF version, which I may sell directly in addition to the Amazon sales.

2. I have another self-publishing book idea that I started working on. This will be smaller and probably even more niche, but it has to be done. More on that if and when it moves forward.

3. Of course, I’ll be continuing on with the Coding Math series. Currently this is my top priority.

4. As hinted to above, I have another project in mind that will make use of both my electronics and woodworking skills (minor though they both may be). I’ve gotten started on this, but have some parts on order, will need to order more, and then will have various fabrication issues to work out. Taking this one slowly, but will report when there’s something to share.

5. More learning, learning, learning. Stars, planets, history, technology, etc.

To sum it up, I quote from the best New Year’s resolution tweet I’ve ever seen:

My new year’s resolutions:

1. Read
2. Write
3. Execute

#chmod777

https://twitter.com/bobspace/status/417799321921126400

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