Fincher's Follies

Yeah… just let someone else host it

Golfing: Southwood 2014-03-22

Another golf post! Judging from my free time as of late, there may not be much else posted here for a bit. Anyhoo…

This round we actually played a game called Wolf (or possible Lone Wolf) to make things a little more interesting. Basically, the 4th person in the order is the “wolf” (the order rotates each hole). After each player hits, the wolf decides if they would like to team up with said player or pass. If they pass on all three, they are the “lone wolf” and are playing against everyone else. If they chose a teammate, then it is 2-on-2. There are 3 points to split per hole, so if there are teams, winner gets 1.5 points. If you go lone wolf and win, you get 3 points though if you lose, each of the other players get 1 point. Given my last few rounds, I was given a 2 stroke handicap per hole (1 on par 3) and Brian was given a 1 stroke. This evened out the playing field enough to keep things interesting. Since this was a more rigid ruleset, each player was limited to 1 mulligan per 9 holes (far less than I had utilized in past rounds).

I think I came in 3rd with regard to the Wolf, but overall I was pretty pleased with my performance. I only lost 2 balls, and I consider my score to be improved given the lack of mulligans. Here’s hoping I can keep getting out consistently now that Brian has moved and I can continue to improve!

Additional side note, I shot my first par since I have been getting back into playing. I hit a terrible first shot on a 17 (a par 3), but had a great chip that put me right next to the hole. Good stuff!

Front 9

Front 9

Back 8

Back 9

Golfing: Southwood 2014-02-08

I got back out on the golf course again, and I think it may have actually gone worse than last time! At this stage in my game, I should probably start keeping track of balls lost and mulligans because those stats are still the most relevant to how my game has been going. I definitely had plenty of both this time (though I spent a lot less time in sand traps), but I still managed to squeeze out some fun ;-) Hopefully I can get out to the range a few times before my next round and actually make an improvement! I actually was slightly better on the front nine, but I completely lost it on 12 and 18 of the back nine, which really killed me. Mayhaps I should also get some new balls since I have literally been knocking the color off the ones I have been playing recently ;-)

Front Nine

Front Nine

Back Nine

Back Nine

2-1-1 Big Bend 5K

Our first family 5k! MC and I have been getting back into running, but the 5k distance was still a little bit of a jump (some of our most recent training runs were a little over 2 miles). We decided to do it because it was so close to us, and we were definitely not going to try to break any records (if not for training, but for pushing a stroller!). It was overcast, but a pretty good temperature, and overall, things went pretty well. When we opened the flap of the stroller to hand Ruby her snacks, she thought she was getting out. This caused a little fuss around mile 2, but she soon was back to being a good little passenger.

Getting geared up

Getting geared up

My beautiful wife pushing my beautiful baby

My beautiful wife pushing my beautiful baby

5k finishers!

5k finishers!

All-in-all, it was great to get back out into the 5k scene. It was also super fun to be able to do it all together as a family! As we start doing more runs with her, I think Ruby will become an even better passenger and I see lots of races in our future :-)

38:07

MC – 38:06

Golfing: Southwood

A couple of my buddies have become pretty consistent golfers as of late, which has spurned me to get back into the game myself.  I played some when I was in middle/high school, then had a long hiatus, then played for a few months leading up to my buddy Adam’s wedding, then another hiatus until recently. I never played consistently enough to really become any good, but I thought it would be kinda fun to chronicle my attempt to make a decent golfer out of myself.

I’ve played with a few different apps, but I think I have settled on the Swing by Swing app for tracking everything. Occasionally, I will check it for yardage and such, but for now I am mostly using it as a scorecard to keep track of my basic stats. Hopefully, I will stick with this long enough to start seeing some interesting results! This past weekend, I played a round at the Southwood Golf Club, and it went as follows.

Back Nine

Front Nine

Back Nine

Back Nine

Since I was just trying out the app for the first time, I didn’t include stats about penalty strokes, bunkers, etc. I don’t know if I will ever be interested enough to track every single thing. It might be a bit interesting if I started tracking mulligans though. ;-) I’m still at the level where the primary stat I am interested in is how many balls I have lost. Luckily, I think it was only 2 this round! haha.

Overall, I was fairly happy with the round. I am still terribly inconsistent in general, and I have a lot to learn about club selection. It said my average was 2.11 putts per hole, which I will take. I was especially proud of my chip-in on hole 10!

Anyway, I thought this might be interesting to post on here (at least more interesting than posting nothing at all!), so mayhaps I will keep going with it. Hopefully, there will also be some more race posts in the very near future! ;-)

Hackintosh

I have recently noticed that I am starting to have a few issues with my current iMac. My hard drive is nearing full (and it is a pain in the ass to replace with a larger one) and my optical drive died (I have been using a cheap external). Since iMacs are not very upgrade-friendly, I decided to check out the offerings from Apple. If I got a new iMac, it would cost quite a bit for (what I consider) a pretty marginal upgrade. The new mac pros that were announced look pretty awesome, but dadjum are they expensive! I started looking around and found that I could get something with more than enough power for less than half of what I would pay for a mac pro so I decided to go the hackintosh route. I started with this guide from lifehacker, and tonymacx86 has been an amazing resource. When figuring out what kind of hardware I wanted, I pretty much stuck to the list provided by tonymacx86 since most of those components had been tested so I would be less likely to encounter incompatibility issues. I hadn’t build a computer since the media server, and that was the first one I had built in many, many years. Thus, there were several times that I’d forget the order of a few key things (e.g. I always forget to install the little coverplate in the back before I install the motherboard), but otherwise it came together fairly easily. Since this was a larger build, I decided to put the basic components together to test them before I installed them in the case, and sure enough something wasn’t working! The motherboard would just power cycle and never boot even to BIOS. First I thought it was the power supply, so I picked one up at Best Buy to try and it gave the same result. I tried with varying numbers of RAM chips and still nothing so I assumed the motherboard was bad. After I returned it and received another one, I had the same thing happen. Initially, I thought it was the processor, but I decided to test the RAM a little more thoroughly and, sure enough, one of the ram chips was bad. Doh! So I got that return processed and then I had working components, and it was time to put this bad boy together!

Getting everything hooked up and tested

Getting things hooked up and tested

RAM looks so much cooler than it did back in the day

RAM looks so much cooler than it did back in the day

Video cards are also ridiculous behemoths compared to those when I started building computers

Video cards are also ridiculous behemoths compared to those when I started building computers

More testing

More testing

Getting the main hard drive situated

Getting the main hard drive situated

Getting everything in place

Getting everything in place

Nice removable hard drive shelf helps with installation

Nice removable hard drive shelf helps with installation

For the most part, the installation of OS X went according to plan. I had to tweak one graphics setting that was keeping it from booting up, but otherwise it pretty much went as the guide described. Gotta love it when things just work!  I left a partition on the main drive in case I want to dual boot. I’m thinking about throwing linux on there for now, then switching it to Windows so I can try out some PC gaming.

And we have OS X liftoff!

And we have OS X liftoff!

Way more badass looking than any mac I've ever seen ;-)

Way more badass looking than any mac I’ve ever seen ;-)

The next thing I have to tackle is how I want to set everything else up with regard to my hard drive. Since I have both an SSD and a traditional hard drive, there are a number of ways I can set things up to best utilize them. One option is to just change the location of my home directory to reside on the hard drive. This would mean applications and system files would all be on the SSD, and I would have the large drive for all my music, movies, etc. The downside to this approach is that any applications that use temporary storage would use a directory in my home directory and would, therefore, not utilize the speed of the SSD. Another alternative, the one that I have chosen, it to leave my home directory on the SSD and have my large directories reside on the hard drive. This is fairly simple to set up because you just delete the folder (e.g. Movies), create a folder on the hard drive for all the files, then create a new Movies folder in your home directory that links to the one on the hard drive (e.g. ln -s /Volumes/BigHardDrive/Movies ~/Movies). Because programs don’t differentiate between an actual directory and a symbolic link, all application behaviors should remain unchanged. The other downside to this method (that wasn’t mentioned in the first descriptions of possible setups) is that you can’t use the Migration Assistant in the same way. Typically, I would use a Time Machine backup and import all my files and settings to the new computer. When you try to do this, it won’t let you merge the imported user with an existing user. Therefore, any symbolic links that you set up won’t be utilized when the data imported. Because of this, I can’t import because my SSD doesn’t have nearly enough space to hold everything, even temporarily, so I can set up the directories again. Additionally, what I have read indicates that you don’t want to try to copy files directly out of a Time Machine backup. The organization isn’t the same as just regular files. So I had to use an external hard drive to copy over all the large directories (in a couple of batches because the hard drive isn’t that large). It is a bit annoying because, had I known this was the approach I was going to have to take, I could have started transferring things a while ago and had them ready to load up as soon as the hackintosh was built. Live and learn I guess! :-)

It is looking like I may also use this opportunity to upgrade some of the iLife applications I have been using. I suppose another downside to building your own hackintosh is that the iLife suite isn’t automatically loaded. Now that OSX is free, there is definitely no chance of a bundle.  I haven’t updated any iLife apps since 2009, apparently, so I imagine some improvements have been made in the past 4 years :-) I’ll probably just start with iPhoto then look into iMovie when I have some movie editing on the horizon. I debated just switching over to Aperture for all my photo organization, but my version is also at least 4 years old and a new version is like $80 vs. $15 for iPhoto. Luckily, the newer versions of these programs actually share a library, so what I have read indicates that switching to Aperture in the future would be pretty seamless. Here’s hoping! I figured I would put together a little spec sheet. If anyone stumbles upon this and has questions or wants more specifics, feel free to contact me. Just wanted to give a basic overview here.

  • Quad Core processor
  • 32 Gb RAM
  • 240 Gb SSD as primary drive
  • 4 Tb storage drive
  • Video card with support for up to 4 monitors
  • bad ass ATX tower case

So far, I am not seeing much that I feel like I will be missing out on with the hackintosh approach vs. traditional mac. There are a couple of tiny things I won’t have (camera, everything built into my monitor, etc.), but a couple of things I have gained (multiple easily accessible usb ports, easy modification/upgrades in the future, etc.)  Yes, putting it all together was more difficult than just ordering a mac, but if you only choose proven hardware, it was pretty straightforward. Now the only real thing I have to be concerned about is any future OSX or application updates being incompatible with something in a hackintosh, but I think that’ll be pretty unlikely (or I can just not upgrade anything for a while, haha).

Self-Watering Plant via Arduino Uno

As I mentioned in my Geek Christmas post, one of the fun toys I had received was the Arduino Uno. It is a simple little open source microcontroller. This past Father’s Day, one of my presents was time to finally tinker with projects, so I finally learned to solder! Once I had done that, the first project I had in mind was to put the Uno to use to help make sure our little Charlie Chavez the Traveling Christmas Cactus was well taken care of.  Things have been pretty hectic lately, and even when they are not, I’m not the best about remembering to water plants (I killed three bamboo plants at our last apartment). So when I saw this Instructable describing the use of an Uno to make a self-watering plant, I knew what my first project should be!

Initially, I figured I would just follow all the directions to the T, but as I got into it, there were a few modifications that I felt comfortable making. Otherwise, I pretty much tried to stay with the plans since there was a lot of stuff involved that I had little to no prior experience with. On to the documentation!

One of the biggest changes I made was the power to the Uno. In the Instructable, the author decided to use a 9V battery to power the Uno. This seemed pretty silly to me since the water pump was already going to have to be plugged in so it wouldn’t have been wireless anyway. I initially thought about just running a standard power adapter to it, but then it seemed silly to have everything it in this nice little project box but have to take up two electrical sockets. I had a charger that I had specifically procured for use with the Uno, so I figured I would just use my newfound soldering skills to make the build a little more cohesive.

Taking apart the charger

Taking apart the charger

Looks pretty simple to wire

Looks pretty simple to wire

FIrst, I got the pump situated.

FIrst, I got the pump situated.

Then figured out the placement of the other components so I could drill the holes

Then figured out the placement of the other components so I could drill the holes

Getting things soldered

Getting things soldered

Had to improvise since I couldn't find appropriately sized spacers

Had to improvise since I couldn’t find appropriately sized spacers

Started to connect the charger guts, the realized that the cables were so short it probably wasn't going to work very well.

Started to connect the charger guts, the realized that the cables were so short it probably wasn’t going to work very well.

Much better with some new wires

Much better with some new wires

Getting everything situated

Getting everything situated

All done!

All done!

Ready to keep Charlie happy!

Ready to keep Charlie happy!

I DID do it myself with Arduino ;-)

I DID do it myself with Arduino ;-)



I had a bit of an issue at first with the code provided because it was definitely to too low of a threshold for deciding Charlie was dry and ended up pumping way too much water and overflowing! Luckily I was just doing testing instead of just setting it and leaving so I was able to catch it all with a towel. I also changed it a bit so that it polled a little less often. The original author had it taking a reading every 5 seconds, which seemed a bit excessive for just seeing if a plant is a little too dry. I decided once an hour was plenty. Here’s my modified code.


/*
Self-Watering Plant
by Randy Sarafan
Modified by Justin Fincher

Reads a soil moisture sensor and turns on a relay that controls a water pump.
The soil moisture sensor involves a 10K resistor between pins A1 and ground,
and a probe connected to pin A1 and another connected to +5V. These probes
are embedded and inch apart in the plant's soil.

For more information, check out:
http://www.instructables.com/id/Self-Watering-Plant/ or

http://www.justinandrewfincher.com/2013/06/30/self-watering-plant-via-arduino-uno/

*/

// Analog input pin that the soil moisture sensor is attached to
const int analogInPin = A1;

// value read from the soil moisture sensor
int sensorValue = 0;

// if the readings from the soil sensor drop below this number, then turn on the pump
int dryValue = 400;

void setup() {
   pinMode(12, OUTPUT);
   // initialize serial communications at 9600 bps:
   Serial.begin(9600);
}

void loop() {
   // read the analog in value:
   sensorValue = analogRead(analogInPin);
   
   //Turns on the water pump if the soil is too dry
   //Increasing the delay will increase the amount of water pumped
   if(sensorValue < dryValue){
      digitalWrite(12, HIGH);
      delay(10000);
      digitalWrite(12, LOW);
   }
   
   // print the sensor to the serial monitor:
   Serial.print("sensor = " );
   Serial.println(sensorValue);

   //slow your roll - I mean... slow down the code a little
   delay(3600000); // once per hour
   //delay(15000); // every 15 seconds
}

Additionally, I thought it would be kind of interesting if I could actually save some of the data, so I currently have it plugged in via usb. This seemed simpler than trying to just store it in the on board memory of the Arduino because I would have to open the box and plug it in to get the data anyway. I then found a small program that monitors the serial port and I modified it to store the read values in a simple data log.  Since this is situated in the same shelf as my media server, I just have it plugged in to that to do the logging.


#!/usr/bin/python
#
# Python script to monitor a serial input from, in this case, an
# arduino uno and store the values that are output into a .csv
# file

import sys, os, serial, threading
from time import localtime, strftime

def monitor():

ser = serial.Serial(COMPORT, BAUDRATE, timeout=5)

while (1):
   try:
      line = ser.readline()
      if (line[0:9] == "sensor = "):
         # remove return character
         line = line[:-2]
         time = strftime("%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S", localtime())
         
         # write to file
         text_file = open("watering_data.csv", "a")
         line = line.split(' ')
         text_file.write(time+','+line[2]+'\n')
         text_file.close()
   except KeyboardInterrupt:
      print "Stop Monitoring"
      sys.exit(0)

""" -------------------------------------------
MAIN APPLICATION
"""

print "Start Serial Monitor"
print

COMPORT = "/dev/ttyACM0";
BAUDRATE = 9600

monitor()

Here’s a snippet of the log. You can see at 14:50 it was below threshold. Sure enough, I heard it turn on the pump!

2013-06-30 13:50:17,406
2013-06-30 14:50:29,397
2013-06-30 15:50:32,484

So far I am pretty happy with things! I haven’t had it up and running for long, but so far it seems like all the values are appropriate. Now I just have to occasionally remember to check Charlie’s big water jug and he should stay a happy little cactus! :-)

Reviving her buddy



Reviving her buddy, originally uploaded by fincher69.

I was hanging out with Ruby and getting my camera ready for a little pool photo shoot later. She was just doing some tummy time on the futon and playing with her musical giraffe, and I got some fun shots in the process. I don’t think she knows what it does, but she was definitely attracted to the shiny thing on the side of her little friend!

Ruby with giraffe



Ruby with giraffe, originally uploaded by fincher69.

I don’t usually do much portraiture, but we had a little session after taking her 6 month pictures. We thought it would be fun to add a little prop, and sure enough we had some pretty cute shots. This was one of our favorites, and I thought it was just too adorable not to post.

The New Dad’s Survival Guide: Man-to-Man Advice For First Time Fathers by Scott Mactavish

The New Dad's Survival Guide: Man-to-Man Advice for First-Time FathersThe New Dad’s Survival Guide: Man-to-Man Advice for First-Time Fathers by Scott Mactavish

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Perhaps my enjoyment of this book was affected by the fact that I DID read it a little later than I should have. It basically covers from the last few months of pregnancy into the first few months of having a new baby (which is where I was when finishing this book). While there was some helpful information included, it is written in a style that seems appropriate for a new dad who is 18-24 years old and has never known someone who has had a baby or taken a sex education class. The overall tone is fairly juvenile, and the author definitely gives a fairly personal account of the process thereby lacking some comprehensiveness. Overall, I imagine it would be an interesting read for a young, soon-to-be father who has not had a chance to read any other literature on the subject, but I found that it didn’t contribute much to my knowledge on the subject matter.



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Husband-Coached Childbirth by Dr. Robert Bradley

Husband-Coached Childbirth: The Bradley Method of Natural ChildbirthHusband-Coached Childbirth: The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth by Robert A. Bradley, M.D.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So this was basically the manual for the childbirth class that we enrolled in when expecting Ruby. The basic philosophy is that, while medical advances have been great and worthwhile, they are overly applied in the case of childbirth. Childbirth has become more of a procedure than a natural phenomenon. Dr. Bradley espouses a throwback into doing things the more natural way whenever possible.

Overall, I liked the philosophy and the way it was presented in the book. A couple chapters got a little too New Age-y and out there for me, but when it stuck to the logical arguments it was well represented. For anyone interested in having a natural childbirth, I definitely recommend this book and the associated Bradley Method class.



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