Archive for December 2018

Floor Lamp Trouble

Published on December 30, 2018

My wife and I have had three floor lamps, all purchased at different times, fail in the same exact way (the third failed tonight). In each case, the crappy concrete base falls apart and the lamp separates from it. Here are some photos:

Crappy lamp base
Poorly constructed concrete lamp base
Crappy lamp base (alternate view)
Underside of the lamp which broke away

We will now institute a “no floor lamp” policy in our household, seeing as these things are so poorly manufactured. Has anyone else had this experience?

Weight Tracking for 2018

Published on December 20, 2018

I’ve been tracking my weight using the Libra Weight Manager application for Android since June of 2010. It’s been a long time since I’ve mentioned it, but I thought I’d provide an update on where I am:

Weight Chart
Weight Chart as of December 2018

The figure above shows the entirety of my data set, from 2010 to today. The red line is my weight trend line, while the blue line is comprised of the actual data points (my daily weights). Each horizontal line is a span of five pounds, for a sense of scale.

There are a few interesting things to point out here. Tracking my weight was a great way to lose weight in the beginning (note the ever decreasing slope at the start of the chart). I try to keep myself honest by tracking this data, but you can see that I’m starting to slip (trending upwards). The giant dip near the middle of the chart correlates to my getting married, which I find interesting. I suppose that weight loss was primarily stress based.

One of my goals in 2019 is to bring this trend line back down about 10 pounds or so. I’ll try to post an update sometime in the new year to log my progress.

Is WordPress the Next FrontPage?

Published on December 18, 2018

Remember the days of Microsoft FrontPage? I first cut my web development teeth using that tool, and at the time I thought it was amazing. Designing a web site was made easy and I really liked the WYSIWYG editing style. I eventually migrated to Adobe Dreamweaver which seemed (and was) even more powerful.

Nearly 20 years have passed since my start in web development. With a computer science degree under my belt, along with 13+ years of professional experience, I can only look back on those days and laugh at my naivety. Those tools seemed slick at the time, but they were pretty clunky in actuality. The HTML and rudimentary CSS that each generated was ugly and bloated. That said, the WYSIWYG movement never really died. With modern companies like Squarespace and Wix.com, the “build it as you go” web model is still alive and kicking.

WordPress now also seems to be headed that way. I use WordPress here at Born Geek, and I just recently updated to version 5.0. The giant new feature in this release is the new Gutenberg editor, which offers a visual means of laying out your content. To a technical minded person like myself, who typically writes posts in Markdown, the editor is incredibly confusing. I don’t want to have to insert “blocks” with my mouse every time I need a bulleted list or image.

The new editor in WordPress is no doubt an attempt to win users from the Squarespaces and Wix.coms of today’s market. I wonder, however, if this comes at the cost of alienating technical users or users who are simply used to the old look and feel. Giant changes are always likely to have push back, especially with a user base as large as that of WordPress. Given, however, that the Classic Editor plugin already has over one million users, I’d say that this change has a bigger negative opinion than the WordPress powers-that-be might be willing to admit. It will be interesting to see how things progress over the next few months. I’m just thankful that the Classic Editor plugin even exists.

A Case of the Mondays

Published on December 17, 2018

At 4:30 this morning, I awoke to our daughter (for the umpteenth time) crying out from her bed for who knows what reason. My wife had just put her back to bed after an early morning feeding. Seeing as my wife had just gotten back to bed herself, I got up to give her a break. After calming our daughter down, our cats decided it was immediately time to eat. Rather than put up with another hour or so of cat mischievousness, I decided to go ahead and feed them.

Having fed the cats, I headed back upstairs to bed. About ten minutes later, I hear a metallic thunk from downstairs. Getting up once again, I went back downstairs to find that I had left the can of cat food on the counter. Our incredibly food-motivated calico had eaten about half of the can, and had knocked it onto the floor, spilling cat food everywhere. After ten more minutes of cleaning (and swearing), I was now wide awake. So I decided to go ahead and get up.

At 6:45, after working for awhile, I decided to have breakfast. Something tasted off, but I chalked it up to being sleep deprived. Halfway through the meal, however, I discovered that the milk I was using was spoiled. I ended up having to toss the rest of the meal, and was too tired to make something else.

As I was about to head out the door to work, our daughter started fussing again, loudly. I brought her back downstairs to calm her down and give my wife some more sleep. After another hour, our daughter fell back asleep, and I put her back in her bed. I quickly gathered my stuff and headed to work, dazed, confused, and hungry.

YouTube Railfanning

Published on December 9, 2018

I’ve loved trains since I was a child, and it’s a passion I never grew out of. In fact, one of the best parts of our trip to Switzerland last year was riding the rails, which we did each day. That is one of the (many!) reasons we wish to return to that fantastic country.

Here in the United States, train spotting (i.e. railfanning) primarily consists of watching freight traffic. As fun as it is to see a train in person, I have neither the time nor the inclination to get in my car and ride around chasing trains. To my good fortune, there are plenty of people on YouTube who do enjoy that pursuit and who film their efforts.

One of the best channels I’ve found to help me scratch that itch is Distant Signal Productions. Danny Harmon, based near Tampa, Florida, wonderfully narrates his railfan adventures. That he works in television is apparent, both from the professional voice-overs to the fantastic video editing. Here are two great introductory videos to his channel:

I learn quite a bit each time I watch one of his videos, and I enjoy it immensely. Another channel worth checking out is Delay in Block Productions, another very professional channel. This video on the Blue Ridge Southern Railroad was exceptionally shot, and fun to watch.

Who Needs Sleep?

Published on December 4, 2018

My wife and I welcomed our first child, a daughter, in late October. Our lives have changed so much in the few short weeks since. Former routines have been shattered. Thought patterns changed. Our two house cats even behave differently!

Prior to her arrival, we often got similar comments from friends and strangers: “sleep while you can.” If another parent happened to say these words, they inevitably came with a knowing glance or twinkle of the eye. Though unsaid, the implied “trust me on this, and enjoy it while it lasts” always came through with conviction.

Now that we’re several weeks into parenthood, I can better identify with those parenting veterans. I knew sleep was going to be a precious commodity, but I didn’t know to what extent. Some nights are better than others (and things are slowly improving), but lots of mornings still start in a dense fog of exhaustion. I’m most amazed at how my body has adjusted to this change. As it turns out, we humans can apparently survive on less than 8 hours of sleep a night; who knew?!

In the end, the lack of sleep is small potatoes. When your child needs you, you’re there for her in a heartbeat. And when she looks at you and smiles, it gives you the energy to do it all a hundred times over.

Southern Biscuits

Published on December 2, 2018

I’m transcribing the White Lily biscuit recipe here, because I hate having to look for it when I want to make some biscuits. This is a great and simple recipe that yields terrific results. Be sure, however, to use the right kind of self-rising flour (White Lily or Southern Biscuit brands are best). These brands consist of soft winter wheat, which is generally better for biscuits.

I also typically double this recipe, since I cut them larger than the recipe calls for (I use a 2 and 3/4 inch cutter).

  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening (e.g. Crisco)
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  1. Heat oven to 475°F.
  2. Place flour in a large bowl. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender (or two forks or knives) until the crumbs are the size of peas. Add buttermilk, stirring with a fork until the flour is moistened.
  3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently 5 or 6 times. Roll the dough into a circle that is 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Cut out biscuits using a 2-inch biscuit cutter, and place on a baking sheet 1 inch apart (for softer biscuits, arrange so edges almost touch). Shape dough scraps into a ball, flatten into a circle, and cut remaining biscuits.
  4. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and brush with butter, if desired.

Yields about 12 biscuits.

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