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Escaped the Hellevator

I’m a big fan of Escape Rooms and any puzzle really, and had a blast successfully completing the Hellevator at Escape at the Shore.

Stacey and I took on the challenge. The room was very small and shook and simulated like an old elevator. It was really impressive. Don’t want to give away any secrets, so I’ll keep it vague.

The beginning was great. Everything in the room was setup perfectly for experience. There was a pay phone that could be used, all sorts of combinations, locks, and drawers to open. Pretty nice.

A creative twist is that we did have to interact/combat zombies at some point, but again will keep it vague on the exact details.

I did have a piece of the room break or malfunction on me, but I shared it with the game master through the camera in the room and they promptly remedied the situation. Ha, always my luck!

The end got pretty intense as we saw the time ticking down. We knew we had to hustle with only seconds remaining, but I ran to save every last precious second and we wound up beating the room with a scant 13 seconds to spare. We really cut it close!

Lots of fun, good teamwork and highly recommended!

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3D Printed a Broken Bike Part

A little plastic part that worked to support the magnet above an exercise bike’s flywheel had broken, making the bike only work on it’s hardest level. Not fun to pedal against such a harsh setting.

So we decided to see if we could 3D print a replacement piece, since the supply chain is making getting access to parts pretty tough.

This was my first attempt at 3D printing. So I starting with tinkercad, and watched a few of their tutorials. The web interface seemed fairly easy to pick up, just had to set aside some time to try to recreate the broken part in CAD with the assistance of a metric ruler to make sure I was being accurate.

Turned out I really enjoyed drawing the part. Took me back to my mechanical drawing classes back in Shop class in grade school. Always enjoyed mechanical drawings.

All I had to do now was export my drawing to a .stl file format and find a printer to create it. I checked to see what options were nearby and some online options too. The nearby Ocean City Library had a 3D printer and only charged $1 an hour. Couldn’t pass that deal up.

So I emailed them my .stl file and had it all ready to pick up the very next day. They were really awesome about it. Asked me what color I preferred it be printed as, very helpful.

Got home with the new part, swapped it only the bike and like magic all seems to be working well again. Will be interesting to see how it holds up in use, but thus far seems to be quite durable.

It was awesome, I’m still excited it worked! Eager to try printing more 3D things.

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Capybaras eating bamboo at the Cape May County Zoo
Capybaras eating bamboo at the Cape May County Zoo

For my birthday I was treated to a Capybara encounter at the Cape May County Zoo! Capybaras have been my favorites at my local zoo for as long as I can remember, even for the few years when they were absent. I got to go into the enclosure, get fairly up close and feed my friends some bamboo.

We got there a little extra early as it was forecast to rain most of the day, but not until around our start time. Luckily the super friendly zoo staff showed up early as well, also hoping to beat out the showers (which we ultimately did).

The staff was great, very friendly and began sharing all sorts of facts about the capybaras. They let us into the enclosure and reminded us that we could get close, but don’t make too sudden of a motion as it will likely scare them off.

There were 3 adults and 2 tiny babies. If we made the slightest move the babies would retreat, most of the time I think they just ran away because someone else had run. It was pretty awesome and hilarious at the same time.

So I just sat there fairly still and offered up some bamboo for the capybaras to feast on. Budette was the hungriest with the other 3 joining early on too. Mikey stayed back, apparently he’s been dealing with some stomach issue as of late.

I eventually got him to come over and eat up as well. Within minutes his stomach issues were on full display as here ripped an extremely loud fart accompanies with a decent poop. While it was pretty gross, we couldn’t stop laughing. He just kept munching along like nothing that epic has just taken place.

This was a pretty amazing experience and one I’m very glad I got to take!

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New England Road Trip

mountain view from Flume Gorge in New Hampshire

Took a nice road trip up to the New England area for the first time. We took Stacey’s fancy new Prius up there. The hybrid made amazing and most importantly efficient work the whole trip. I came away very much impressed with the vehicle.

On the first day we visited Boston. Took a short train ride in early in the morning, and got some advice (both directional and political) from a construction worker. He was really nice and made sure we were on the right train, as well as let us know not to vote too progressive in our upcoming election.

Once we got into Boston we waled the Freedom Trail. It’s a 16 stop trail throughout the city that involved a lot of walking, which is great as I do enjoy moving around. It was incredibly warm out for the time of year, I’d say it was perfect walking/touring weather.

We walked the entire tour, stopping for food and treats along the way. Also were fortunate enough to see a street performer put on a nice show atop a unicorn unicycle. He really gave it his all and did a great job working the audience.

Perhaps the most interesting thing for me was the size of the squirrels in Boston. They all were massive, much larger than the squirrels in my yard. They were huge and fearless of humans.

The next day we drove over to the Blue Hill Reservation park. This was pretty scenic with the hills, foliage starting to kick in, etc. We hiked the Skyline Loop, which was justly ranked as a challenging hike.

The hike was intense! Right off the bat you’re going straight up a very stony hill. It was so steep. Then the trickier part to me is descending a stony hill. It’s just a bit more slippery going down for me than going up. After completing that, I pretty thought much we were done. We went up a steep hill and down, right? Nope, this had 5 big hills to climb.

It was very exhausting, but a really great hike. I’d highly advise for those seeking a challenging hike.

After that hike we stopped at Wegmans to pick up a quick bite. They were conveniently right next to the hotel, so we would make many refueling stops there.

After the refuel, we headed out to Salem to check out all the Halloween stuff. When we arrived we realized that most of the world had a similar plan, it was packed beyond comprehension. Rows and rows of people. All parking was full, and the only available was a lot asking for $60. We aborted the mission and headed back to home base, hanging out at the Natick Mall (largest in New England).

Got the check out their Lego store, Peloton store, tried on a winter coat (kinda looking to replace this season), and just enjoyed walking on level ground for a bit after the extensive hike/climb earlier. The did have a cool place of indoor activity called Level 99, but I didn’t partake. I was still a bit tired and honestly it looked a bit packed and I’m still being a bit cautious with crowds with the Coivd-19 and all.

The last day we drove up to New Hampshire and check our the Flume Gorge. This was awesome and I’d highly recommend it to anyone to check it out. It was so scenic and massive, not something that I’m used to seeing on the east coast (or anywhere really).

Everything was so scenic and fall like, it was pretty great. Another great hike outdoors, this time the temperature was a bit closer to what I’d expect this time of near up north. Again, a very much recommended place to go.

This as a pretty awesome and active trip. A great time.

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Replaced the Fill Valve on My Toilet

The dreaded occurred just a few days ago, my toilet stopped working. Luckily I do have more than one bathroom, so it wasn’t the worst, but still not a good feeling. It was draining just fine, it’s just the tank wasn’t filling back up.

So I did some tinkering. It seemed that if I shut the line off then back on, then the tank would fill. I thought that a bit strange, but after doing some research figured that the fill valve maybe had some sort of block in it. I followed some hardly videos and tutorials to try flushing the fill valve

Flushing it was pretty easy, you shut off the line, then remove remove the fill valve cap (which I’m always terrified of breaking things). Inspecting the cap, it was surely dirty, but didn’t see anything that would be causing a block or anything wrong with the washer. So I held a cup over the open fill valve and turned the water on from the line and let it run for a bit, hoping that it might flush anything out.

Unfortunately that didn’t seem to do the trick, so my next option was to just replace the fill valve. It was clearly quite old and dirty, and at under $10 why not. Picked one up at Lowes and got to work.

Replacing the previous fill valve only took probably 20 minutes in total. That was with me double checking each and every step! When I was all done, I turned the line on and watched the tank fill up. It was beautiful to behold.

Gave the toilet a few flushes, and made some minor height adjustments to the water level and do believe I have a working toilet again. I know it isn’t the most complex plumbing task, but it still felt pretty good to be able to fix something on my own (with a lot of help from the internet of course).

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Microsoft Azure U.S. Hack for Accessibility

Had a lot of fun working on the Microsoft Azure U.S. Hack for Accessibility. Paired up with 4 really great and random teammates on this one. We would up making AI Dog, which was a service that specialize in providing accessible directions for users to safely and more easily navigate to a campus. Here’s the entry on DevPost.

I had a great experience working with this team and thought we came up with a very creative idea. There’s a lot going on in the project, but it ultimately uses the Google Streetview API to grab photos of a college campus, that we then analyze using the Azure Computer Vision API to determine whether the photo is an accessible scene or not. We then use the data from the location photos to determine the most accessible route a user is searching on using our accessible website.

One of our teammates did an amazing job setting up the backend in Python. I’ll try to find the path to his repo. It really was amazing work, I’m still impressed at his skills. It was ultimately turned into an Azure Function, which we could then call on a simple web page.

I helped out on the frontend. Using Bootstrap 5 for the basic grid and applying a good amount of Javascript for the UI.

I really thought we had a good shot at winning this one, but the other entrants were just as if not more deserving as well. What a great experience. If I could go back I’d have us spend just a little bit more time on the presentation.

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