Recent Hobbies

I’ve found a few new hobbies/projects to learn during the recent pandemic. Some tech, some around the house, and others just random.

Vue.js

I’ve really gotten into the vue.js JavaScript framework. Recently I’ve been aiming to get stronger with JavaScript, and eventually found my way to Vue.

Thus far I’m using the framework to develop a degree/program finder at work, and another single page app for another project. I’ll have to write up a post on both projects when I launch them. Very excited.

Firebase

A bit tied together with my Vue interest, I’ve really been having fun with Firebase. Firestore and Authentication are what I’m mostly toying with at the moment. I am really excited to deploy into some final projects. The documentation is great.

Baseboard Trim

I finally put my miter saw to use and fixed the baseboard trim in my bathroom. Getting the trim to match at a corner was the biggest challenge.

Since some of the previous trim had gotten wet and moldy, I was able to salvage a piece of the clean original to match my corner, with a completely new piece of baseboard for the side with no corners. Very difficult to see the trim isn’t a perfect match on that piece.

Sprinkler Heads

Not too difficult, but I also dig up and replaced a few sprinkler heads. Installing and adjusting to get them just right wasn’t too hard. Just some trial and error, and digging.

RingFit Adventure

I have been playing RingFit Adventure for 90+ straight days now. While not a replacement for the gym, it’s been a pretty solid source of activity. It has me doing more core and balance work now, which is nice. Great idea making an exercise rpg, I think I’m up to level 106 now.

Kindle PaperWhite

One of the first (and few purchases) of the pandemic for me was a Kindle. It’s been awesome! Screen and battery are amazing, I’ve been borrowing books online through my local library. Probably have read 8 or so on it.

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My Pandemic Birthday

So this birthday was a bit different as it took place during a pandemic. So that ruled out adventuring somewhere, getting something to eat out, etc.

The day started with with my kind co-workers all putting up custom birthday themed backgrounds for our Microsoft Teams meeting. That was a very nice of them, it was funny. I also received some pretty amazing videos and greetings on social media.

Of note was an amazing happy birthday song my Michale Bolton and the most epic happy birthday video I’ve ever seen. I still chuckle at both while typing this.

After work I stopped over to my parents. Had dinner with them and we had some ice cream cake. The cake was great, it was from Dairy Queen and I have to admit it tasted much better than in the past. I think I was told they’re under new ownership, not sure.

Stacey stopped over the next day and brought some gifts with her. Got some nice dumbbells (couldn’t of been too fun for her to carry them up my steps), The OuterWorlds for PS4, an Escape the Crate escape room in a box, and The Master Theorem book.

The dumbbells are great. Not able to go to the gym, they’ll really come in handy. They’re nice ones too, not something you get at a yard sale. The Escape the Crate was great. It comes with 2 escape rooms, and we went through one of them that night. It was challenging, but very fun. A great idea.

The Master Theorem book has been quite the hit thus far. It’s full of really complex and unique puzzles. They’re tough, but it is very satisfying when you solve one. Highly recommended.

As well as a Lego mini-figure I also got an ice cream pie and a pint from Springer’s in Stone Harbor. Amazing ice cream, and a big surprise. Several days later I would begin to regret so much ice cream at once, but it was fine to have such treats!

So while it was a bit different without being able to go places, I was still quite happy. Definitely a memorable b-day!

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Joe the Plumber

I was very proud of my plumbing achievements this weekend. First, I successfully replaced my garbage disposal.

My previous garbage disposal was getting a bit old, needed frequent resets and I suspect early stages of leaking too. I went with an identical model, as it seemed to be an easier replacement.

All in all it took me probably a half hour to complete. If did require wiring, so bonus electrical work for me.

I know it’s not much, if I was impressed and proud to of done it myself without any left over parts or wads of duct tape used.

My second plumbing task was replacing a sink drain. This was a little bit tricky, I was having a hard time reaching a couple of the necessary parts.

After a bit of sleuthing, was able to get to everything and with way too much plumbers putty, no leaks!

The ball rod was of bit of a puzzle, but I do think I figured it out. Future attempts should be much easier now.

All in all, I was proud of my plumbing weekend!

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OUTC19

OUTC19 Hackaton Winners!

Attended the OUTC conference in Anaheim, CA again this year. Presented again on Using Google Lighthouse to Find a Faster Website.

The trip out there was a little rocky with a decent amount of turbulence. While I typically do not travel very well, I was happy to not feel super lousy when arriving at LAX! Usually I’m in bad shape for the first day after a flight.

I was able to check in super early at the hotel, and took a much needed shower. I do think that was a key factor in me not feeling too poorly that day.

Arriving early on Sunday, we headed out to Irvine Regional Park. This place was awesome! The mountains, openness, so many cool things to do. Though I probably only saw 1% of the park, it was pretty awesome to take in all the differences that I would not find in New Jersey. A great experience.

Getting back to the hotel, we were served In-N-Out Burger from a food truck. The Double Double really it the spot, I was starved. It was great to meetup with earlier OUTC friends Caleb and Mark. They’re good guys.

Later that night, with a little bit of hard work was able to get HBO Go to stream on the large TV in the hotel room. On the west coast there was the option to watch it a t 9:00 pm or stream it at 6:00 pm EST. I had to present the next day and flew in that morning, so getting it to stream and watch the early time was a great success.

On Monday the sessions kicked off. I presented at 2:00 pm, and while I think I got off to a shaky start overall I think it went well. It wasn’t a very talkative crowd, but I could tell most everyone was following along and testing their site out using Google Lighthouse. It was fun.

The OU Campus 11 demo was pretty cool. I am excited at the direction the interface is going in. I think our content managers will be very happy with the coming updates.

I always look forward to hearing about their Product Roadmap, and that took place on Tuesday. The mentioned the following:

  • WCAG 2.1 (April 25)
  • Web Hooks (June) – Trigger actions outside of OUCampus. Can be assigned on folder.
  • Image Size Sets (July) – Set size (crop or not), group to set, assign to folder
  • File Uploads for LDP Forms (September)
  • Feed Manager (Winter) – easier feed management
  • OUCampus 11 (Winter)
    • Phase 1 – look and feel
    • Later phases to workflow
  • Formstack – available in Marketplace
  • Looking Further Forward
    • OU Calendar
    • Layout Builder
    • Accessibility Check/Insights Improvements
    • V11 Phase 2+

We’re exciting to see exactly how Web Hooks will work. There is some decent potential there.

I attended the Gadgets workshop again on Wednesday. It was a different take on that workshop, and I did find it to be useful. I’m always looking to improve my javascript game.

Later that night was the Hackaton. While I’ve been lucky enough to of been on the winning team in the last two events, I wanted to try a different role this year. I partnered up with Aaron, Soe, Fernando, and Nick in that order based solely on seating position when the Hackaton begun.

Aaron really wanted to develop a command line interface for OU. Fernando was all in with the idea, and quite frankly I was a little on the fence. In the past I’m leaned on user driven ideas, not so much admin. But Soe and Nick were all in, and I really wanted to try to enter with someone else’s idea this year.

I can’t say this enough, but we really worked so well as a team. Fernando was a command line genius and Aaron and Soe were great coders as well. They did such a great job, and far exceeded what I thought would get done in that timeframe.

Nick and I decided to focus on the presentation and marketing aspect of our team. We came up with talking points and images to be used. We even used the official presentation template (since I was a presenter) and got some big chuckles from the audience. Presentation can be a big factor in hackathons and we had a lot of fun with that.

It was a good thing that we worked so well as a team as there was some very stiff competition this year. Translation tools, image compression gadgets, XSLT data parsing, so many great entrants. In the end we did win, and I somehow would wound with with three in a row. Insane.

The last days workshops were very cool too, but there was so much going on in them I will have to revisit my sandbox and review the code before I forget too much. I’m very interested in learning more about PCF data outputs, especially outputting to JSON.

The flight home was smooth and a great way to end a great conference. While I’m not learning quite as much as I used to, it is fun to be in the role of the veteran who is now sharing knowledge with the newer folks to the platform. Glad I was able to attend again and looking forward to working in all the new ideas that were shared!

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OUTC18

Finally back home from the OUTC18 conference which took place in Anaheim this year. This is now the third OUTC that I have attended and I continue to come back impressed. Getting to meet and discuss not only colleagues from other schools, but also the development and support staff is very beneficial.

The flight over wasn’t too bad. I did feel quite lousy for a good part of Sunday after the flight which unfortunately is the norm for me with travel. But, I was able to get close to normal after a In-N-Out Burger courtesty of OmniUpdate at their welcoming/registration. So within a few hours I did check off a big to-do from my California list within the first few hours. Not too shabby.

Monday had some solid sessions. The opening keynote and panel discussion were interesting. Learned about some new offerings from OmniUpdate and also got some insights as to where some folk think things are going.

I also took part in a Feedback meeting with members of the OmniUpdate development team and a colleague from Dartmouth. It was nice that the OmniUpdate folks took the time to learn about our longterm goals and how they may be able to address them in the future. I did appreciate their time.

Later that evening OmniUpdate had invited us to dinner in Disney California Adventure and we had a few hours to walk around the park. I didn’t go on any rides as there really wasn’t much time, but walking around and taking everything in was pretty interesting. Radiator Springs from the Cars movie really stood out as well as A Bug’s Life were interesting too.

Day two I presented early in the morning. I felt pretty tired and lousy as I just hadn’t adjusted to the travel, time zone shift and the lack of sleep. I don’t feel as though my presentation went very well, and was through my slides in about 15 minutes (for a 45 minute presentation). However, we went over the allotted time with some excellent questions and answers. It was great to be able to give advice to other schools looking to successfully migrate in a similar manner as we did recently.

The Tackling Quality Control with XSL had some excellent suggestions that we will certainly look into, and Turn OU Campus into a Marketing Machine really got me excited to try out Google Optimize. Both those sessions really stood out to me as something we could certainly benefit from.

I did enjoy the workshops more this year than in years past. I’m not sure if they were better or if I was just better prepared with a couple years under my belt. I certainly learned a lot and am eager to share with the team.

Wednesday night was the Hackathon. Even though I was on the winning team last year, none of my teammates were to be found as this year’s OUTC. So I asked a random guy who was sitting alone if we wanted to team up with me. Our team was formed.

We bounced around a few ideas, but thought that leveraging the Google Vision API (which is amazingly powerful) to suggest or apply alt tags to images would be pretty amazing. If you feed the Google Vision API and image it will analyze it and suggest what it thinks the image is. We testing a dog photo out. Not only did it respond that is was a dog, but it also responded that it was a golden retriever. We were sold.

With only a few hours to work with, we split up the tasks and went right to work. Ryan was developing the Gadget that we would use within OU Campus and I went to work on the Google Vision API portion.

While we realized that we weren’t going to be able to complete the task by the deadline, we did focus on getting the core functionality done, so that we could demo the power of what we thought we were only by leveraging that particular API.

The 7 or 8 teams gave their short presentation then the judges left the room to pick a winner. While they were gone, I was pretty sure that the team that developed the file lock would win, with maybe the Insights project.

The judges returned and after a group drumroll announced that the Google Vision team had won. Both my partner and I sat there looking around for several seconds. We both assumed that they had announced another team as we winner. We were truly shocked and not prepared for that. It was an extremely fun time and felt pretty great to be able to win the Hackathon again.

All in all it was a very beneficial conference, and one that I was very glad to attend. While I wasn’t as impressed with Anaheim as I have been with San Diego or LA, it was still a pretty amazing adventure and the weather was perfect (even though I was indoors for almost all of it). Great and very useful time.

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Crazy Stormy Kayaking Adventure

I signed up for a L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools Full-Moon Kayak Tour. I’ve never kayaked before, and they provide all the equipment, teach you what to do, etc. It was great, I was really impressed with the guides, equipment, and overall thoroughness.

I went over there with Stacey and all was going well. We happened to get blue kayaks that were the Manatee model. I know nothing about kayaks, but I do know that I like manatees. So I was excited.

When I first got in the the water I was a little wobbly, but you do get the hang of it pretty quickly. I think I was trying to go a bit too fast at first, but once I settled down things went much smoother.

The lake where the took us was really nice. There was a winding part called “the Amazon” which was really cool. Having to maneuver in the tight quarters is a little tricky to start, but you do master it after a few tries. We were given glow bracelets that we clipped to our life jackets and headlamps which were very useful once it began to get dark.

On the way back from the halfway point I looked up and said, “the sky looks angry”. I wasn’t the only one who noticed this and the guides hurried to get us back asap. The speed of the storm was intense. Within seconds the winds kicked up big time, of course mostly gusting against our path.

It was really intense. Guides were yelling to one another on where and when we should leave the water. All I know is that it sure is amazing how much better and faster people can paddle when they have to get the hell out of a scary storm!

The way back was rough. I kept looking back to make sure I wasn’t losing Stacey, but she’s such a trooper and just kept paddling away. It was a treacherous journey, but we all did make it back ok in the downpour and intense winds.

I felt really bad for one of the other folks on the tour, Rhonda, One of the guides paddling her back in herself, and I helped to pull Rhonda ashore. She was literally shaking in fear. I can’t really blame her, it was quite an intense experience.

Despite the crazy weather, I had a blast. In fact I think the obstacle of the storm was a factor in that for me. It was so unexpected and creepy at the same time. The staff were great. They got us all back ok, and offered us a card so we could get another adventure at some point since ours didn’t go exactly as planned due to the crazy weather. Lot’s of fun and highly recommended.

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