Monday, January 02, 2017

Christmas Gifts 2016 - Part 1

Disclaimer: The author is fully aware that the true meaning of Christmas is not in gifts received. Further the author stipulates that he may be contributing to the commercialization of the sacred and degradation of American culture.

I got some great stuff for Christmas this year. A few things that give an exciting glimpse of our future.

It is probably telling that one of my co-workers is worried about my marriage solely based on the way I talk about Alexa. It would only be worse if she heard me talk to Alexa. You know all of the times you've had your hands full and needed something spelled for you, or looked up, or just wanted some music turned to put some noise in the room? Well, if you thought getting married would cure that, I must disabuse you (I just asked Alexa to define "disabuse" to make sure I had used it correctly). Alexa will not only perform these tasks but will do it without attitude. And in case you are now getting concerned about my marriage, my wife bought us the Dot, so I just love her the more.  

I received the Echo Dot a little before Christmas, so my parents had time to get an accessory as another fantastic present.

This is where the future begins. The light switch paired with the Echo Dot means that I no longer have to get out of bed to turn off lights. Also, if anyone gets up in the middle of the night to get a drink, they can ask Alexa to turn on the light before they run into a piece of furniture or step on a Lego® left strategically placed in the path to the sink.

If you have modern wiring and a single-way switch, the installation is easy and the Kasa app visually steps you through the process. The app also lets you set timers or turn things on and off while away from the house which will make my next business trip away from my family a lot more fun.

I got two of these for Christmas and also a wifi plug-in receptacle which we used for our Christmas tree, but now is connected to a bedroom lamp. This means that I am always only a shout away from illumination. A light switch does one thing, but these do it so much better that I can't imagine going backwards from here.

The Dot has drastically changed the way I think about future purchases. With every new appliance I will seriously consider if Alexa integration is a part of it. I have already added the Logitech remote hub to my wish list. I am wondering at what point it would make sense to put a wifi lock on my front door. And I'm very hopeful for a price drop in wifi thermostats (there is not much reason for these to cost much more than than the light switch as the server software could handle the "smart" features).

Another great thing about the Dot is that it should move forward in abilities without needing new hardware. It is really only a wifi microphone, and it is remarkably good at that already. It can hear me from the bedroom or at the bottom of my basement stairs. Since it's job is to hear what I say send that to the Amazon servers then relay message back, it is up to the servers to get better. Which they can and will. Maybe it's only a matter of time before I can say, "Alexa, what was that thing I was thinking about the other day?" Until then I'll still have to rely on my wife for that one. 

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Tony Soprano Paved the Way for Donald Trump

Where I live a lot of people were asking how anyone could vote for Hillary Clinton given what we know about her. I would usually say that I think many of her voters are asking how anyone could vote for Donald Trump. Though I had some of my own answers, I think for many, subconsciously the answer is Tony Soprano. Twenty years ago there is no way someone with the crude and immoral history of Donald Trump could run as a Republican and win. Rural residents of the Bible Belt might overlook one divorce, but not multiple divorces, bankruptcies, Playboy covers, and publicly crude language. Then in the late nineties The Sopranos appeared and became a bit of a phenomenon. It was mentioned on the Rush Limbaugh show; many said it changed television. It popularized the antihero and led to a stream, then a river of followers in popular culture. Here was a man who was violent, vulgar, selfish, cheated on his wife, didn't put his kids first; yet viewers still rooted for him to overcome his enemies. It almost felt like you were hoping he would become a good man, but really you just wanted him to win. He never changed, but he changed the culture. Seventeen years later we've had a steady diet of this kind of protagonist. And we've grown fat on it. I am surprised at the things I'm willing to overlook in a candidate, and just as surprised at the things I'm willing to overlook in myself. If you do not want more leaders like Donald Trump, we need to shift the focus of our culture away from heroes like Tony Soprano.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Travel Bugs: A Personal Introduction

Geocaching is an international treasure hunt game. People hide a container with a log and mark the GPS coordinates. They upload those coordinates so others can find the container and sign the log. Often, the containers are big enough to contain trade items. I enjoy geocaching and one of my favorite things to find in a cache is a travel bug.

Travel bugs are not like other trade items; you don't have to leave something of equal value for them. But you do not keep them either. They can be in almost any form, but all have some kind of tracking number. Their owners assign them a goal or a mission which may just be to travel from cache to cache, or it may be something more specific, like visit all the states that start with the letter "A."

I enjoyed finding travel bugs and moving them along on their various quests so much that I soon decided to get my own. My first travel bug I made out of an old trophy and called it "Crown'em."

I gave it the goal to get to a cache in Palmdale, CA. And the following "About" section:

Along the way this bug would like to have its (and your) picture taken with appropriately kingly backgrounds, castles, suits of armor, the Queen of England, that sort of thing.

Experience geocachers had recommended giving it an interesting but not too difficult goal. They also advised making sure the travel bug didn't look like it was worth much and wasn't too cute. And they warned me to expect failure. So I was not sure it was ever going to get anywhere. The first person to find it posted a picture of it with her dog then did not visit another cache for months.

Thankfully, though she finally remembered the little hitchhiker, dropped it in another cache and started an interesting journey. The goal was to go west to Palmdale, California, so of course the first people to pick it up headed immediately east.

Once it was on it's way some neat things happened and people posted some cool pictures.

Then a cacher picked up Crown'em and asked if he could take it out of the country where it might have the opportunity to visit some real old world institutions.

I include this next picture with the qualifier that I don't actually believe the travel bug took two seperate trips to the southernmost point of South America. But that it how it was checked in, so it shows up in its map.

Now in Europe it continues to travel across borders, and cachers have been kind enough to send back pictures. Thankfully, it doesn't need a passport and as far as I know customs has had no problems clearing its passage.

As of March 13, 2015, with the different caches it has been checked into, the crown has traveled 18,841 miles.

Sadly, for every path of glory there is at least one tale of woe. Enter travel cat. Another bug we sent out into the wide world with what we thought was a satisfying and doable mission. "My goal for this one is to get to cache GC51T9E in Howard Florida. It would be great if you wanted to post pictures of your pet with this cat along the way." I also mentioned that it was made out of an old pair of pants.

It did make it to Florida in just 4 stops, but not quite to its destination. Then, it disappeared. We are pretty sure we traced the cacher who picked it up, but he did not log it and there is no sign he ever placed it again. If only our real cat could be disposed of so easily.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Year in Review (Part 4)

The Kansas City Royals

Schedule & Record
Date Opp Result w-l
Mar 31 Det L 4-3 0-1
Apr 2 Det L 2-1 0-2
Apr 4 Chi W 7-5 1-2
Apr 5 Chi W 4-3 2-3
Apr 6 Chi L 5-1 2-3
Apr 7 TB W 4-2 3-3
Apr 8 TB L 1-0 3-4
Apr 9 TB W 7-3 4-4
Apr 11 Min L 10-1 4-5
Apr 12 Min L 7-1 4-6
Apr 13 Min L 4-3 4-7
Apr 15 Hou W 4-2 5-7
Apr 16 Hou W 6-4 6-7
Apr 17 Hou W 5-1 6-7
Apr 18 Min W 5-0 8-7
Apr 19 Min W 5-4 9-7
Apr 20 Min L 8-3 9-8
Apr 21 Cle L 4-3 9-9
Apr 22 Cle W 8-2 10-9
Apr 23 Cle L 5-3 10-10
Apr 24 Cle L 5-1 10-11
Apr 25 Bal W 5-0 11-11
Apr 26 Bal L 3-2 11-12
Apr 27 Bal W 9-3 12-12
Apr 29 Tor W 10-7 13-12
Apr 30 Tor W 4-2 14-12
May 1 Tor L 7-3 14-13
May 2 Det L 8-2 14-14
May 3 Det L 9-2 14-15
May 4 Det L 9-4 14-16
May 5 SD L 6-5 14-17
May 6 SD W 3-1 15-17
May 7 SD L 8-0 16-17
May 8 Sea L 1-0 16-18
May 9 Sea W 6-1 17-18
May 10 Sea L 3-1 17-19
May 11 Sea W 9-7 18-19
May 13 Col W 5-1 19-19
May 14 Col W 3-2 20-19
May 15 Bal L 2-1 20-20
May 16 Bal L 4-0 20-21
May 17 Bal W 1-0 21-21
May 18 Bal W 8-6 22-21
May 19 Chi L 7-6 22-22
May 20 Chi L 7-6 22-23
May 21 Chi W 3-1 23-23
May 23 LA L 6-1 23-24
May 24 LA W 7-4 24-24
May 25 LA L 4-3 24-25
May 26 Hou L 9-2 24-26
May 27 Hou L 3-0 24-27
May 28 Hou L 9-3 24-28
May 29 Tor W 8-6 25-28
May 30 Tor W 6-1 26-28
May 31 Tor L 12-2 26-29
Jun 1 Tor L 4-0 26-30
Jun 2 StL W 6-0 27-30
Jun 3 StL W 8-7 28-30
Jun 4 StL L 5-2 28-31
Jun 5 StL W 3-2 29-31
Jun 6 NY L 4-2 29-32
Jun 7 NY W 8-4 30-32
Jun 8 NY W 2-1 31-32
Jun 10 Cle W 9-5 32-32
Jun 11 Cle W 4-1 33-32
Jun 13 Chi W 7-2 34-32
Jun 14 Chi W 9-1 35-32
Jun 15 Chi W 6-3 36-32
Jun 16 Det W 11-8 37-32
Jun 17 Det W 11-4 38-32
Jun 18 Det W 2-1 39-32
Jun 19 Det L 2-1 39-33
Jun 20 Sea L 7-5 39-34
Jun 21 Sea L 2-1 39-35
Jun 22 Sea L 2-1 39-36
Jun 23 LAD W 5-3 40-36
Jun 24 LAD L 2-0 40-37
Jun 25 LAD L 5-4 40-38
Jun 27 LAA W 8-6 41-38
Jun 28 LAA L 6-2 41-39
Jun 29 LAA W 5-4 42-39
Jun 30 Min W 6-1 43-39
Jul 1 Min L 10-2 43-40
Jul 2 Min W 4-0 44-40
Jul 4 Cle W 7-1 45-40
Jul 5 Cle L 7-3 45-41
Jul 6 Cle L 4-1 45-42
Jul 7 TB W 6-0 46-42
Jul 8 TB L 4-3 46-43
Jul 9 TB W 5-4 47-43
Jul 10 Det L 16-4 47-44
Jul 11 Det L 2-1 47-45
Jul 12 Det L 5-1 47-46
Jul 13 Det W 5-2 48-46
Jul 18 Bos L 5-4 48-47
Jul 19 Bos L 2-1 48-48
Jul 20 Bos L 6-0 48-49
Jul 21 Chi L 3-1 48-50
Jul 22 Chi W 7-1 49-50
Jul 23 Chi W 2-1 50-50
Jul 24 Cle W 2-1 51-50
Jul 25 Cle W 6-4 52-50
Jul 26 Cle W 7-5 53-50
Jul 27 Cle L 10-3 53-51
Jul 29 Min L 2-1 53-52
Jul 30 Min W 3-2 54-52
Jul 31 Min W 6-3 55-52
Aug 1 Oak W 1-0 56-52
Aug 2 Oak L 8-3 56-53
Aug 3 Oak W 4-2 57-53
Aug 5 Ari W 12-2 58-53
Aug 6 Ari W 4-3 59-53
Aug 7 Ari W 6-2 60-53
Aug 8 SF W 4-2 61-53
Aug 9 SF W 5-0 62-53
Aug 10 SF W 7-4 63-53
Aug 11 Oak W 3-2 64-53
Aug 12 Oak L 11-3 64-54
Aug 13 Oak W 3-0 65-54
Aug 14 Oak W 7-3 66-54
Aug 15 Min W 6-5 67-54
Aug 16 Min L 4-1 67-55
Aug 17 Min W 12-6 68-55
Aug 18 Min W 6-4 69-55
Aug 19 Col W 7-4 70-55
Aug 20 Col L 5-2 70-56
Aug 22 Tex W 6-3 71-56
Aug 23 Tex W 6-3 72-56
Aug 24 Tex L 3-1 72-57
Aug 25 NY L 8-1 72-58
Aug 26 Min W 2-1 73-58
Aug 27 Min W 6-1 74-58
Aug 28 Min L 11-5 74-59
Aug 29 Cle L 6-1 74-60
Aug 30 Cle L 3-2 74-61
Aug 31 Cle L 4-3 74-62
Sep 1 Tex W 4-3 75-62
Sep 2 Tex W 2-1 76-62
Sep 3 Tex W 4-1 77-62
Sep 5 NY W 1-0 78-62
Sep 6 NY L 6-2 78-63
Sep 7 NY W 2-0 79-63
Sep 8 Det L 9-5 79-64
Sep 9 Det L 4-2 79-65
Sep 10 Det W 3-0 80-65
Sep 11 Bos L 6-3 80-66
Sep 12 Bos L 4-2 80-67
Sep 13 Bos W 7-1 81-67
Sep 14 Bos L 8-4 81-68
Sep 15 Chi W 4-3 82-68
Sep 16 Chi L 7-5 82-69
Sep 17 Chi W 6-2 83-69
Sep 19 Det L 10-1 83-70
Sep 20 Det L 3-2 83-71
Sep 21 Det W 5-2 84-71
Sep 22 Cle W 2-0 85-71
Sep 23 Cle W 7-1 86-72
Sep 24 Cle L 6-4 86-72
Sep 25 Chi W 6-3 87-72
Sep 26 Chi W 3-1 88-72
Sep 27 Chi L 5-4 88-73
Sep 28 Chi W 6-4 89-73

I've been a Royals fan for as long as I can remember. I was raised on the teams of the early 80's and remember their success, kind of. For most of my life, though, the Royals have been not so good. This year was special. The Royals made the playoffs for the for the first time in my adult life and went all the way to the World Series.

A few things contributed to my enjoyment of this season besides the team success. For the first time I was able to watch most of the games in high definition. I was able to attend playoff games. And I had Twitter which allowed myself and other proud Royals fans to celebrate the team in a very 21st century way.

I didn't actually say that 160 times, but it's true. Salvador Perez is my favorite current Royal and I always feel like we can win when he is behind the plate.

I felt very positive about the season before it started. The main reasons being the success of last year and the additions of Aoki in RF and Infante at 2nd. Then Infante got nailed in the face and was wearing this to start the season.

I felt very fortunate to be able to watch the Royals from my home in El Dorado Springs and I wanted to share with others. Sometimes it came out weird, though.

They didn't exactly get off to a hot start.

The team never answered this question.

Two more great things about this season were Ventura and Duffy.

Children are a great excuse to get baseball stuff. And if one doesn't have a man cave, a son's room is a fantastic place to display baseball things.

The season was full of ups and downs. The biggest down for me was this moment where Billy Butler was thrown out at first on a line drive to right field.

We went on to win that game. Butler had a very interesting season.

In early June we took the vacation I wrote about earlier. While we were away the Royals went on a terrific run.

Like I said, fellow fan friends made this season better.

As I understand it, if the Royals had won the World Series, Bruce Chen would have received a ring.

I think it would have been deserved.

Having a Royal start the All-Star game was fantastic.

I'm often not as mature as my age.

By they time they got to the World Series, you couldn't go anywhere without seeing a Royals's hat, t-shirt, or jersey.

Another reason this season was so fantastic: Sharing it with my family. I have some hope that my son is old enough to remember some of it.

This is a whole other post I need to write sometime. Maybe as an oral history with those involved.

As I said earlier, not a ton of people get the Royals games in El Dorado Springs. I liked having my friends over to watch with me. But every time we did it, KC lost. Until Aug 22. We were 71-56 at that point.

One of my oldest friends and die-hard Royals fan was not on Twitter to enjoy it with the rest of us. So I started a #GetTimOnTwitter campaign that consisted of Hunter Pence Sign type insults. I think this was my favorite of my own.

Others got in on the act.

The campaign worked.

I don't actually remember this play, but I hadn't mentioned my family in a while.

I had gotten in a bad habit of bad mouthing certain plays or a certain manager. I would occasionally get upset and turn off the game before it was over. On September 15 this caused me to almost miss a great comeback win. After that I stuck to the positive approach.

I still think they really do this.


The Royals made it to the postseason for the first time in my adult life. Tim got us tickets to the first home game of the AL Division series, if the Royals could get past the Wild Card game. For much of that game it didn't look like it was going to happen. I was worried at one point that fans would leave the stadium early. Which is why I put out this rather silly tweet.

We won the Wild Card game and swept the Angels in LA. So my first playoff game to attend was to lock up the AL Division Series.Tim, who got the tickets, and Jim couldn't go. So that left me and Jeremy. It was a good time. No. It was unbelievably fantastic. Let's go to the video tape.

The party didn't stop. And the Royals were great about sharing it with the fans. Long after the game had ended, they were still celebrating. We moved down to field level, and got to share a moment with them.

It was incredibly cool to see all of Kansas City pull for the team.

I was able to attend one more game during the AL championship series. This time with Tim, Jim, and Delbert Scott. It wasn't a clinching game, but it was still and amazing experience, and it kept Sweptober alive.

For the world series, we could not get tickets. But that isn't to say we didn't try.

We watched game 7 in the parking lot outside Kauffman stadium. In the end, the team came up 2 runs short. When I think of that night, I see a vision of Salvy hitting a home run in that last at bat. What follows was my take at the time.

Spring training 2015 is underway. I am looking forward to another great season. Whatever happens remember: Baseball is a game; games are supposed to be fun.