• Fun With Alice And Bob

    I moved my SSH and PGP certificates to my new machine, and setting them up meant visiting a few cryptographic sites (to remember how to do it, and also just because). That means I spent a lot of time in that world, where “Alice” and “Bob” (and so on, alphabetically) are the main actors in usage scenarios: Alice sends a message to Bob, but maybe Clara intercepted it, how does Bob know the message is secure? Well, Alice encrypts her message and signs it with… Tedious, tedious, but now it’s done, and I can securely access my online accounts as well as send/receive encrypted email, which is sort of like being the only person with a phone — who can you call? — but still: I once thought it was cool, and now I have it back.

    Auld Acquaintance

    This past weekend was sort of the end of the holiday season for us: we saw friends we’d missed during the holidays. Friday night we did some bar-hopping with Doug & Lori, then Saturday was a “Festivus party” at Eric & Kris’s place (where we saw D&L again) lots of catching up and the usual merriment, it was a really nice night.

    Movie Night

    We saw “Uncut Gems” the other night. I don’t recommend it: the acting and the cinematography were all good, but the characters (especially the protagonist) were annoying and unsympathetic, and the plot, as Anne put it, was “a 2-hour panic attack.” Ugh.

  • Yuletide Greetings

    Merry Christmas! We just ate the biggest breakfast… Now Anne and Ben are out biking to a rare book store, and Emmi & Kyle are on a walk through the neighborhood, and I have a few minutes downtime.

    Little Women

    We saw this last night. I didn’t want to see this, only decided to go (at the last moment) because everyone else was going, and really expected I’d have to “grin and bear it” through this movie, but I found it compelling, an awesome story well told, and with visually stunning cinematography — it didn’t hurt that lead actress Saiorse Ronan was pretty easy on the eyes, as was everyone else in the movie.

    It was also fun to see Laura Dern in another movie so soon after Marriage Story, and in a role so different from her part there.

    Photo Catch-Up: UPDATE

    I had a bit of a failed experiment here: I’ve been “curating” my photos, meaning I’ve been adding tags etc in my home photo editor and then posting them to Flickr. I also have a plugin here on the blog which supposedly lets me publish Flickr albums here, but I just tried it and it didn’t work. Oh well, if you want to see my newly posted photos you’ll have to check out my Flickr account.

  • New To Me

    Anne and I had a bit of an “Easton day” yesterday.

    There was a lecture at the Canal Museum in the afternoon: the Lafayette College Library’s director of digital studies gave a presentation on “Old Maps and New Technology,” basically about digitizing historic maps and using them with GIS, and it was right up my alley. (I was surprised that Anne wanted to go too, but she also enjoyed it, and we bumped into my friend Kirk there, which was a pleasant surprise too.) We also took a little tour of the current exhibit, which concerned changes to the Lehigh Valley landscape over the past centuries and was heavy on old maps and aerial photography, and had a pleasant conversation with the speaker.

    After that we were meeting Kathryn and Beth for dinner at a new place downtown (Aman’s Artisan Indian Cuisine, and very good), but we had some time to kill first so we walked around Center Square — I scoped out some of the new downtown amenities for the maps — and stopped in at Pearly Bakers. We walked over and met them for dinner, then we all went across the street to a place I’d never even seen before, called Oak.

    This was a sort of Washington, DC-style, upscale steak house: three stories and an enclosed rooftop bar, exposed brick and wood and architecture — we ended up on the roof, at a table with a small fire in the middle, and continued our dinner conversation for another few minutes. We only stopped in for a drink and a look-see, no idea how the food is (yet) but the place looked awesome.

    We were actually home pretty early, like before 9:00, so I spent the evening updating OpenStreetMap.

    (I’m also in the middle of working through some photo curating: The other day I moved my photo collection over to the new machine, which was much easier than I thought it would be, then finally finished catching up with adding metadata tags to my old photos. Once I was caught up with that I started importing photos — my backlog goes all the way back to 2015 — and posting them to Flickr. Check them out, yo! And stay tuned for plenty more.)

    Tonight I’ll be playing with my cello ensemble. Time to go practice.

  • Back To The Old Scene

    Morning weigh-in: 179.5, 12% BF

    It’s been a while since I posted a weigh-in, and it’s also been a while since I’d weighed this little. But I’ve been under 180 for a few days now and I thought I’d celebrate. I was close earlier this year, hovering around the 180 lbs mark (down from 190+ lbs) before Colorado, but then Colorado happened, and so did Columbus, and also Thanksgiving…

    I haven’t been radically diet-conscious lately, but I can say I’ve been a little more careful, and I think we both have been eating better (Anne especially) these last few months. I’m also back on the “100 push-up challenge” for the winter, where I do at least a hundred push-ups a day — not that that in itself will change anything, but that plus other weight routines I do with it, plus the rides (when they happen: it’s been pretty crappy out lately), and the not-really-a-diet have all been chipping away at the inner tube.

    Today was a morning cello session with Donna H, getting ready for our Sunday concert at the local nursing home, and in a few minutes we’re going out to take Anne’s mom up to see friends in Jim Thorpe.

  • Divorce Story

    We saw Marriage Story last night over at SteelStacks. I’d heard a lot of good things about it, and it was really a good movie, but it was not a feel-good story. The basic gist is that it follows one couple through their divorce and custody battle, always a knee-slapper…

    Basically a character study (of the couple as individuals, and as a couple), the movie had some really good acting, fueled by serious star power — Scarlet Johannson and Adam Driver, plus Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta and Wallace Shawn (that guy from The Princess Bride). Unfortunately, the movie tended to “showcase” the actors at times, almost as if it were a vehicle for a break-out star, or multiple ones.

    The plot itself was a bit boring. Conflict is at least the precursor to drama, or should be, and conflict was baked into the story, but this thing moved like a sporting event you couldn’t care less about: sooner or later it will end, with some final score, and everyone will move on. And that’s what happened — the lawyers even advised their clients that this would be so.

    In the end, I’m glad I saw this, but my final take-away is that its makers think it’s better than it really is.

  • Not Quite The Borg

    One more piece of software I added: Jaspersoft Studios, a program to design and generate reports from various data sources. I use this because — unlike other report programs I have tried — it works well with PostgreSQL, the database I like to use, but it can be a bear to use since it has a lot of moving parts.

    There are two ways to use Jasper Reports: one is as a standalone program, and the other is as a plug-in to the Eclipse IDE, which I happen to like using, and which I use nowadays for almost all my coding. I downloaded the standalone program first, but it looked so much like an Eclipse product it reminded me that there was a plug-in — this would be just one more thing that I could run from my single IDE to rule them all. So, I installed the plugin.

    What I got, plug-in and standalone package, was version 6.10, and it really looked beautiful. Unfortunately, as soon as I started to use it, I found that it was too broken to use… Jasper Reports is mostly like a graphical page layout program, where text and other elements can be moved and resized on the page, but the elements here wouldn’t move or resize. Which is bad.

    It took me a day to find information on the problem. I never did find a solution but I did find a workaround: just use an earlier version. That’s what I did, installing standalone version 6.8; Eclipse will have to wait until I learn how to add older plug-ins.

    Anyway, the program works fine now, and still looks beautiful. I used it today to make a table of bike rides from my database, natch.


    I just got the latest Jeff VanDermeer novel, Dead Astronauts. This is set in the same story-universe as his Borne and A Strange Bird, and some of his short stories, but it is supposedly far more complex and experimental. More on this after I get through the first page…

  • Garmin: Time In Heart Rate Zone

    I guess the honeymoon is over, I’m starting to find things I don’t like about my Edge 830. In its defense, I think that this was actually caused by a Garmin update…

    I noticed this a little while ago: when I rode with my heart rate monitor, the data would be recorded correctly, except that “time in heart rate zones” would be completely off.

    (Heart rate zones are pretty much what they sound like: intervals of heart rate beats per minute, like 80-105 BPM, 105-130, etc, that indicate exercise intensity. There are typically five zones, which is how have mine set up: Zones 1 and 2 are for warming up and easier riding, I spend most of my time in Zone 3 just below my anaerobic threshold, Zone 4 is when I’m pushing it, and I don’t hit Zone 5 unless I’m going all out. So, mostly in Zone 3, a bit in Zones 4, 2, and 1, and almost nothing in Zone 5.)

    That’s how it is usually — but what I’d been seeing lately was almost all of the ride in Zone 5, with maybe a few seconds in some of the others. When I hovered over the time in zones on the Garmin Connect website — hovering should reveal the high and low heart rates defining each zone — I found that Zone 5 was set as anything over 3 beats per minute, and the rest were basically set to nonsense.

    I checked Garmin Connect on my phone — for Linux, GC on the web is sort of crippled so I use the phone app to access the device — and heart rate zones were set correctly for both generic sports and also for cycling. I looked up, on the Garmin site, how to set heart rate, and I could have sworn that the only way to do it was through Garmin Connect, but they had instructions for doing it directly on the unit. I follow those instructions, and sure enough, there’s a setting for heart rate zones; there is only the one option, no separate sets of zones for different sports, and the zones in the setting are the nonsense I saw before.

    I set those zones correctly, and they worked fine on tonight’s ride.

    I’m not sure what happened, but I’d guess that Garmin pushed some update that added the heart rate zones setting to the unit, but screwed up the implementation so that the unit no longer sync’ed with the data on Garmin Connect.

  • The Long Transition

    Well, the new laptop has been here for over a week now, long enough for me to make some first impressions, while moving myself over to the new machine and customizing it (as well as I can) to fit my needs…

    The first thing I did was mess with the desktop. At first I tried to live with the original desktop environment, which is based on the Gnome environment but built by System76 as part of their own Pop!-OS distribution. I managed to get a few things the way I like them, but it still just seemed unpleasant so I installed Cinnamon. A whole bunch of customizations later… it’s not 100% where I want it, but I’m pretty close.

    My next step was to install the programs I use (that don’t come automatically installed), like PostgGIS, QGIS, R, GRAMPS and Eclipse. That was pretty easy, actually, and actually was done before I finished setting up my desktop. (I may never “finish setting up my desktop.”) I got Dropbox working, which is nice to have again — it stopped supporting my old laptop’s filesystem a while ago — and that brought me into the next phase of the transition on its own.

    That next phase was moving my data files – QGIS and GRASS projects, documents and spreadsheets, programs I wrote, photos, music, my databases (yikes!) — over to the new computer. Dropbox started by synchronizing with my new laptop, meaning it had to put several gigabytes onto my new machine; it did this automatically but the process took days at our slow internet connection rate, especially since I kept pausing it so we could watch movies or do other internet things.

    As for the manual transfers: I moved over my PostgreSQL databases as a big first step, thinking it would be the most difficult thing. It really wasn’t; the backup and restore utilities worked flawlessly, even with all the PostGIS extensions. Once the databases were moved over, I moved all the GIS stuff that I intend to keep working on. QGIS needed a little help finding my data resources in their new locations, but that also went pretty well. Moving the Eclipse projects, and my music, and my GRAMPS family tree data, were also fairly easy. I have yet to try moving the photos, with all their metadata, but that’s coming. (I have other databases running on MySql, but I have not even installed MySQL on this machine yet.)

    Much of what’s on the old laptop I don’t really want on the new one, so once this data-transfer process is done, I will do one final backup from there to the NAS drive, then shut the laptop down and put it in a closet somewhere.

    Actually using my stuff on the new machine? That’s been its own set of problems, mostly having to do with how far behind I had been with upgrades on the old one. I had been planning to make the jump from Python 2 to Python 3, which means rewriting my old Python scripts to suit the changes. That’s a bit tedious but the process is not too hard, for purely Python things at least. For QGIS, which made that transition (and a lot of other changes) as part of their major upgrade to version 3, my algorithm scripts were no longer even recognizable as scripts by the program — the system is completely different. I buckled down and ported one script over to the new system — and it worked! — but I see I have my work cut out for me.

    The new laptop, as a physical thing, is awesome: it’s good-looking, and light (though it seems a bit flimsy compared to the older, heavier laptop), and it seems really fast, especially loading software. I was worried about the keyboard, but it seems fine — I’m still getting used to it though, and now when I go back to the Dell I’m not good with that anymore either. Transitions…

  • Pigbag? Pigbag!

    I remember, mid-eighties or so, whenever I went into an unfamiliar NYC club, there were a few songs I might hear when walking in that would immediately let me know that it was the right kind of place. One song in particular was ubiquitous, but I never knew the name, haven’t heard it in years — I expected to never find what it was. They just played it on the radio: the band was called Pigbag, and the song: “Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag.”

    Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! And may all your dreams come true…

  • Some Recent Books

    The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

    This was the first book by the author of Stiletto (my review here), and set in the same story world: a secret British agency, whose supernaturally gifted and specially-trained agents battle supernatural threats, is itself under attack. The protagonist, Myfawny Thomas, is a low-level member of the agency leadership who wakes up in a park in ominous circumstances, but with no memory of who she is. She never does recover her memory, but a letter in her pocket (written by her “old self”) helps her put her life back together and track down who, or what, is threatening her and the agency. Like the sequel, this was another fast-paced thriller, but it seemed darker, more serious and thriller-like, than Stiletto. I think I liked it better.

    The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

    This is the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, which depressed me no end when I read it. I found The Testaments to start the same depressing way — the world that’s built here is not a pleasant or happy one — but the book slowly morphs into an action/suspense/thriller. The first half took a while, but I finished the second half in about a day. I’d recommend this to anyone who liked the first book, or who liked the TV series, or Margaret Atwood’s writing.