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A settled nomad living on the edge of Appalachia. I love to listen to music, spend time with my family, and play sports. I'm lucky enough to write code for a living. I'm often accused of having no "filter" as I tend to overshare. I make beer on occasion and try to sample new beers whenever I can.

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Google Home - The good and bad

5 min read

I have been an Amazon Echo user for a while - pretty much as soon as you could get one. We've actually had two plus an Echo touch. But, when Google Home was announced I immediately switched. I switched us because of the ability to have all of the Google Home devices synced and playing the same audio everywhere in the house. I bought four Google Homes and a Google Cast Audio (if that's what it's called) to connect to my stereo in the garage. The future sounded bright and I was pretty amped to be able to listen to music throughout the house.

Until I couldn't.

Sometimes I can; sometimes all of the devices show up as part of the group I defined and named "The House" and when they all do and I tell one Google Home to play music on "the House" it works. It's great. Sure, the speakers on each aren't all that good; specifically the bass which sounds a lot weaker than the full sized Echo. However, the sound is good enough and I didn't have to run wires or buy an expensive Sonos system to get wireless audio throughout my house. So, for the most part I'm pretty happy.

But, sometimes, the group only shows a couple of the Home devices as part of the group. I don't know why. Maybe it has to do with the mesh network (Luma) we have and maybe sometimes the Luma devices aren't working? Or maybe the Home devices have trouble realizing their on the same network when they are on a mesh network?

Whatever it is it's pretty disappointing because it happens too often.

Another problem I run into is that I connected all of the Home devices to my account. But if I'm in the garage casting music and my wife is in the kitchen and she tries to cast some other music - my music is shut off because I can't use my account in more than one place at a time. There is no obvious easy way to disconnect some of the Home devices from my account. It appears I have to reset them to factory settings, set them back up, then attach them to different accounts. So, in order for my family to use the various Home devices as separate music players I have to assign each device to a different account in the family. I'm already paying for the Google Music family account so then it should be fine. But it's still an annoying limitation. We're all in the same place on the same network it shouldn't be this difficult to have them work independently when we want. Or, at least, Google should warn you when you're setting them up that this could be an issue and advise you to use different accounts for each Google Home device.

Another big problem is the calendar integration. My wife and I each have our own calendars plus we have a shared "family" calendar. It makes it a lot easier to filter our events when we need to from within the Google Calendar app/webpage. But from within the Google Home device we can only access the link accounts primary calendar. And, as far as I know, we can't add calendar events from it.

Oh, and we can't "like" a song from the Home device either. I am pretty sure I could do that from day one on the Echo. Alexa had a lot of problems with her overall music selection on Amazon prime music via the Echo - but at least it could "Like" a song. I don't understand how this simple feature didn't make it into the earliest version of Google Home. I suspect a lot of people got these things for music as their primary use.

The wake word "Ok Google" is also shitty. I mean, it's a fine phrase, but if you use Android your phone probably responds to the same wake word. The wake word needs to be customizable. I'eve had the Google Home commercial wake up my Google Home device before. I don't need that kind of crap.

I like the Home devices when they work (playing music as a group around my house) but for the time being I just can't recommend them to anyone else. They are too limited on features and don't seem to be getting any kind of regular monthly updates. If they are then they aren't advertising the updates well. Amazon sends me an email regularly telling me about new things Echo can do (though I hate the "skill" integration of Echo and the need to manually activate skills; at least they are expanding the capabilities of the device). Google just rushed out their thing to be in the market before Christmas and then seemed to pretend like it's sufficient.

I hope it gets better. But, in the mean time I have to create a new google account so that I have five different accounts in my Google Family Music subscription (since I can't invite a not "gmail.com" google address) and so each device can be on it's own account. Hopefully the group play feature will still work when they are all on different accounts.

I guess I could have named this post "Google Home - The Bad"

Pay it Forward Coffee House

3 min read

A few weeks ago the I drove through Lexington with my family. While there we attempted to visit a coffee shop called "A Cup of Common Wealth" that had a cool theme. They really wanted to make it easy for folks to "pay it forward." Basically, what they did was put up a big cork board and patrons could buy a coffee, any size and type, and label what it is on the board via the cup sleeve. Then, when someone else came in that fit the sleeves identity they could take the sleeve down and cash it in for that specific drink.

Some of the sleeves are bought for specific people. For instance, one in the previously linked image, is for "Lori Benard" but they can be for groups of people or anyone really. So you could prepay for the most expensive coffee in the shop and label it - "Any Coffee for Anyone" and the next person who saw it could take it down and cash it in.

The coffee sleeve can have a condition - like "A Medium Coffee in exchange for Free Hugs for everyone in the room" - or it could have a very specific drink; "A free small vanilla Irish creme hot cocoa for a bearded man" you get the idea.

I really dig how they have taken the concept of "pay it forward" and made it into something concrete. Sadly, for us, the shop was closed for their annual staff Christmas party the day we visited so we couldn't see it in action or put a sleeve on the board.

One of our cool local coffee shops (bakeries) called "River and Rail Bakery" has a bit of a pay it forward implementation via a bucket near the register where you can plop in some cash. The limitation is a lot of folks don't carry cash. Via the prepaid option it would be a lot easier for regular customers to help someone out down the road.

The Cup of Common Wealth even lets you pay for a "pay it foward" sleeve via their website. Each sleeve you prepay for is $5 and you can put in the rules after you select the sleeve count. Then pay away. It seems to me that it is a good business idea and a nice way to build a culture around your shop.

Nashville Is a Fun Town That Was Closer Than I Thought

14 min read

This past weekend we took the kids to Nashville as an early Christmas present/experience. The trip included two shows; How The Grinch Stole Christmas the Musical! and A Christmas Story; a stage play put on by the Nashville Repertory Theater.

We drove in after school on Friday; with a pit stop in Bowling Green Ky to eat and drink at The White Squirrel Brewery which was a cool joint that reminded me a lot of Black Sheep Burrito here in Huntington but with it's own on-site brewery. The food at the Squirrel was pretty good. However, I didn't realize I'd ordered a vegetarian burger (black bean and corn) until I received it. Fortunately, it tasted good. I also liked the beer I had. I think we'd definitely stop in again. I'd kind of like to see what else Bowling Green has going on so it might be a fun weekend get-a-way without the kids sometime.

White Squirrel

In Nashville we stayed downtown at the Sheraton. I've had mixed experiences with Sheraton's so I was a little nervous; especially since we did the cheap route and booked via Priceline. Parking was easy to find (big garage behind the hotel) and the hotel seems to have recently gone through some major renovation - it was very modern and white on the inside. Sadly, the pool is being renovated and won't be open for a while. We were all a little bummed the pool wouldn't be available. However, the staff was super friendly and the hotel was very nice. Because I'd booked through Priceline we had a standard room which had two double beds. I asked if we could get a room with larger beds and the desk clerk offered to put us in two rooms with kings. That was very generous but we didn't really want the kids off elsewhere without an adjoining room so we stuck with the doubles. I kind of wish we'd thought about that a little more.

The Room

A double bed is just too small. I become very self-conscious when sleeping in a small bed and stay on the very edge of the bed. This ended up with me sleeping in a weird angle on a very firm mattress which resulted in my having pretty bad neck/shoulder problems the full day Saturday. Ignoring that though, the room was really nice, very clean, and had a great bathroom. The view was pretty good too.

View at Night

Saturday was really our only day to do stuff in Nashville so we made the most of it. First we got up and headed to a cool restaurant for breakfast called 817 Union. I had the prime rib hash for breakfast along with a couple biscuits. All in all pretty tasty. I also had my first ever Bloody Mary. I'm still not sure what I think of those. It was weird drinking something spicy. From the 817 we headed over to a cool memorial square where they had amazing monuments to those lost in a variety of wars as well as a really nice tribute to police officers who'd fallen in the line of duty. The WWI portion of monument square was amazing but it appears my camera failed when I took photos. Here is the Vietnam Memorial statue which is also very cool.

Vietnam Memorial

After exploring the monuments we hailed an Uber and headed to the Opryland Resort. We'd never really been in Nashville before and we had no idea what this place would be like. It's huge. It sort of reminded me of a cheap facsimile of Disney World's main street. It was nice but it felt a little dirtier and the people working there weren't nearly as friendly as the folks at Disney always are; especially the photographer on their river boat tour. The guide was nice but the photographer was kind of a jerk; he didn't seem like he wanted to be there.

The boat tour was nice - it gave us a nice chance to see some of the cool flowers growing around the river but it wasn't worth $10 a person. Opryland is clearly a money making machine. There were little bars everywhere and shops and endless opportunities for the Gaylord company to take your money. It felt overly hackish. I wouldn't go back even though the building itself is pretty amazing.

Inside the Atrium of Opryland

The main reason we had gone to the Opryland was because the Grinch musical was at The Grand Ole Opry. I was kind of excited to go there since it is a part of American pop culture and has been for as long as I've been alive. We took a free shuttle from the hotel to the Opry building and a really nice guy with a golf cart picked us up from the shuttle stop and gave us a ride to the front door of the Opry. He was the highlight of the experience. A really nice and welcoming person. I wish I had gotten his name as I would definitely have sent Gaylord some feedback on his behalf.

The Grinch musical was pretty good. The guy who played the Grinch was really good (though I felt like he lost some interest when he was doing a bit where he was snapping a crop in time with the music) and the rest of the cast was okay. The guy who played "old Max" had a great deep voice so when he sang "You're a mean one Mr. Grinch" it was pretty cool. I liked his voice for that part better than the Broadway cast recording I had previously listened too. I didn't care for "Grandpa Who" at all and I thought little Cindy Loo Who did a nice job though I had trouble understanding her when she spoke.

The Grand Ole Opry

I thought the Opry building was interesting. There were, of course, more bars all over the place (I caved and bought an Opry Ale for almost $10; it was okay which is better than I expected). It looked like there were no bad seats. I'm not sure how it would be in the back of the upper balcony but the lower level seats were all really good; except they weren't very comfortable. The seating is basically made up of large wooden pews like you'd find at a church; just without the kneel boards. The seat itself was a bit deeper so it was a little more comfortable than a padded pew - but not much. I found myself fidgeting far too often during the show and my sore neck and shoulder were really aggravated by the bad seats. I really thought they'd have something like theater seating.

Once the show was over we headed across the street to a nice but very crowded mall called Opry Mills. It was a mad house and the traffic on the main streets coming in was insane. There is no way I'd want to drive there or spend any more time at that mall than necessary. We bought a couple things and then hailed another Uber and got back downtown for dinner and to prepare for our second show, A Christmas Story.

We had dinner at a little joint called the "Back Alley Diner" which is literally in an alley very close to the 817 Union where we had breakfast. The food here was pretty cheap and was just decent. But the service was friendly and prompt. It was really what we needed because we didn't have much time before the next show started and the diner was within walking distance of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC). TPAC had two things going on that night; A Christmas Story and the Nashville Ballet's performance of The Nutcracker. Emily kind of wanted to bail on the show and see The Nutcracker but we'd already bought tickets so she was out of luck.

Christmas Story Stage

A Christmas Story was downstairs in an experimental theater. It was a small intimate space where the stage was the floor just in front of the seats. The photo above is of the main stage area taken from my seat. Through the use of lighting the calendar pattern helped tell the story. The setting was really perfect for the show and the entire set was really cool. I can't say enough good things about the quality of this show.

The cast was small but really good. I was a little doubtful about the casting of an older guy, Derek Whittaker, as Ralphie but he did a great job. He did a good job of projecting the persona of a kid. I was very impressed. The whole cast did a stand up job but I have to also mention Curtis Reed who played Ralphie's little brother Randy. Curtis was "all in" and really cracked me up quite a few times. If you live anywhere near Nashville and like "A Christmas Story" you should definitely check out the show. It is somewhat interactive and the cast is really great.

Set Panorama

The next day we slept in a bit before heading to breakfast at "Wild Eggs". Wild Eggs is a chain but we'd never eaten at one before so it was a local experience to us. The food there was tasty - I had Breakfast Nacho's. Shannon ordered a stack of pancakes and was overwhelmed by the amount of food she received. Each pancake was about 3/4 of an inch thick. If you go to Wild Eggs make sure you go hungry.

As a cool bonus; on our way out of the hotel before breakfast we bumped into two of the dancers (Kayla Rowser and Nicolas Scheuer) from the ballet company and Emily had her photo taken with them. We learned later that Kayla is a pretty accomplished dancer. It is good for Emily to meet people like that who she can look up to; she wanted to buy Kayla's used/signed pointe shoes after that but, once again, she was out of luck. Hopefully, next year, we can get back to town so she can see her dance.

After breakfast we headed home with a pit stop in Lexington at a cool little coffee shop called "Common Ground" and then dinner at some unremarkable Italian restaurant.

Common Ground

Overall it was a fun weekend and I am pretty sure we will be back in Nashville for more short vacations in the future.

Chimney Sweeping?

2 min read

We have some pretty old fireplace inserts. Only one has ever been used so today we had it cleaned and inspected before we start using it ourselves. I don't think it had been used much by the previous owners of our house. Here is a photo of it before the sweeping.

Pre swept chimney

Here is the same chimney after being swept:

Pre swept chimney

I don't see much, if any, difference. But at least it's been checked out and is deemed safe to use. I did smell some soot but that could have been just from them vacuuming the bottom of the fireplace and cleaning out that ash.

On Losing a Friend

2 min read

28 days ago my friend Jeff Kovatch suffered a brain aneurysm that transformed him from a rambunctious life loving guy. 28 days he has been in a persistent vegetative state. I've not been able to hear him laugh or tell a crazy story or cheer on Marshall or Pitt or see him being the amazing husband or fantastic father that he is. It's been a really horrible 28 days.

In my 44 years I've not really known death. I've been exceptionally lucky in that. More so, since moving to WV, I've been even luckier to make some amazing friends. Losing any of them seems unimaginable to me and yet, here I am, watching a wonderful family suffer the loss of a great guy. It really fucking sucks.

I didn't frequently hang out with Jeff but every thing I ever did with him was marked with fun. No matter the scenario, or the people around, I could count on Jeff to improve the event. He always had funny stories to tell, crazy capers to relate, and interesting knowledge to share. He had an uncanny ability to share joy in even inconsequential things - like shitty beer.

In this photo Jeff is on the right at a party with some of those other amazing friends. He'd just finished extolling the virtues of "Little Kings" a cream ale I'd never heard of.

Jeff was smart and funny and big and bold and vibrant and it sucks beyond description that he is leaving.

Just the Pants and nothing but the Pants

3 min read

I am always trying to find comfortable decent looking pants that aren't jeans and that offer good range of movement and utility. Shit's hard yo.

A couple years ago I found the Kuhl Revolvr. They're pretty comfortable and very utilitarian but they don't look that great (or maybe I just don't look as good in them as the model) and they've sort of aged poorly (maybe that's just my bad laundering skills though).

I do love the weight of them though. They are really light weight. I wear them daily and they are really comfortable. I also really like the side-leg pocket which perfectly holds my cell phone. It's much more comfortable than carrying the phone in my normal front pocket.

I actually own a heavier pair of Kuhl pants but they are actually "too" heavy and I end up being hot whenever I wear them (if I'm indoors). They are really solid pants though and I am sure they would hold up really well if I were doing some outdoor adventuring in the late fall/early winter.

The Revolvr material is just about the perfect weight for wearing to work. But, the price you pay for the light fabric is that they have worn out faster than I would like; (it's possible I have unreasonable expectations) especially in the seat. (maybe I fidget a lot at my desk?) Especially for the price you pay for the pant. So I've begun a new search for pants.

This past week I bought a pair of Eddie Bauer "Mountain Pants". They are pretty comfortable. Not as roomy in the pinchy places but they also look nicer on. Plus they have the side leg pocket for my phone. The material is somewhere between the weight of the Revolvr and my heavier Kuhl pants so I'm pretty hopeful for them in the long run.

I typically just get "khaki " colored pants. I'm pretty conservative when it comes to colors on me. These pants came in a tone called "Aged Brass" which is a bit darker and redder? than khaki but I actually really like the color. I never would have bought them if I'd gone into the store - I wouldn't have even looked at them - but buying online helped me not notice the color as much. They have a "saddle" color which is probably closer to khaki.

I'll probably buy a couple more pair - though I doubt I'll be so adventurous as to get the "Dark Slate". They also have a "mountain jean" but I think I'll pass on that as well. The mountain pant is more relaxed. My only complaint at the moment is I wish it were a little more relaxed in the thigh. On the flip side I really like the feel of the material used for the hand pockets. It's some kind of cotton I'd guess and it's quite comfortable.

The Eddie Bauer "Riverbank" pants actually remind me more of the Kuhl Revolvr. I might order a pair of those too. If I do I'll update this post with my thoughts on those pants as well.

Maybe I'll remember I posted this in a year or so and I'll post a followup on how the Eddie Bauer pants are holding up.

Luma - Home Networking made "Simple?"

13 min read

Unboxing

Yesterday I received my Luma 3 pack in the mail and I excitedly drove home to set it all up. We have a pretty large house and two rooms in it are basically network dead zones; both on the lower first floor; my daughters bedroom and my wife's office. It was my hope that Luma would solve the dead zone problem.

The unboxing experience was nice. Nothing special. I guess it is supposed to feel like an "Apple" unboxing - but now-a-days everything seems to feel that way. The main box has a half sleeve over it that is where the main graphics are. You slide that off and then you can take the actual lid off the box.

luma box unopened

Once you open the box you're greeted with a generic welcome message on a thick piece of card stock. It's sort of double thick and almost appears like you can open it for more information. You can't - so don't waste your time like I did.

luma box opened

After you get the unnecessary cardboard out of the way you see the three luma's nestled in the box almost like a white honeycomb. After you take them out you have another card stock insert which you have to get through to get to the power adapters and a single, short, Ethernet (network) cable.

honeycomb of luma

It's all pretty orderly and pleasantly organized. I thought the first bit of card stock was kind of a waste; or at least they should have re-iterated on it that you need the Luma app installed before you try to install any Luma's.

Installing

Honestly, installation is pretty simple. So long as you don't have any complications with your network, and so long as every thing works the way Luma wants it to you'll think it's a piece of cake. Almost anyone could do it.

However, things weren't perfectly smooth for me and I ran into several hiccups along the way. Some of them are Luma's fault and are areas where I think they can improve. I'll try to denote those clearly, via bold text as I go forward.

The Hub

One of your Luma's is going to act as "The Hub" - at least that is what their support guy referred to it as. Yeah, I had to talk to support later in the process. I'll get back to that.

Remember, before you can install the hub you have to have the app on your phone. You also need to make sure your phone has some kind of internet connection other than via the home network you're replacing. Once your app is installed and open you basically just follow the onscreen instructions for setting things up.

  1. You create a Luma account.
  2. The app will ask you where in your house your putting the first luma.
  3. the app will ask you to name the luma from a decent list of room names. It would be nice if I could have added an option to the list. I have a unique room I put my third luma into.
  4. You plug the Ethernet cable into your cable modem.
  5. You unplug your cable modem.
  6. You plug the ethernet cable into your luma
  7. You plug in your luma
  8. You plugin in your cable modem.

I might not have remembered those steps in the exact order but that's the general gist.

Before setup begins you're asked if you want to use bluetooth or wifi. I chose wifi which didn't work very well becuase my phone kept switching between the luma setup wifi network and the open xfiniti wifi network in my neighborhood. Bluetooth is the default option. You should use it. The app says to keep the phone close to the Luma during setup. It doesn't say how close. Stay within five feet according the support guy. The App should be that specific and state "Keep your phone within five feet of the Luma during setup and registration"

At this point the Luma's front face will light up with a swirling blue light ring and the app will tell you it's setting up. Eventually the setup will finish (after a couple minutes and the blue light will be a solid blue. The app takes a while longer to realize the Luma has finished setting up but eventually catches up and presents you with the option to "register the luma" or something along those lines. You do that and the blue light ring pulses and goes out a couple times before, eventually, coming back on and flashing green about five times. Then the front light turns off for good. The app tells you it will be done when the Luma flashes green but it takes the app a while to realize the Luma is done and then finally it too indicates you're done.

One of the things you have to do during the setup, that I didn't mention, was name your network and provide a password. My initial inclination was to re-use the network name and password I had used before. It turns out the tech support guys suggests not to do that in order to prevent confusion for your devices. This ended up being a weird problem for me later. The Luma app should tell you to use a new network name when you're setting it up. This would have prevented a little of my later trouble.

After the first Luma finishes getting setup you're offered the opportunity to install a second Luma.

Additional Luma Installation

This process is very similar to that of the Hub but you don't have to identify your network. Much as I did on the first Luma (since it seemed to register so well) I used the wifi option again.

During this setup something went wrong. I have no idea what. The App just says "something went wrong" and gives you the chance to try again. This happened a few times until it failed with a message of the "IP Address Pool is Full" or something and to contact tech support. It makes me nervous that I can have a problem with simple setup that requires me to contact tech support to resolve. I fear that if Luma were to go out of business I'm going to end up with three white paper weights.

I contacted tech support and the guy I reached was very friendly and patient. He cleared up the IP Address pool but we couldn't get the second luma to setup. He ended up having me unplug it and then go back to the Hub, reset it, and install it again. We ran in to similar problems.

Here is where the Luma ran into some technical difficulties I don't think it should have had.

Xfiniti @ Home and Luma Are Not Friends

My internet service provider (ISP) is Comcast. I get internet service, cable, and home security provided through them. Home security is a wireless network system that uses my cable modem and a special wifi router that I was told has to be the first thing plugged into my cable modem. The wifi router admin page is all encrypted and locked and supposedly very secure. But you can plug other devices into the router and have it do simple pass through of internet service to whatever is plugged in.

This is how my old wireless router was setup. It was plugged into the XFiniti@Home router and everything just worked. But, the Luma base kept getting disconnected from the Luma servers because of this middle man router from Comcast.

In order to get the Luma system to setup and stay working I had to remove the XFiniti@Home router from my cable modem and connect the Luma directly to it. Not a very good option considering I'm paying for home security and suddenly I can't use it just so I can have good network coverage throughout the house.

Back to the Hub

On the way back to the hub luma in order to check things out the tech guy told me it had gone off line (due to the xfiniti@home stuff I just mentioned). However, looking at the Luma I had no idea the front light was still out and there was no indication anywhere on it that it couldn't reach the internet. Plus, my phone was still connected just fine to my home wifi network - the luma was still broadcasting wifi signal but it wasn't able to communicate with the internet. Honestly the Luma should have something that indicates it's having a problem beyond opening the app and seeing "offline" Plus, in the app when it says "offline" it would be nice if you could click on the Luma with the trouble and get a bit more information.

So when re-doing the hub after resetting it I offered to remove the Xfiniti@Home stuff so we could try it with a clean setup. Everything worked okay. In fact, I was basically able to get through the setup of all three Luma's pretty painlessly. There were a couple hiccups due to the App either being updated too quickly (telling me the Luma was ready for the registration before it actually was) or the app not being ready (and never telling me the Luma was ready for registration but it was). But eventually they were both setup okay.

However, a couple hours after re-introducing the Xfiniti@Home stuff the Luma's stopped working properly. One at a time they slowly stopped being able to communicate with the internet. Again, I had no idea by looking at the Luma's - they all appeared to be dead (no light on them at all).

Great Coverage - When it Worked

Honestly, once I installed the three Luma's and everything was working fine the whole house had great coverage. Amazing coverage really. I was getting far better wifi signal everywhere in the house than I was previously right next to my older (but not old) wireless router. The hardware is pretty cool and clearly pretty powerful.

Of course, it not working with my home security system was pretty much a deal breaker. But I thought of a work around.

Luma and Xfiniti@Home - Working Together

NOTE: Before I explain this I want you to know I don't know if this has any impact on your terms of service with XFiniti. However, XFiniti doesn't really offer any kind of loss insurance if your house is robbed anyway so take this all with a grain of salt.

I decided that I'd ignore the Xfiniti installer and I hooked the Xfiniti router up to the Luma's network out port. So my network diagram is sort of like:

Cable Modem -> Luma Hub -> Xfiniti Router

All hardwired together. The Xfiniti stuff all seems to work properly. All of the sensors in my house still communicate with the router and with the home touch panel and with my app. I can still remotely enable and disable the alarm via the app. Plus, Luma is working as it is supposed to throughout my house.

Overnight Update

The Luma supposedly got a firmware update last night. I don't know as I haven't been home and online at the same time since it happened to see if

  1. It Happened
  2. It Worked

The App

More than likely I'll have no idea if it happened because, quite frankly, the App kind of sucks at giving you information. I know they are trying to keep it super simple but there needs to be a way to at least access and see more detailed information about your network and the status of the mesh. Some kind of log in the app would be super helpful - even if it were secret and you had to jump through a hoop to find it. Right now the lack of transparency in the App is really disturbing and makes it very frustrating when things don't work.

I know there are updates in the works with the app. There needs to be! I can see devices supposedly connected to my network but I can't kick any off. Also, after resetting my hub and recreating the network; the new name I provided didn't get used - the old one was still used and, after everything was done, I had to go back into the app and rename the network to the new name.

Likewise, when I setup everything the third time (after the Xfiniti fix) the new name I used for the third Luma wasn't used; it ignored "Media Room" and kept the old name of "Basement". So even though I moved it (to a different part of the house and gave it a new name) the old name is still used. It would be great if I could rename a Luma after it's installed (edit: You can rename a Luma after it's installed). It would also be good if I could use the little house-map diagram to redefine the position of a Luma after it's installed.

Finally

In the end I spent about 5 hours messing around with the Luma's until I had them working (and my alarm system working) as I needed them to. 5 hours was way too long.

  1. I should never have to contact support about an IP Pool. Why do I?
  2. The Luma's shouldn't have to be able to talk to Luma HQ in order to work.
  3. The XFiniti router in the middle shouldn't have been a deal-breaker
  4. The Luma App should be refreshed via push notification faster than it is when you're installing/setting up.
  5. The App should give the option to see more detailed information about why something failed.
  6. Maybe while you're adding a new Luma to the mesh the other Luma's (or at least the Hub) should be steady Green so you know it's all good. You can't see the network status in the app while adding a Luma).
  7. The front panel light should be able to be manually activated from the Luma to get a status signal (red for not working, green for good to go!).

Not all was bad though.

  1. The support guy was super friendly
  2. The app is clean and easy to use
  3. The wifi coverage in my house is excellent
  4. The price($350) is substantially less than the primary competitor eero ($499).
  5. They are actively working on it to improve things.
  6. I actually like that the lights are off when things are working and good.
  7. The device is fairly attractive and looks okay sitting out in three different rooms of the house.

Hopefully, my fears about having paper-weights won't be tested (Luma going out of business or bought and product is discontinued). But for now I'm tentatively happy with the end result.

Luma

The Tough Mudder - Fun and Hot

21 min read

Tough Mudder II

This past Saturday, June 11th 2016, I along with Mike Brown, Stacey Welch, and Zach Garrett went to SPARTA!! Kentucky to complete the Tough Mudder. This was Zach's third, Stacey's first, and my and Mike's second tough mudder.

During my previous mudder experience it was about 40 degrees out, rainy, and generally miserable. I wore shitty shoes (Vibram Five Fingers KSO). This time it was in the 90-100 degree range, dry, and I wore Saucony Peregrine 5 Trail Running Shoes. The change in shoes, I think more than anything else, resulted in a vastly different experience for me. During the prior one my feet were constantly sore and I had zero traction. I was pretty miserable and the shoes were pissing me off. This time, my feet were comfortable, I had pretty good traction, and I was in a much better mental place because of it. I think my improved mental state really helped me with all of the obstacles.

We left Huntington around 6:30 and it was about a 3 hour drive to SPARTA!!. Once there we parked ($20 parking fee was bull) and then walked about a mile to the event start area. It was already pretty damn hot out and after storing our bag ($5 fee) we waited in the holding area for about an hour before the starting gun went off. As you might be able to tell I wasn't a big fan of the fees. Especially considering the dearth of water stations during the first half of the course - and the basic absence of food for the first three quarters. That's all I'm going to say about it but, for the amount of money they charge for this event I was disappointed in the level of support they offer participants during the event.

It was already really hot and blazingly sunny when we started. I had applied a thick coating of sunscreen twice before getting in line, particularly to the top of my head and nose. By the time we got to the final holding pen I borrowed a staff members sunscreen to re-apply. Beyond the running and obstacles - sun burn prevention was the theme of the day for me. Once we started we were almost immediately introduced to a surprise obstacle.

Here is a page full of descriptions of the various obstacles. Just click on various parts of the image to learn more about each.

The Pond

The pond was just what it sounds like - a pond of water. We were supposed to swim across it but it was shallow enough where I could walk the whole way. I stayed on my tip toes so my shoes wouldn't get stuck in the mud. It was a nice cool down after the long wait to get started. After that we had to jog a little while before the next obstacle.

Mud Mile 2.0

This is a long (not a mile) swath of muddy hills you have to climb over and slide down. You need to work with others to scale some of them. I was pretty well coated in mud by the end of this one. Unfortunately I felt like my shorts were full of mud as well. It was pretty unpleasant feeling but it didn't cause any trouble so I was glad for that. I made sure to tighten my shoe laces before going into this one. It was some thick nasty mud. Here is a video from another event

Devils Beard

This is a huge rope net you have to crawl under. It starts on flat ground then goes uphill. WHen you on the lower part you need to crawl on hands and knees but when going uphill a bear crawl is a better way to go. It was a little tiring but overall a pretty easy obstacle. Here is a video from a different location.

Bale Bonds

Another easy obstacle. It's a pile of hay bales you have to climb over. I just ran at it, planted a foot and sort of ran up the pile and climbed over the top. Probably helped to be a little taller. I didn't even need my hands. It took about 3 seconds. Here is a video from a different location.

Skidmarked

This is a backwards leaning wall that you just have to climb over. It's kind of tall and you can't use your feet much, You can use the support boards in the middle if you want. It's about a ten foot wall but I don't think the top was ten feet above ground. Someone helped me get my leg over the top of the wall and I think it was here that I bashed up my right bicep a little. It left a nice bruise. Here's a video from folks in Arizona. I was actually pretty surprised at how well I did on these walls. I remember having more trouble last time - though I think it was called Glory Blades before.

A while after this was the first water station.

Kiss of Mud 2.0

This is just a low crawl under some barbed wire. Keep your head down (and turned sideways) or you'll cut your head (I nicked mine a little). Keep your but down too. Mostly this just gets you muddy and isn't particularly difficult. A video from somewhere else.

Hero Carry

Throw your buddy on your back and carry him a hundred feet or so. Not too bad. I carried Mike fireman style. At first he was a little low on my back so I had to "shift" him up. I'm sure he didn't enjoy that. It was actually just as bad being carried. Kind of made me nauseous being up there. Mike, about halfway through carrying me decided to run. It felt like we were going to fall the entire time. He didn't though and we "beat" everyone else in the obstacle.

Berlin Walls

These are some tall, black walls, you just have to climb. Once you're on top you can turn around and help others. I helped a couple younger fit looking guys but then a pretty heavy person approached so I let young guys take over. Wisdom is the better part of valor or something. Here's a vid. Pretty straight forward.

Block Ness Monster

This was a new obstacle to us. Pretty interesting really. There are big rectangluar blocks that you have to spin and ride on to get through a pond. When you're on the block you should shift your weight and pull as you go down. It's probably easier to understand by watching a video. I got to this a bit fast so I helped a lot of people on the first block and my shoulders where burning by the time I rolled over it. I didn't help anyone one the second block; my shoulders were used up. Nobody in this video did the pull as they got off making it harder for everyone on the other side.

Hold Your Wood

Stacy and I partnered for this. You basically carry a big long around a loop; maybe 200 feet? I don't know. It was pretty easy. No video for this one is needed.

Pitfall

This is a pool of muddy water you walk into and you carefull proceed through because, at times, the bottom has pits in it you will fall into. Zach hurt his calf a little on this as it tighted up when he fell and he cramped. This just seemed like an obstacle designed to hurt people. Here's a video.

Funkey Monkey 2.0

This is monkey bars with a twist. The first half is a monkey bar ladder that is angled upward so you have to pull up and swing on each move. Back in 2013 I didn't get to the middle. I lost all momentum early and had to drop into the water below about halfway up. This time I completed the upward ladder. In the old version you then went to a downward ladder. In this one though you transition to a swing with your hands (like a trapese swing) and then switch from that to a railing that swings from pivots left and right. You then do a hand over hand thing to get down the railing. I was almost done with the railing when the guy to the right of me flew off his and went down right in front of me hitting the water below me so I had to stop and make sure I didn't fall off and land on him. I held on for a bit as he swam away and then had to make a decision. Try to finish and possible fall off right over the edge of the landing platform (hurting myself) or just drop into the water then and swim out. I chose to drop and avoid potential injury. I was pretty happy with myself for getting so far. I think I would have finished it without the long pause at the end. Video

Ladder to Hell

This is a big ladder maybe 20 feet tall.. You climb up it, go over it, and climb down it. The line here was long but Mike noticed we could probably climb up the middle between the two lines. As we went to the middle they said it was for expert climbers. I jumped up, climbed, went over easily, and went down. I guess I'm an expert. This was the easiest obstacle of the day for me probably. I'm kind of a bad-ass. Okay, it was a pretty easy ladder. Video Ours was much narrower (only room from three people total) and a bit taller (I think a couple more rungs higher). But you get the idea.

Arctic Enema

This changed a bit but was the same basic idea. You have to get in a long dumpster full of ice water and fully submerge yourself. In the past you could jump in, then swim under a wall, and go to the end and get out. Now you have to slide in under a cage until submerged, climb over a wall, fall back in, then go to the end and get out. I was not excited about this obstacle and I held on to the cage support for a bit before sliding in. The staff person told me "Sir, you need to let go." I did, I got cold, i flopped over the wall, got colder got to the end and got out. I don't enjoy being cold. This was my least favorite obstacle this time. When we did it last time I as already freezing so I didn't really notice the coldness of the obstacle. This time I did. Video. Unlike the guy in the video I didn't hang out to encourage others.

Pyramid Scheme

Another new obstacle to us. On this you walk through a watery muddy trench, then climb a giant whiteboard that is set on an angle. The whiteboard is about 20' long and around the halfway point is a strip of sandpaper you can use for traction. It is impossible to just walk up this wall; you need to use other people to help you get up. At the bottom of the whiteboard is a thing, 1-2" thick strip you can stand on and others can then climb up your body. When I approached a guy had been there on the strip helping people by himself so I offered to take his place so he could move on. I got on the board, he climbed my side and I extended my arms and he used my hands as a platform to get to the texture strip.

Another guy did the same thing then someone else suggested we build a ladder of people and folks would just climb the ladder and go over. So the ladder formed with me as the base. I am not a great base. Two guys, both at least 175 were above me in the ladder then people would climb up the right side of me, use my hand/arm to plant their foot and then climb the next guy and so on.

The first person to try to climb the ladder was Stacy; he's closer to 230. He got near the top but slid back down so had to climb again. I wasn't really thrilled to see him at the bottom again. For about fifteen minutes people climbed our ladder until I announced I wasn't going to help anymore people. My back was getting tight and I had a big cramp in my left ass-cheek. Some little woman tricked me though; she was already on the white board and asked to hold my hand real fast for support. As soon as she grabbed my hand she pulled herself up and climbed the ladder. It was funny but I made it clear to those waiting that nobody else was going to fool me. The ladder then disassembled (first Mike left the top of us, then the other guy) and then I climbed another ladder of people. Once off this I had to stop and stretch out my back; it was super tight. This obstacle took A LOT out of me and really made the rest of the mudder much more difficult for me. Video.. If that dude in the video was the base for 40 minutes he's a bad-ass.

Rain Man

We did something like this before. You basically lay on your back in some muddy water and pull yourself through the obstacle via a chain link fence above you. The water and fence get fairly close together so only your face is not submerged. However, this time it also had pipes pouring dirty water down on you at intervals so you had to close your eyes and hold your breat a couple times. On the previous version you went under tarps a few times I think so you were in darkness. That was gone this time except for a tarp you could hang out under and cool off for a bit if you were a legionnaire (someone doing a mudder for the second or more time). Mike, Zach, and I took advantage of the cool down pool. Video

King of the Swingers

This replaces the "Walk the Plank" obstacle. Basically, you go up on a big tower and have a choice - either jump into the water directly (Walk the Plank) or jump and try to grab a metal bar swing, swing to the end, and try to hit a bell before letting go and dropping into the water way below you and then swimming out. Mike, Zach, and I all tried for the bell. I missed by a foot or so. Zach swung about halfway and thought he could fly but dropped like a stone, and Mike hit the bell. Stacy opted to "Walk the Plank". Video. The swing looked further away that it was when I was standing there thinking about jumping. I wasn't sure I'd be able to grab it but it was pretty easy to get on the swing. The bell was too far away for my poor swinging technique though.

Backstabber

This is a peg board like they had in gym class. You have some big wooden dowels that you put in the holes in the wall. The difference being there are some notches along the side you can put your feet in to help you. If you're a legionnaire they have a special version where you just get one peg instead of the standard two and one straight vertical line of holes. It took me three tries to get a foot into a notch. The first time it just slipped out. The second time I couldn't quite get my foot up. A guy offered to help me but I said, "let me try one more time and then I'll be exhausted and you can help." On the third try I used the peg with my left hand and the foot track with my right, pulled up, and put my right foot in the notch (previously I'd tried to get my left foot set). After getting both feet set I used the peg one more time then realized I could reach the top of the wall with my hand so I threw the peg back to the ground and just pulled myself over. Mike used the empty holes with his other hand instead of the foot track and got over in one try. Zach tried six times before walking around. Stacy got to do the easy two peg option and completed it. It was pretty tough. Video

Birth Canal

This was a bit weird but not very hard. You basically had to low crawl under some big bags that were heavy with water. Each bag got a little lower and a little heavier. I just laid down, turned my head to the side, and used my right leg to propel me under all of them. Funnily after getting past the last bag I tried to get up and when I was kneeling my hips got stuck under the structure holding the bags so I had to kind of unstick myself. Video

Quagmire

This was sort of like the mud mile. It's a big muddy pit with a super slick wall of mud you have to climb up to get out. It usually takes teamwork to get out. Somehow I walked right down, through, and out of it. Remember, I'm a bad-ass. Video

Everest 2.0

This is a huge wall you have to run up - sort of like on American Ninja Warrior - but curved at the top so you need someone to grab your hand at the top to help you over the lip. Two big strong dudes were at the top when I ran and it was like I never stopped running.. They grabbed my hands and I was over the top in stride. I then turned around to help Mike finish and then let the big guys help Zach and Stacy. I did much better on this with the run-up than I did last time - there was no water on it as opposed to the video depiction. Sadly, a lady in front of us fell badly and separated her shoulder. Video

Frequent Flyers Club

There were actually two obstacles here. For newbies to a Tough Mudder the classic "Electric Shock Therapy" waited. Electric Shock Therapy is a big lane of bumps and mud that have wires with 10,000 volts at 0 amps hanging down ready to strike at random. This was the final obstacle for Stacy. He walked around it. When we did this back in 2013 it turned Mike off briefly and knocked the rest of us to the ground because we were stupid and linked arms.

This time around, because we were veterans we had the choice to do the Frequent Flyer Club. In this you climb a tower and then jump out trying to hit a variety of what can best be described as wind chimes. You then fall into a big stuntman balloon. They suggest you land on your ass. When we climbed the tower there was a lady up there who was discovering that she was afraid of heights. She had skipped the King of the Swing because she couldn't swim. She spent quite a while almost jumping. Mike and I got in a different line so we could go while she waffled. Mike went first, hit the third wind chime out and fell down into the bubble landing on his backside as instructed. Then it was my turn. I'll admit I was a little nervous simply because I wasn't sure what the bubble would feel like.

I jumped without hesitation though as I didn't want to be up there waffling with the lady. I hit one of the chimes, I'm not sure which, because after hitting it I looked down and noticed my legs were fully extended and I was going to land like I was standing. It was about 20' down to the bubble. I told my legs to pull up and I tried to lean back a little. I landed on my feet. My legs told the rest of me, "screw you, we're done for the day". The bubble was very cool. It just collapsed and embraced me. It was amazingly gentle. It was harder to get out of the damn thing because it really did embrace you. Eventually I wiggled out and met up with Stacy and Mike. Zach was still in the wrong line waiting behind Ms. Waffle.

Stacy, Mike and I then went to the little end point and got our new headbands, tee-shirts, and other things. Then I went back to see if Zach was ready to jump yet. He had finally switched lines and was about second in line to jump. Ms. Waffle was gone so I asked a volunteer if she'd jumped. While I spoke with her I stopped looking up and, as the lady told me she didn't know about Ms. Waffle, Zach Jumped and I missed it.

I waited while Zach collected his gear and then we wobbled over to the beer tent for our free beer.

The Finish

I am pretty sure I was on the verge of heat exhaustion at the end. I grabbed my beer and went into a big tent area, took a seat, and slowly drank it. Mike was eager to leave but I would not be rushed. Then we went to the rinse station and tried to clean off the mud some.

After I rinsed I kind of blindly wandered towards the changing tents not really paying attention to where I was going. Fortunately, a lady came out of the flap just as I was about to open it. I had nearly walked into the woman's change tent. While that might have been briefly titillating I imagine the beat down I would have received from all the women would have made it not worth my while. I'm glad that lady saved me from my own stupidity.

I then went and changed and then we walked the apx mile back to our car and headed to Cincinnati.

Stacy at the end claimed he would not do another but he's already changed his tune two days later. I don't know about Zach but I know Mike would do another. I'm undecided but strongly leaning towards no. I don't mind the event but it's really expensive and kind of hard to justify that kind of expense to go run for about 11 miles. The whole weekend between the ticket, gas, hotel, food, shoes, etc. cost between $300-500/person I'd imagine.

Some Final Thoughts

The course was marked as being 10.7 miles. My Garmin measured it as 11.86. Mike's measured 11.5. They also claim the elevation gain is 1468 feet. Garmin says it is 764 feet. Here is my full data dump via Garmin and here is the data sheet from Tough Mudder - scroll to page 2.

The shirt this year was made by Merrell and is pretty damn comfortable. Previously it was made by Under Armour. It's a close battle to determine which is more comfortable though the Merrell head hole is a bit snug for my massive noggin. Overall I'm really happy with both shirts.

The beer this time was a Shock Top. We had three choices. I picked the Belgian White. I didn't really taste my beer in 2013 as I spilled most of it while shivering. I didn't taste this one much either even though I drank it all and slowly. I just wasn't really mentally available.

I felt surprisingly good on Sunday and played in a kickball game Sunday afternoon. I thought walking might be tricky on Sunday. I was glad to find out I was wrong. The whole weekend was pretty good; then I found out about Orlando.

It sucks when the Onion is right

4 min read

The Onion, a satirical news site, is usually just funny. But, sometimes, they are right and it isn't funny at all. You've probably seen the Onion article before - "'No Way To Prevent This,' Says only Nation Where This Regularly Happens'." Every time there is a tragic mass shooting in America this article is posted on Facebook. I used to kind of sadly chuckle but I don't anymore. It's a pattern. With each subsequent event the article just becomes more and more accurate.

I don't really have anything new or useful to say about the Orlando shooting. My talking about it isn't going to help anyone, but me, deal with it. Yet, I still think I need this cathartic release. I hear that some people refuse to accept this is the new norm. I think they are deluded. It is the norm. Someone, either medically diagnosed as mentally unstable, or someone religiously mentally unstable; goes out, gets some guns, and kills people for no real reason. It is America. As American as apple pie and the subsequent argument about why any and all efforts to stop them are the liberal lefts attempts to shit on the constitution by wanting better gun control.

Social Media makes these events far worse for me. I end up seeing the cold heartless posts about how great guns are while there are still people dying in the hospital. I see that by not posting some meaningless message about hopes and prayers for those in Orlando that I am not a worthwhile human. I see that this was all caused by us living in a "Godless Society". I see all sorts of shit. None of it means anything; just like this blog post.

I don't really mind, too much, that average citizens have useless comments about the tragedy. I figure they are just trying to understand it just like I am. But our politicians; those who are supposed to lead us - they need to shut the fuck up and do something. They need to stop making sure the Onion is right. There are ways to prevent this kind of shit from happening. We should all be pissed that they aren't. But, of course, we NEED our guns right.. I mean, if only everyone in that club had been carrying then only one or two people would have died! That is, of course, complete bullshit.

Now, if the idiot who killed those poor people had just had a knife only a couple people would have, maybe, died. Or, more than likely, he never would have gone to the club in the first place because he wouldn't have felt empowered to kill people. A knife just doesn't give you the same sense of confidence in your hand as a gun. I doubt gun advocates will admit it out loud but when you have a gun in your hand you feel pretty fucking empowered. I've never felt particularly powerful sitting over a steak getting ready to slice it up with a sharp knife.

It doesn't matter though. Nothing is going to change. Sure, there will be gnashing of teeth and rending of garments or other public displays of anger but that's about it. Then, in a month or so some other group of people are going to be killed (maybe it will be in the news, maybe not) and we'll continue to carry on with the status quo because that's what we do.

Trump will continue to talk about blocking Muslims from coming in the country (which would have had ZERO effect on this event), Obama will continue to say he is pissed off, people on facebook will continue to say "Guns are Great!" and others will say "Ban Guns" and nobody will actually do anything and more people will die. It is the new normal.

Love doesn't conquer hate. Love doesn't go into a club with a gun and kill people. Hate does. Hate kills love every fucking time. If love was ever going to win it would have by now. The people in that club were love and hate showered them with bullets.

It seriously sucks that the Onion is right.

Trump Loves Veterans?

1 min read

Trump claims he loves veterans but he thinks POWs are losers and lies about donations raised/given to veteran groups.

That's a strange kind of love; like spousal abuse type of love.