Neighborhood joy

As sad as it is that Miss Ruth has moved away, our changing neighborhood ain’t all bad. In fact, there is lots to celebrate. Over the winter, Kelly and I finally bought a storm door for our front door, which gives us a look at what goes on outside. With the arrival of beautiful spring weather, I’ve been delighted to see all the neighbors out walking, running, pushing strollers, walking their dogs, and being neighborly. Last Friday evening alone I must have watched a dozen people passing happily by our home.

I’ve always considered as a sign of the health of a community how many people you see out interacting with each other. I’m thrilled to see so many of my friends and neighbors out getting to know their community.

Miss Ruth moves away

Miss Ruth Gartrell poses with the Turner family, February 2016.

Miss Ruth Gartrell poses with the Turner family, February 2016.

I knew the day would ome day come and about two weeks ago it did: the day our wonderful next-door neighbor “Miss Ruth” Gartrell moved away. Her once-bustling home is now empty and it makes me sad.

We first found out about her impending move over New Year’s when a for sale sign appeared in her yard. She told me that she was unable to keep up with her large home the way she used to and also felt she should move back to California where she could be closer to more of her family. A few months then went by before her packing began in earnest and one morning about two weeks ago she and her family left for good.
Contine reading

Tallying up electric vehicle savings

I was showing off my electric car to an engineer friend when he asked me a very engineer-like question.

“So, how much money have you saved?” he grinned. “I know you’ve figured it out, right?”

“Well, yes and no,” was my response. I went on to briefly explain fluctuating electric and gasoline costs and how the solar panels must also factor in. It’s not so simple to say “I have saved x dollars.”

That said, I do have a record of my electricity usage, both before and after EV. I can figure out my cost of charging during off-peak hours and extrapolate that over the time we’ve owned the car. Perhaps I can find a resource that shows the average price of unleaded gasoline for the past year or so. Finally, I can say for certainty how many miles I’ve driven. Putting all of this into a spreadsheet ought to give me a ballpark figure on how much it has cost to drive. Then I can factor in the skipped oil changes and other unneeded mechanical work and get a decent guess as to what we’ve saved.

This might be a fun Saturday afternoon project.

Is Facebook secretly snooping on my photos to serve ads?

I’ve been taking part in an experimental drug study at the local Veterans Administration hospital. Now that the study is wrapping up, I thought it might be wise to take a photo of my medicine bottle for future reference. So, during a break in traffic on my way to my appointment the other day, I picked up my work Android phone and snapped some photos of my medicine bottle, like this one.

Until this blog post I hadn't shared this photo with anyone.

Until now I hadn’t shared this photo with anyone.

All seemed well until I logged into Facebook on the same phone yesterday. That’s when I was astonished to see this targeted ad show up in my Facebook feed.

Holy shit! What are the odds that Facebook would just happen to serve up an ad that matched a photo I took less than 24 hours earlier, a photo that I hadn’t shared with anyone? Call me paranoid but I can’t even fathom the odds that this is coincidental. I don’t post any medical stuff on Facebook, have never mentioned medicine or bottles or … anything. No keywords. There is nothing I’ve shared voluntarily on Facebook that could have summoned an ad that just happens to match a photograph I had just taken but never intended to share.
Contine reading

KeePass2Android password manager

keepass2android

At $WORK, I use a commercial password management tool that seems to fit my needs as well as the company’s. For my home use, however, I prefer open source.

My password manager of choice has been KeePass. I like it’s open nature and wide variety of supported platforms. As I began to use it regularly, though, I realized that keeping all these password databases in sync is a huge challenge. Earlier this week I went searching to see if another open source password manager might do the trick and thanks to this post on the excellent Linuxious blog I discovered KeePass2Android.

KeePass2Android is a fork of KeePass and uses KeePass’s same libraries to manipulate its databases. The big win for KeePass2Android, though, is its extensive support for remote files. It supports databases hosted on popular file-sharing tools such as Google Drive, DropBox, Box.com, as well as SFTP-and-WebDAV-hosted files. It’s also been rewritten from Java to Mono for Android, which seems to be snappier than the Java version.

Now I have KeePass2Android installed on all of my devices and pointed to the same database! That’s one big feature now no longer solely the domain of commercial password managers. Score one for open source!

The mystery of place memory

Yesterday, I was leaving my desk for a meeting when I realized I had my high-tech, shiny Macbook Pro in one hand and a low-tech notepad in the other. There was no reason I needed a notepad when I had my laptop and yet it didn’t seem right not to attend a meeting without it.

After pointing out my absurdity to my coworkers for a laugh, I pondered how writing something down with a pencil or pen seems to strengthen my recall of it. I could easily type whatever I’d be jotting down and do it much faster with a computer, yet I’m certain I would not retain it as well as if I had used a pen or pencil.

Watching my dog make his rounds to all of the neighborhood pee spots got me thinking of how a dog’s world must be organized. Smells act as a dog’s map. If a dog finds a treat somewhere in the house, the dog will continually check that spot long afterward. Even if that treat was there only once. Dogs seem to create memories based on place (and reinforced with one of the strongest memory-making senses, the sense of smell).
Contine reading

Parks board past

While fueling up at the gas station this morning, I recognized the gentlemen behind me as Ed Morris, the former chair of the Mordecai Historic Park board on which I served for four years. Ed was happy to see me and we caught up for a bit as we haven’t seen each other in far too long.

I was touched when Ed told me I was missed over at Mordecai. Serving on Mordecai’s board was not only a committee assignment for me while I was on the Parks board but it was also a personal treat. I am proud that I participated in the project to create an Interpretive Center at Mordecai and worked with the community to build consensus for the plan. It was a fun group to serve with, and then in a flash it was over.

I’ve turned my attention to other endeavors but I will always be proud of Raleigh’s parks. I hope to continue getting Dix Park designed, which would pretty-much top it all.