I’m spending less time at the keyboard lately and more with good old-fashioned low-tech entertainment: a book! I checked out Grant, Ron Chernow’s biography of Ulysses S. Grant, back in November and have been working my way through this 1,000+ page tome. Yes, it’s way overdue back to the library but I can’t put it down and – good Lord – who can finish a thousand-page book within the skimpy time frame that Wake County Public Library provides its borrowers?
I’ll have more to say about the book and Grant when I finish it but so far I like how Grant faced failure after failure in life until the war broke out and he found his place.
So, if you wonder why I’m not busier here at the moment, you know I have my nose in a book!
Birthday volunteering at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina
Yesterday was my 49th birthday. I spent it being celebrated by my family, catching up on well wishes from Facebook, eating a birthday brunch with Kelly at 18 Seaboard, and going on a fun bike ride with Kelly and Travis down to Lassiter Mill dam and back. A sunny, spring-like day warmed to 65 degrees and rapidly melted away the last piles of snow from last week’s snowfall.
As part of my birthday weekend, the whole family and I volunteered for four hours at the nearby Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, where we sorted potatoes along with about 30 other volunteers. It felt good to help out, and Kelly and the kids enjoyed it, too.
Life at 49 is pretty good, I have to say. While my body is starting to show some signs here and there of being ancient, overall I’m in excellent health. I’m loving my family, enjoy my job, and have countless friends near and far whom I’m honored to call friends. While my life isn’t perfect I am learning how to enjoy the things I have and to help others as well.
Last Christmas (2016), I got an AcuRite weather station from Costco as a gift to replace my falling-apart Oregon Scientific station. It’s a decent little setup, with wireless transmission from a multi-sensor box outside to the panel inside. For the longest time my biggest complaint was its need to use Windows software to archive its data.
Acurite weather station
Then early last year I hooked up the open source weather software weewx to my station. Weewx creates a nice (if simple) graph of weather data (as seen at https://www.markturner.net/wx) and also kicks the data over to my MySQL database so I can save and query those stats. Last month I was able to create a fancy Grafana dashboard that dynamically displays that data in a beautiful format. Now I had taken a $75 weather station and made it much more useful!
Last Thursday, I attended an RPD Community Meeting at Lions Park Community Center. It was a meeting to answer neighborhood concerns about the recent incident of delayed police response as well as answer any questions about crime in the area. A handful of neighbors attended, the usuals I’ve become used to seeing at CAC meetings, and a bevy of police officers, detectives, and representatives from the Communications Center.
I have two pages of notes on that meeting that I would like to type up into a report, but the point of this post is how at home I found myself feeling in that room. After three years of conducting CAC meetings, I was all too happy to volunteer questions when the presenters asked for them. I didn’t organize the meeting nor was I in charge of it but I certainly felt right at home quizzing these people for things I wanted to know.
In short, I may indeed miss being a CAC chair. More than that, I miss that I wasn’t able to run for City Council. I have not forgotten how absolutely jazzed I used to feel after my CAC meetings. The small taste I got of it Thursday reminded me that this is where I’m in my element. I hope some day I can get there.
New Years 2018 arrives in Raleigh City Plaza during the First Night Raleigh celebration
It’s New Years Day 2018 and I sit in my comfortable home office, coffee in hand and a pile of technology surrounding me. The weather is a brisk 22 degrees Fahrenheit as we’re in the middle of a brutal cold spell. I’ve been spending the past week and change catching up on home projects, mostly of the indoor variety.
When it was still warm enough to feel one’s limbs outside I worked more on our fence, digging up more than half of our old fenceposts. The ones that are left are anchored by concrete and not as eager to be ripped from the ground. On a future warmer weekend I will pry these out as well. For now, we have a mostly-open yard for the first time in a while.
The Ubiquiti EdgeRouter Lite (ERL), an amazing little networking box.
Back in October I finally squeezed gigabit speeds out of my AT&T Fiber connection by switching from my old OpenWRT-based TP-Link Archer C7 routers to an Ubiquiti EdgeRouter Lite (ERL). The Archer hardware could not keep up with gigabit speeds but the ERL can.
I love the ERL! It’s only about $100 but it’s a very powerful device! Previous versions of the firmware were a bit cryptic (at least in the UI area) but the latest one provides a lot of functionality (and wizards).
I had followed one such wizard to do my initial setup with the ERL back in October, after upgrading it from version 1.9.1 of EdgeOS to EdgeOSv1.9.7+hotfix.4. All seemed to work … except for it properly pulling a DHCP address from AT&T. See, I have bypassed AT&T’s PACE router in favor of my own and the ERL now does everything but the initial 802.1x authentication that opens the port on AT&T’s switch.
Why do you need to use DHCP on your AT&T link? You can put a static IP on your end of the link but AT&T offers DHCP leases of 14 days and expects you to use them. If your box (i.e., my ERL) doesn’t renew its IP near the end of those 14 days, AT&T considers the link to be dead and shuts down the connection. At this point, the only way you’ll get it going again is to reconnect the AT&T router and let it do its 802.1x authentication again. This is a pain, so avoiding it is very useful.
It’s looking more like a fence
One of the things we’ve been meaning to get done is to move our backyard fence to the outer limits of our property lines. For some reason when the fence was first built, the fence was put 8-20 feet inside of our property, leaving the rest our of property essentially abandoned. Miss Ruth had adopted our property on her side of our fence and we never had the heart to “take it back” while she lived here, so when we got new neighbors it seemed time to make the change.
Only I’d never built a fence before.
Enter YouTube. You can learn anything on YouTube.
Yesterday morning my Southern accent got noticed again, this time by a fellow Southerner. My dentist’s office is full of good ol’ Southerners and I always love hearing the conversations going on. I was getting my teeth cleaned by a hygienist I don’t ordinarily see and she was making small talk to get to know me.
Halfway through she says, “so, where are you from? I noticed you have an accent.”
If I could’ve smiled with a mouthful of fluoride brush and suction tube, I would’ve! I don’t always remember to speak Southern until I’m around others who are speaking that way, but then I just slip back into it without me even noticing. I suppose if I were around more places where Southern was spoken i would speak it more often, too, but Southern isn’t spoken much in Raleigh anymore.
As I scrolled through Facebook today, I noticed the location on a friend’s post was listed as Hayes, NC. It turns out that Hayes does not exist as a municipality but still appears on maps as it was once a stop on the railroad. That reminded me of the old “Neuse Station” depot that I used to live near and how it, too, shows up in maps as Neuse, NC though there’s nothing really there. I then did a search of my blog for posts including “depot” and turned up a great one I wrote in 2005 when I researched Neuse Station:
It was a day spent working in my yard which ignited my current interest. I took a break from digging a trench to climb up the hill near the tracks. On my way up, I spotted the stump of a sawed-off telephone pole. Nearby was a glass insulator, which led me to discover a long length of telegraph wire.
Curiosity got to me. How old was that wire?
I started putting a picture together from the resources on the Internet. These tracks behind our house are the oldest railroad tracks in North Carolina. They belonged to the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad, which was commissioned in 1834 to build a line from Raleigh to Gaston, where other lines led to Petersburg and Norfolk.
Work was slow and sloppy, but progress was eventually made. The first stop northward was a station called Huntsville. Later this stop became known as Neuse Station. Neuse was located right outside my neighborhood. That makes this spot near my neighborhood the second-oldest depot in the state.
For Halloween this year my costume was of my alter-ego: Slash, the Guns N’ Roses guitarist who has a very distinctive look. I ordered the various pieces about a month ago, including temporary tattoos, and was ready to go on Halloween morning, confident that mine would be one of the top costumes at my office.
Only no one else wore costumes. No one! Halloween fell on a Tuesday this year, a day when many of my officemates work from home. It was kinda sad that the office missed a chance to do a proper Halloween day but in all fairness we had had a chili contest the day before, so that was something.
It wasn’t all for naught for me, though. I brought my electric guitar into the office as part of my costume (though it is a cheap Epiphone and not Slash’s preferred Les Paul). Though my guitar isn’t the best, once I got it somewhat tuned up I reminded myself how much fun it is to just pick up a guitar and noodle around with it during the workday. Several times a day yesterday I would grab my guitar and practice bar chords and other stuff, walking over to a nearby conference room to avoid disturbing my officemates.
Tl;dr I won the costume contest by default and I also reignited my love for playing guitar. Not a bad day.