A-Z Challenge blog postings

A-Z Challenge Postings

Earliest: April 1, 2016Latest: May 6, 2017Total: 50

May 6, 2017

A to Z Reflections (2017)

This years A-Z Challenge was a lot easier because I planned my post well in advance. Many posts were ready to go live a few days before the scheduled date.

The A-Z Challenge is the tough challenge because I have a different topic every day. Many sites simply stick to a single topic and post something unique every day.

Some sites I visited this year

Lessons learned this year

  • Plan ahead
  • Always think of creative topics around the letter of the day
  • There are plenty of good books in the library with helpful ideas
  • Don't be afraid to go out for a walk. You may discover something interesting. (That's how I found the Kristen Business Branch topic)
  • Challenge yourself! Don't go for the easy topics.
  • Learn something new with every post.

Stuck figuring out a topic?

One of the things that help was Google's auto-complete functionality. Simply type your topic in the search and the autocomplete will give you some ideas!

For example, if I was looking for a 'q' word for Boston I would type in:

Boton Q

Full Listening

You can see all the A-Z Challenge posts on a special page that I created.

See You Next Year!

I had a lot of fun with the A-Z Challenge this year. I am looking forward to next year. I'll also check around to see if there are any other Blog Challenges.

April 30, 2017

Zig Ziglar

One of my favorite motivational speakers is Zig Ziglar. He had a way to deliver a message in a very positive way.

One of the things that he frequently talks about is "Automobile University." Where you use the downtime in your commute to listen to inspirational podcast or CDs.

Remembering Zig Ziglar

If you haven't heard of any of Zig Ziglar speeches, check out his podcast on iTunes.

Zig Ziglar died on November 28, 2012. His Tom Ziglar is keeping his message alive. Visit Ziglar.com to learn more about him and events that are coming to your area.

Ziglar Quote

Favorite Quotes

  • "Set a goal that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning." - Zig Ziglar
  • "If Plan A doesn't work, there are 25 more letters." - Zig Ziglar
  • "You need a plan to build a house. To build a life, it is even more important to have a plan or goal." - Zig Ziglar
  • "Happy people don't have the best of everything. They make the best of everything." - Zig Ziglar
  • "Don't be distracted by criticism. Remember- the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you." - Zig Ziglar
  • "Be helpful. When you see a person without a smile, give him yours." - Zig Ziglar
  • "Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days." -Zig Ziglar

Being Productive

Zig Ziglar was all about personal productivity. He's "Day before Vacation" speech is correct. As we tend to get a lot of things done when there is a goal with a deadline.

There are many ways to get productive at the office and selfdevelopmentsecrets.com has some great tips. There's a great article called "How To Be More Productive In Your Workplace (And Everywhere Else)."

April 28, 2017

Xcode Training Suggestion

If you do any kind of application programming on Mac OS or iOS you need XCode. It's Apple powerful tool for developers.

Xcode includes the Xcode IDS, Swift and Object-C compliers, Instruments analysis tool, simulators, the latest SDKs, and lots of very powerful features that will help get you to build awesome award winning apps.

xcode

What is Swift?

Swift is a powerful, modern, and fun programming language. From Apple:

Swift is the result of the latest research on programming languages, combined with decades of experience building Apple platforms. Named parameters brought forward from Objective-C are expressed in a clean syntax that makes APIs in Swift even easier to read and maintain. Inferred types make code cleaner and less prone to mistakes, while modules eliminate headers and provide namespaces. Memory is managed automatically, and you don't even need to type semi-colons. These forward-thinking concepts result in a language that is easy and fun to use.

Learning XCode

If your looking for a great place to learn XCode programming, I highly recommend iOS 10 & Swift 3: From Beginner to Paid Professional over on udemy . In the class you'll learn all the fundamentals of making a cool application and submitting to Apple's app store. There are 264 lectures totaling 71+ hours of learning.

The class is normally $200 - Yikes! However, it's currently on sale for $10! That's an awesome deal. Cheaper than any Swift Book you'll find on Amazon or Barnes and Noble! You can run the training at your own pace!

Spend a few hours a night over a couple of weeks and you can easily get a return on your $10 investment - plus you'll have the opportunity to learn how to make cool apps.

This particular course has a "full lifetime access." This means you can start whenever you want. In addition, you can reference the material at a later date.

udemy Class
There are other classes on udemy, but this one constantly get's a really high rating from students who take the class.

Note: Let me know what you think of the class, or if there's one better. This isn't a paid affiliate link or reference. Just letting you know of a cool option to learn Xcode.

Getting Xcode

You can download Xcode from the App Store. Warning: It's a pretty big download - 4.51 GB. So make sure you have enough space and working on a fast internet. Some users have complained about getting the file.

April 27, 2017

William Dawes

Old North Church

William Dawes was one of many critical messengers on April 19, 1775. William Dawes, Paul Revere, and Percy were task by Joseph Warren to warn John Hancock and John Adams that the British were coming to arrest them.

Dr. Joseph Warren was one of the leaders of the revolutionary forces that stayed in Boston as the British started to increase their size.

Many people may know Paul Revere because of Longfellow poem:

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five:
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch
Of the North-Church-tower, as a signal-light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country-folk to be up and to arm."

The Poem was written in 1860 by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that commemorates the actions of American patriot Paul Revere on April 18, 1775, although with significant inaccuracies. It was first published in the January 1861 issue of The Atlantic Monthly. It was later retitled "The Landlord's Tale" in the collection Tales of a Wayside Inn.

Things I Learned about William Dawes

  • Born in Boston on April 6, 1745
  • Helped move artillery to Concord to be used as part of the Revolutionary War
  • Was very anti-British and refused to wear clothes made in Britain.
  • Member of the Sons of Liberty
  • William Dawes stole some British cannons and military equipment. He got injured at
  • Dr. Joseph Warren became aware of William Dawes commitment to the Independent cause when he had to treat William for the injury.
  • First person to be dispatched on the night of April 18, 1775.
  • One of the last people to leave Boston on foot before the British seized Boston.
  • Waited in Cambridge for his cue to warn others.
  • When the British were looking for the messengers, he Hid in Daniel Brown's house in Lincoln
  • Fought at The Battle of Bunker Hill
  • Died in Marlborough on February 25, 1799 (Paul Revere died on May 10, 1818)
  • Tablet was placed on the grave on April 20, 1899
  • A special Cross was placed on the grave during a small cerimony on April 19, 1929.
  • A painting of William Dawes is hanging in the Cary Memorial Library in Lexington.

There's a lot of great information on "William Dawes: The Forgotten Midnight Rider" over on HistoryofMassachusetts.com. It's certainly worth the read.

Still Remembered 200 Years Later

Despite being left out of Longfellow's poem, his name was mentioned at the 200th celebration on April 19. 1975. At a special 200th Anniversary ceremony at the Old North Church, President Ford mention him:

Remarks in Boston at the Old North Church Bicentennial Lantern Service. April 18. 1975

Ford 1975 Speech
Read the entire speech.

Only Mentioned Once

That was the only mention of William Dawes in a United State's president speech. Paul Revere's name has been mentioned in at least 20 speeches. Various Presidents from Benjamin Harrison in 1892 to Barack Obama in 2016 referenced Paul Revere's ride. Some of the speeches just referenced William Dawes and Samuel Prescott as his companions and not their name.

William Dawes Gravesite

Mystery of the William Dawes Grave at Kings Chapel

There is a gravestone in King Chapel graveyard with an inscription to William Dawes. However, he is actually believed to be buried in Forrest Hills Cemetery, 25 miles away. You can read up on all the research that one of the Descendants of William Dawes did to find the truth.

It's possible that there's nobody buried at William Dawes grave at the King Chapel graveyard.

The Ride of William Dawes

Over the years several people have written poems about William Davis, here's one that I found written by Mary J. Gladhill

The Ride of William Dawe

Listen, my children, for oft you will hear Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere But now, if you will but pause, You shall here the tale of William Dawes.

When the lights of the Old North Church flashed out Paul Revere was waiting about, But Dawes was already on his way To warn the farmers of the coming fray.

Through the still night down Washington street He rode on his steed, swift and fleet. Through Roxbury and Brighton rode he in huste. Swift as a courier in a chase.

Download the full William Dawes Poem.

April 26, 2017

Variables in Bash

Unix Header

Using variables in Bash is easy to learn if you're familiar with PHP programming.

Four Simple tips when using variables in Bash

  1. Keep it simple
  2. Use variable parameters to expand the script capabilities
  3. Watch for extra spacing when using the command expansion ${
  4. When using characters as values make sure to use double quotes.

Learn by Example

One of the first Web programming books that I found useful was "Perl by Example." It's a great book to learn various Perl functionality. ( I still have the book!)

I got one of the early editions which was a much smaller book and a lot easier to understand

So here are some Variable examples in BASH:

Simple HelloWorld.sh Example

Basics of assigning a text value to a BASH variable:

#!/bin/bash 
STR="Hello World!" 
echo $STR 

BASH script with Variable Parameters

You can pass additional parameters to you BASH script at run time:

#!/bin/sh
#
# Echo a couple of script input values
# usage:
#    name   
#
# The result will be an echo of the first and last
if [ $# != 3 ]; then
 echo "usage: name.sh first middle last"
 exit 0
fi
FIRST="$1"
MIDDLE="$2"
LAST="$3"

echo $FIRST . " " . $LAST

Execute Command Lines via BASH variables

You can assign the results of an command line to a BASH variable

#!/bin/bash
# Get the last day of March
lastday=$(date -v+3w -v1d -v+1m -v-1d +"%B %e, %Y")
echo $lastday

Simple Math in Bash

#!/bin/bash
num1=2017
num2=1975
total=$(($num1 - $num2))
echo "Did you know 1975 was $total years ago!"

Miscellaneous Notes

In Bash $$ is the process ID, as noted in the comments it is not safe to use as a temp filename for a variety of reasons.

April 25, 2017

Udi’s Gluten Free

When it comes to bread there are a couple of major companies, Udi?s Gluten Free and Schär.

Udis Gluten Free

Best Hamburger Roll

If you're looking for the best gluten-free hamburger rolls, try Udi?s Gluten Free. We have tried all sorts of different brands and found Udi?s Gluten Free are the best tasting rolls.

Best Sandwich Bread

When it comes to sandwich bread, Schär is better tasting. Udi's bread is good if you toast it. Overall, we prefer Schär as it taste close to regular bread than anything we tried.

My daughter is picky when it comes to sandwich bread, and really likes the Schär bread. We have found that other bread types will have large holes in some slices. But the Schär is perfect with every slice.

Limited Availability

Both Udi?s Gluten Free Hamburger rolls and Schar bread are hard to find. Evidently, the word is out that these are the best bread to get. Our local Stop & Shop does carry it.

We usually end up going to Wegmans in Northborough and stock up on our supplies.

Udi?s Gluten Free Hamburger rolls is located in the freezer section. The Schar bread is in the Gluten free aisle.

What do you think?

What is the best hamburger roll? Let me know if there are any other brands that are worth checking out!

April 22, 2017

Swimming Pool Debate

We have an above ground pool that is at least 10 years old. We don't know how old it is as it came with the house when we purchased it.

Neighbors have told us the previous owner got it used from somebody else.

A couple of years ago a tree branch fell into the pool which ripped the liner. Last year was unable to get the pool into great shape. Part of the issue was not replacing the sand in the sand filter.

Currently the pool has some leaves, in addition, the bottom of the pool is slippy. The color is between dark brown and black.

Ugly Pool

We have to take some action as the pool is unusable and simply running the sand filter isn't going to help.

We have been thinking of a few options this year:

  • Replace the liner
  • Replace the liner and pool walls
  • In ground pool.

Replace the Liner

We can simply replace the liner and put in nice clean water.

  • Cheapest option cost about $800 for the liner, Installation and new water
  • New liner and clean water means we'll have a easier start to the pool season.
  • Can be done fairly quickly.
  • Doesnt really present a viable long term solution.
  • What if the liner get rip again?
  • What if the walls dont hold up correctly when the liner is placed in?

Replace the Liner and the Pool Walls

The walls around the pool are old and we're not sure how long they will last. Should we just replace the pool, and not the pump/filter?

  • Moderately expensive $7,000.
  • New pool walls will brighten up the backyard.
  • New technology, may last longer.
  • Pool walls are better at keeping the bugs away by not having holes between posts.
  • Have to figure out what to do with the old pool walls.
  • New pools that we looked at have limited liner designs.
  • May need a new town pool permit.

In-ground pool

What if we go all in and replace the above ground pool with an in ground pool.

  • Certainly the most expensive option. ~ $25,000
  • May add value to the house. However, in New England, not every home buyer wants a pool.
  • Long term solution. High cost now but may pay off in the long run.
  • There might be an issue with getting it installed for this season (Schedule issues)
  • Will need to get a building permit from the town to install and be subject to the latest regulations.
  • Due to the slope of the backyard, additional landscaping may need to be done to properly level an in-ground pool.

Where we stand

As of now, we are considering just replacing the liner. This is the cheapest and best option for this year.

We did learn that there's a new concept of putting an above ground pool partly in-ground. Not exactly sure why someone would do that, I suspect the cost would be marginally cheaper than just installing an in-ground pool.

Looking forward to Better Pool Days

Better Pool

April 21, 2017

Resize Image via LaunchBar

Whenever I email a picture that I have on my desktop I like to resize it. There's no reason to email a 4,032 x 3,024 picture.

Previously Task

In the past, I would open up the photo in a photo utility, such as Picturesque, downsize the image and save it.

Way too time consuming.

LaunchBar the Better way

LaunchBar has several resize options, 33%, 50%, 66%, 75%.

Resize Image

Simple steps to resize images in Launcher

  • Drag the image you want to resize to the LaunchBar Dock icon.
  • Type in ?Resize?
  • Pick the one that works best for you.

Example, a typical iPhone picture is 4032 x 3024 (1.8 MB). Reduced to 33% will yield it to 1344 x 1008 (229 KB) which is reasonable enough to send in an email.

This is just a quick way to resize an image without having to open up an app.

April 20, 2017

Quincy, Josiah Statue

At the Old City Hall are two statues, Benjamin Franklin and Josiah Quincy. Two icons that help guide this country to the prosperity that we have today.

This post is all about the Josiah Quincy statue.

Josiah Quincy2

Things I learned about the Josiah Quincy III statue

  • Bronze Statue on Quincy Granite
  • The total height of the statue was to not exceed 18 feet.
  • The statue was dedicated on October 11, 1879 (Benjamin Franklin dedication was on October 11, 1856)
  • The statue was put up after the George Washington in the Boston Public Gardens. (1869)
  • Paid by Jonathan Phillips in his will - $20,000
  • Actual cost of the Statue was $14,00 ($379,618.32 in 2016)
  • The front tablet cost $125 ($3,389.45 in 20165)
  • Statue was made by Thomas Ball
  • Jonathan Phillips also funded the Benjamin Franklin staute in front of Faneuil Hall
  • Jonathan Phillips was also a Lieutenant-Governor of Massachusetts

Interesting Facts about Josiah Quincy III

  • Son of Josiah Quincy II, a distance relative of John Quincy Adams
  • Born on February 4, 1772
  • Died on July 1, 1864 in Quincy, Massachusetts. (City is not named after him.)
  • Founding member of the American Antiquian Society.
  • He opposed allowing Louisiana be admitted as a State.
  • The second mayor of Boston.
  • Quincy Market opened when he was the Mayor of Boston and it's named after him.

Front Tablet Statue

Quincy Front

Side Tablet Statue

Quincy Side

Note that there are a couple of blank sides which were intentionally left empty.

Finding the Statue

The statue is located on the front right side of the Old City Hall. Old City Hall is located at 45 School St in Boston, MA.

April 19, 2017

Printable view of Man pages

The manual for many Unix commands are available via the 'man' functionality.

Unix Header

For example, If I want to find out information about the Date functionality, I simply type in:

man date

Useful information, but this a Macintosh and we can do better. There has to be a better way to view the man page.

View like its 2017

The problem with this way is that you only see a screen size view of the document. To go to the next page, you simply type in the spacebar.

This is 2017, there's no reason to view man pages like this anymore.

Plaintext file View

To get a plain text version of a man page, without backspaces and underscores, try

man calendar | col -b > cal.txt
Now you can view this plain text file in your favorite text editor. You can also view this in Chrome simply by drag and drop file the icon to Chrome or Safari.

Open in a different terminal window

Mac OS comes with a built-in Man viewer that might be useful. Simply type this command

open x-man-page://ls

You get a yellow reference guide. This is nice to have so that you can display the info side-by-side your working terminal:

xmanopen2

BBEdit view

If BBEdit is your favorite editor, simply send a plain text man page directly to BBEdit

man man | col -b | bbedit

bbeditman

Update your .bashrc

Here's a suggested code snippet to add to your bash profile:

function mman() { man $@ | col -b | bbedit; }

So the next time you need to view a man page type in:

mman perl

Then you can search using BBEdit for the feature you are looking for.