New Car – Hyundai Kona

New Car – Hyundai Kona

For a while we’ve known it was getting close to time to pick up a new second vehicle. We have a large SUV, Chevrolet Traverse, which is an eight seater and our main family vehicle when we go anywhere all together. It is an all wheel drive and we use it most of the winter because of that.

We’ve been driving a Hyundai Elantra as our second vehicle for when there is just some of going. It isn’t the best in the winter though so if the roads are bad we generally don’t take it anywhere.

With Alex moving out we’ve been driving her and Ezra where ever they need to go so we thought it made sense to get something new that is smaller and easier on gas, but also all wheel drive and will do well in winter. We can then pass on the Elantra to Alex so we can be less of a taxi service 🙂

We did a lot of research and test drove a number of things. We were looking in the sub compact SUV kind class. At first I wanted to stay away from Hyundai but when I got thinking about it I’ve owned a number of them over the years and they’ve all treated us pretty well. Combine that with the deals they had on at the time, the good reviews of the Kona, the warranty, and how well it handled when we were out on the test drive, it won out.

It got me looking back a bit at the other Hyundais we’ve had. It started out way back with a 1987 Hyundai Excel. This was the family car I learned to drive on. We drove that thing so that they odometer read about 300,000 KM. It stopped working at some point though so we don’t really know how much was on it.

Next the first brand new car I ever bought myself was a Hyundai Accent in 2002. I’m really hoping that this new one doesn’t meet the same fate that one though. About three months after buying it found its final resting spot.

When Alex was getting her license and learning to drive our second vehicle was a Honda Civic which was a manual and getting pretty old. We figured an automatic was the best thing for her. We took over the 2008 Hyundai Elantra from my Parents-in-law as they were downgrading to one vehicle only, which happens to be a newer Elantra. We’ve been driving it ever since and treating us really well. Though it had its share of trouble in the past

It was all fixed up though and Noah recently learned how to change a tire on it.

We’ve already given the new Kona a pretty good workout. Had it out in some pretty messy weather, and found out it can hold easily hold twelve large pizzas in the trunk.

We opted for the Trend trim package because it came in this blue that Jen really wanted. It has lots of good features, and the 1.6L Turbo engine which makes it really fun to drive. Things like the heated seats, and steering wheel are both things I never thought I’d need, but going on in this cold weather, I really enjoy them. My favourite thing is when needing to pass someone on the highway, the turbo makes it pretty easy and fun.

New Mini Basketball Hoop

New Mini Basketball Hoop

With Alex moving out we’ve helped out with some of the furnishings for the house. One of the things was a smaller 32″ TV. When we built the house we had to inset outlets added to the walls where we intended to mount TVs. One in the then play room, and one in the then Alex’s bedroom. Since then the play room has turned into family / video game room. Noah and Alex ended up switching rooms and I don’t think his TV has been on more than twice since then.

The TV in the family room still gets lots of use, but with his not being used we figured it would be good to give to Alex. The only problem is this leaves the big inset hole in the wall and the wall mount which would leave big holes if removed from the bolts holding it up.

We talked about covering it over with a poster, or something similar but I came up with a different plan. I figured I could build a frame or cover that could get mounted to the TV mount and use it to put a mini hoop on the wall for him. That would certainly get more use than the TV.

He already had one in his room, but it is old, it sits pretty low, and it is busted up pretty good, but he still uses it a lot. It also has to hang on his closet door which is a bit awkward.

Not long ago my Father In Law got a new bed as the old one was not great, but we decided to keep the wooden slats that the mattress sat on. They were in good shape and should work perfect for this. So I did some measurements to figure out how big it would need to be to cover the hole / TV mount, and end up being about the same height from the ceiling as a door frame.

I’m lacking a bit in the tool department and only have a hand saw, but I measured out all the pieces I’d need and marked them and took them over to a friends who graciously let me use their saw to cut them all. I came home and put them together and it turned out pretty well I think.

To go with it we ordered him a new really good quality hoop to sit there. Check out the promo video for it.

The hoop arrived today and I think it looks pretty good. Excited to see what he thinks when he gets home from school.

Alex's and Ezra's Home

Alex's and Ezra's Home

On October 29th I became a Grandfather! My oldest Alex gave birth to a beautiful boy Ezra. When I first found out the news that our family was going to be growing it took me a while to come around as I know first hand how hard it is to be a young parent. Selfishly I also felt I was way to young to become a Grandfather. Once again, sorry Mom for having put you through the same thing. Things are going great and I love having a Grandson to snuggle with.

Alex has been living with us but we knew that wasn’t the best long term option. They would need a place of their own. Early on we found a place that was a good deal, was safe and close, and move in ready. We jumped on it. There wasn’t a hurry though as we wanted them to stay with us at least for a while to help out during the early days and help get a good routine and make sure everyone was doing well. Since we had time it was decided we would do some painting and repair work to make things even nicer and feel more like home.

Doing this type of work is not my strong suit. I have painted some, but am not great at it, and I’ve never done repairs like the crack fill and caulking that would be needed if we were going to do things right. The original plan was to do just the two main bedrooms, main bath, and leave the rest. However once those rooms were getting close to completion we decided to add in the kitchen and living room / hallway.

For most people it likely wouldn’t have been a big job, but for me it was. As we started getting closer to move in date the pressure was on to get things finished. I felt like for a while I was spending more time there than at home. I would put in my work day and then head over there to get to work. Thank goodness for the help of my Mother again. She came and did so much, I don’t think it would have gotten down with out her. Not only did she do a lot, she also taught me how to do things well. Together we managed to get things done. The quality of the work I know isn’t up to her standards, and there were parts I wish were better, but they are certainly good enough, and better than they were.

Things have been different in our house for the last week now that they have moved out and I’m missing being able to go pick him up when ever pretty much when ever I want. But they are doing well and settling into their new home and routine and I know I’ll still get to see them lots.

I didn’t do a great job of documenting the work as it was happening, but I figured I’d share some pictures to give an idea of what things looked like, before, during, and after the work we did was done. The before pictures are from the previous owners.

Bedroom 1

Bedroom 2

Bathroom

Living Room

Kitchen

Fitness update

Fitness update

Back near the beginning of August I wrote about my fitness and plans to get back into a good routine and health. Today I hit a couple milestones so I thought I would give a quick update.

My main goals were to keep my physical activities varied and not only doing one thing. For both biking and running I set some minor goals for myself.

With biking my goal was to be able to make it from the bottom of our hill to the top without stopping. On September 1st I completed that though very slowly.

Since then I haven’t done a lot of biking as I’ve been concentrating on my running. My goal was to be able to run the Valley Harvest Marathon 5K race in under 30 minutes. When I started running again in August it seemed like a long ways away. That race was this morning and I did it.

Another fun milestone that came today was when I jumped on the scale I am now down 30lbs since April of this year. That is when I started but had a few big up and downs before I finally really buckled down in August.

There is still more work to go but I’m finally feeling like I’m back in a good routine with both my eating and activity levels.

Kentville Pumpkin People 2019

Our town has a fun tradition for the month of October. We have the Pumpkin People pop up all over. Each year is a different theme, but I really like this years especially. It is Toon Town, showcasing a bunch of classic cartoons.

This morning we got up and went apple picking again with family and friends and then everyone came back to our place to test out the BBQ on our new deck. Then we went out around town to check out the different displays.

Learning React

Since my last update about my #photo-album-project I’ve been busy gathering up learning resources and have started in on some learning.

A lot of the resources I’ve found are online. I’ve been scanning and bookmarking articles on MongoDB, Node.js, creating APIs and other things. A site I hadn’t come across before this is FreeCodeCamp. They seem to have a great mix of articles about all kinds of different topics. I have a number from here bookmarked to come back to.

Besides online, I also ordered a book for further down the learning road called iOS Apprentice from raywenderlich.com. It was recommended by my esteemed colleague Aaron Douglas.

For my first task I’ve decided to learn is React. I found a great course on udemy.com called Modern React with Redux. I’m about a third of the way through the course, it has over 40 hours of video lecture and activities. I’m to a point now where I could likely get started building the React part of my project, but I want to finish the course. Currently I’m at the point where I’m learning about Redux. It is just early on, but it is a bit of a struggle to wrap my mind around it so far. I could build my app without it pretty easy, but it is a common way to build complex React applications so I want to get a good sense of how it works and will likely end up using it even though it may be overkill.

The structure of this course really works for me. The instructor, Stephen Grider, does a really good job explaining what is happening and for me the right level of how things are working and why to use it, mixed with examples and activities to build little applications.

So fat things have felt pretty straight forward and I’ve been able to go through the lectures and activities with the playback speed at 1.5x, but moving into Redux, I’ve had to slow down and go back and re-watch some sections. I feel like it is starting to come together, and I think I as I go on in the course it will be even better.

Even though I’ve mostly been typing out exactly the code I’m shown in the course, it has been fun to code a bit and see the results show up on my screen. I’m excited to keep going.

Starting a new project

In the spirit of never stop learning I want to start a new project. It has been a long time since I learned anything new related to programming and I’ve been wanting to dust of the rust and build something for a while.

Background

It seems like every time I go to learn a new programming language I use our families private online photo album as my thing to redo. Over the years it has gone through a number of iterations. Each version in a new language went through a few versions before scrapping the old and re-writing it in a new language.

It started out as a Classic ASP script that was pretty easy to use. You would create a folder and dump images into it and it would render a simple gallery to look through them.

From there it went to a Flash version where it used XML files to store information about the images and then display them in a flash format. This is really where the organization started coming in. We created collections of albums which were usually simply a month, but not always, so something like “September 2019”. Inside that collection there could be a number of Albums. Examples of these would be “Noahs Birthday”, or “Back to School”. Then each album would contain images which had a couple fields of information like a title and note you could add to each one. This structure has carried over.

The next version was to move to PHP with a MySql database to store information about everything. This one stuck around for quite a while but re-written a few times and had new features added to it. So lots of iterations. This was one of the tricker ones to get sorted out because I had to write an importer to parse the XML files and insert them into the database.

One mistake I made here as well was to store all the images into one directory. I really liked the idea of the first one where things were organized by folders so that if I just wanted to browser through them the folders had meaning and I could go through them just on the file system. So if I backed everything up and didn’t have a web server to view things on I could still see and have some understanding of when and what the images were from. So in one of the PHP versions I corrected this and wrote a script to go through and create folders based on the Collection and Album names and move all the images into them.

The last iteration which has somehow hung around and kept working for more years than I intended was written in Node.js. It is pretty rough and I kept the MySql database to store everything in. The code for this is not ideal but it is working.

Besides learning some about Node.js I also added some new features which have been useful. I set things up so that when uploading they were automatically stored in shared Dropbox folder so things are automatically backed up there and in the folder structure I mentioned before so they can easily be viewed with out the app. The other fun addition was the automatic creation of different image sizes in a separate folder and sort of a cache. When an album is viewed it checks each image to see if there is a thumbnail version in the cache folder to show and if not it generates one and saves it. It does the same for a more medium size view of the image while keeping the high resolution original to have access to. The last thing was a rudimentary search function where it can search the title and comment fields and show all images that have the term you searched for in an exact word search.

Project outline

For this project it kind of exploded in scope really quickly when I started thinking about it. The first thought was that I wanted to learn to create an iOS app and figured the photo album would be a great way to do it. I figure the best way to do that would be to have an API for the photo album that the app could talk back and forth to.

The current version doesn’t have an API and needs a refresh anyway so I decided I’d start there and re-write it still in Node.js but with a bit better understanding of how it works now and have it be API driven as well. I’ve never created anything API driven before and so it introduces some challenges. One of them being how to secure things properly.

Another thing that has been on my list for a while is to learn React, so why not use it in the re-write. I’ve been using MySql for a long time and I have a good understanding of it, but I was never happy with the database code in the current photo album and so I’ve decided to look at a NoSql database like MongoDB. With that it led me to find Mongoose as well. I’ll have to create a migration script as well to move things from MySql to MongoDB.

This is going to be a pretty big undertaking and I have no illusions about how long it will likely take. Right now I’m still in the information gathering stage and gathering learning resources. I’m going to start with creating the API and then build the web version to interact with it. I’ll start with a blank database and then migrate over the existing data. Once that is all working well I’ll move on to creating the iOS app. Likely in parallel I’ll spend some time learning about iOS development and going through some tutorials.

I’m not going to set a deadline for myself as life is really busy but it will be a slow road. I plan to blog about the progress and start a GitHub Repo to store things in as I go. If you want to follow along I’ll be using the tag #project-photo-album

Happy 10th birthday Noah

Happy 10th birthday Noah

Today may youngest child turns 10 years old. That makes me feel both old and happy. I’m so proud of all my kids and the people they are growing into.

I’m sure this won’t last many more years but for now he is one of my best friends. Soon he’ll get too old and not want anything to do with his old dad. So for now I’ll take all the time I can to be with and play with him.

His sense of humour, his kindness, his confidence, and his determination, all things that can inspire me to be a better person and father for him.

Jen wrote a great post earlier as well which says things better than I do.

I was so glad the Grand Meetup didn’t overlap with his birthday this year so we could be here to celebrate with him. Thankfully the one year I was away from him on it my co-workers helped me wish him a birthday wishes.

I gathered a few pictures of Noah and I together over the years and saved them to this Google Photo Album if you want to check out how cute he is https://photos.app.goo.gl/adCDEZKT7cdbDWSc8

Lonely Working Distributed

Recently I wrote about having connections with my distributed team. Part of that was because people have assumed it must be lonely working from home without seeing people. It’s been rare that I’ve ever felt this way much because of my team but also because I have a great network of family and friends I can do things with and have conversations with outside of work.

Listening yesterday to the Distributed podcast episode with Leo Widrich, they talked some about loneliness. His recommendation was basically what I have, strong work relationships and a good support network at home. Overall the episode was really good and has given me more to think about.

Leo talked about dealing with stresses and how they build up over time. We all have ways to deal with it through auto-regulation like my go to: eating. Instead we need to deal with it through self-regulation. Having a partner or group you can talk with can help the process. This is something I need to look into more and do a better job at dealing instead of distracting myself or eating.

Lately I’ve been going through some stresses again and need to work through them, but also be a better partner for those involved in these with me and be sure I’m there to hear them and help them.

Each of these Distributed podcast episodes have been good so far, but this one has been my favourite and given me things to learn more on. I recommend giving it a listen.

Distributed Team

Recently I was telling someone about my job for the first time. We were talking about how we communicate and how there is almost always someone else online working no matter when you are. They said something along the lines of that it must be like talking to some random stranger.

While that’s true some of the time thankfully because Automattic hires great people there is never a worry involved if I have to message someone I’ve never spoken to before. I’ve yet to have someone be unapproachable or find it hard to talk with them. This isn’t something unique to a distributed work environment either. We have close to 1000 employees, even if we were all in the same office building I wouldn’t know everyone.

There are also many people at the company who I know well and have built good relationships with. These are typically the people I work directly with, and especially my team, or those who have been on my team at some point. With them especially it doesn’t feel much different than people I’ve worked with side by side.

Partially this is because we do get to spend time together in person each year, but also because we talk regularly in our day to day work. Each year we have a team specific meet up where we all travel to one location and work together for almost a week. Then each year there is also the company wide meetup where we have time to spend together as a team as well. The next one is coming up very soon and I can’t wait to see my team again.

While we don’t get to do things the same as people who work in a office together, it isn’t that different, we just have to find different ways to do it. We don’t eat cake together in the break room for everyones birthday, but we do regularly celebrate each others milestone moments in life.

Recently a team member became a Grand Parent for the first time and we got to be there with them and see pictures almost instantly. I’m about to become a Grand Parent for the first time myself and we’ll get to go down this path together and support each other. It took me a while to come to terms that I was really going to have a Grand child and she already helped me come around and see the blessing it will be.

As I’ve written about I’m working on getting back into shape and I share my milestones in that with my team as well. They cheer me on, motivate me, and even push me to keep going and do better. One team member when it had been a couple days since I’d ran went on a run themselves and shared it pushing me to go too. We’re doing it together even though we’re far apart.

Learning to play tennis and I’ve had team members who play giving me tips, and are challenging me to matches if we can make it work when we are together soon.

One of the hard times is when a team member is having a hard time. You badly want to be there for them, close to help, and it is harder being far apart. Thankfully it’s easier than ever to arrange deliveries or ship things to people. Even if it is just a distraction from what is going on in their lives.

Even being distributed I consider my team friends and I’m so glad to be able to work with them. Very much looking forward to getting some in person time again soon.