All posts by tim

Bedtime

Tonight’s bedtime was classic Stella. She took a shower, decide to read “Henry Huggins” by Beverly Cleary (even though she seems completely uninterested in it) and then we started our routine. She has to go pee right after she goes to bed. Then I tuck her in, and change out her binky. She almost immediately calls me back for water. Then she yells that she has to go potty. We yell back, “Go potty, already. We’re not restraining you ankle chains!” This time she’ll go again. I have no clue how she manages to go to the bathroom twice in rapid succession, but she does. Then we go back, change out her binky and tuck her in. 2 minutes later she’ll be screaming for more water, chaning out her binky, and tucking in again. At this point she’s used her allotted trips for the night (she has 2 trips to the potty, and two unrelated trips in from dad).

Tonight as I was tucking her in the last time I said:

“Now Stella, this is the last time I’m coming in.”

To which she replied:

“Yeah, I really need to get some sleep.”

‘Cause I’m the one keeping her awake…

Stimulus Watch

This is a pretty cool project – http://www.stimuluswatch.org/. You can vote on what you think should be stimulus priorities. So here goes with mine:

Boardwalk on Lady Bird Lake – so important. If you don’t think so try heading East from South Congress on the hike and bike trail. Then try not to get hit by a car as you walk through the lovely Austin American Statesman parking lot. Also enjoy the exhaust as you go over IH-35. Mmmmm…. tasty.

Waller Creek Tunnel Project – not as critical to me, but it would be nice to not have a river of basically sewage running through the middle of downtown Austin. I’m not as passionate about having a river walk as I am about having a nice way to get from the middle of downtown to the hike and bike trail easily. I always feel weird running through the middle of downtown in my running clothes.

Burnet Road Sidewalk Project – I am passionate about sidewalks. Because I really want them to be there when I need them.

East 7th Street upgrades – This is one of the main entryways to East Austin. Having spent a lot of time at the Off Center I can tell you that there are a lot of accidents and problems on this road. I believe this is also where we’ve had a number of child fatalities crossing the road. This is near a grocery store too, so we’re talking about sidewalks that get used.

North Lamar Sidewalk Project – I’m still passionate about sidewalks. This is also a low income area served by one of the most useful buses in Austin. The ADA accessibility is a must. I have trouble on a lot of these sidewalks in town with a jogging stroller. I don’t want to think about it with a wheelchair.

South 1st Street Side Walks – People actually walk on this street. A lot. Why don’t we have awesome sidewalks…?

Roy Guerrero Colorado River Park – This is in my neighborhood so I’m biased, but it does essentially extend the hike and bike trail to 183. And it’s just a beautiful park. I highly recommend it. We saw deer last time we were there. I can’t wait for the trail to be finished. While I like Town Lake, the natural beauty of the Colorado River is truly stunning.

Bowie Street Bicycle and Pedestrian Tunnel – Again, I highly believe that people don’t walk when they can’t get places. Build them tunnels and they will use them. I believe this is part of the Waller Creek plan.

William Cannon Sidewalk from Pleasant Valley to IH-36 Again, lots of poorer people. Multiple traffic fatalities. This is just a no brainer. The fact that you can’t walk from your house to the grocery store in the area is just ridiculous.

Brodie Lane Sidewalks from Travis County Line to Slaughter – I believe in sidewalks, what can I say. This just makes sense as Brodie has become like the Lamar of Far South Austin.

Lamar Street Bridge Lighting – I’m trying to figure out why people would vote against lighting the Lamar Street Bridge. This is really important for pedestrians in the winter months and when it’s foggy over the river.

AISD – Provide Access to Broadband to Low Income Students – As someone who makes a lot of money due to the fact that my parents had a computer and modem when I was very young, I strongly support efforts to get low income students access to technology.

Cap Metro – More Buses – I cannot argue with Cap Metro having more buses. More buses mean more trips. More trips mean more convenience. More convenience means more people using the bus.

Cap Metro – Rails and Trails – Add hike and bike trails along the red line. I think this is one of the best ideas I’ve seen in a long time. Even though I may disagree with how useful the red line is, having a hike and bike trail that cuts through Austin in this manner is a great idea. It would make riding your bike into town from Leander feasible and safe. It would make it trivial to walk from a restaurant downtown to see a show at the Off Center.

Cap Metro Signage Project – This is extremely important. The idea is to create a unique ID for each bus stop in Austin. You could then call a number to find out schedule times based on the exact stop you’re at. You’d memorize your home stop number and you’d never be lost again. This will improve service and make it easier to ride CapMetro.

So tell me, what would your priorities be? Which of mine do you think are silly?

Awesome Electrician

We needed a few electrical projects done around the house. The fan in the babies room was not particularly stable, and we want to put a ceiling fan in our living room, so we started asking around for recommendations. My boss gave me one he’d used that was an offshoot of a local lawn care company. I had them come out to do an estimate. The guy spent probably twenty minutes with me, and a week later we still haven’t gotten a written estimate or a phone call.

So we ended up calling two other electricians we were recommended. On Ashley’s recommendation we ended up going with Lyon’s Electric. They came out this morning. They were great. Three guys come out for an hourly rate. It’s obvious they work together all the time and that these weren’t just some flakey guys the master electrician had picked up to work for the day.

They did a great job doing all the projects at the same time. They put down mats to protect the floor. And they were done in an hour. I felt really bad we didn’t have more projects. We’d scaled down our expectations because we thought they’d be really expensive.

We’re definitely going to be calling them again.

Values

Bill O’Reilly:

“I didn’t like the bit [in President Obama’s speech] about having to sacrifice our values to protect ourselves because sometimes we have to”

Sort of like how Republicans are against murdering innocent gran’babbies, except in cases where their daughters get knocked up and their political careers are on the line. The Republicans party folks.

Riverside HEB

So, there has long been talk about making the Riverside HEB into an HEB-Plus. My previous encounter with this sort of HEB was the Slaughter and Manchaca location. They basically took an HEB about the size of the Riverside store and added a little bit of space on it so they could fill it with Walmart style cheap stuff. I wasn’t really looking forward to the remodel until I met to pickup Stella from her grandparents at the Leander HEB-Plus a few weekends ago. It is visually appealing. It has a nice cafe. It does not look like a Walmart crammed into an HEB. So I was excited about getting an HEB-Plus at Riverside again. Julie says she won’t be visiting, but they’re building a bike path under Riverside so I’ll probably head out there once that’s done (and I finally purchase a helmet).

Then this week we drove by on the way to some theatre and noticed the Burger King is gone. My conversations about the HEB upgrade used to go like this:

Me: They’re going to upgrade the HEB at Riverside to an HEB-Plus.

Them: Where are they going to put it.

Me: They’re going to take over the parking lot behind the store.

Them: There’s a Burger King there.

And they always said it with finality. Like the fact there was a Burger King there meant that there could never be any change. Ever. So the Burger King is gone. And they have tons of construction permits and HR posters all over the place. It looks like they’re finally building it.

Here’s hoping for one of the nice stores. Coupled with light rail that HEB could probably become the HEB for central austinites who can’t afford Whole Foods. Does anyone else have any hope that they’ll build a nice store there?

Netflix Watch Now on Linux

So I got Netflix Watch Now working on my Playstation 3, and I thought, why wouldn’t this work on Linux? So I started monkeying around and got it working. It’s not great, but it works. I see no reason this wouldn’t work on MacOSX either.

First you’ll need to download and install the Play On! Media Server on a windows machine. It costs $30, but has a free trial so you can figure out if it’s worth it for you. You still need a windows machine, you just don’t have to watch movies on it. Once it’s installed and working download djmount and install it using your system appropriate method. In my case:

./configure --prefix=/usr
make
sudo make install

Once it’s installed you can run djmount to mount your playon server in a directory:

mkdir ~/upnp
djmount ~/upnp

If you cd into the directory you should see your PlayOn server and you can navigate down the tree to your Netflix Watch Instantly queue. To watch a movie, try:

mplayer -ao none -vo sdl -nobps -ni -forceidx -mc 0 -cache 8192 -playlist myMovieName.m3u

That’s it. mplayer likes to bomb out if you try to fast forward past the end of your queue. There might be a player that’s happier with these streams, but I haven’t found it. Totem works, but seems to have too small of a buffer and so buffers constantly for me.

Sorry for all of you non-linux types reading this blog. We’ll get back to non-technology randomness at a later date.

3-D Ultrasounds

So this post over at Daddy Types got me thinking about how 3D ultra sounds will eventually make the static fuzz of current ultra-sounds seem as prehistoric as taking x-rays and using special rulers to determine the size of in-utero fetuses.

From what I can tell 3-D ultrasounds are just an algorithm. The ultrasound machine just takes pictures at many different depths and angles. Have an algorithm to tell what the “outside” of the baby is, and stitch together a 3D image from all those pictures. Here’s an illustration of how it works:

The hard part is knowing what is the skin and what is, say placenta, and then just rendering all those “skin” points. The theory is a lot easier than the actual implementation I’m sure. But I think that in the future we’ll go in for an ultrasound and it will look like the clear plates in an encyclopedia. The ones with a plate for skin, then muscles, a plate for nerves, and one for the vascular system, and finally the skeleton. I think once the algorithms advance we’ll see all that, in 3D. We’ll have to explain to our kids how we used to go into the doctor and it was like a Rorschach test to figure out where your baby was in the snow.

Note: I will return to the Lego Advent Calendar. I really need a quick point and shoot camera that hooks into my computer for blog pictures. Anyone know where I can find a cheap memory stick/camera?

Lego Advent Calendar

My lovely sisters bought me a Lego Advent Calendar. It has an awesome city scene inside with some beautiful architecture. You get a small set each day, so I was really looking forward to it.

Day 1: We opened the first day and out popped a little man. Hmm… with a chicken leg. Is this Thanksgiving themed?

Day 2: This one took a bit of figuring out, as its shape is not readily apparent. Gas grill!

Day 3: Nice little sidebar for the grill. You’ve got your beer mug and a frying pan.

Day 4: Our first guest arrives. She’s a bit trashy looking though. What’s with the perpetual wink and the ice cream cone that’s larger than her head.

Day 5: The beer cooler arrives with portable umbrella. The party has really started!

I’m waiting for around Day 18 when the police and fire department show up after Virgil’s lighter fluid experimentation gets out of hand.

Proposed East Riverside Corridor Plan

It\’s available now. You can read their presentation.Lot\’s of nice pictures. Most of what I\’m seeing is really good. The anti-light rail people at Country Club Creek Trail seem like they didn\’t sway the opinions much. It\’s still one of the top priorities. I attended a meeting where there was talk about how light rail would bring in an undesirable element. Unless they\’re referring to rich yuppies I don\’t see what they\’re concerned about. If the element they\’re referring to is the element I think they\’re referring to, they\’d be better off rerouting the #7 away from Riverside drive.

Country Club Creek Trail is still a major part of the plan which is great. Once they get the trail under Riverside setup they\’ll have a great arterial for getting bike traffic from areas south of Oltorf into the commercial zones at Riverside and Pleasant Valley.

Modern architecture fares worse than traditional which is probably attributed to the fact that the participants were quite a bit older than the average Austinite.

The graph explaining what income groups people think should be represented is fascinating and representative of Austin in general I think:

I\’m glad the desire is there to keep the mix, and hopefully they\’ll be able to do so. But I hope no one\’s under the illusion that as many poor families will be housed there in the future. I honestly think that the mix of Moderate and High income is wishful thinking and that the High Income Only is more than likely where this is going. Lakefront property in Austin next to a light rail line is not going to be cheap.

I think one of the big issues we see time and time again is a wishful thinking on the part of advocates for the poor and middle income. We saw this with Mueller. There was this expectation that it really wouldn\’t be that popular. That rich people really wouldn\’t want to live in East Austin so it wouldn\’t be a big deal for low and middle income housing. I think we should be planning that anyone who makes less than $75k/year is not going to be able to find housing within a 10 minute walk of the Riverside corridor within ten years time. Setup our affordable housing plans with that in mind. I think this is going to move faster than anyone thinks. Those east riverside commercial slumlords have been holding onto their property specifically waiting for the transformation to start. They\’re going to sell the minute things look good. And the first half-mile looks like it will be transformed within a couple of years. If you like the Baby A\’s on riverside you might want to drink up.

If the light rail plan actually goes through, even Canyon Oaks might get a fresh can of paint and a couple hundred dollar hike in rent.

That said, I think the plan looks great. Now I can\’t wait for them to zone Oltorf for mixed use and start getting rid of all the ugly strip malls.

On an only lightly related note I found this great resource on a CapMetro blog today. It shows you every bus stop on a bus route, so you don\’t have to guess where the bus goes. It would be better if they interfaced with Google Street View, but still very nice.