Friday, September 30, 2016

A Couple of Micro Fishing Adventures

While waiting for a sore tendon to heal I've found myself with a fresh opportunity: what to do while I'm usually out running? Earlier this week, and tonight, I decided I'd head down to the Potomac river and do a bit of fishing. I've got less than an hour of time to play with, so I really consider this more of a scouting mission for when my Dad visits, our nieces and nephews are in town, or when my brother and I just want to play hooky. I figure any intel I can collect will be handy for a bigger adventure.

Between my lack of skill and time, I know I need to hit the water with a super simple setup. For now this consists of a Dock Daemon rod & reel, a ziplock bag with a few small floats, a cheap nail clipper used to trim line, and a panfish magnet kit. The 'kit' is a collection of 8 different colored tiny plastic thingamjigs and tiny hooks to hold said thingmajigs. Hey, Amazon gave them good reviews so I figured why not. I like that I can change up a number of variables (fishing depth, color) to see what does and doesn't work, but don't get lost in a sea of choices. And because I'm not relying on live bait, I can keep the gear in my car ready to be used.

Earlier this week I did manage to catch a little sunfish. Whoo! Mostly I learned that fishing along the Potomac Heritage Trail could work, even if I only had a short time to do it in.

And then last night all the variables lined up: sunfish were hungry for what I was throwing. I managed to pull 5 or 6 out of the water before I had to head back home. It was some of the most productive 20 minutes of fishing in my life. See, here's some proof:

When you're catching fish, this whole fishing thing is fun!

Actually, it was just nice to have a plan and then have that plan come together. It's almost like I knew what I was doing. Yeah, right. More importantly, I feel like I've got a setup I can build on.

Here's the two locations I fished from:

As I find other spots that work, I'll add to the map.

Here's a snapshot of tonight's fishing hole as well as a quickie of the gear I was using.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Easy Listening meets the Friendly Skies | Adventures in Linux Software Defined Radio

There's something both soothing and exciting about listening to live Air Traffic Control chatter. I was psyched to learn that my little USB Software Defined Radio could pick up the tower over at DCA. All it took was plugging in the relevant radio frequencies. However, manually entering frequencies got old quick. What I needed was to automate this bad boy.

While I initially experimented with software defined radio on Android I was delighted to learn that I could turn my Linux laptop into a listening station with almost zero effort. Turns out, all I needed to do was run:

  sudo dnf install rtl-sdr

and I would gain access to the rtl_sdr command line utility. I was absolutely shocked that the rtl_sdr command auto detected the USB dongle. I was sure I needed to mess with kernel modules or other low level nonsense. Instead it all just worked. After fiddling with various options and grabbing the relevant frequencies I finally kicked off the following command and went to bed.

rtl_fm -M am \
          -f 132.65000M \
          -f 128.25000M \
          -f 121.70000M \
          -f 119.10000M \
          -f 134.35000M \
          -f 257.60000M \
          -f 119.30000M \
          -f 335.50000M \
          -f 124.00000M \
          -f 279.57500M \
          -f 124.20000M \
          -f 269.00000M \
          -f 119.85000M \
          -f 322.30000M \
          -f 126.55000M \
          -f 269.50000M \
          -f 128.35000M \
          -f 270.27500M \
          -f 121.05000M \
          -f 343.70000M \
          -f 118.30000M \
          -f 306.30000M \
          -f 124.70000M \
          -f 338.20000M \
          -f 125.65000M \
          -f 396.10000M \
          -f 118.95000M \
          -f 257.20000M \
          -f 129.45000M \
          -f 129.67500M \
          -f 129.22500M \
          -f 130.95000M \
          -f 129.75000M \
          -f 131.85000M \
          -f 131.35000M \
          -f 131.92500M \
          -f 129.25000M \
          -f 130.97500M \
          -f 129.07500M \
          -f 129.52500M \
          -f 130.10000M \
          -f 130.40000M \
          -f 131.00000M \
          -f 130.42500M \
           -s 12k -g 50 -l 230 > listen.raw

This morning I awoke to find a 3 megabyte file had been created, and even more surprisingly, there was clean chatter in it! I initially listened to generated file by running the command:

play -r 12k -t raw -e s -b 16 -c 1 -V1 listen.raw

Once I verified that there was audio in the file I needed to convert it to a more usable format. Ultimately, I converted the raw audio to WAV, MP3 and finally to MP4 video file for easy publishing on YouTube:

sox -traw -r12k -es -b16 -c1 -V1 listen.raw listen.wav  # More info
lame listen.wav listen.mp3 
ffmpeg -framerate 1/5 -pattern_type glob -i 'scaled/*.jpg' -i dca.wav \
   -c:v libx264 -c:a aac  -vf "fps=25,format=yuv420p" -b:a 192k \
   -shortest out.mp4 # More info

And here's the final product:

Next up: automating listening on Android.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Paisley, Conway and Good Friends on a Boat

Man, what a weekend. It started off with a surprise from Shira: tickets to see Brad Paisley in concert. In many respects, Brad Paisley is my favorite artist. I just visited YouTube and had no problem ticking off 18 songs that I thoroughly enjoy from him. Here, give them a listen. Country music is all about story telling and clever word play, and many of Paisley's songs nail this.

So yeah, seeing Brad in concert was a big deal. As if just being there wasn't enough, Shira bought tickets in the 100 section - we were soooo close.

The concert was great, and he played most of the songs I was hoping he would (though Little Moments, Mona Lisa and of course Waiting on a Woman would have been welcome additions). He tacked on plenty of guitar solos and signed autographs and otherwise interacted with the crowd while playing, all of which to me, added up to some impressive skills. But then again, what do I know. Maybe it's not that hard to play a guitar with a banana?

There were two warm up acts, Maddie & Tae and Tyler Farr. I didn't know either by name. I did recognize one of Maddie and Tae's hits, Girl in a Country Song, which to me is a solid country song. And Tyler Farr's voice is distinctive enough that I recognized a few of his songs, a number of which I've been enjoying on the radio. Farr did a truly powerful version of Hello Goodbye, a song that hadn't entered my consciousness till I heard him belt it out. Well done. Though I could have done without his comment, enough of that sissy crap, that seemed to undercut the song a bit. Though I get transitions are tough, and I'm sure he's still mastering how to go from his slow stuff to his rowdy stuff.

I can't help but feel a little like a fish out of water at a country concert. What, with being a Jewish city boy and all. I may not have had the cowboy boots or hat, but there was one thing that me and the rest of the guys at the concert could agree on: cargo shorts rock. Whoo!

All in all, the concert was great.

The other highlight of the weekend: taking a day cruise on a friend's sail boat. It was just about the perfect day to be on the water: clear skies, sunshine, yet cool enough that we didn't cook. I say just about, because there was only one thing missing: the wind. We did a bit of sailing with the meager wind offered, but spent most of our time motoring around. We ended up stashing ourselves in a little cove and using both a dinghy and a kayak to explore the area. That was truly a fun time, with amazing views, interesting birds and a family apparently trotlining for crabs to watch. There's just something magical about sitting on a boat, noshing snacks and kibitzing with friends. Fun times!

As if all that weren't enough, we even squeezed in a 4 mile hike in the Conway Robinson Memorial State Forest. While the chunk of forest isn't exactly huge, it was great to get out in nature. The signage along the trail explains how the forest is managed, and by managed, I mean strategically cut down. I suppose it's all about thinking long term and trying to shape growth for the long term good. Or it's pure hubris on man's part. Either way, it was a delightful hike.

Now I need a weekend to recover from my weekend. Yeeeehawwww!

Update: Oh, and here's some audio clips captured from the concert. Enjoy!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Well that was fun: take a virtual bike ride through Oklahoma

You'd be forgiven if you thought that a bike tour through Southern Oklahoma wasn't exactly a riveting adventure. And you'd also be wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed EverythingWillBeNobel's trip report of his 5 day adventure; the photos, the stories, they're truly fantastic. Here, give it a read:

The trip underscores that what makes for a memorable experience isn't picking the perfect destination and having a flawless execution. It's about embracing the good, laughing at the bad, and coming home with a story to tell.

And while you're on the site, check out Amanda Delecore's story of her first solo tour. It's a powerful take on the challenges of truly mastering a skill. No YouTube video or blog post could ever prepare her for that first solo night in the woods, nor could they give her the confidence she earned by making it through that first fearful night.

This all makes me want to grab my bike and ride.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Kitchen Renovation 2016 | Past the point of no return

This morning we had a kitchen:

This evening we have an open space:

This project just got real.

It boggles the mind that taking apart a kitchen, clearing out a dining room and knocking down the wall between is a 2 man, 1 day job. Now putting it back together again, that's a little bit trickier. But still, wow.

I guess this kitchen renovation project is officially on!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Just Hanging Out | The 3 Minute, $10, Improvised Hammock

Here's a fun (and seemingly easy) outdoor project to try: Make a Hammock in 3 Minutes. The idea is to use a 60x126" tablecloth as the body of the hammock, a couple of loops of rope to whip the ends, and a few minutes of your time to assemble the setup. Give it a watch:

For $10 in supplies, it's hard to go wrong with this project. And worst case scenario, you have a massive tablecloth you can use, well, on your table.

I love idea of co-opting formal tablecloths for outdoor use. You just never know where handy supplies are going to come from.

Monday, September 19, 2016

More Ratpoison Tweaking: Quick Access to any Program

I'm continuing my journey to optimize ratpoison. My latest tweak: binding keys that bring up specific programs. For example Windows + e now pops emacs front and center.

I accomplished this by enhancing the rpwin script I'd previously created. Here's the latest version:

#!/bin/bash

## A shell script for capturing / switching / deleting / etc.
## ratpoison window configurations

RATPOISON=ratpoison
RP_SNAPSHOT=$HOME/.rp.snapshot


usage() {
  echo "Usage: `basename $0` {capture|restore|goto}"
  exit 1
}

rp_cmd() {
  $RATPOISON -c "$@"
}

case "$1" in
  capture)
    if [ -n "$2" ] ; then
      loc=$2
    else
      loc='default'
    fi
    touch $RP_SNAPSHOT.$loc
    rp_cmd sfdump > $RP_SNAPSHOT.$loc
    ;;
  restore)
    if [ -n "$2" ] ; then
      loc=$2
    else
      loc='default'
    fi
    if [ -s $RP_SNAPSHOT.$loc ] ; then
      rp_cmd "sfrestore `cat $RP_SNAPSHOT.$loc`"
    else
      echo "Refusing to restore an empty snapshot"
      exit
    fi
    ;;
  goto)
    win=`rp_cmd windows | grep -i "$2" | sed 's/[^0-9].*//' | head -1`
    if [ -n "$win" ]; then
      rp_cmd "select $win"
    fi
    ;;
  *)
    usage
    ;;
esac

The above script includes a new sub command: goto. To use this new command, I added the following bindings to my .ratpoisonrc:

definekey top s-o exec rpwin goto Gimp
definekey top s-e exec rpwin goto emacs

And just like that Windows + o pops up Gimp and Windows + e pops up emacs. I'm loving the ability to quickly save and restore window configurations, and I find that this new 'goto' capability works well with it. The standard configurations cover most cases and the quick jump lets me get to programs I use less frequently (like Gimp) or need more often (like emacs).

Friday, September 16, 2016

Name that Bug: Pretty, Harmless and Deadly

Check out this fine looking fellow:

To my naive eye, he has the markings of a wasp, yet the legs of a grasshopper. He's obviously part of a CIA plot to create super bugs...

Or, he's a Megacyllene robiniae a type of beetle that has seemingly mastered bio mimicry. As explained here:

Your observation that this Long Horned Borer Beetle, the Locust Borer, Megacyllene robiniae, is a Yellow Jacket mimic is quite astute. The mimicry is probably most effective when the Locust Borer is feeding on the pollen of goldenrod because predators would tend to avoid what looks like a stinging insect despite the Locust Borer being perfectly harmless.

And sure enough, just a couple yards away was a stand of goldenrod.

So while this guy looks like he could sting you, he's actually harmless. That is, unless you're a black locust tree. Then these insects, known as Locust Borers can cause a heap of problems due to their preference for tunneling into this type of tree. Hard to believe that something so small and harmless can wreak havoc on a tree, but there it is.

Here's another unexpected sighting. Check out these snapshots:

It's hard to see, but floating just below the surface is a massive turtle. I've seen plenty of turtles along the Potomac, but nothing this large before. I shall call him Nessy.

And what would a walk in the woods be without a few photos of pretty flowers? So here you go.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Perfect DC Evening

David and I hit Fletcher's Cove for a relaxing fishing and kibitzing session. While I only caught one teeny tiny fish, it was still great just to be outdoors on a perfect September evening.

If we're keeping score, I think the mosquitoes are winning. They took far more bites out of me than I got out of the fish. Still, fun times!

We fished the canal and the dock at Fletchers, and saw plenty of fish at both locations. We just don't have the skill to extract said fish. But knowing they are there is probably half the battle. Right? Maybe?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Patriotic Mystery

While driving along route 395, next to the Pentagon, I noticed a small collection of American flags planted in the grass.

Are they an improvised 9/11 memorial? A mini patriotic Stonehenge? Detritus from 4th of July fireworks watchers? It's a mystery. I'm just glad I didn't get detained while snapping these photos.

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