Monday, July 11, 2022

Fixing an Android Gotcha: Snoozing WiFi

One phone quirk I've run into for years goes like this: I walk out my front door and realize I need to look something up on the web. I try using my phone's browser, but the browser just hangs. The problem is simple: my phone thinks it's on WiFi, but I've just walked out of range.

After muttering under my breath, I turn WiFi off and my phone goes back to working.

Inevitably, a few days later I realize that I never turned WiFi back on and again find myself muttering under my breath. Every time this happens I think there has to be a better way of handling this.

And now there is: Snooze WiFi.

Snooze Wifi is simple Tasker Action that does what the name suggests: it turns off WiFi for 5 minutes and then turns it back on. It took 30 seconds to code and 5 minutes to debug the tasker can't disable WiFi bug that appeared the first time I tested the action.

Here's the Tasker code:

And here's the icon I can press to trigger it:

Of course, what I need is way to automatically run this task when I walk out the front door. That will have to be part of v2.0. For now, you can grab this version from taskernet.

Saturday, July 09, 2022

New York City Adventure - Day 3

Today we were all looking forward to a day of rest. Sure, we'd take a little walk to the nearby zoo and perhaps hit the botanic gardens next door. But really, our focus was on enjoying a bit of downtime.

So yeah, that's not at all how the day went.

We did take a stroll to the 'nearby' Prospect Park Zoo. But that little jaunt was about 2.5 miles. Along the way, I introduced T to the magic of Lueko tape when we took a break to treat one of her blisters.

We all perked up when we made it to the zoo. What the Prospect Park Zoo lacks in size, it more than makes up for in quality. The girls loved the cute sand cats (no C, we can't take one of them home), and D loved getting to feed the birds. J and Shira were in charge of the DSLR and documented the day beautifully.

D loves all things bird related, especially collecting feathers. The zoo had a couple of wandering peacocks which apparently shed feathers. The result is that not only did D get to see and feed birds today, but he also got to collect a number of beautiful and unique feathers.

We enjoyed a little open-air picnic and even successfully let the kids go explore one of the indoor exhibits on their own (they stuck to the rules: stay together; come back as a group when you're done).

In hindsight, we probably should have just grabbed the subway back home and played Legos for the rest of the afternoon. But nooooooooo, I couldn't resist adding on at least one more adventure. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden is right next to the zoo, so how could we not check it out?

The gardens really are gorgeous, but by now we had multiple children complaning of tired feet and D turned out to be petrified of bees. We tried all manner of calming him down, but he wasn't having it. The boy who loved birds and was eager to cuddle with a wild one was convinced that every bee in a two block radius was out to sting him to death. So yeah, that's something we'll have to work on.

We started our tour exploring the discovery garden, which did capture some of the kid's attention. I really enjoyed the nearby herb garden, which is filled with common veggies like artichokes and cabbages. However, seeing them grow in all their natural glory is quite impressive.

D got a kick out the rock garden, which had the geological era of the rock written on a plaque. We got pics of him touching a rock that no doubt a dinosaur had touched as well.

Near the lily pool, we found a much needed bathrooms and a lone white egret flew into the area to be admired by all. Shira snapped some amazing pictures of it in flight.

As I hoped, the kids enjoyed the aquatic and tropical pavilion. I had high hopes for the bonsai exhibit, too, but it left the kids underwhelmed. In past bonsai exhibits we'd visited, each specimen was labeled with an approximate age so you could appreciate how many years the tree had been cared for. In this exhibit, most were missing dates. I think this contributed to the kids not really understanding what they were looking at.

We finally made our way to the Japanese Hill-and-Pond garden, where we managed to get split up. I took the girls around the pond, assuming the path we were on was a loop. Instead, it took us to an exit point. We backtracked to the main Japanese Pavilion. At the same time, Shira and the boys were also making their way around on the same path. Unfortunately, the path splits and there's a low and high road. The girls and I took the low road, and Shira and the boys took the high road. Impressively, we managed to miss each other. To complicate matters, I'd given J my cell phone to take pictures, which meant Shira couldn't just call me to get this untangled.

Eventually Shira and I connected on my backup phone (hooray for backup phones!) and we finally regrouped near the garden exit. The kids were relieved when we finally headed back to our Airbnb. We counted off the blocks, one by one, as we approached our home. When we hit the grocery store a few blocks from our place, I sent the rest of the group on their way and stopped in to pick up a few supplies.

Walking back from the grocery store alone, I savored the unique neighborhood we were staying in. I passed various small groups blasting music, and at one point I walked by a guy standing under a fairly large canopy he'd set up in the street. One by one, he was grabbing a large whole fish and chopping it up in chunks and adding it to a pot. I had so many questions.

All told, I logged 25,824 steps today. I took some comfort in knowing that tomorrow, our long hike, would almost certainly have us walking less than today. Still, what an amazing and fun day!

Friday, July 08, 2022

New York City Adventure - Day 2

After a quick trip to the local supermarket to pick up bread and mayo, we were on our way to our first day of adventure in NY. We planned to visit two sites today: The American Museum of Natural History and nearby Central Park.

We headed into Manhattan the New York City way, by taking the subway. The kids did great and this turned out to be one of C's highlights of the day. I was impressed to see G reading the Minecraft themed novel we had brought. But it was D who really relished the ride, excited to see a glimpse of the Brooklyn Bridge as we headed into Manhattan.

Having been to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in DC relatively recently, I wasn't quite sure how the New York version would measure up. I need not have given this a second thought, the American Museum of Natural History was outstanding. D loved the birds exhibit, the other kids and Shira loved the gems display and we all loved the dioramas that made up the Mammals Hall. One of my favorite exhibits was the easy to miss Ecosphere located in the Hall of the Universe. At first glance, the Ecosphere appears to be little more than an uninspiring fish tank. However, the story behind it is absolutely fascinating: the sphere contains algae and shrimp and has been sealed off to the outside word since 1999. That's right, there's been no food or air introduced into the sphere since then.

[I]t’s a self-sustaining habitat. No feeding is required, and there’s no overpopulation or pollution! How does it work? Algae make food from sunlight. Shrimp take oxygen from the water and exhale carbon dioxide; algae take in the carbon dioxide and give off oxygen! Microbes feed the shrimp—and in turn, the carbon dioxide-rich shrimp poop helps the algae and microbes!

How amazing is that?

Oh yeah, we also all loved the dino exhibit.

The only negative about the museum is that their cafe doesn't allow outside food. We ended up eating lunch outside on the terrace, so even that worked out well.

We left the museum with our brains bursting, overwhelmed by how much there was to see. As much as we saw, there are a number of exhibits we flat out missed; so yeah, I'd go back for sure.

After the museum we promised the kids playground time in Central Park. However, I explained that before the playground I wanted to take them to a special spot in the park.

When we finally arrived, I asked the kids what we were looking at? They weren't nearly as excited as I was. "Hieroglyphics" the children finally answered. "Now, could we go to the playground?" they asked.

I had dragged the children to Cleopatra's Needle, an obelisk that was crafted nearly 3,400 years ago! When I was looking for stops to visit in Central Park I came across the obelisk's description and read it through twice, carefully. Surely this was a replica of an ancient Egyptian artifact, not the artifact itself. But no, apparently, it's the real deal. This really is a monument created for an ancient Pharaoh, discovered by the Romans and delivered to the park in 1888.

The kids' minds may not have been blown, but mine was. The Needle did not disappoint and was easily one of the most amazing things we saw all day.

I had a number of other sites I wanted to stop at in the park, but I realized I needed to get the kids to a playground or we were going to have a mutiny on our hands. We finally made it to Billy Johnson Playground and the kids could properly let loose.

Unfortunately, the weather for the day finally caught up to us and as the kids played the sky opened up with rain. Even more unfortunate was my decision to leave Shira's umbrella back at the Airbnb because there was no rain in the forecast. Whoops!

We ignored the rain as long as we could, but eventually we found all the kids were huddled under playground equipment and it was obvious that it was time to go.

Before we fled to the playground, I grabbed a few of the kids and we posed with the nearby Balto statue. Balto is a Siberian husky who became a hero in the 1920's.

In January 1925, an outbreak of diphtheria threatened the population of the town of Nome, Alaska. Weather conditions prevented the transport of vaccines from Anchorage by plane. A relay of dog-sled teams and mushers provided the only alternative. Twenty teams carried the vaccine almost 700 miles in blizzard conditions, a trip that took remarkably only five days and seven hours. They braved minus 30-degree Fahrenheit temperatures, ice floes, and 5,000-foot mountain peaks.

As animal lovers, I had to take the kids to see this pup who had helped save the lives of so many children.

We got our pics, got drenched, and made a soggy walk back to the subway. From there, we headed back to our Airbnb and the kids all got into their PJs.

One of our summer trip traditions is that we bring Lego sets for the kids to build and play with for the week. Last year, I questioned if the kids were getting too old for this tradition. I learned then that I couldn't have been more off base. If anything, the kids being older has made their building and playing skills even sharper. Plus, to switch from screen time to an emphasis on social and physical play was something they all seemed to enjoy.

So this year I was especially jazzed when I learned that Lego makes a series of low cost, easy to build, Mechs. Mechs, for the uninitiated, are large robots controlled by one or pilots. I had brought along sets for Wolverine, Iron Man, Black Panther, Thanos and Zane from Ninjago. I was psyched because the sets looks relatively easily to build, had cool looking minifigs and would be easy to play with. J, knowing that we'd probably play Legos this year, also brought along a heap of random pieces.

The kids were excited to see the sets and there was no arguing about who got which character. They quickly set to work building Legos, with the more experienced Lego builders helping those who needed it. For a moment there, like the Ecosphere noted above, we had perfect balance in the house. The kids were playing together, Shira and I were making dinner in peace and all was well with the world.

Today was a great day, but we'd definitely not respected just how massive the museum and Central Park are. We logged over 15,000 steps today and still didn't scratch the surface of what there was to see in Central Park.

We're all looking forward to tomorrow, Shabbat, where we can have a low key day walking to the nearby zoo and just relaxing.