I Was Blown Away By What I Saw Today

For some reason while I was drying my hands in the bathroom at our library today I got to thinking about how blow dryers used to be the hot thing in bathroom drying technology. I know, I know, I think about weird topics at weird times but what can I say, that’s just me.

At one time it seemed like dryers were the future and that paper towels were soon to be non-existent in public restrooms. Blow dryers were touted as “green” because they didn’t use paper (a renewable resource) and they were considered more sanitary because you didn’t have to touch anything. Of course blow dryers use electricity which is often generated by burning coal(renewable if you wait long enough). And with towels you only have to touch a clean piece of soft paper but with the early blowers you had to push a button.

Lately I’ve been noticing a distinct shift back to paper towels. Some bathrooms have both a blower and a towel dispenser but in large part the towels are making a big comeback. I have no proof of this. These are just my own limited observations.

But I digress. I was standing there drying my hands when I started wondering just how clean the air was that was blowing down on my newly washed hands. Surely it must be just as clean as using a towel, right? After all it’s a mechanical blower. It doesn’t get touched by human hands.

There was no one else in the room so I quickly squatted down and looked up at the air outlet. I was disgusted with what I saw! The outlet for the air was caked with brown and black grime. It blows down but somehow the dirt had blown up! The worst part is that I had been blowing that crud all over my clean hands.

The Toto “Clean Dry” Hand Dryer


From what I saw, it’s probably more sanitary to not wash your hands at all than to use some bathrooms. Maybe I need to start carrying around a little bottle of hand sanitizer. Or maybe I should just stay home. If I become a recluse I won’t have to worry about public blow dryers anymore. This must be how psychoses begin. I’ve got to stop thinking so much.

It’s The Little Things That Get You

I spent some time today dealing with a layer of data that was added to an ESRI REST service. The service layers are zero base indexed which means you can reference them based on their position relative to each other. The first layer is identified at position zero while the second is 1, the third is 2 and so on.

The new layer was just before the fourth existing layer. This means the new layer became the fourth, the fourth became the fifth and the fifth became the sixth. Are you following along?


Anyway, I was working on a web app that consumes this service and it references the service layers based on those index positions. I added some new markup and some code for the added layer and changed the existing code to reference their two new position numbers. At first everything seemed to be working fine. Then a coworker noticed that the new layer’s data was showing on screen by default (you’re supposed to check a box first). It took me a while before I finally realized that it was being controlled by a different checkbox that controls the layer right after it in the service.

To make an already long and confusing story shorter, there was a second reference to the service indexes in my code. When I had designed the app a few years ago I, for some reason, found it expedient to make two, hard coded references to the index. Instead of taking the time to create a variable, I had repeated a hard coded number that could be changed by an outside source.

My poor design choice can back to bite me. Not only did I repeat code, I made it confusing to update. It’s embarrassing to admit that I wrote code that even I couldn’t figure out later. But it goes to show that taking the time to design things correctly from the start will pay off in the future. It’s the little things that get you; that second hard coded index number that’s nearly impossible to notice.

O Little Weed


O little weed
Yes simple weed
Martyr of my lawn,
How fast your greenery
Sprouts anew
Yet faster still your gone.
My mower does not keep you down
And pulling will not kill you,
But with this spray
You will turn brown
I see no need to bill you.

First Day of Spring 2018

Today is the official first day of spring 2018. I’m always excited when the seasons change. There’s a sense of newness and refreshment. The change from spring to summer promises more time outside, vacations and cold drinks. Going from summer into fall gives hope of escaping the heat, celebrations and enjoyment of the harvest time and the changing colors of nature. The transition to the cold depths of winter then warrants hunkering down and focusing on the cerebral projects that were put on hold during the warmer seasons.


But my favorite seasonal shift is spring when the ice starts to melt and new life seems to pop up everywhere. Trees leaf out and bulbs push their way through the soil. Birds sing louder and  can be heard more often. Spring releases you from a sort of prison of the mind.

For me, along with the warming weather comes the desire to build something, anything. I usually get ahead of myself and start more projects than I can finish. But I’d rather start them and not finish than let my version of spring fever pass without acting on it.

It also never fails that spring makes me want to start growing a garden. It’s like some weird desire to help the natural world green up faster. Of course once that greening starts it’s like a reverse wild fire sending plants up everywhere, even where they’re not wanted. Then, for the rest of the season there’s a battle to keep the wanted plants from dying and the unwanted weeds from existing.

One of my favorite parts of spring is the vibrant glut of color. In contrast to the beautiful browns, oranges and earthy reds of fall, spring shines with emerald greens, blood reds and fiery yellows. I love finding patches of wildflowers growing in unlikely places. But I like wandering through garden centers and nurseries almost as much.

Every year I try to capture the joy of spring with its beauty, colors and promise. Sometimes that’s through writing and poetry. But another way that I find enjoyable is through photography. I’ve taken hundreds if not thousands of pictures of God’s creation but I always end up taking more. There’s always something unique to discover, even in the common plants and flowers that most people pass by every day.

IOT – The Internet of Toilets

I was thinking that it would be humorous to invent a wifi connected toilet lid so you can tell if it’s up or down from anywhere in the world. It seems like everyone is connecting even the most ridiculous things to the internet so why not this? Turns out, things like this have not only been talked about for years, they’re starting to come true.

Kohler has come out with the Numi SmartToilet, a toilet/bidet that opens and closes the lid for you among a host of other functions. Believe it or not, it’s even an MP3 player. This opens the lid on a whole new audio communication medium – the potcast.

Unfortunately, the Numi doesn’t appear to be internet connected. There’s really no reason for it to be internet connected but the lack of wifi makes it seem somehow unsophisticated. But the $6300 price tag makes up for it a little.

All that’s left is to create an IOT toiled with Alexa voice control. Then you can shop from your pot.

Certified Frustration Free


I had some batteries from Amazon delivered the other day. After opening the box that’s probably 4x bigger than the batteries themselves, I noticed the sticker on top declaring “Frustration Free Packaging”. It was definitely low frustration but I was still annoyed to have to go get something to cut the large tape label that held the box closed.

The label also makes a big deal about using no wire ties or clamshells. Personally, I’ve never worried about wire ties or clamshells. But I guess these things really frustrate some people.

The question I’m left with is how does packaging get certified “Frustration Free”? Is there actually a process? Do Amazon vans snatch people from the streets and force them to open taped boxes while monitoring their brain activity? That last one is just hearsay.

And what recourse do I have if I do get frustrated? There probably is none. Amazon’s probably just counting on the fact that nobody actually cares what the box looks like or how many pieces of tape are holding it closed. They just want their batteries.

Oh, Today’s a Holiday?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how holidays in the US have shifted so radically to be meaningless. What were once celebrations of people and events of meaning and consequence have turned into excuses to eat and drink to excess. 

Today is Saint Patrick’s Day. Saint Patrick’s Day has historically been a celebration of the life and work of Patrick, a 5th century Christian missionary and Bishop in Ireland. But if you asked most people today who St. Patrick is, they’ll probably tell you he was an Irish Brew Master or something. For most, this holiday is merely an excuse to drink green beer and eat corned beef. Grocery clerks wear stupid, tiny, glittery top hats and threaten to pinch anyone not wearing green. I’m considering making a line of t-shirts. The first one will be some color other than green. It will say “A punch for a pinch” or something to that effect.

Look at any of our major holidays and you’ll see the same pattern. On Easter we now celebrate rabbits that poop chocolate eggs. How do we celebrate this? By making our kids search for plastic copies of the chocolate scat while the adults eat ham and scalloped potatoes and drink too much wine. Thankfully, most people don’t color their wine green.

Thanksgiving’s become nothing more than a frenzied marathon for cooking a glut of carbohydrates and hormone injected turkeys. Then we eat way more than we know we should but still wash it all down with any beer containing the word fall, wheat or ale in the name.

Christmas now consists of cookies smeared with food coloring, lots of candy and presents that nobody needs or wants after January first. Oh, an you should start drinking hard liquor because, you know, it’s cold outside.

I know I sound bitter. I’m really not. I love the holidays. I just wish we would (as a society) pay a little more attention to the real meaning behind them. That, and stop pinching people.

Dare to Sketch

I’ve always done my sketching and drawing in lined notebooks or on plain printer paper. I’ve never bought a sketch book. I must have been scared to make less-than-perfect drawings in something that costs more than, well, free.

If you draw on a sheet of paper you can just crumple it up and throw it away if you don’t like it. In a sketch book, you’re committed.

Fear of imperfection is a terrible thing. It’s hard to overcome. It can affect all areas of your life. And it can keep you from realizing your life’s full potential. Even if you’ve determined not to let fear rule you, it often creeps up stealthily. I see this fear in myself when I don’t want to commit imperfect code to GitHub. I even recognize fear when I keep interrupting myself while starting a good book. I’m afraid I might not be able to understand it or finish it or accomplish what it’s trying to teach.

A book I found recently at the library has started to change the way I think about sketch books. Dare to Sketch: A Guide to Drawing on the Go, by Felix Scheinberger is a great motivator for starting to sketch in an actual book. Scheinberger gives the reader permission to make mistakes with sketches and to not make the images perfect.

Sketching isn’t fine art. It’s a way to capture the world around you in a personal pictorial narrative. Scheinberger emphasizes the personal aspect of sketching. It’s for you and no one else. These are your own private drawings, almost like a journal, that documents your own private artistic journey.

Sketches may be personal and private but of course you can show them if you want to. Scheinberger puts plenty of his own sketches in the pages of his book. It’s encouraging to see just how imperfect they are. By seeing the author’s rough line work and often disproportionate shapes, it gives the reader confidence to start sketching even if they don’t think they’re very good.

So I went out and got a sketch book. I’m determined to use it as an exploration tool for my drawing art. It won’t be a “public” book so I can make terrible sketches and not worry about what other people think. Instead, the challenge will be in not judging myself too harshly.

I’m Only Happy When It Rains

I’ve always loved overcast and rainy days. Hot, sunny days often sap my strength and leave me lethargic. But when the sky is gray and dark I feel energized and more creative. I’m also able to concentrate on things better like reading or learning something new. My wife loves rainy days for me because I’m more likely to finish up lingering projects or clean the bathroom.

I’m not sure what caused my attraction to dark weather. Maybe the comfort of a wood fire on cold and rainy days while growing up made me appreciate them. When I was in grade school, rainy days seemed special because we had to eat lunch in the classroom and play games like heads up seven up instead of recess.

Whatever the cause of my gloomy super power, I’ve learned to recognize it and harness it. I try to accomplish things I’ve been putting off. I try to finish books I’m only half way through. Sometimes I get inspired to start new projects like the six panel comic thank you note zine I started writing this morning for my friends.

Gray days have turned out to be one of the best personal life hacks I have.