A Train Boss A Train

We are on family vacation to Indiana to vist my grandparents and also to visit the museums in Chicago. One of the nice things about where we are is there is a commuter rail that goes into the city. So in an efffort to lower our carbon footprint (not really, Aiden just really likes trains and wanted to ride one) we took the South Shore Line from Michigan City to Chicago.

I like trains, and haven’t been on one since I was a kid.  They are a great place to people watch, and there is a large cast of characters on out particular train. We met the alt-ish couple that Aiden had no problem striking up a conversation with. He educated the dude and his epic biker mustache about Thomas the Tank Engine and amused his lady with five year old antics. I think that Aiden made the day of the conductor be he politely and a bit timidly asked “Excuse me, is this the train to Chicago?” The conductor got a chuckle from this, and well to be honest, I sent Aiden over becase I really I wasn’t sure if it was the right train.

We found our seats Aiden choosing the window seat so he can look at the other trains in the yard. The seats are covered in a pinkish leatherette with teal accents and brown backing. The car feels old but somehow futuristic at the same time. Continue reading “A Train Boss A Train”

Crock Pot Veggie Chili

Crock Pot Veggie Chili
Quick and Easy Crock Pot Chili

This is a quick (to prep) and easy crock pot chili that will satisfy vegetarians and meat eaters alike.  You will need:

1 28 oz can Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatos

3 cans of beans of your choice (Black, Pinto, Kidney ,whatever)

1 cup of corn (Fresh or Frozen)

10-15 baby carrots

1 cup Vegatable Stock

2 Tablespoons Chili Powder

2 Teaspoons Cumin

2 Cloves minced Garlic

salt/pepper to taste     Continue reading “Crock Pot Veggie Chili”

A Quick Shot

A Quick Shot before heading out

I took this picture the other night before Michelle (my lovely and awesome wife) we heading out with some friends.  Was shot with my Olympus E-510 and kit lens, with a Olympus FL-36r off camera.  For a light modifier I used my GhettoGridSpot v1.0.  (I will do a post about my DIY gridspot as a later post)

A Bowl full of Super

I have to admit – I did not watch the big super happy fun bowl of footbally goodness that was on last night, I have less than 10% interest in football.  I did pop onto CBS for a few minutes here and there to see if there were any good commercials going on, and really the ones that I did see did not hold my interest.  From what I have heard on the radio on my drive in and general chit chat in the office, they were not all that great this year.

I did watch the Half Time Show Brought to You by CSI, LV, NY Miami.  Really are the only songs that people know the themes to these shows.  I will admit it looked pretty cool, the light show surrounding the stage and there were LASERS!  I was hoping that when Roger Daltrey did the YEAAAAHHHHH!!!!  Horatio Cane would come flying in from above, but alas that would be too geeky.  Anyhow, the CSI Theme montage that was to SuperBowl HalfTime Show held my attention for the time that it was on.

BTW – Who won the game, that was past my bedtime


I bring my MacbookPro with me to work everyday. I normally do not have a password on my screensaver, but I work with some pranksters that may want to mess with me while I am away from my desk, so I want to lock it down when I walk away. I have found a useful combination of apps that will get this done for me with very little work.

Marco Polo is a neat little bit of software that will tell you machine to do different things based on current status. For example you can have it enable the screensaver password when you are connected to the Wi-Fi at work, and disable the password requirement when you get back home. The software looks at a variety of factors called Evidence, which can be a WiFi connection, a specific program running time of day and so on. Then based on the evidence it finds changes determines the machines Context like Home or work. Based on the context you can set of different rules or actions to take place.

I have set 2 contexts on my machine Home and Work, based on the time of day. I would have liked to use WiFi as my rule, however MarcoPolo does not appear to see Hidden SSID’s which my work network is. So I opted to go with the Time of Day Rules and put in my work schedule, which will set the context to Work. When the context is set to work, I have MarcoPolo enable the screensaver password and launch the application Proximity.

Proximity is a small app that looks for a paired Bluetooth device and runs an Applescript for in range and another for out of range. There are several posts on the interwebs where people have gotten cell phones to sync contacts, check email and a whole host of other things. All I want it to do is activate my screensaver when I walk away and turn it off when I come back.

The activation script is fairly easy, with Script editor enter the following code Pretty straight forward, it will turn on the screensaver which is password protected – locking my Mac from pranking or snooping co workers.

tell application “ScreenSaverEngine” to activate

Now getting my mac to automatically unlock when I get back was a bit tricker. Since the screensaver is password protected I have to get the password entered.

tell application “System Events”

keystroke return

delay 1

keystroke enter your ScreenSaver password here

delay 1

keystroke return

end tell

This will type the password and “press” ok to unlock the screensaver.

It is pretty straight forward and easy to set up, and offers a bit of extra securityto my Mac when I am at work. Since I don’t need the extra protection at home MarcoPolo turns off the screensaver password quits Proximity.

With these two little programs I have a automatic way to boost the security on my macbook when I am at the office, never a bad thing to have

Car Crash Chaos

It has not been a fun two weeks for me.  I have been in two car accidents in under ten days.  The first was in Connecticut with my wife and son in the car.  We were on a road that is one way in each direction stopped behind a person making a left onto a side street.  Without warning we were hit from behind by a young driver in a Volvo who was traveling 40 mph.  No Breaks, no slowing down, just some kid not paying attention to the break lights that were in front of him.  The impact pushed us into the car in front of us, which was about ten feet away.  Thankfully no one in our car was hurt, I can’t say the same for the kid that hit us.  His front impact airbags went off, and I am not sure if he was wearing a seatbelt.

The Volvo that Hit Us
The Volvo that Hit Us

The Front end of his car didn’t look too bad for the speed of the impact.  As for our Honda Civic, I have to give praise to the people that designed that car.  We were hit hard, but none of us were hurt, or even sore after the accident.  The car did it’s job and took the energy from the accident and kept it outside the passenger area.

The Honda post Accident
The Honda post Accident
Honda Post Accident
Honda Post Accident

I have to say over all I am very impressed with the Civics crash test data put to the test.  Now the repair bill, that is another story.  Since we were rear ended it is pretty cut and dry as to whose fault it was, so I was able to file the claim thru his insurance.  The total damages to the car came to close to $5000, and it will take 10 days to fix the car.  Unfortunately all the parts for repair are on 2 week back order, so we have a Nissan Versa as a rental for the next few weeks.

Last Monday I was off to lunch waiting in traffic, and BANG I was rear ended again in my Subaru. This was almost an identical accident to the first, waiting in traffic and someone that was not paying attention to the road in front of them slammed into me at 40 mph.  This accident was worse than in the Honda.  I was taken off the the hospital for whiplash.  I suffered no major injuries, it was more a case of better safe than sorry.  The car took a pretty big hit , but the other car looked alot worse than mine.

The Subaru Gets it from behind
The Subaru Gets it from behind

So now we have 2 cars in the shop and 2 rentals.  I am stuck with a Hyundai Accent, this is the worse car that I have ever driven.  With any luck I will have my Subaru back in the next few days so I don’t have to deal with this little POS.

crash 5
crash 5

Over all, being in 2 accidents in 10 days I am lucky. No one was seriously hurt and both of the cars are repairable.  It is a lot of aggravation and stress, but these things will pass.

iTunes Auto Importing/Syncing

— UPDATE —  Well Apple you have finally fixed this up for me with iTunes 9.  Between the new Home Sharing feature that was widely talked about and the little tidbit of the “Automatically Add to iTunes” folder that was put in my automator actions are pretty much not needed.  I may tweak them so it will copy new music to the “Auto Folder” from one mac to another.

I tested this out today and it works like a charm, happy day.

We have 2 Macs at home and 2 iPods, and a fairly large music collection.  I like to maintain the same music collection on the 2 Macs, but sometimes I buy a song on my laptop, my wife rips a cd on the iMac and keeping the collections in sync is a pain.  I figured out a way that works well for me to Automagically keep things in sync using Automator and iCal plugins.  I created a workflow that will look at the iTunes music folder for anything that was added today and then copy the songs to my server.  After creating and testing the workflow, I saved it as an iCal plugin that runs every night.

Searches iTunes Music Folder and copies to server
Searches iTunes Music Folder and copies to server

This works great on the iMac that is at home with the server which is pretty much always mounted.  However, if the server is not mounted there was an error in the workflow as there was no place to copy the files to.  Automator to the rescue!  I made another workflow that will mount my server, and I have this set up to run first in iCal. I tried to do this all as one workflow, but it would never work correctly.  I will continue to play with it and see if I can get it all as one workflow.

This Workflow will connect to the server if it is not mounted
This Workflow will connect to the server if it is not mounted

So, now the iMac is automatically mounting my server, and copying any new music to it.  How to get this new aural goodness to my MacBook.  Since iTunes does not monitor folder (maybe in iTunes 9, please) I have more Automator voodoo to take care of it for me.

Workflow looks at the server and imports new tracks to iTunes
Workflow looks at the server and imports new tracks to iTunes

I started with the script to mount my server as my MacBook is not at home most of the time.  Then I have a second script that will look at the New Music folder on the server (that is target for the iMac workflow), and if it finds and Audio files that were added today, it will import them into iTunes.  You can choose a specific playlist or just to the iTunes library.  So far this is working really well for getting the new music from the iMac to the MBP.  I will be writing a second batch of workflow to go the other way (From MBP to the iMac).  If all goes as planned I will not have to manually manage the music between the machines.

I will update with any issues that I run into as time goes by…

–edit – fixed images —

Pasta with Spinach Peas Pesto and Bacon

Quick and easy dinner that I made the other night.  We had bought a bag of baby spinach which we love to sauté, and I was craving pasta.  So I decided to combine them into a quick and easy dinner.  I wanted to get some bacon flavor in there and since Michelle is a vegetarian I used Morning Star Farms Veggie Bacon Strips.  I used a Large Shell Pasta since all of the ingredients will be able to get inside them.

1 Package Large Shells – boil in salted water to package directions

1 bag of baby spinach

3 strips of Veggie bacon – cut into small chunks

peas – frozen or fresh

Pesto sauce

While the pasta is boiling start a large sauté pan over medium high heat, add some olive oil get it nice and hot then add in the bacon chunks and frozen peas.  Cook 2-3 minutes until the bacon gets a bit crispy and the peas are thawed.  Add a bit of unsalted butter and let it heat up then add the spinach.  Let this wilt down and keep it moving so it does not burn.  I finished it with a bit of salt and lemon juice.  Lower the heat to low then add in the Pasta and Pesto and toss it all together.  I added a a bit of the starchy pasta water and yet another pat of butter to make the sauce hold to the pasta a bit better.

I added a bit of crushed red pepper flakes to mine, I like the spicy.

Over dinner Michelle and I had the thought that adding some white beans to the sauté might make this even better – I will try that and report back

2 macs 1 backup

I became a mac user a bit over a year ago when my windohs box finally died.  I wanted something new and easier so off the the Apple Store we went.  I purchased a 20″ iMac, and the world was a happy place.  Sometime later my windohs laptop mainboard went sizzle and I needed a new laptop.  My wife, how by the way is super cool headed off the the Apple Store and got me the machine I wanted.  Correction she got me a better machine that what I had decided on.  I was going to be happy with a 13″ MacBook, the wife (did I mention that she was super cool) got me the fully loaded 15″ MBP.  Mike was happy, and still is.  So now we have 2 happy Macs and I want a way to back up and sync files between the pair.

I looked at the Apple Time Capsule – great features, not so great on the price.  1TB at the time was $499, and I couldn’t quite do all that I wanted to. FreeNas was looking pretty good as a low overhead option, and I had a bunch of parts laying about to build a system.  I did not have a vast amount of storage, but was able to try it out as a Time Machine backup.  This set up worked well, but still was not all that I was looking for.  So after much looking I stumbled across this post http://tinyurl.com/lqtr24 on how to make a server using Ubuntu, netatalk and avahi.  It was promising and since I have some knowledge of Ubuntu, not too difficult.  I ordered a new small form factor case, an Intel Atom mb/cpu combo and a hard drive and it was off to the races.  I have been running this set up for a few weeks now and it is working great.  In later posts I will talk about some of the things that I am doing with it, and some of the custom configs that I am doing to make this a great option for syncing 2 macs 🙂