Jachin's Blog

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It's been a few years since one of my personal projects has been ready for prime time, but the Como Barber Shop site finally is, at least, I hope it is, it's live at least.

Craig's Como Barber Shop has been my favorite place to get my hair cut for many years (it used to be Pete's Barber Shop, Pete's still there, but Craig is running the show now). I've always enjoyed going there but there's been one minor issue. They do not take reservations and they tend to be very busy (probably because they're so good at cutting hair). So sometimes I walk down there, and the wait is too long (of course I could always have just called, but I do not usually think of that, plus it's just not my style). I should point out, that waiting for a hair cut at the Como Barber shop is usually a pretty good time, I just don't always have the time.

This project began when, after waiting a while to get my hair cut, I finally got on the chair and I was chatting with Craig about what I do at Clockwork, which is just a couple of block's from the barber shop. He told me he had a plan for a web site to solve the problem of not knowing how long the wait was going to be. His idea was actually a pretty good; he was going to put together a phisical model that represented the shop and use a webcam to create an over head view of the shop and he could put that on a website. As people came in the shop he could put down checkers or chess pieces (or something like that) so someone could look at the website and see how busy the shop was. This is exactly what I wanted. I told Craig it was a good idea.

A few days later I was working on learning the Meteor framework and I realized I could make a site like Craig describe pretty easily and it would probably be a good learning exercise. Of course, I was just going to use basic shapes to represent the barber and waiting chairs. I figured I'd probably make a little bit of progress, learn a bit and then move on to something else with out ever really getting that close to finishing.

A couple free evenings later I had most of the site built and a much better understanding of meteor, bootstrap and meteor-kitchen (which is a great tool for getting a meteor project off the ground quickly). I thought about showing Craig right away, but I got distracted and kinda forgot about it. Eventually though, I went back for my next haircut. I told him about it and he was pretty excited. I warned him it was not going to look that great and was not done yet, but I was going to be on a plane that next week and I'd see if …

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The number of titles of books I read this year seems a little light, 30 books in 2013, only 18 in 2014. Looking over the list though, I feel a little better about my reading last year, there were some big books on the list.

Non-Fiction Politics and Theology (always a dangerous combination): A Farewell to Mars - An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace by Brian Zahnd. One could criticize it for being cavalier at times, but it's covering a lot of ground in small book. It was much more then just an overview for me though, there were several new ideas, new metaphors and even some history that was new to me.

Fiction: The Storm Light Archives (series) by Brandon Sanderson. Only the first two books are out, I read them both, back to back, then pretty much when right into another series Sanderson finished called Mistborn. One of the longest audio book benders of 33 year life. I can not say these books changed my life but they were a lot of fun to read.

I'm looking forward to another year of reading.

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Time for this year's Christmas Playlist. If this isn't enough Christmas Music, you can always go back to previous years (2013, 2012, 2011, 2010).

Most of the music is avalible on Amazon. A lot of it you can listen to for free if you have Amazon Prime. I've also made a GrooveShark playlist of most of the songs.

  1. Ho Ho Ho - Liz Phair - Ho Ho Ho
  2. Carry Me Home - Hey Rosetta! - A Cup Of Kindness Yet
  3. We Need A Little Christmas - AgesandAges - Holidays Rule
  4. Ah Holy Jesus (with reed organ) - Sufjan Stevens - Silver & Gold
  5. Xmas Time Is Here Again - My Morning Jacket - Does Xmas Fiasco Style
  6. Winter Wonderland - Rosie Thomas - A Very Rosie Christmas
  7. I'll Stay 'Til After Christmas - Blitzen Trapper - I'll Stay 'Til After Christmas
  8. Joel the Lump of Coal - The Killers (feat. Jimmy Kimmel)
  9. Frosty the Snowman - Fiona Apple - I'll Be Home For Christmas
  10. Christmas for Cowboys - John Denver - The Classic Christmas Album
  11. Children Go Where I Send Thee - Smalltown Poets - Christmas Time Again
  12. No Christmas In Kentucky - Phil Ochs - A Toast To Those Who Are Gone
  13. Up On The Housetop - Pomplamoose - Pomplamoose Christmas
  14. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) Yoko Ono and Flaming Lips
  15. O Holy Night Brandi Carlile - O Holy Night
  16. Christmas Must Be Tonight - Bahamas - This Warm December, A Brushfire Holiday Vol. 2
  17. Goodbye England (Covered In Snow) - LauraMarling - I Speak Because I Can
  18. Under Any Limb - Ruby The RabbitFoot - Under Any Limb
  19. Christmas Alone - Current Swell - Isn't This World Enough?? A Nettwerk Christmas
  20. Wonderful Christmastime - Laura Gibson - Wonderful Christmastime
  21. I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas - Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas
  22. Christmas In Heaven - Monty Python - Monty Python Sings
  23. What Are You Doing New Years Eve - Natalia Zukerman - What Are You Doing New Years Eve

Here are a couple bonuses.

We wanted to include Christmas Eve Eve by Paul and Storm, but it has a swear in it, so we figured it best to leave it out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTaXqu4uEuw

Here's the origin story and music video for "Joel, the Lump of Coal".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xZ3Ezl5-Lk

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When I tell people about bitcoin and I want to give an example of something bitcoins are good for today I usually use the example of international money transfers. Recently I successfully transferred some money to my sister (about $50), who is currently living in South Korea. It was not exactly the smoothest experience ever but I think it demonstrates a real opportunity.

Here's how we did it.

About a month and half ago I asked my sister if she'd be willing to give this a try. Using CoinMap.org I found a bitcoin ATM in Seoul. It was kinda far away from where she lived but she said she goes to that part of the city every so often. We figured it was worth a shot.

My sister has an iPhone, so I showed her ¢oinpunk which is a web based on-line wallet that works on iPhones. As of the writing of this post Apple has not been allowing cryptocurrency wallets in their App Store but there's hope that this will change soon. Coinpunk is really well designed and it even lets you use the phone's camera to scan QR codes, which is a pretty key feature. I sent her about $50 worth of bitcoins.

Over the next month in a half she tried to use the ATM once on a Sunday, and the coffee shop where the ATM is, was closed. She tried again, and it was down for the day because the people who were running the ATM were updating the software. During this visit she asked around at the coffee shop and got the contact information for the group that was running the ATM. They had a phone number, she called and they were pretty helpful and explained what was going on. The ATM is operated by a company called Coin Plug.

Third time was the charm, she finally made it on a day when the coffee shop was open and she said the ATM worked really well. She was able to exchange the Bitcoins I sent her for South Korean Won.

Given the volatility of bitcoin holding on to them for a month was a risky move on our part. If we really did not want to be exposed to the risks of a big price change we could have arranged a time in advance where she would be at the ATM. I'd buy some BTC using credit card on CoinBase (or many other such services). I'd transfer her some Bitcoins, she'd order a coffee, a couple minutes later she'd have the Bitcoins and be able to sell them through the ATM for KRW before she was done with her drink. I'll bet we could complete a transfer in 15 minutes or less.

I did a quick (back of the envelope) calculation on how much we were charged in fees. I don't think it was very much (less then $4, maybe less then $2). If I had used a credit card to buy Bitcoins immediately …

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Christmas at Ground Zero by Weird Al Yankovic might have been my first exposure to Weird Al, although at the time I probably had no idea who he was and the important work he was doing. I'm sure if I had heard any of his parody songs I would have had no idea it was a parody.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t039p6xqutU

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It's been over a year since I last write about my experiences with bit coins. I have not been able to explore the world of crypto currency as much as I would have liked but I have managed a few things.

Overall though, it's been very interesting to see how Bitcoin is becoming more and more mainstream all the time. If you watch closely it seems super slow but if you take a step back, it's pretty amazing how fast it's been.

Hive

It's been very interesting to watch the evolution of wallet software. My favorite right now is Hive. I run it on my Mac. When I want to pay for something with bitcoin I just click on a link, it opens Hive, with a confirmation screen. I click 'OK', put my password in and it's done.

New Egg

NewEgg.com recently started accepting bitcoin. I needed to place a small electronics order and I figured I'd give their bitcoin payment method a try. The only hiccup was I initially had items in my cart that were supplied by one of their "partners" (or something like that) and the bitcoin option was not there. I changed out the items in my cart for similar ones that NewEgg supplied and it worked great.

Coin Base

Even though I've been spending bitcoins I have yet to replenish my supply. I've been meaning to do that and I figured I'd replace the the ones I spent at NewEgg. I've had a Coin Base account for a while but I never set it up to buy and sell bit coins. I went ahead and did that. It worked great. It reminded me a lot of setting up a PayPal account, but they seemed to have smoothed the process out even more. I actually had a verified account in less then an hour (and only about 5 minutes of filling in information). That included 2-factor authentication, verifying my checking account and a credit card. I won't get my bitcoins for about 3 businesses. It will be interesting to see if that works faster in the future or if that's just the speed at which banks work. It takes about the same amount of time (maybe a little longer) to get money into my PayPal account.

Over all I was impressed with how 'pro' everything from New Egg, to Hive to Coin Base feels. I see that Hive has a Coin Base app, it will be interesting to see what that does.

Speaking of which, if you are thinking about setting up a Coin Base account you should let me refer you.

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The Zombie Translator (Zombietranslator.net) is back and better then ever. Not only does it "work" but there are now more example phrases not to mention vast improvements to the zombie linguistic engine.

My brother Derek is also involved as a writer.

There's also a "social" element to the Zombie Translator. You can follow it on Twitter @ZTranslator, Tumblr and Google+. There you will find useful phrases to memorize. Some phrases are things you might like to communicate to a zombie and others are things zombies might be trying to tell you.

You are more then welcome to "like" the zombie translator on Facebook, but I'm not sure I'll be posting much there.

What follows is mostly for my fellow software developers. If you do not care about such details you can stop reading.

I built the zombie translator on Google App Engine in python. It has been a pretty good experience so far. I've been playing around with Google App Engine for a few years now and they seem to be making it steadily better.

If it's not obvious, the front end is all written in Bootstrap. I've learned a lot about bootstrap building this. It's very handy. Getting the site looking half way decent and functional was much easier with Bootstrap then starting from the HTML5 Boilerplate (where I used to start) although it looks like they've added some more stuff recently. It's also got the whole "responsive" thing too, which I pretty much got for free (you should try the site on your smart phones, it works pretty well).

I'm also hopefully that if I ever want to give it a face lift to make it look more like a zombie translator and less like a bootstrap site, that should be an 'easy' process.

For the "zombie linguistic engine" I actually am using the "natural language library" NLTK, which sounds like it should be a translation of the Bible, but it's not, it's a python library for determining meaning from "natural language". It has a bunch of cool tools and hopefully in the future I can spend more time exploring it.

In the future I'm planning on using this as a 'toy' project. There are several javascript front-end libraries I'd like to learn, including Angular and React. I figure this is just the right size of an app to build after I've done the obligatory "TODO" app.

I've also spend a little bit of time trying to automate the process of posting the translations to the various social networks. I'd like to keep things going as long as I can. However I want to spend as little time on it as possible, so I'm trying to automate the process. So far the only social network I have automated to my liking is tumblr. They have a great API and a really nice post queuing system. I can see why they are so popular, if only I could get all my friends on Facebook to switch to tumblr …

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I think I'm going to start writing an annual blog post about my favorite books every year. Here's this years run down. In case you are wondering I don't actually have a memory capable of remembering all the books I've read this year and what I thought of them, but I've been logging my reading at GoodReads.com and that makes it easy.

Here they are in no particular order. I'm probably going to try to stick to one book per category.

Non-Fiction Politics: The Law by Frédéric Bastiat. One of the only real books I actually read this year (I "read" most books by listening to them). It's short. It's funny, and it's full of thoughtful insights.

Non-Fiction Theology: Knowing God by J.I. Packer. A classic I had never read before. Lots of good stuff, I'm sure I'll read it again.

Science Fiction: MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood. One of the best science fiction writers knocking another one out of the park, but it's the 3rd in a series and you should read the other two books first.

There were lots of other good book I read this year, checkout my Good Reads profile if you want to see what I've been reading. If I have any regrets I wish I would have made time to finish a computer book or two and maybe read a bit more history. I also could have done with a little less science fiction, but it was a good year for me and books.

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It's getting to be Christmas time again. That means a lot of awful annoying music that might have been fun at some point but after while just feels soul crushing, but also some that's actually kinda good. Once again me and Erin have tried to assemble some of the better music (some new some old) to improve everyone's holidays.

We just try not to repeat any exact tracks from previous years. I'm not sure we'll be able to keep that up forever, but we managed to do it again this year. Some of our favorite Christmas songs are on previous year’s list, so you should check those out too (2012, 2011, 2010). If you listen to all 4 plays lists back to back, that’s over 4 hours of Christmas music.

  1. We Wish You A Merry Christmas - Folk Angel - Comfort & Joy - Christmas Songs Vol. 3
  2. Do You Hear - We Three Kings - The 12 Songs of Christmas
  3. Winter Night - Little & Ashley - Winter Night EP
  4. You Make The Cold Disappear - Amy Stroup - Music City Unsigned Family Christmas
  5. They Shined Up Rudolph’s Nose - The David Mayfield Parade - Paste Holiday Sampler 2013
  6. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) - Death Cab for Cutie - Maybe This Christmas Tree
  7. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear - Norah Jones - It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
  8. Christmas With You - Johnny Cash - The Classic Christmas Album
  9. Kris Kringle - Kate Rusby - While Mortals Sleep
  10. I Hear (Click, Click, Click) - The Rosebuds - Christmas Tree Island
  11. More Than I Wished For - Schuyler Fisk - Sounds Of The Holiday
  12. Hark the Herald Angels Sing - Smalltown Poets - Smalltown Poets Christmas
  13. What Child Is This - Sleeping At Last - Christmas Collection 2013
  14. Lumberjack Christmas / No One Can Save You from Christmases Past - Sufjan Stevens - Silver & Gold
  15. Christmas In Prison - Emmy the Great featuring Lightspeed Champion - It’s Not Like Christmas
  16. Three Ships - We Three Kings - The 12 Songs of Christmas
  17. Come Thou Long Expected Jesus / Joy To The World - Folk Angel - Headed Home - Christmas Songs Vol. 2
  18. The Blizzard - Camera Obscura - The Blizzard
  19. One More Sleep ’Til Christmas - The Muppets - The 12 Songs of Christmas
  20. Christmas Auld Lang Syne - Ortolan - A Familyre Christmas - Volume 4!

Also, here’s the playlist on last.fm.

Here’s a bonus track, we didn’t put in on the CD because we felt like it needs the video.

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The Temptation of Adam by Josh Ritter was a recent find. The song doesn't need much explaining, the lyrics make it pretty clear. I appreciate how the story the song tells causes one to sympathize with those who's finger on "on the button" but in the process of that, their human flaws become apparent which becomes frightening.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4wtNGR4Nnk

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