Spring Training 2019: Day 4

Saturday morning of the Spring Training trip has certain traditions and we continued them this year.

First we woke up (relatively) early, drove over to Goodyear, and had breakfast at the Black Bear Diner. Then it was over to the Indians’ Player Development Complex to watch the morning warm-ups and practice at 9:00am. We were a little too early, as the inner gate didn’t open until 9:30am. This year, Rick Danberg seemed to be missing … there was no one talking to the crowd, giving out the day’s schedule, telling stories, etc. Everyone was just milling around waiting so I really missed his talks. We caught the occasional glimpse of a player in the weight room and also saw Terry Francona walk out to his car. The players didn’t actually come out to practice until around 10:40am, which seemed a lot later than in past years. We watched the warm-ups and then tried to shag some fly balls during batting practice (my brother and I came up empty, my sister got one though).

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Spring Training 2019: Day 3

We got to sleep in this morning. Normally we have something planned every day, but since we added another day to the trip this year we had a leisurely Friday morning. After breakfast at the hotel, we hung out for a bit and watched some more March Madness NCAA tournament games (the three hour time difference with the east coast helped us there). Then it was time to head our for our day/night double-header!

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Spring Training 2019: Day 2

My brother and I woke up early to get breakfast in the hotel lobby at 6:30am before driving over to the Piestewa Peak trailhead. Yes, after 10 years of hiking Camelback Mountain on this trip we finally decided to try a new trail! We hiked up the Summit trail which took us up 1,200 feet to the top (2,608 feet) in just under an hour. It’s definitely a different experience than Camelback. Where the Echo Canyon trail on Camelback is a lot of dirt trails and extreme railing/rock climbs, Piestewa’s Summit trail is almost entirely stone stairs carved into the side of the mountain. It’s definitely an aerobic/leg workout! But like Camelback, the views from the top are amazing. We were back at the car by 10:00am and drove back to the hotel to clean up and get my sister (who opted not to hike due to knee issues) and then headed to Surprise in the northwest corner of the valley for today’s game.

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Making cocktails with Mixel

I had sort of an anti-New Year’s resolution this year: drink more alcohol!

Well, not exactly. What I resolved to do was to learn how to make cocktails at home. Until now, my homemade adult beverages consisted mainly of Seven & Sevens or the occasional Moscow Mule. But sampling a wide range of other cocktails on our cruise last year, plus tasting my brother-in-law’s homemade limoncello over Christmas encouraged me to learn a little mixology myself.

After stocking my home bar with the basics (vodka, gin, tequila, rum, whiskey, etc. etc.) and mixers (simple syrup, lemon/lime juice, etc. etc.), I needed recipes. There’s no shortage of web sites on the internet (like liquor.com) for cocktail recipes, but I also wanted a good mobile app for my iPhone. After trying a few, I found Mixel.

Mixel doesn’t just tell you how to make cocktails. If you stock your bar and fridge with the ingredients you have on-hand, it will tell you what you can make as well. You can search recipes by name (“whiskey sour”) or ingredient (“grenadine”) and filter the results by ingredients you have on hand, different packs, drinks you’ve tried or bookmarked, etc. The app has about 500 built-in ingredients and you can easily add your own. It’s a lot of tapping, but you can add the ingredients, measurements, steps, notes, even customize the icon (glass type, liquid color, garnishes, etc.). You can also add and organize your own recipes into packs and even add multiple bars (I guess if you have one at home and one at the summer house?). If you don’t have an ingredient, you can add it to your shopping list (although that’s a list internal to the app and doesn’t integrate with any grocery shopping apps).

As you might have guessed, it’s called Mixel because of the pixel art graphics which take me back to my King’s Quest days. You can change the color scheme and turn off the pixel font if you want, but I really like the look of the app (I’m using a dark theme, as you can see in the screenshots below).

Mixel is a free, with in-app purchases (for more recipes than the basic 80 included in the free version). After using it for just a day or so I decided to go all-in with the Premium pack.

Building the PiDP-11

PiDP-11Three and a half years ago I built my PiDP-8 kit and it’s been happily blinking away on my desk ever since (it also runs my Pi-Hole). Earlier this year, on episode #698 of Steve Gibson’s Security Now! podcast, Steve mentioned that Oscar Vermeulen had come out with a new kit, the PiDP-11! I loved the experience of building the PiDP-8 and the quality of the final product so I immediately signed up on the mailing list to be in Oscar’s next batch of orders.

A week later I received (and submitted) my order form. While I was waiting for the kit to arrive, I picked up a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ kit and 32gb SD card. Following the instructions in Step #1, I prepped the SD card with Raspbian (Jessie Lite) and downloaded and installed the PiDP-11 software. Since the RPi 3 B+ is a lot more powerful than the RPi 1 B+ in my PiDP-8, I decided to consolidate and move my Pi-Hole and Retro-Pie installations onto it as well. With the Pi ready to go, I just needed the kit …

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Going all-in with Nest cameras

I seem to go through technology re-orgs every four years or so. To start off 2019 I decided to re-do my security camera setup.

My first cameras were installed in 2010 (Foscam outside, TRENDnet inside). In 2014 I switched my indoor cameras to Dropcams but since Dropcam (now Nest) didn’t have an outdoor solution at the time I went with PoE TRENDnet dome cameras outside. While this solution was perfectly functional and served me well for the past five years, it was a bit of a pain having to use two different apps to view the indoor vs. outdoor cameras. Now that there’s the Nest Outdoor (released in 2016 and then the IQ Outdoor in 2017), and I also have a Nest thermostat and smoke detectors, it was not a tough decision to consolidate and go with more Nest cameras.

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“Ralph Wrecks VR” at The VOID

Yesterday we spent the day over at Disney and after finishing up early at Animal Kingdom we headed over to Disney Springs for lunch. After eating at Terralina we went over to The VOID and played “Ralph Wrecks VR” … WOW!

The VOID bills itself as a “hyper-reality … whole-body, fully immersive VR experience” and it delivers. You put on a VR helmet and equipment vest and then get to walk around the virtual world by actually walking. You’re not tethered to anything, you’re completely detached and free. If DisneyQuest was still around, this would fit right in.

Unlike my first (disembodied) experience with the Oculus Rift, you can look down and see your body, your arms, even wiggle your fingers. Check your wrist and you can see the scoreboard flip up. You can talk to your team members and see their mouths move as they talk back to you. You can reach out and touch the wall, grab a railing, press buttons on a control panel, and it all syncs with the VR world in the helmet without lag. It’s just incredible! We chose “Ralph” over “Star Wars” because this was wife’s first immersive VR experience (and she’s not really into Star Wars). It was a great family experience and there was no dizziness, no motion sickness, it was seamless. The vest even had some force feedback mechanisms so you could feel things hitting you, or get shocked. The best part? Pancake/milkshake gun … oh yeah, come get some! My daughter and I will definitely go back to try the Star Wars experience.

My only complaint is the wait time. We had 1:30pm “reservations” but had to wait in three separate staging areas for about 20 minutes each, so by the time we actually got to play it was after 2:30pm. The experience itself was about 20 minutes and they only have a certain number of “arenas” so I guess I should have expected that (plus, they were only running “Ralph” in one arena, so the “Star Wars” line was moving faster.

Happy New Year 2019! (with a sports update)

Happy New Year!

Last year on New Year’s Eve my Cleveland Browns finished their perfect 0-16 season. They closed out the 2018 season just shy of a winning season with a 7-8-1 record and Baker Mayfield broke the record for most touchdown passes by a rookie quarterback in his first season.

Baker Mayfield sets rookie quarterback TD pass record

Both the Browns and Bucs will be looking for new coaches this year (Hue Jackson was fired back in October and Derek Koetter was fired on Sunday after the Bucs finished with another 5-11 season).

The Lightning closed out December “unbeaten” (just a single overtime loss) and are the #1 team in the league going into the new year.

The Cavs are back to losing now that Lebron James is gone (again), sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with an 8-29 record.

The Rays aren’t getting a new stadium anytime soon, which is making people wonder how much longer they’ll be in Tampa Bay.

Coming up in 2019, the Indians will host the All-Star Game for the first time since 1997 when Sandy Alomar, Jr. hit that homer and was named the game’s MVP (I was watching down at the Field of Dreams at Nautica). I hope to get up to Cleveland in July to attend (I’ve already got my annual Arizona spring training trip planned).

What about my New Years’ resolutions? I’m going with something counter to the norm. Instead of drinking less (which I don’t do a lot of anyway) and inspired by the drinks I had on our Thanksgiving cruise, I’m going to learn how to make more cocktails! 😀