Our Year In Review

JAN: In January of 2014, things are a bit foggy. My photos are a mess for that month, so I had a hard time trying to figure out exactly what happened. I see photo “highlights” that month from all different events, so maybe I did a slideshow or something of the previous year’s events at that time. I also see a dump of “all photos from Sandy’s phone”, so I’m guessing Sandy got a new phone that month. I also found a photo of our Ingress Resistance group taken at a restaurant in Waukesha on 1/26, so it looks like we had a great turnout that night. On to February!

FEB: On 2/1 we went to the Snow Sculpting Championships in Lake Geneva, which we traditionally do every year. On Friday, Feb 7th, Kevin had a birthday bowling party at Guttormsen’s Recreation Center. Several of his friends and family attended and he had a great time. This is when he got his PS4. On 2/9 it looks like either Kevin, Sandy, or both of them attended an Ice Sculpting contest in downtown Kenosha. I see the photos now, and they’re great! I don’t recall seeing them before though! I’ll have to ask about these… It appears I missed a pretty nice event with some awesome ice sculptures.

MAR: Kevin’s obsession with vinyl figures from POP! Television dominate this month’s photos, so I’m pretty sure nothing significant happened during this month.

APR: A lot of photos of Connor, the newest addition to our family tree, were taken during this month, and added to our ever-expanding “Connor Photo Album”. On Easter, Kevin even got a little Easter basket this year. Just a small one, but it did include a couple new vinyls that he wanted. There are also hundreds of art images from famous artists as well as what looks like Diviant Art collections in this month’s photos, so I think Kevin was pretty busy researching art a lot. It’s amazing what G+ photos picks up and automatically adds to our photos! On 4/26 we conquered “The Caterpillar” in Ingress. This is a very long sculpture walk in Skokie, IL, with a huge number of portals. It’s usually a green farm, so our team attacked it that day and turned it blue. On 4/27 Kevin and I went to O’Hare Airport in Chicago and picked up Tyler coming back from Arizona.

MAY: On May 5th, Kevin went to a Brewers game. On Mat 25th, he participated in the making of a zombie movie that a friend of his from school is making. On 5/26 I participated in the building of a huge “Fish Field” that Dave G. organized for our Ingress Resistance team. I provided Ops & instructions from home while many players in the field, on both sides of Lake Michigan and in Chicago, did the actual leg work. It was pretty successful with many layers. Kevin had a veteran’s event at his school on 5/27, honoring many veterans for their service. He also had Matt visit his class and they interviewed him.

JUN: Kevin had a Photography Intensive for school on 6/3. He took some awesome photos! I was pretty impressed. On 6/7 we attended Kenosha’s annual Outta Sight Kite Flight. We just watched and took photos and videos…I guess running with kites is just not our thing. On June 11th, Kevin took a bunch more photos as part of his photography class. It looks like he was around downtown Kenosha, around the sculptures and flower gardens in the area. June 15th was Father’s Day, and it looks like Kevin helped prepare a nice breakfast for me. Sunday, June 29th was a blast! It not only was the day of Kenosha’s Civic Veteran’s Parade, but it was also the day we had our “Kenosha Blues BBQ” event for our Ingress team. Every Resistance player in the area who could attend came to Kenosha that day and helped us turn the entire city blue, had some great food at the BBQ we had in a Kenosha Park, and then helped build and farm the Kenosha Lakefront area.

JUL: Kevin, Socks and I went to the Ultimate Air Dogs competition at the Civil War Museum on Independence Day, and also watched a little bit of the Aquanuts performance next-door in the Kenosha Harbor. We watched the July 4th Fireworks that evening from the Kenosha Public Museum, near the front door–conveniently in range of two museum Ingress portals. We loaded them up with heat sinks and multihacks and farmed them for a pile of gear before the fireworks started. On 7/19 Kevin and I visited the Milwaukee Art Museum. On July 26th, Kevin went to the Racine County Fair with Matt, Anna and the kids. On July 27th, Chester and I took a day trip to Oshkosh for an Ingress event & cookout. We farmed a good portion of Oshkosh then met up with other Resistance teammates at a park for a cookout and some farming.

AUG: On 8/2 we attended the Pike River Rendezvous, which was held on Simmons Island. We thoroughly enjoyed the jugglers. On 8/17, with the help of “duce222”, a few Resistance agents and myself toured the Great Lakes Naval Base. Usually being an Enlightened stronghold in Ingress, we took the opportunity to flip it to blue and gain some unique acquires and unique hacks. It was a very fun “Military Op”. On 8/30 we went to the Kenoisha Classic Cruise-In car show in downtown Kenosha.

SEP: On 9/6 we attended Beth & Tom’s annual Fish Fry. Unfortunately, it was also the day I got into a little fender bender with someone. The fault turned out to be pretty much eqaul, but unfortunately leaned jsut a little more my way, so my insurance covered my damages as well as the other driver’s. On 9/28 Sandy, Kevin and I went to the Society’s Assets Bears/Packers banquet. In addition to watching the game dressed in our team’s attire, they had a nice dinner, door prizes, and honored Sandy with an award for “Exemplary Service to Consumers” for her work with her clients she visits working for Society’s Assets.

OCT: On 10/5 we attended Haylie’s 5th Birthday at Matt & Anna’s house. Kevin attended his friend Stephanie’s birthday party on 10/17, and of course we celebrated Halloween throughout October, culminating with trick-or-treat on thr 31st. Kevin did a little trick-or-treating, showing off his costume creation while I walked Socks, who also wore a dinosaur costume of his own.

NOV: On 11/8, Matt and I took a day trip. He dropped me off at Hans’ house in Grafton, then he continued North to Ponderosa Pines Campground in Bancroft, WI to pick up Rick from his camper there. Rick spends 6 months up North and 6 months in Kenosha each year. While I was at Hans’, we caught up on things, noth having seen each other for several years! We didn’t have time for much though, the visit was way too short, but he did dazzle me with some new 3D printing technology that he works with as part of his job! Wow, that was amazing. He sent me home with a few 3D-printed items and even a couple things I picked out off the http://www.thingiverse.com/ website (Ingress-related of course)! Amazing technology that’s changing the world! On 11/9 the remains of POW MIA James Vanbendegom were returned to Kenosha with a homecoming parade in his honor down 60th Street to a funeral home where hundreds paid their respects before he was laid to rest. We had Thanksgiving at Matt & Anna’s house in Caledonia on 11/27. We had 2 turkeys and it was very nice. We ended up stuffed, of course. On 11/28 Kevin, Socks and I went to “Lighin’ Up Downtown Kenosha” and took a bunch of photos. We went early to avoid the crowds though, before the actual event times, so I guess we really didn’t “attend” the event per se, but we went down and took a lot of photos of the storefront displays, which were part of the contest.

DEC: Ah, now. The easiest month to remember. On December 7th, we attended Connor’s 1st Birthday party at Matt & Anna’s. On December 20th, Sandy started having a severe medical problem. We’re not sure what caused it, but I took her to the ER that morning when she could barely walk any more. She was fine when she got u, she did a few chores around the house, then it just hit her with horrible shooting pain down her right hip and leg. We just found out this morning, after having an MRI on Friday, that she has Spinal Stenosis and a Herniated Disc. They said surgery is the last resort for this, so I guess they’re going to try to treat it in other ways first. She has another doctor’s appointment today. At this point she can barely walk, and certainly can’t work, so she’s pretty upset. After this onset, she still wanted to do all the holiday festivities as usual, not wanting to disrupt everyone’s plans. What a trooper! Not sure I could have pushed through all that myself if I were in her condition. So we celebrated Christmas Eve at Matt & Anna’s and had a nice dinner that evening. Then on Christmas Day we went to Beth & Toms and had another big dinner. Kevin opened his presents at home on Christmas morning, and he is very happy with what he got, even though he no longer believes in the magic we brainwashed him with. All in all, the holidays were pretty nice, and we enjoyed them as much as possible, despite Sandy’s unfortunate problems. We’re working through them now, and we’re hoping for the best and some relief from the pain as soon as possible. The doctors just seem so darned SLOW though… it’s like they don’t really seem to care very much, since they’re not the ones in such constant pain.

Now on with 2015. Bring it!!

Looking back: Socks

Socks 2002While playing the Christmas Memories slideshow this holiday season, a few gems stood out for me.  Photos I remembered fondly, but never noted in any other way, so they just sort of disappeared into the mix.  They were never specifically titled or labeled, so they are difficult to find when searching using keywords.  So when they pop up, I try to remember the year and photo # which I added to the bottom right corner of the screen in the slideshow.  This is one of them.  This is Socks in 2002, just after we got him, with his first collar on.  He’s 12 years old now, and still our lil puppy.  These days he’ll do anything for a little warmth & snuggling, and loves a little “nest” anywhere he can get someone to make one.  Even the word “nest” gets him excited.  Lay out a heavy blanket–or HIS favorite blanket–when you say it and he’ll hop right on top, waiting to be folded into it like a pig in a blanket!  Then he’ll stay there as long as possible to soak up all the heat he can.  Our perpetual puppy.

Geeky Christmas Things

For the Christmas season, I’ve been playing with my options for using the living room TV for background entertainment when we don’t want to watch actual TV.  Here’s what I’ve settling on using.  Since I have a laptop (Windows 7) connected to the TV (LG 55″) via HDMI, I set it to having the TV as its main display.  I use Google Plus Images to download my albums “Christmas 2008”, 2009, etc., up to 2013.  This is extremely easy on G+, but next to impossible on Flickr.  Once those were downloaded, I renamed each photo (an entire folder at a time) to “Christmas 2013 – Photo xxx” (it auto-numbers them).  Then I created an executable slideshow using Slide Show Builder in FastStone Image Viewer, adding all of the photos from each year, set the transitions, and added caption text to the bottom left corner, which I set to include the photo’s filename and timestamp.  I set each photo for 15 seconds, and built the exe file.  There were a total of just over 600 photos.  I can optionally add music to the slideshow as well, but I left this out, since I prefer to just play an Amazon Music Station or my own music instead.  This turned out really nice.  Amazon has several different “Christmas” channels to choose from, as well as many other channels for whatever type of music I’m in the mood for, or I can easily play any of my own music, which Amazon has stored for me.  Amazon with hold up to 200,000 songs, I believe, which is certainly plenty for me.  And with Amazon Prime, all of the free music and stations is just a bonus.

I must say, it did take most of this month’s spare time (when I wasn’t playing Ingress) to find the best options for each of these tasks.  For example, I had no easy way of controlling the mouse and starting the music and slideshow without standing 6 inches from the TV until I found a decent “air remote” to use.  I needed an easy way to start and stop the slideshow and music on the computer in the living room. Eventually I found this. It has some great reviews and sounded perfect, so I went with it. It works great, exactly what I needed.

I also tried to find all my Christmas photos on Flickr and download them, which is ridiculously difficult to do, for some reason.  I tried using DisplayFusion first to simply randomly show Christmas photos straight from the web (using either G+ photos or Flickr), but as it turns out, there’s a limit to how many photos you can stream in an hour.  If I set it to only switch photos every minute, it works ok, but the other problem (with both photo services) is they both only seem to go back a couple hundred photos or so in my photostream.  This results in only being able to view recent photos, pretty much showing only this year’s photos and a few of last year’s.  This is when I decided to do everything local and just download exactly which photos I wanted to display.

So there you have it, my geeky Christmas slideshow.  We’re enjoying all of the old memories now, and look forward to this year’s festivities, which are starting today.  Now on with the holidaze!

What Nerve

Sandy saw an Orthopedic doctor today this afternoon.  After some discussion about her symptoms and condition, he scheduled an MRI.  He’s thinking it is possibly a pinched nerve.  They couldn’t schedule it until Friday, Dec. 26th, due to the holiday, so she’s going to have to suffer through Christmas like this, at the very least.  By Monday or Tuesday of next week hopefully they’ll know something and be able to treat her.

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Sandy’s in the ER

Sandy’s in the ER this morning. Woke up and could hardly walk. Right leg problem. Getting ultrasound right now.

Update – Ultrasound found no blood clots. Going for x-rays now to check right hip.

Update 2 – X-rays showed no changes since last time. She’s being released and has to follow up with a Orthopedic doctor. Frustrating.

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New Photos Dropdown Menu

The “Photos” option at the top menu of my website is now a dropdown menu.  You can use it to go to my Flickr or G+ photostreams or albums.  I seriously can’t make up my mind on which one to go with permanently.  They both have their own individual advantages and strengths, and features that the other can’t do, so I really hate to give up either one.  I’m backing up to both, and hopefully I’ll be able to keep them relatively organized.  Things may be published on one and not the other at times, so that’s why I am adding options.  Besides, you’re gonna need more to look at while you’re waiting between the long gaps between my posts!  (Sorry, I’m working on that too!)

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Software scams, Baitware, Phishing…

It seems like nearly EVERYTHING you install these days comes with a catch.  You need to be careful not to do an “Automatic” or “Full” install of anything, because they means “go ahead, install everything”, or “go ahead and install whatever you want”, and that will almost always get you in trouble.  Even totally legitimate applications and the big-name software makers will do this now, which makes it very annoying all the way around, and actually ends up getting me more side work….Cleaning up users’ PCs when they slow way down or start getting uncontrollable popups.  This is not a good thing.  Sure, I could always use the work, but I’d rather not have to clean up after these program vomit their garbage all over a customer’s hard drive.  Users have enough problems without adding all this mess, and it only causes them more frustration, sometimes ending with them hating Windows or their computer manufacturer for giving them all of these headaches. Make sure to get a file recovery software to keep all your documents safe.

If you’re careful though, with each and every install and mouse click, you can minimize your chances of having these problems.  It’s the same with the web and junk e-mail.  Be careful what you click one and don’t believe everything you read.  Scams are everywhere.  Anything that ever makes someone a little profit is exploited as much as possible.

Make sure you have an antivirus installed.  But even if you do, these days that’s not enough.  Malware is not considered a virus, so clicking something bad on the web or simply visiting a bad website will often result in malware being installed on your PC.  You need to either run a malware scanner regularly or install one that constantly monitors your PC and catches them immediately.  The latter is usually only available as a paid service, however, usually as a “pro” or “advanced” version of a standard malware scanner.  Keep in mind that all of these, as well, are also used to scam users.  Some malware and viruses appear as popup notices explaining that you’re PC is infected with many bad malware programs or viruses and offer to fix it for you, sometimes for a fee.  This usually results in an even worse infection on your PC, or nothing at all, as they are usually only there to inject themselves deeper into your system, or worse yet, to scam you out of your credit card information, giving you nothing in return as they sell your information to make their money.

Personally, I use Microsoft Security Essentials and Malwarebytes Antimalware.  As of Windows 8, Security Essentials is built in, which is a great step forward.  Many will insist this is only “basic” protection and users need a much better application, or suite, to protect them…usually for a price, of course.  This may very well be.  Just be careful and make absolutely sure you’re choosing a legitimate solution and not just another elaborate scam.  As I said, those are what I use, and I rarely have issues.  They’re both free, though Malwarebytes does have a “pro” version that monitors your PC live just like an antivirus program, and supposedly catches malware before it infects your PC.  I haven’t tried it though, so I can’t say how effective it is or isn’t.

Mayhem at it’s finiest…er funniest

Minions of Anarchy

Jay sent me this image recently, and with Sons of Anarchy finally over now, I thought I’d post it here (click it-or here-for the full-sized image).  This was one of my favorite TV shows of all time, no doubt.  Right up there with the Sopranos.  In case you never watched it, it has nothing to do with minions or Hostess Twinkies… It’s about a gang of outlaw bikers that run guns in California.  It was created by Kurt Sutter, who is now married to Katie Sagal.  There are 7 Seasons of the show, and it all wraps up with a very awesome final episode, which just aired this week.