Canoeing the Colorado

A few weeks ago, Erika and I joined some friends on the Colorado River for a repeat of a trip we took last year.

I got all my gear sorted out on Thursday afternoon/evening, then drove out to Fruita (our put-in point) on Friday morning. By noon we were all loaded up in our canoes and ready to hit the water.

This year’s highlight was probably the felon we ran into who claimed to be on the run. Seriously. Right when we started, we saw someone putting in on the other side of the river in a yellow kayak. Not too long later he caught up with us, and asked to borrow a phone. His story was confusing and rambling, but he claimed to be on the run from Federal Marshals, and was taking one last river trip before he was put away for 20+ years on a felony “paleolithic” offense, which apparently involved finding and trying to sell a dinosaur bone on federal property. The guy was wearing jeans and runners, and had nothing with him. Our guess is that he stole the kayak and was just making a run for it.

Other than our kayaking-felon, we were treated to the same beautiful cliffs and landscapes as we were last year. Some fun mini-rapids and lots of hanging out in chairs in the river, drinking beers. We also briefly saw some river otters on the last day which was a fun treat.

The first night’s campsite again turned out to be a rough one, even though we tried a very different one this time. It was super muddy to get in there, and then was again a total mosquito party. We found a spot inland a bit where we could set up a kitchen and hang out to avoid the mosquitos, but then it rained all evening, which made for a pretty muddy and dreary time. The next morning we went on a bit of a hike up into the valley/hills, checked out the scenery, then headed off for the day.

Day 2 (the only full day on the river) was a really lazy one, because we didn’t have that much distance to cover. We had a few nice long breaks, including a shot at some fishing and running some rapids in life vests (just laying back and floating them directly in the river). That night we stopped at Black Rocks 3 campsite, which was glorious. We had a beach to ourselves with soft sand, no mosquitos, and ended up with a beautiful clear sky. We lay around and watched the stars, admired the Milky Way, and generally just enjoyed the evening.

Since we had a schedule to keep on Day 3, we were up and at it in the morning, and got moving. We got buzzed by a plane while we were packing up (figure-8s in the sky!), then hit the river. When we got to the boat ramp, our ride was already there so we took out, packed up, and rolled back to Fruita. From there it was a matter of loading everything up, then making the 4 hour drive back to Denver so that we could unpack and clean, organize etc. Another great trip.

Fjällräven Classic, USA, 2017

This week, I’ve been roaming the Colorado wilderness with 250 of my closest/unknown friends, participating in the second annual Fjällräven Classic, USA. I participated in the inaugural event last year, which conveniently fell during my 3-month sabbatical from work. At the time, I said that no matter what else was going on, I would definitely be attending again in 2017. As promised, when the 2017 Classic was announced, I immediately grabbed tickets, and this time even talked Erika into going.

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The Future of the Web

I recently spoke at a small conference we put on in Detroit. I talked about The Future of the Web, in the context of data ownership, and proprietary vs open platforms. It was the first time I’ve done a talk like this without slides of any kind, so I actually wrote out the whole thing (below). The live version was a little different, as you can hear in the audio (sorry it’s a bit echo-y):

Read transcript

Classic Training Hike

On Sunday, Erika and I went on a training hike, to start getting into shape for the Fjallraven Classic. This year it’s over 30 miles of backpacking within 3 days, and we’re both a bit nervous about being able to keep up the pace! We went up to White Ranch Park, and ended up hiking about 8 miles (Belcher Hill, Longhorn, Shorthorn, Longhorn, Whippletree, Belcher Hill), with roughly 20lb packs. We went pretty slow, but I think we did OK considering it was our first longer (and loaded) hike of the season. We’ll definitely need to get a few more in between now and the end of June, along with a bunch of basic walking/hiking training as well. The elevation (10,000 ft+) for the Classic is going to be rough, even for us Mile-Highers.

According to Fitbit, I did just over 21,000 steps and burned 4,500 calories. My heart rate peaked up around 140bpm briefly.

Dented Reality on New Dedicated Virtual at Media Temple

I’ve completed the migration of dentedreality.com.au (along with all my other domains, excluding this one) to a new dedicated virtual server with Media Temple. Mad props to them, they’ve been great in helping me handle some pieces of the process, which has gone relatively smoothly. Things I’m looking forward to on the new host include:

  • Working with Plesk Onyx
  • Trying out Let’s Encrypt 🔐
  • PHP 7 😍
  • Hopefully consolidating and simplifying some things

This site (beau.blog) is now my main blogging/writing space, with Dented Reality being more of a full archive of my digital footsteps.

Import posts from Jetpack/WordPress.com

I’ve just released version 1.8 of both Keyring, and the Keyring Social Importers. This version includes a new service file, and an accompanying importer, which allows you to import content from a Jetpack-powered WordPress site, using the WordPress.com REST API. That means any site hosted on WordPress.com, or any self-hosted site with the Jetpack plugin installed. There are also a few key fixes for the Twitter and LinkedIn services/importers, so it’s a nice update.

The new importer will pull across the entire content of posts, including tags. Similar to the Instapaper importer, it attempts to avoid duplicate content issues by marking pages as noindex if they come from imported content.

This is another piece of the puzzle required for me to create a complete archive of my digital footprints over on Dented Reality, now that I’m blogging here. This post should be imported over there automatically within an hour.

Note that currently the importer doesn’t sideload any media items (will add that soon) or support geo data (again, I’ll add that when I get a chance).

Check it out, and please use responsibly!

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Dabbling in Home Automation and The Internet of Things

Now that I own my own house, and some of the technologies involved are a bit more stable, I’ve gotten into the idea of home automation a bit more. Here’s a quick run down of my current configuration.

At the center of most things, I have a wink hub (first generation). I configure as much as possible through that, since it simplifies interacting with them if they’re all available in one place.

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From there, I have 2 Schlage Connect deadbolts (house and garage doors), which are both programmed with the same set of user codes (has to be done manually). It’s nice to be able to control codes from within the wink app, vs using the on-pad controls.

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To control lights, we have 3 rooms converted over to Lutron Caseta light switches (so far, I’d like to do a few more). This makes it easy to control an entire circuit (all 3 rooms are controlling either 3 or 6 bulbs, so they’d be expensive to convert using individual smart bulbs). They’re super easy to install, and you don’t need their hub thing if you have the wink, which is compatible. I also have 3 iHome Smartplugs, which plug into an outlet, and then let you plug in any standard lamp/appliance, and control it. I don’t love the Smartplugs, and have had some trouble with them dropping their connections, but when they work they’re fine.

Separately, I also have 2 LIFX bulbs, which can be controlled directly, so they are in a couple of lamps that could otherwise be controlled via Smartplugs (I got these bulbs from their Kickstarter way back).

To control all of the above, I actually have everything configured in both an Amazon Echo, and a Google Home. Redundancy FTW, and it’s fun to experiment with each platform.

Technically, also connected to the wink hub, we have some Nest Outdoor security cameras, which have been really fun to play with. I’ve even hooked up a system to automatically take snapshots, which is interesting for comparing seasonal shade profiles for gardening purposes.

Apart from those power/control/security devices, we’ve also current got an Apple TV, a Chromecast (integrates really nicely with the Google Home), and I use Automatic in my truck.

I’ve played around a bit with configuring shortcuts and “robots” (automations), but really haven’t found many that are that useful to be honest. Probably the best one is one that just turns on our kitchen light when we open the back door (which opens basically into the kitchen). I think one of the biggest problems is that I don’t have a great system for handling “presence”, which needs to take me and Erika into account. Without that, anything I automate based on my presence is likely to just be an annoyance for her if she happens to be at home when I’m not (or vice versa).

Areas that I’d be curious to look into automating would be thermostat control (long story as to why I haven’t done this already), external temperature/precipitation, combined with irrigation, and possibly window coverings.