Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

The Organ Needle

November 28th, 2010 1 comment

I am a sore man this morning.  Day two after hiking to the top of the Organ Needle sure feels good :)  We had a great time, and Michael has made history being the first of this generation of Giles to make it to the top (along with his cousins Megan and Brooke!).  There is a ton going on in life right now – about to move across the world, away from our friends and family to China.  It was a great experience to share with my dad, one of my brothers (Monte), and my oldest son Michael.  It took me back to my previous experiences hiking to the top of the Organ Needle, the last of which was the week before I entered the MTC as a missionary some 14 years ago (as far as I can remember).  The time and effort it takes to hike to the top of the Organ Needle and back down (basically a day) helps cement it in your life’s experiences, somewhat of an anchor if you allow it to be one.

Upon returning home tomorrow the next several weeks are going to be a whirlwind of activity, cleaning, repairing, packing, filing, signing papers, buying plane tickets, sending our belongings on boats (not to be seen again for two months), renting out our home, selling our cars, selling our furniture, selling our … , saying goodbye to friends, saying goodbye to family, spending Christmas and New Years with family before boarding our airplane to Beijing the first of January.  And in reality, the whirlwind then really begins to whirl…

Our family is in for an adventure that will change each of us, and the path our lives may take us.  We know we are doing what our Heavenly Father wants us to do, and because of that we are filled with peace throughout all that is involved in making this move.  Even so, I look forward to the next time I’ll be able to be with those closest to me, father, brothers, children, on top of the world through hiking to the top of the Organ Needle.  I’m grateful to have had this experience at this time in my life, to be an anchor to what matters most to me before heading out on this new adventure across the world in China.

Game On!  :)

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Starting Week 2 :)

March 9th, 2010 No comments

Ok – I ran my first run for this week (after biking to / from work yesterday) and ended up running about 3.2 miles in ~ 27 minutes (8.5 minutes / mile).  Guess I need to sign up for a 5k event in the near future to get me motivated to keep on running and push myself – anyone know of one here in Albuquerque in the next few months?  Here is the path I took this time around:

I think the fact that I’m blogging about this is helping motivate me somewhat (as if you all are checking in on me – even though you likely wouldn’t notice if I stopped running…).  Anyhow – whatever works, right?

Tonight’s run got interesting the last mile or so – it started snowing and blowing right in my face!  I had to close my eyes most of the last mile due to the snow and wind… but I also think it motivated me to run a bit faster so I could get back home before it got worse ;)  Well – thanks for listening.  Time for bed.

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Day 1

March 3rd, 2010 No comments

I’ve decided to start running – this time for real ;)  Today was my first day back.  I ended up running for ~2.5 miles in 26 minutes (10 minute 24 second miles) with a bit of cool down at the end.  I’m actually feeling much better than I thought I would after the first run, but I’m sure tomorrow morning will bring a different story!  Here is the route I ran (a bit hilly at places) this evening:

Day 1

Notice the nice off-shoot I took at the east end of my run – I was hoping to cut across to the trails in the foothills – but got caught in a cul-de-sac and had to come back… at least it was downhill on the way back ;)   Thanks Claudia for motivating me to get back into better shape!  Wish me luck.

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Initial times in 1 mile, 100m, 50m

April 18th, 2009 1 comment

Ok, it has begun.  I decided to take some intial benchmarks this morning for the biggest gainer.  I’m not sure I’m up for getting a 3 mile benchmark, I was ready to pass out after the 1 mile!  Here they are:

1 mile run — 6:40

100 m — 13.0

50m — 6.4

I haven’t timed myself in any of these events in years.  This is the benchmark anyhow, something for me to compete against now.  I think I first ran a sub 13 second 100 m as a freshman in high school… kind of what I feel like now, returning to my freshman year, with high hopes of improving in all these events in the coming months / years!

I hope to take some more initial benchmarks later tonight -perhaps doing my pushups and situps benchmark since they are easily done at home.  In the meantime — I’m off to a football game this afternoon, last of our flag football season before the playoffs.

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Biggest Gainer – Octathalon

April 15th, 2009 No comments

I figure if I post to my blog that I’m joining in on Maury’s Biggest Gainer Octathalon — I might actually do it ;)  Should be worthwhile getting back into great shape again – I’m looking forward to it!  Take a look at the Octathalon site for the details:

Anyone else want to join in with us?  It is always better to have more people to motivate along when attempting to do something like this.  Let me know!

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Sendmail & Mailman on my terms ;)

April 3rd, 2009 No comments

So the ISP I use for hosting (westhost) uses sendmail as its default mailing client, which is fine and dandy.  I moved over to an external host about a year ago now, in hopes to minimize some of the time and work I was spending hosting my own server at my own home.  Westhost gave me the control I still wanted via a virtual private host where I can install apps, configure some server level details, etc… but I no longer have to worry about the hardware, or os upgrades, etc…  Works well.

Well – when I was hosting things myself, I came to like qmail – more specifically I really liked one built-in feature of qmail.  When I setup email accounts, each account automatically received all emails sent to it, and to any email in the form  For example — if you sent an email to — it would just go directly into my account.  And yes, that was my main use for this, to give out new email addresses to various online stores, etc… so I could better filter, and know which ones gave my email addresses over to others w/out my permission.  Several of my siblings also enjoyed this feature, and used it widely… so when I switched over to sendmail on this new host — I had to figure out how to get this same functionality (or many emails would not be directed into their proper home).

Turns out that sendmail does a very similiar thing out of the box, but they decided that the + symbol is the one to use, not the -.  So worked as I wanted it — problem is, that is not the email address that best buy has on record (and it also invalidated many other email addresses I’ve given out).  Well — after searching far and wide, and coming up to speed on sendmail, and the intricacies of its configuration file, rulsets, maps, etc… I came across a fairly straightforward addition to the file to get the behavior that I wanted (thanks to google, and other geeks before me).  A simple addition of the following lines did the trick:

Kplus regex -s1,2 -d+ ^([0-9a-z]{1,64})-([0-9a-z]{1,64})$
R$+ <@$=w.> $*  $: $(plus $1 $: $1 $) <@$2.> $3

It turns out that what the above ends up doing is simply replaces the ‘-‘ character in the part of the email address that comes before the ‘@’ with the ‘+’ character, and then sendmail default behavior takes care of the rest.  I won’t bore you with the gory details, but trust me ;)

Ok — so I also wanted to keep our email lists going that I had on the previous server, and I decided to use mailman for the mailing lists.  Everything was all working fine, except for one small detail — moderator and owner emails to the list where not being sent out.  I didn’t have time to look into at the time, but finally got back around to it this week.  It appeared that all the emails sent to the moderators or owners of the list just dissapeared, never reaching their intended destination.  Well — as luck would have it, my fix to make work, broke mailman.

Mailman uses aliases such as, or to interact with the mailing list (there are others of similiar form as well).  Well — my earlier fix ended up making any email sent to to be sent to, yes  Ooops!  I had to figure out a fix, so I could start getting my moderator emails going again, and having subscribe emails and unsubscribe emails work (amongst other things).  So back to my good friend google…

… but google didn’t find the solution this time, although it did offer enough information for me to hack together a solution.  In the end, I modified my file to only do the –> rewrite if the username was an actual user on my system (i.e. in the /etc/passwd file), otherwise — leave it alone.  It’s working great now, and I can finally go back to sleeping good at nights :)  Here is my final hack (as of now), in case this is helpful to others out there:

Kcheck regex -s1,2 ^(([0-9a-z]{1,64})-([0-9a-z]{1,64}))$
Kplus regex -s1,2 -d+ ^([0-9a-z]{1,64})-([0-9a-z]{1,64})$
R$+ <@$=w.> $*  $: $(check $1 $: $1 $) <@$2.> $3
R$+$|$=l <@$=w.> $*     $: $(plus $1 $: $1 $) <@$3.> $4
R$+$|$~l <@$=w.> $*     $: $1 <@$3.> $4

It’s fun being a geek sometimes ;)  Satisfying to finally bend sendmail and mailman’s will to my own…

Categories: Personal Tags: ,

The Launch

March 4th, 2009 2 comments

I’ve been teaching about “States of Matter” recently in our 1st grade science curriculum.  So, today we learned a bit more about gases, more specifically about hot and cold gases.  Since Albuquerque is famous for the balloon fiesta, what better way to learn about hot air then by launching our very own hot air balloon?

Each of the 1st graders helped make and decorate the balloon, as well as helped me tape it together.  Once it was ready to go, we brought it outside, and filled it up with hot air:

Filling with Hot Air

It didn’t go very high, but at least it did go up for a little while:

Floating Away

We ended up “launching” two balloons, the one we made, and another slightly smaller one that was already made in the kit I used for this lesson.  Got the kit from work – cool stuff :)

Colorful Balloon

The kids had fun chasing after this one after we let it loose.  This had to be one of the more exciting lessons this year:

The Chase

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First Grade Science

February 25th, 2009 2 comments

I often thought it would be fun and rewarding to be a teacher (still do in fact).  I have fond memories of several teachers that have influenced in many ways who I am today.  Unfortunately, to be a teacher means to live a life much closer to poverty than we are currently living.  I think teachers are easily one of the most underpaid positions in society today.  I’m certain that there are others that have similiar thoughts as I do – they’d love to make a difference in the lives of children through teaching, but worry how they’ll support their own family with the salary of a teacher.

Well, I took a path that has taken me to Sandia National Laboratories as a computer research scientist / engineer.  While I love working with computers, writing new algorithms, solving hard problems, I still find myself with a very strong motiviation to spend time helping and/or working with children and youth.  I’ve been fortunate this year, as I’ve been able to spend an hour or so each week teaching science in my daughter’s first grade class.  Sandia has a science and technology outreach program, where I can take time out of my work day each week to do this – its great!

I’ve been teaching since the start of the school year last September.  I’m known as “Mr. Todd” to the class, and I come in for one hour each Wednesday morning to teach a fun lesson in science ;)  The lessons are typically premade lessons provided by the school district, I just simply follow the syllabus (makes it nice and easy).  I really enjoy working with the kids, and it seems they enjoy my coming as well.  Here’s a class picture I took last week.

First Grade - Teaching Science - 2008-2009

First Grade - Teaching Science - 2008-2009

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My 1st Pinewood Derby (ohh – and Michael’s first too)

February 20th, 2009 No comments

Have you seen the movie Down and Derby?  Well… after seeing it a couple years back, I vowed I wouldn’t come close to being the father that just takes over the pinewood derby car from his son.  Well, history has proven me wrong :(  Now, I wasn’t close to as bad as is portrayed in the movie, but I found it hard to not be integrally involved in every step of the way on Michael’s first pinewood derby car.  I think we both had a blast, and enjoyed making it together – which is what its all about, right?

Anyhow, check out some photos I’ve posted on facebook to see how Michael’s pencil car turned out

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Chickens turned “Geek” Project

February 20th, 2009 No comments

So, about 6 months or so ago, we decided it would be fun to get chickens.  To be honest, I wasn’t all that excited about the prospect at that time – but Jill and all the kids seemed keen on the idea, so I figured I’d give it a whirl.  To get myself excited, I decided I would turn the project into something closer to things I enjoy doing – yes, I turned it into a geek project.

We had finished building our chicken coop – and winter was fast approaching.  Jill started worrying about how well the chickens would do if it dropped below freezing.  She also wondered how well we had done in insulating the coop itself.  Ah-ha!  My mind started churning… this sounded like a perfect opportunity to pull out some of my “geek” skills and have a little fun!  So that’s exactly what I did.  I started doing some research online, and found several sites that gave me the motivation to move forward with the idea that was forming in my mind.

One site that really caught my eye was Daniel Klein’s thermd site.  He had written an application (in perl) over the years to support monitoring, archiving, and display of temperature (and other weather) data taken from a whole variety of temperature sensors, data acquisition devices, etc…  I had heard a bit about one-wire devices in the past, and thought they would be perfect for what I wanted to do.  I also decided (mostly from reading the info Daniel provided), to purchase a HA7Net Ethernet 1-Wire adapter, and use it as my main communication device to interface with the one-wire temperature sensors that I also purchased.  It was a bit on the expensive side for what I was doing — but I still have plans to use the HA7Net device for many future projects as well, as it can support up to 100 sensors (or so its spec sheet states).

You are likely wondering what this geeky idea that I had was – or perhaps you’ve figured it out after looking through the above sites on the devices and software that I decided I’d use.  Well – for those that can’t read my mind – let me share with you my idea.  I decided I would place a temperature sensor just outside the chicken coop in the shade (to measure ambient temperature outside), and another one inside the coop itself.  I also wanted to have an automated system to turn on a heat-lamp that we’d placed inside the coop on and off dependant upon the temperature inside the coop itself.  Sound fun?  I agree :)

HA7Net / Ethernet Connections

HA7Net / Ethernet Connections

The day the HA7Net arrived – I had to go out and purchase wire so I turn my vision into a reality.  I ended up purchasing some 4-lead twisted pair at a local shop (Electronic Parts Co).  I also ended up picking up a crimping tool, some RJ11 connectors to interface the HA7Net to the twisted pair wire, and some heat shrink tubing to make for a nice clean finish to where I connect the thermometers to the wire.  After some trial and error with a short 3′ section of cable I created for testing my one-wire devices, I was ready to solder the two thermometers to the wire, and mount them out in the coop.  Here’s a look at the HA7Net device as it sits today, mounted on the wall – with my “test” cable mounted on the wall with a one-wire thermometer in it — I decided to just keep this one connected so I could have a monitor of the temperature in my house as well, why not, right?

After I finished soldering the other thermometers together, shrink wrapped um, etc… I initially stapled the wire up the wall, across the roof, and out the window to our coop out back.  As you can imagine – Jill didn’t quite like the new home decor I had stapled to our ceiling (wish I had thought to take a pic), so I eventually (only 1 week or so later if memory serves me correct) cut some holes in the wall – purchased another tool (I love buying tools) to snake the wire through the wall and inside the space between our 1st and 2nd story, and directly out to our back yard.  It does look much nicer I must admit.

1-Wire into wall (instead of across the ceiling)

1-Wire into wall (instead of across the ceiling)

Ok, so at this point, what we now have is three thermometers that we can monitor and archive and plot over time.  I was pretty excited just to get to this point – yes, I’m easy to please ;)  Click here to see the first week of temperature data that my new set of thermometers recorded.

If you looked closely at the first week of data, you may have noticed that by Friday, Nov. 14th that the next stage of my project was in place.  After getting the initial temperature monitoring up, I started working on a solution to automatically control the heat lamp when things got too cold for our pampered chickens.  After doing a bit of research, I decided to use X10’s ActiveHome Pro for the heat lamp automation.  Again, a bit more than I would need to spend for just this single use — but it’s also expandable (i.e. more geek projects in the future).  I purchased a single 3-prong appliance module for this project for controlling the heat lamp, and simply plugged the heat-lamp (through an extension cord) into the module.

For those who don’t know what X10 is – basically, its a way to control devices by sending them signals directly on the power lines, pretty neat stuff.  So all I had to do was to connect the main unit into the wall by my computer and a usb cable from it to my computer, and then connect the module on the other side of the house (in the garage actually).

With this setup, I now have control via my computer to turn power to anything plugged into the module on and off (a heatlamp in my case).  So of course, I wrote a little program to automate the operation of the heat lamp dependant upon the temperature in the coop.  After a few tweaks — it works like a charm ;)  Heat lamp comes on when it drops below 36 degrees, and then turns back off after it warms up above 40 degrees.  Yes – we’re spoiling these chickens, but hey – its fun :)

For those interested in the current temperatures of our chicken coop – and whether or not the heat lamp is on – you can always see the latest here:

I’ll post some pictures of the coop, chickens, heat lamp, etc… soon.  I keep forgetting to take them until night, and want to get you something that is visible to see ;)  Plus, I’ve gone on for too long already – I’m pretty sure this is my longest blog post to date — long overdue I might add.  I initially planned on blogging each day as I worked on this project, better late than never, right?