Thursday, August 27, 2020

A Bit of a Bite

 While more than 20 years of development may seem like enough that I should be plenty of sage technical advice for the fledgling software engineers of the world... as I sit to write this it seems there is already plenty that has already been said on the matter. What more could I have to offer to the vastness of the Internet universe brought to our fingertips by the likes of Google? So I think, after a few requests from students who we've had the pleasure of mentoring in our experiential learning program at Oregon State University, I'll write about food instead. Yes, there is probably more about food on the Internet than there is Internet on the Internet, but it seems to me there is such an infinite array of opportunities with food, that perhaps something useful can come from what I might share.

About 2 years ago we began a journey to improve the way we eat after falling prey to Netflix's plethora of food documentaries (serves me right for spending so much time on the streaming service that I was sucked in). As with many socially charged subjects, it is clear we humans care deeply about what we eat. As I was falling into what seemed like an abyss of myth and fiction amongst these various politically charged monstrosities, feeling hopeless that I might never find any truth in what constitutes a healthy sustainable diet, a ray of hope did emerge. What seemed to be a little known show which aired on public television to apparently little fanfare brought me out of the pit of despair (what movie?) and showed me a path I could actually live with, and more importantly, believe in. Michael Pollan's (a name which I'd never before heard) In Defense of Food rang true with me on many levels with its common-sense approach and simple words to live by. Michael's mantra, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.", with its balanced, realistic, and sustainable simplicity kicked off a journey for our family that has really made a difference.

Now, before you go thinking this is another one of those diet fads which results only in misery and disappointment after a hard journey, just take a breath. He doesn't present, or even discuss, a temporary way of life that targets solely the soul-crushing goal of weight loss which is never achieved. This film advocates a sustainable approach to eating that promotes health in all its body forms. It isn't a diet that is meant to be followed for a period of time, but rather a sustainable, life-long (or life-remaining) approach to eating that has shown to have many benefits for me and my family. 

It was a little surreal to be taking the lead on healthy food after my wife spent a couple of years pushing our family to eat better during her time as a health coach for "Take Shape for Life" (please don't fall prey to programs like this, they only do harm for profit!). I think my wife had a conflicted sense of relief and resentment in that she had already been trying and I took the reigns a bit too much like it was my idea. Ultimately she was more relieved luckily, and we were finally both on the same page that whole and minimally processed foods were the best way for us to get healthy and live our lives better.

We met with the kids, told them we were going to focus on whole and minimally processed foods, and explained what that meant. We did take a pretty hard step off the cliff, although with a parachute. Some foods were thrown in the garbage, but frugal as I am, other processed foods were kept until they were used up and then just never replaced. There was a lot of satisfaction in seeing our fridge full of vegetables, fruits, grass-fed dairy and meats, and other whole or minimally processed foods. It just felt good to feel more connected to our food sources. My wife had already had us signed up for a local farm Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program for a couple of years, but it had only made up maybe 10% of our total food budget up to that point. I think our friends at Rainshine Family Farm were encouraged when we asked for a double share that next summer. We are blessed in the Willamette valley with a great selection of local produce and farmers' markets, especially here in Corvallis. 

Our food budget shifted dramatically that first year as we began to shop the Saturday market for the majority of the food for our diet. This wasn't an easy transition for the kids, and nor was it without its pitfalls. While we didn't see a significant increase in our total food budget, we did experience quite a shock in that our western way of life was not well suited to keeping fresh fruits and vegetables fresh. We had our fair share of food go to the compost as a result. Have you ever wondered why our refrigerators have only 2 small crisper drawers for fruits and vegetables, yet loads of shelf space for process foods in cans, jars, and bottles? We had to get creative to try and keep our cauliflower, cabbages, and other veggies from wilting on the shelf (a topic for another post). 

Food prep time was another transition we hadn't really anticipated. We were used to the convenience of packaged pasta, quick rice, and warm and eat pre-cooked meats. While we were no strangers to the kitchen and hadn't eaten cardboard pizza or tv-dinners for years, we hadn't had the need to spend a lot of time prepping by rinsing, peeling, chopping, cutting and the like. We've come to really enjoy this and it provides a great opportunity to get many hands in the kitchen working together to make a splendid meal the kids now voluntarily go out of their way to thank us for.

Many may see some of these things as significant barriers I grant you, but learning to connect with our food sources, finding out how to use new types of foods that seem strange and still have dirt on them, has been a most wonderful and enriching thing we've done as a family. Food certainly isn't (nor should it) be a religion, but it is a blessing from God that can bring us closer to him when we see it in its fullness and glory before it has been torn apart and reduced to its simple baseless pleasurable parts after processing. In Doctrine and Covenants (a set of revelations from the Lord Jesus Christ received by modern-day prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) in Section 59, it describes how God has created this earth and all the plants and animals in it for our benefit and enjoyment to be used without excess. Most importantly, it is a blessing to those who are grateful, humble, and willing to keep his sabbath day holy by fasting and praying (which day we believe to be Sunday). We certainly have begun to better appreciate this promise as we have begun this journey of connecting to his creations in their natural form, and have been blessed for it.

I hope to write more about our journey soon...

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Conexant SmartAudio service won't start (Resolved, Not Really)

After some fun sleuthing, and a complete lack of answers from the big G, I finally found a solution to a problem that has really been bugging me. A while after upgrading to Windows 10 on my Lenovo Yoga 13, I found that sites with Flash in them would freeze. This was happening on all browsers (IE, Edge, Chrome) and was quite perplexing. I finally found this super user [StackExchange] post which pointed toward the audio drivers. After further inspection I noticed that the Conexant SmartAudio service wasn't started and errors associated to a file not being found in the application logs. Turns out it was pointed to %SystemRoot%\System32\Sasrv.exe which didn't exist. After searching for Sasrv.exe on my machine I found it in %SystemRoot%\SysWOW64\. So I went into the registry under [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE]\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\SAService and changed ImagePath to be the SysWOW64 path instead of System32 and BAM! it worked. The service started up and I, so far cross your fingers, haven't had anymore flash problems. In addition to flash not working I did notice Cortana would also not respond due to the mic not working properly and that problem is fixed too! Wish the Conexant driver devs could get their paths right.

UPDATE: The problem is back, so it seems this isn't a permanent solution, SO SAD!!!! Lenovo, Conexant need to get their act together on this one.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

ASP.NET MVC Model Driven, anyone listening?

I often find myself thinking, as I write razor views one field at a time, why am I doing this!? What a wonderful world it would be if I could create a reasonable editor template, or grid view by just basing it on the meta data in the model. That way I could write the template once, and the rest would just be up to the model. I've played around with this a few times, and it seems the existing frameworks for this leave a lot to be desired.

Anyone listening and interested in a robust template based set of views that could present a model using meta data such that we could stop having to write our views by hand and not have them look so absurdly lame? I want my cake and eat it too.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Developing on the .NET Platform Cheap

First off, yes there are a lot of great development environments out there in the open source world that provide many great features to get you going on a wide variety of application platforms. But you know what, Microsoft sure does bring together a lot of those features with so little effort required from the developer that it is hard not to be impressed.
Yes, I've been drinking the (k)ool-aid for quire a while, but even the most seasoned Eclipse users have to be at least somewhat impressed with how much MS is giving away these days to the small dev-team. As a member of a fairly small team of  ~25 at Oregon State University by day, and as a two-man show by night, I've experienced both ends of the Microsoft Dev-Env spectrum in terms of what Visual Studio has to offer and I've been more and more impressed with what they are giving away.
Consider a small 1-2 man consulting team and what tools are available now with VS2015 Community Edition. While I recognize there is a cost to the physical machine and OS I'm running (Lenovo Yoga 13/Windows 10), MS is now in preview with Visual Studio Code which can run on Windows/Linux and even OS X.
Here is how my development environment stacks up for the consulting work I do on my own:
With this setup I am able to coordinate with my one private consulting partner, manage source control branches via TFS Source Control (or GIT) and all from the comfort of my IDE. Now, I haven't experienced Visual Studio Code on non-Windows platforms, but now that they opened up the extensions on the free community edition, I can develop not only for the Windows platform (including Windows 10 universal apps) for free, but I can create apps using Xamarin and/or Cordova and build apps using Python and other languages (still trying to find the right moment to do an F# app).

With this offering it really does make it easy for the small guy to play in the big leagues, at least that is my two cents (if your thinking it, no Microsoft doesn't pay me to write this stuff).