Running Journal: Reflect and Plan for 2015

Since my wife got me hooked on running over 10 years ago, I have been keeping a running journal. One would expect that I would use a fitness tracker and smartphone app to do all of this for me, but on this, I’m still stuck on pen and paper. Over the years, I’ve used a variety of Excel grids to keep track of mileage, time, location, and notes. On December 31 of each year, we sit together and tally up all of the miles from the year and see where we end up. This year was rather disappointing as I was almost 100 miles shy of last year’s total. It was a busy year and fitness took a back seat, unfortunately. I also did not run any races this year. This is the first year I haven’t raced since I began running. With no goals and no training plan, it’s no wonder my mileage wasn’t up to snuff. Despite my lackluster performance in 2014, the running journal provides a look back on what happened in the year, and not just related to running or working out. I use the notes section to indicate vacations, big events, and sometimes injuries and illness. It’s a journal of the day’s activity in less than 140 characters. Looking back on the year as it comes to a close is an opportunity for reflection and setting goals for the next year. In my opinion, don’t get hung up on resolutions that may or may not be broken. Reflect on 2014 and think about what you want to accomplish in 2015. At least you’ll be shooting for something.

For those that are looking for an old school, pen and paper log to print out and throw in a 3-ring binder, I have provided the Excel file below. Feel free to download, modify, and use to your heart’s content. It’s nothing special, but it gets the job done. Until then, I’m waiting on the Fitbit Charge HR to be released. I’m curious to see what happens to the 3-ring binder once I have that strapped to my wrist to track my every movement. I hope they have a printable version I can still archive in my binder. It’s a source of paper I still relish and I’ll want to reflect on 2015 the same way I reflected on 2014.

Some of My Favorite #Art Things: Art Institute of Chicago

Visiting the Art Institute of Chicago is always an enjoyable experience for me. Chicago is fortunate to host a museum that curates some of the best known works of art in the world. This visit started at lunch time with a nice meal from their cafe located on the lower level. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill cafeteria. The butternut squash soup and “create your own” mini tacos were a great way to start the experience. Members of the Art Institute get the benefit of a 10% discount at the cafe as well. There is plenty to see and do to make an entire afternoon of the visit.

Below are just a few of my favorites from the visit. I tagged the artists I could remember or took a picture of the placard. I wasn’t able to get a picture of two others due to crowds. I’ve always loved Paris Street; Rainy Day by Caillebotte and Le Samedi a la Grande Jatte by Geroges Suerat. I’m still a sucker for Impressionism.

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper
Nighthawks by Edward Hopper
Yellow Hickory Leaves with Daisy by Georgia O'Keeffe
Yellow Hickory Leaves with Daisy by Georgia O’Keeffe
The Virgin and Child with Two Kneeling Saints
The Virgin and Child with Two Kneeling Saints by Federico Barocci
This painting is a concept to the pre-cursor I saw in Urbino, Italy.
The painting above by Barocci is a concept to the pre-cursor I saw in Urbino, Italy.

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Bordighera by Claude Monet
Bordighera by Claude Monet
The Poets Garden by Van Gogh
The Poets Garden by Van Gogh
Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare St. Lazare by Monet
Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare St. Lazare by Monet

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Muppet Family Christmas

A Christmas special I remember when I was a kid was Muppet Family Christmas. The 1 hour Christmas special was first aired on ABC in 1987. It’s the only time that Muppets, Sesame Street characters, and the Fraggles come together on the screen. The story is set where Fozzie and Kermit, along with the rest of the Muppet gang, head to Fozzie’s Mom’s house for Christmas. Unbeknownst to Fozzie, his Mom was headed out the door to Malibu for vacation. She cancels her plans to make room in her house for all the Muppets. Miss Piggy struggles to arrive to the party as she is stuck in a snow storm. In the end, they all gather for a Christmas melody that includes, to my knowledge, every Jim Henson Muppet-like character ever created.

The problem is that you can’t find it on DVD or even VHS. Although, I did find a copy (supposedly) on Amazon for over $100. I’m a little skeptical. There are, however, a few copies on YouTube by Muppet enthusiasts who have digitally converted their live-TV to VHS to digital. Kudos to you!

Thanks to my Sony Blu-Ray player that is Internet capable, I was able to watch the Muppet Family Christmas on something other than an iPad or laptop. However, I still had one task left to complete. What happens next Christmas? What if the video disappears from YouTube? What if there is a Polar Vortex that knocks out my Internet access (like the blizzard in the TV special)? I realized that I needed a local copy that I could download. ClipConverter.cc is a site that accepts the URL of the online media you would like downloaded. Simply paste the web address into the provided text box and then select what format you want (e.g. mp4, mov, avi, etc). The site converted Muppet Family Christmas in less than 30 seconds. Then, a download button appears to download the converted file. I will disclose that the site does have a pop-up from time-to-time, but it gets the job done.

In short, I highly recommend Muppet Family Christmas to the 80s nostalgist or if you just need to mix-up the traditional playlist of Christmas movies and TV specials. At the end of the day, Muppets are one thing that is sure to make me smile, time and time again.

The Dangers of Truncating Text Fields

I was in the car this morning listening to the Holiday Traditions channel through my SiriusXM subscription when this song appeared:

Truncated Text

 

Holiday Traditns
Herb Alpert And The Tijuana Bras
My Favorite Things

It wasn’t the abbreviation of the station that caught my eye, but the next line. Apparently Herb Alpert was associated with Latin women’s undergarments as opposed to brass instruments.

The IT lesson in all of this is to be careful when truncating text to get it to fit in a specified space. There are unintended consequences. This happens frequently on your supermarket receipt. The receipt is only so wide and can only fit in so many characters, so just about every item is truncated or abbreviated (JOHNSBRAT is really Johnsonville Bratwurst). Developing a text mining program to identify all of these might work, but computers aren’t quite ready to recognize awkward, silly, or funny. Identifying inappropriate words would be an easy start, although seeing Herb Alpert and bras come across my Infotainment system was mildly entertaining. Maybe we should take care of the obviously inappropriate ones and just leave the others to give us a reason to snicker.

Migrating from #WinXP Can Be Painful – #OutlookExpress

I have been working off and on for the past week installing a new desktop for a client. The new desktop replaces an older small form-factor HP desktop running Windows XP. After seeing enough “unsupported” messages from applications like Microsoft Security Essentials, the time was right to bite the bullet. The user previously stored and managed their email using Outlook Express. Using an installed email client for non-corporate users is a bit outdated, but there are some valid reasons for having important emails stored locally rather than in the cloud and managing email through a web browser. You don’t need an internet connection to get to archived messages and you don’t really have to worry about mailbox limits.

Since Outlook Express is no longer available or supported, I needed to migrate to a new email application for the desktop. Sticking with the Microsoft theme, I went with Outlook 2013 that coincided with the Office license that was purchased. Getting the client to get used to Outlook 2013 will take some training. I started with some free videos provided by Microsoft. I captured all of the Outlook Express .dbx files from the hidden user profile directory (C:\Documents and Settings\[username]\Local Settings\Application Data\Identities\{12345678-1234-ABCD-EFGH-1234567890AB}\Microsoft\Outlook Express) and was ready to use the import feature in Outlook. It was then when I didn’t see that the option was available. After much floundering and rummaging through the Office Ribbon, I resorted to Google to find that the 64-bit version of Outlook does not support importing Outlook Express address books or messages. Why the 32-bit version does work, I haven’t the foggiest.

In order to solve this, I installed an old version of Outlook on the old Windows XP machine, imported the Outlook Express .dbx files into a blank .pst Outlook data file. I then was able to use the import feature from Outlook 2013 to import the old .pst file. After already removing the old desktop from the client’s location, a few remote assistance tools and cloud utilities helped move the process along. I used Team Viewer to remotely connect and control the client’s desktop and used Google Drive to move the .pst from the old desktop to the new desktop. Long gone are the days of what I like to call the “SneakerNet”, the process of moving files between machines by floppy disk (or CD, DVD, Zip Disk, or USB).

In the end, all the emails are in Outlook 2013, but not without a couple extra hours worth of work. My advise continues to be to not upgrade too early and risk getting all the glitches and bugs. On the other hand, don’t wait too long. You’ll end up having to find duct tape ways of migrating data between applications and risk real desupport all together.