I made a toolbox

A Carpenter's toolbox

So, I finally got around to making the toolbox from the 1940's from St. Roy Underhill. Aside from making it a bit shorter (so it would fit in our storage), not making the base of the tray out tomato cans and using metal corner bumpers, I followed his directions to the letter. It was a fun project that I made entirely out of hand tools. No electrons were harmed in making this toolbox.

I opted to use poplar that I picked up at the local big box store because all the pine was knotty and crappy looking . All the hardware used on it, I got from Lee Valley. Overall, I'm pretty happy with the way it came out. And I got some nice compliements at Off the Saw last week.

Full toolbox

Learned a ton from this so that's good. For example, using a Stanley #78 Rabbet plane is not as easy as it looks. I kept going cockeyed with it. Also, resawing a 3/4" piece of poplar that is 30" long is not something you can do unless you have an afternoon free. Note to self: make a new friend who owns a bandsaw.

A corollary to this is that sharp tools are very important. The resawing probably would have gone quicker if my rip saw was sharp. And I gouged the side with my dull block plane.

Finally, I learned I really need to make a shooting board. All the cuts where I didn't use my Langdon mitre box, turned out all squirrelly.

But when all is said and done, now I have a nice little toolbox to carry my tools around the house.

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Category: woodworking Tags:

Books I Read in 2014

OK, here is the only blog post I seem to do these days: the books I read in the past year. I still haven't 100% automated this. Maybe next year.

The count was a tad lower this year, than yearspast. I spent a lot more time drawing in my sketchbooks this year than I did reading. I managed to do a sketch a day all the way up until October but then lost steam.

It's also late because I tried to finish Europe Central by William T. Vollman before the year ended. But my Kindle says I still had about 10 hours left last night so that didn't happen. Maybe it'll the first post in my next books I read post.

So, here's the list:

I ended up reading parts of the Harry Potter series to my kid (the wife and I alternate reading to him), so I just decided to re-read the whole damned series again this year to get the full package. Good thing too, because it turns out I forgot lots of things when I speed read it the first time through all those yeaers ago. I'm betting that the page count for this year is close to previous years because of those damned door stops masquerading as books.

Highlights of this year were And the Mountains Echoed and MaddAddam. I enjoyed The Circle while I was reading it but a week or so after I had finished, I realized it just left too many things unanswered. Not too sure about recommending that one. But you can't really go wrong with anything by Hosseini or Atwood methinks.

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Yet another blogging engine

Since David Lynch can revive Twin Peaks, I figure I can relaunch this dormant blog. I've redone this site and ditched the old Jekyll static site generator and decided to try out a different generator named Pelican that's written in Python.

I never bothered to learn Ruby so when I ran into trouble with Jekyll, getting it fixed was painful (to me). To Ruby programmers, probably not so much. Since I'm a Python programmer, hopefully I wont' have as much trouble when things go off the rails. Har har...rails...ruby...get it?

Frankly, porting it over was kind of a pain in the arse. I had to jump through a whole bunch of hoops with custom scripts and Pandoc (which is a pretty incredible piece of software) but that's all for a different post.

Welcome to the new site. Sorry if I spammed your feed reader with all my new article ids. Hope you still love me!

And I want some of that damn good pie.

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Books I Read in 2013

It's that time of the year again where I finally stop blowing off blogging and write something. I should really whip up a script to do this since it's using the Goodreads API. Then I'd never touch my blogging software again!

So, withtout futher ado, in reverse chronological order, the 29 books I read in 2013:

Books I enjoyed this year were Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (you could say that 2013 was the Year of Connie Willis for me...she's great!), Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon and The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway.

Oh, and Beloved. Jeez that book was crazy good. I might read it again in 2014.

If you really want to stay abreast of what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads. Otherwise, see you next year!

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Books I Read in 2012

Oy vey. So, it seems like I only post here once a year and it's only to list books that I read. Well, at least I'm consistent right?

I kind of went undead crazy this year what with reading the two Justin Cronin books as well as Colson Whitehead's foray into post-apocalyptic zombie prose.

Favorites from this year include (in no particular order) Et Tu, Babe, Empire Falls, The Tiger's Wife and Perdido Street Station. The Art of Fielding was really entertaining too though the ending was very strange.

Full disclosure: Most of the book links on this page are Amazon affiliate links so I get to pay off my bookie that much quicker if you buy something.

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Using Pandas to stalk your neighbors

I picked up the book Python for Data Analysis as I've been seeing it mentioned in quite a few places. And so far, it's great. A very good high level overview of using Pandas. No, not the cute kind of pandas. I'm talking about the Python library for data analysis. Derp.

Anyhow, I decided to dive in and see what I could find out about my neighbors. Chapter 9 of the book goes into analyzing the 2012 Federal Election Commission Database so I loaded it up:

>>> import pandas as pd
>>> fec = pd.read_csv('P00000001-ALL.csv')

Looking into the data, there is some garbage rows. I grabbed all the Culver City zip codes (well, the zip codes I care about) at least:

>>> zips = fec.contbr_zip.unique()
>>> mask = np.array([str(x).startswith('90232') for x in zips])
>>> fec[fec.contbr_zip.isin(zips[mask])].contbr_city.value_counts()
CULVER CITY     241
CUILVER CITY      2
SANTA MONICA      1

I don't know if these come from bad data from the contributor or from the FEC so I'm just going to include everything based on zip code.

>>> culver = fec[fec.contbr_zip.isin(zips[mask])]
>>> culver.contb_receipt_amt.sum()
58341.0

Fifty-eight grand! Nice going Culver City!

Now let's see who got the money:

>>> culver.pivot_table('contb_receipt_amt', rows='cand_nm', aggfunc=sum)
cand_nm
Huntsman, Jon                      4500
Obama, Barack                     50381
Paul, Ron                           500
Roemer, Charles E. 'Buddy' III      110
Romney, Mitt                       2850

That's kind of interesting...Huntsman got more money from the 90232 than Romney.

Now, let's check out the occupations that contributed the most:

>>> culver.pivot_table('contb_receipt_amt', rows='contbr_occupation',
... aggfunc=sum).order(ascending=False).head(10)
contbr_occupation
RETIRED                               7272.0
ACCOUNT MANAGER                       5000.0
VICE PRESIDENT, INTERNET MARKETING    4000.0
PROFESSOR                             2800.5
PRESIDENT & C.E.O.                    2500.0
GALLERY OWNER                         2500.0
BOOKKEEPER                            2500.0
HOMEMAKER                             1971.0
INTERIOR DESIGNER                     1500.0
WRITER                                1410.0

Retirees going large. That's kind of interesting. Let's look at that.

>>> culver[culver.contbr_occupation == 'RETIRED'].pivot_table(
... 'contb_receipt_amt', rows='cand_nm', aggfunc=sum)
cand_nm
Obama, Barack                     7162
Roemer, Charles E. 'Buddy' III      10
Romney, Mitt                       100

Maybe I misunderstand our local retirees (at least the ones I've met) but this was surprising to me. I really expected Romney to come out on top.

I think that's enough peeking into my neighbors contributions habits for one night. I have to say Pandas makes this sort of thing really easy. I've only scratched the surface here. There's lots more that one can do (mathematically speaking) with Panads. Python for Data Analysis gives you a really good introduction to Pandas and then the webiste fills in the gaps.

Python for Data Analysis and Panads get two thumbs up from me. Thanks to O'Reilly and Wes McKinney.

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Category: programming Tags:

Python and Spotify Together At Last

Here's a simple script to show the currently playing song in Spotify. All you have to do is put it on your $PATH and run:

> nowplaying
The Unsinkable Fats Domino by Guided By Voices

While this is handy in and of itself (to some people), if you are running GNU Screen, you can have it output the currently playing song in your statusline. Just add the following to your .screenrc:

backtick 101 5 5 /home/YOURNAME/bin/nowplaying
hardstatus string  '%101`'

If you already have a hardstatus (or caption) line, you'll just need to add %101 in there somewhere. Then, you'll have the currently playing song easily available.

For info about what the above does, see the GNU Screen manual about backtick.

Here's the entire script:

#!/usr/bin/env python
"""Spit out the currently playing song."""
import dbus
import sys

try:
    bus = dbus.Bus(dbus.Bus.TYPE_SESSION)
    spotify = bus.get_object('com.spotify.qt','/')
    info = spotify.GetMetadata()
except dbus.exceptions.DBusException:
    print('Spotify is not running')
    sys.exit(1)

track = {}
trackMap = { 'artist'    : 'xesam:artist',
             'album'     : 'xesam:album',
             'title'     : 'xesam:title'
             }

for key, value in trackMap.items():
    if not value in info:
        continue
    piece = info[value]
    if isinstance(piece, list):
        piece = ', '.join(piece)

    track[key] = piece.encode('utf-8')

if track.has_key('title') and track.has_key('artist'):
    print('%s by %s' % (track['title'], track['artist']))
else:
    print('No song playing')

If you want Spotify to use the built-in notifier in Ubuntu, then by all means check out Spotify-notify. It also adds support for media keys.

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Books I Read in 2011

So, it's been over a year since my last "Books I Read" post so it's time I suppose. Only 28 books this year but this includes the behemoths that make up the first five books of the A Song Ice and Fire series so my page count is probably a bit higher this year. Hrm, that might be the job for a different script.

Looking over the list, books that stand out for me this year include The Woman in White, State of Wonder and A Visit from the Goon Squad.

If you want up to the minute updates, I suggest you follow me on Goodreads.

Full disclosure: Most of the book links on this page are Amazon affiliate links so I get some coin when you buy something.

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The Big Easy 2011

TL;DR:I use quite a bit of software.

For no particular reason other than I need to post something to make up for all the times I didn't post (and because I love making lists), here's a list of the software that I use day to day.

  • Ubuntu: My main machine is running Ubuntu 11.04. I've got other boxes running older versions of Ubuntu (as well as OS X) but this is where my hat hangs for the time being. Speaking of hanging, Unity almost made me want to hang myself but I think I have it dialed into where I like it. Hidden inside the Compiz settings are some sweet keyboard shortcuts for windows management, which is the only reason I tried out xmonad for as long as I did.
  • GNU Emacs: Emacs is probably where I spend about 90% of my day. I've got it to the point where I hardly touch the configuration files anymore. People complain that emacs users spend tons of time fiddling with settings but you have to average that over the lifespan of you using the software. So the time setting it up isn't that much really. Emacs probably demands its own post about all the packages that I use come to think of it.
  • Google Chrome: Yep, I ditched Firefox. Chrome just seems a lot faster and the developer tools are built in and rock solid. Seeing as how Firebug was staring to cause me to stab my eyes out, I'm quite happy now.
  • Dropbox: This is a service that I actually pay for. At my last job, dropbox was blocked and it made my life kind hellish. Without it, all my ebooks, projects and personal wiki are inaccessible.
  • KeePassX: The older the get, the more I forget. And when it comes to the bazillions of passwords I need to remember for various sites, I rely on KeePassX. Open source and available on multiple platforms, it's a keeper. Har har! Get it? Keeper. KeePassX. I should move over to marketing.
  • Spotify: Another service that I pay for. The huge selection of songs and the integration with Facebook make it kind of hard to pass up. I mention Facebook because it's good fun to queue up weird songs so they end up on your wall and your Mom gets to see it.
  • Git: Yeah, I spend way too much time in git but I use it and it suits my software development needs. So much so, that I use git to interact with our Subversion repository at work.
  • Remeber the Milk: Another piece of software that I pay for. I know this is technically a web service but I have software installed for it on my phone and tablet so I'm lumping this into the software post.
  • urxvt: I'm using this less and less now that I've been using Emacs to run my shell but when I need to run complex commands, this is the termianal I turn to. My shell of choice is Zsh.
  • Oh My Zsh!: Speaking of Zsh, this is a great collection of very useful Zsh configurations and aliases which make working with Zsh very very nice.
  • homedir: I don't know how I exactly found homedir but it's very sweet. It's basically a small package manager for your home directory. I use to keep all configurations the same across machines. And where I need a machine specific configuration, homedir comes to the rescue. I don't really use this day to day but thought it was worth mentioning because it's saved my bacon a few times.

That about wraps up what I'm using day to day. I use other things on-and-off (like LibreOffice -- shudder) but didn't think they were worth putting in the post.

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Moustaches For Good!

Sooo...hey! How ya' doing? Long time no see. Hope you've been well. Aside from being broken up over the breakdown of Google Reader, I've also been busy growing a moustache for Movember.

You can donate to my cause at http://mobro.co/sethmason. Feel free to pass it around!

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