I Got a New Ride

The Background:

I’ve never had a fancy car.  Cars aren’t really my thing, so I always chose utility, safety, price, etc.  I also have what I jokingly call “car dyslexia”.  I can never remember or distinguish between anyone’s cars.  Sure, I can tell the difference between a sedan and a truck, but all sedans look the same to me.

My first car was an ’86 Honda Accord manual hatchback in “champagne”.  It was high school, the car was used and affordable. I never would have picked champagne as a color, but the car fit my budget.

Fast forward past the 8 years I lived in NYC with no car.

My next car was a manual silver Honda Civic, 2 door sedan.  Pretty sure I had base level on this one.  A safe, if slightly boring car.  Which quickly became inconvenient when I had babies (manual shift and 2-doors are NOT convenient with infants and infant seats), so I moved on to…

The MomMobile, a blue automatic Subaru Forester.  This was obviously not a fun choice.  But I needed four doors.  I needed storage.  I liked the all wheel drive in New Hampshire’s winters.  Pretty sure this one was base level, too.

My next car was a red automatic VW Jetta TDI.  I specifically mention that it was red because that sounds fun, right?  But it wasn’t my first choice at all.  I got the “leatherette” interior (easier to clean) and I wanted the beige (not as hot in the sun), so all they had in stock was a red car.  Budget meant I took what they had (and not what I wanted).  It did have heated seats and displayed the outdoor temperature, which oddly have become my “must-haves”.

VW Jetta TDI.  Yep, that’s right.  The one included in the VW emissions scandal, which means (any day now) I should be able to turn in the Jetta and get a check.  So with my background, I decided my next car was going to be what I wanted it to be.  I wasn’t going to settle on a color.  I wanted to go back to a manual.  I love summer time and wanted this car to be fun, so that meant a convertible.  I test drove a VW Beetle.  When I was a kid, my friend’s mom had one and I’ve always loved them.  I brought the kids with me so they could test out the back seat.  They loved it.  It was fun.  However, VW only has a few levels of options, so in a way it’s nothing or everything.  The slope of the roof, which is so distinctive and cool-looking from the outside, means the interior feels really small.

My dear, dear friend Jess Stratton has a MINI.  A MINI that I got to take on a 2400 mile test drive.  MINIs are FUN to drive.  And oh look, they have convertible versions.  And a configurator, that allows you to add options a la carte to your car.  I love the concept that you can add whatever you want, without adding what you don’t want.  I assumed a MINI convertible was out of my price range, but using the configurator, I saw that for what you get, they’re actually quite reasonable.

The decision:

A 2016 MINI Cooper Convertible in Caribbean Aqua.  I used the configurator and created the car I wanted.  Some items were nice-to-haves, some were must-haves.  My must-haves: convertible, Caribbean Aqua, manual, heated seats.  I went for a test drive and realized I needed to add a must-have, the rear view camera.  The convertible (both VW and MINI) really restricts your view out the back.  Top up and the rear window is pretty small.  Top down and the top itself blocks much of the view out the back.  A quick look at dealer inventories online and I fully expected I’d have to order and wait for my perfect MINI.  The sales guy and his manager said “give me 10 minutes…oh yeah, here we go, we can have it here next week”.  My perfect MINI.

A 2016 MINI Cooper Convertible in Caribbean Aqua with the Sport package and the Premium package and a few other extras.

The result:

My dream car.  I can’t believe all the awesome bells and whistles on this car.  Obviously, some of these are due to the options I added on, some are due to the packages that this particular vehicle had, but some of them are just standard MINI features.

My perfect MINI

There is so much to love about this car.  I’ve had her two weeks now, and in no particular order the things I love about her…

Comfort Access.  This means I keep the key fob in my purse and I can unlock the car without taking the key out.  It also means I can start the car with the push of a button (also with the key still in my purse).  I feel much more like I’m launching a rocket versus driving a car.  Push button to shut off the engine and the auxiliary power shuts off automatically when I exit the vehicle.  Comfort Access also means I can open the convertible top with the key fob as I approach the car (and close it, too).

Configurable interior ambiance lighting.  This one is just a silly little thing that makes SUCH a big difference.  The center console, the door handles, and the doors (plus probably other stuff I haven’t noticed yet) all have a colored light that you can CONFIGURE.  I chose purple, of course.

MINI Connect means certain apps from your phone are integrated and controllable via your car display.  Pandora allows me to select my Pandora channel, thumb up or thumb down a song, browse channels, etc.  Just like I would in the app, but on my car display.  It even interacts with your GoPro app so you can stop/start recording from your car display instead of your phone.  Perfect for New Hampshire (and other states) that are cracking down on smartphone usage in the car.

Stuff is customizable.  Lots of stuff.  The settings panel in the display is full of items to customize.  Simple stuff that makes a difference like the one-touch comfort access unlock button can be set to unlock all doors, or just the driver’s side, or the boot.  That always frustrated me in the Jetta to have to remember to click twice and do it before the kids tried the handle in order to let them and myself in the car.

The Openometer.  Yep, I have a convertible, and this baby tracks how long I’ve had the top down.  I’ve had the car two weeks as of this writing and I’ve had the top down 18 hours and 13 minutes.

The Community.  Jess told me “It’s the car that comes with friends” and she wasn’t wrong.  There are forums and subreddits and Facebook groups.  People regularly get together for rallys and events.  There’s “Rule #1″, where you always park next to another MINI if you see one.  MINI drivers wave to one another (or at least, they’re supposed to, I’m waving like a maniac [MINIac] and don’t get a lot of return waves, but I’ll keep trying).  MINI really encourages individuality, too, and the community embraces that to it’s fullest.  From color combinations, racing stripes, and swappable mirror caps to performance mods and a whole world of stuff I haven’t even explored yet.  People love to customize their MINIs.

Green mode, Sport mode, pathway lighting, auto stop/start (which you can turn off, of course!), and I’m sure a million other things I’ll discover as I go!  It’s probably obvious, but I couldn’t be happier with my decision.  Stay tuned for more posts about my ride in the future!

Getting the Correct Syntax for JavaScript in XPages

I was recently working on a project where my code was injecting XPage elements onto the page at runtime.  To do that, you need to know a lot of syntax.  Syntax that isn’t in the help file, or blogged about, or easily findable.  Sure, there’s this, but that isn’t exactly reader-friendly, nor are there examples of how to use the elements.  Just because you know you’re using “XspInputText”, doesn’t mean you know how to use it.  What’s the syntax for adding an attribute, for example?  Or maybe you know the syntax structure, but need to know what the parameter looks like in the code.

Designer Data Panel for Date Field For example, you want to add a Date field with certain parameters set.  You know how to set them in Designer in the data panel, but how do you set those parameters programmatically in JavaScript?

Thankfully, Toby Samples showed me a cheat to find out.  Create a dummy XPage, add your element and do whatever it is you want to do, i.e. set the parameters for your date field.  Save the page.  In Designer, go to Package Explorer and your nsf.  Expand the Local folder and then the xsp folder.  There you’ll see all of your custom controls and XPages with a .java extension.  Double-click on the XPage.java file.  It will open and there you’ll see the Java code used to generate that XPage, including your element and how the parameters were set programmatically.  This can be really useful when you’re adding something like an attribute via JavaScript and you can’t find any examples of HOW to add an attribute (or class or value binding or any other property).

Example, if you set the above “display format” to “Date and Time” in the picker, how is that set programmatically?


With the parameter “both”.  Good luck figuring that out on your own.

File under: “Things you may have already known, but I didn’t, and I share it just in case you didn’t either” AND “Blog post titles I struggled with actually explaining what the post was about without actually typing the post in the title”

Back to Running

Tomorrow will be the fourth run of my current return to running.  Coincidentally, tomorrow is the 9th anniversary of my first run. (Excluding the time when I lived in New York and signed up for the Chase corporate challenge and did almost no training and attempted to run 3 miles..  I had no idea what I was doing, I ran too fast, hated it, and immediately quit.  So I count September 24, 2007 as my first run.)  It was the “run” before I started the couch to 5k program.  After that I ran a 5k.  Then a 10k.  Then decided to run every day (for 3 1/2 years).  Ran some half marathons and eventually a marathon.

A Few Stats (because I love stats):

My first “run” was September 24, 2007.  Distance:  1.6 miles Pace:  18:45

During the couch to 5k program, my pace seemed to bounce around 14:00 min miles

My first 5k was a Turkey Trot on November 27, 2007.  Pace 11:10 (and I was ELATED with that pace)

My best 5k was June 7, 2009 with an 8:51 pace! (I was even more elated with that pace)

My current pace seems to be around 14:00 min miles.  That totally means 8:51 is in my future, right?  hahahahaha

Recent Adjustments to 6 Years Cable Free

Like many people these days, I cut the cord.  In the summer of 2010, I moved into my current house and decided from the start that I wouldn’t have cable.  A few of my friends were already cable-free and could provide advice (thank you, Carl Tyler!).  Here’s the thing though, I’m lazy.  I want things to “just work”.  I don’t want to have to fiddle and futz.  So I knew I wasn’t going to jump through a bunch of hoops to go cable-free, it was going to have to be easy.

So for the last six years, we’ve mostly had Rokus with Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime.  In the last year or so, I added an Apple TV to the mix. For a short period, we had Aereo, which was a channel on the Roku that acted as a digital antenna so we could have local channels. Then they were sued and shut down.  We also had playon for a bit, but the machine that I had it on died and I just couldn’t be bothered to spin up another one (see above where I said I was lazy).  I’ve attempted unblock-us and have several friends who love it, swear by it, and even helped set me up (Carl) and troubleshoot it later (Gab), but every once in a while, Netflix gets all pissy about unblock-us and stops working.  Again, that means futzing and fixing and I just can’t be bothered.  So I don’t really use that either, unless I have to  (like to watch the Olympics this year).

It’s football season, so I finally broke down and got a digital antenna so my son could watch the Patriots.  We should have bought the outdoor antenna (although again, I didn’t want to futz and an outdoor antenna would CERTAINLY require some fiddling with regards to wiring).  I bought the “50″, I think intended to mean 50-mile reach of the antenna, from the rather surly dude at Best Buy.  Me: “Do you have digital antennas”.  Surly guy: “Yeah, get this one, it’s the only one people don’t return saying it didn’t work”.  Well, okay then.

Sadly, the antenna only comes with a 5-foot cable or something equally ridiculous, especially when the antenna probably will only work in one particular spot in your house, if at all.  Mine ended up only working in the window at the end of the hall of my upstairs master bedroom.  So, you know, TOTALLY inconvenient for anyone watching TV.  In theory, you can put it on a wall or bookcase, but mine ONLY worked in the window.  It had to be in the highest point and facing south (because I live north of Boston, where all the signals are coming from).  I bought a 50-foot coax cable, which apparently works better when it’s uncoiled.  Who knew?  But at least that way, it reaches to my TV (where it belongs rather than the hallway).  Unfortunately, this required a lot of fiddling, but it’s done now and set up and working and hey, my kid is happy.

In summary, six years cable-free, Roku and Apple TV with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and now a digital antenna.

The kids sitting on bean bag chairs in my hallway, with the TV sitting on a bin of yarn in front of the only window we could get the antenna to work in.

The kids sitting on bean bag chairs in my hallway, with the TV sitting on a bin of yarn in front of the only window we could get the antenna to work in.



Some Experiments in Running and Technology

Okay, technically it was one experiment testing several hypotheses, but anyway.

Background for the experiment:

I used to run.  I had a Garmin Forerunner for a very long time that I loved very much and then I had a Garmin 220, which I also loved very much.  These both served me well before there were phones with GPS and apps and watches, oh my.  I also used to upload the data from these watches to the very awesome RunningAhead website.  I love the site, and especially the training log.   All my running data is on that site.

I now have an iPhone and an Apple Watch.  I haven’t been running, but I have become addicted to the “Activity/Move/Stand” stats on my watch and also some of the health stats like steps per day.

I also like to take walks and play Pokemon Go.

What I wanted to have happen:

I wanted to go for a run and NOT wear two watches (aka my Apple Watch AND my Garmin).  I wanted a way of tracking my steps taken during the run and have my run and steps count toward the Apple Watch activity/move stats.  I wanted a way to record all the great running stats that my Garmin normally tracks AND be able to upload it to RunningAhead.  AND, I wanted to play Pokemon Go during my run (gotta hatch those eggs!).  Oh!  And I also wanted training programs on the watch, like Couch to 5k or similar so I have cues to start/stop running.  No big deal, right?

Pre-experiment trial and research:

I tried a few apps with the watch to see what I could get out of the above requirements and had a really difficult time getting in all of my objectives.  If you open too many apps on the watch, they cancel each other out.  If I started Runkeeper and then the Workout app, Runkeeper stopped.  I tried different apps, same problem.  Then I found this awesome reddit thread, where someone experimented with several variations on recording a run and realized I needed to do.  Further research showed I could upload Runkeeper’s export to RunningAhead.  AND Runkeeper has several free training programs on the app.  Runtastic was in the running (pun intended) for a while, but their training programs all cost quite a bit of money.

Final experiment:

I loaded Runkeeper on my phone, which automatically loads it on my watch.  I made sure both were fully charged.  I started Runkeeper on my watch (but didn’t start a run).  I started Runkeeper on my phone in order to cue up today’s run per the training plan.  I tapped start.  I checked my watch to see that my watch was running Runkeeper, it was.  I went back to the phone and started up Pokemon Go.  I walked/ran for 34 minutes.  I ended the run on my watch.  Saved the run on my watch.  Sat down at my laptop, opened up Runkeeper.com, exported my run.  Went to RunningAhead.com and uploaded the file.

Experiment results:

Phone battery went from 94% to 55$ on a 34 minute run with Runkeeper running and Pokemon Go.  Obviously, this isn’t something I’ll want to do on long runs, but it worked and I’m happy.  My training run worked perfectly from the training plan on Runkeeper.  It “counted” on the Apple Health/Activity apps (and I’ll incidentally get two new badges this week since my run was included!).  Everything exported and imported beautifully to RunningAhead.  ALL OBJECTIVES ACHIEVED.

All in all, I’m very pleased with the results.  On longer runs, I’ll have to ditch Pokemon Go just for battery reasons, but I’m okay with that.  Extra super bonus that I’d love would be if Runkeeper could figure out how to get the running cues to use the haptic on the watch.  In a separate experiment I tried several apps to see if any of them would do that and none did.

Anyway, I’m back to running and hoping that all this technology keeps me motivated to stick with it.  Happy running!

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