Great Barrier Reef

Apparently I have walked 1600 miles so far using my fitbit device. I guess this is an accomplishment?

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Getting Ready For Launch Countdown

I recently stumbled upon a great blog by Mike Leinbach which has some untold stories about the days of the Space Shuttle program.  Namely, the blog talks a lot about the the final flight of Columbia and the days/weeks leading up to it.  It sounds like it will continue and go into depth on the accident and recovery effort as well.

I was fortunate to start working on the Shuttle program after college, shortly after the return to flight.  My small contribution was towards an advisory system which provided real time telemetry to the folks on launch day.  Our team’s software is pictured on the display in the picture below.

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A photo with the NASA Shuttle Launch Director in Firing Room 4

Mike Leinbach was the Shuttle Launch Director during my time at the cape, and for a longer time before that.  I got to meet Mike briefly during an open house near the end of 2010.  When our team worked launches, it was best for us to be invisible.  That was the case for the most part, with a couple of notable exceptions.  Launch day operations were probably the most stressful and exciting times I’ve had in my career.  Perhaps someday I’ll write about some of those times.

This blog is relatively new, and at the time of writing this, only has 9 followers. It’s a good read, and if you’re interested in the Shuttle program I’d recommend following.  It looks like the writing is following the Columbia flow as it went fourteen years ago.  Now, is a great time to jump in.  Here is a link to the latest entry:

Fourteen years ago this week we were doing our final preparations on Columbia and the ground systems, getting ready to enter launch countdown (LCD). With launch scheduled for January 16, the 3-day countdown was to begin Monday, 1/13. After dusting off vehicle and ground systems (and ourselves!) last week following our 9-day holiday period vacation, we […]

via Getting Ready for Launch Countdown — Bringing Columbia Home

2016 – Year in Review with Photos

I originally had the idea to post my top 10 photos of the year after listening to an Improve Photography podcast about the subject.  The purpose is to post your top 10 photos each year, and see how you are progressing, or potentially regressing as a photographer.  Instead of a top 10, I will do a top 12 and provide my best photo that was taken in a given month.  I may go back and do previous years as well.

This year, due to the arrival of my son, I haven’t had as much time to go out and shoot.  Outside of a trip I was able to make over the summer, I haven’t really had any personal time.

January

Abandonded Building
Egli House — Commerce City, CO

Egli House is an interesting abandonded building at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal.  The Arsenal is a wildlife refuge just north of Denver.  The best part of the refuge is the free admission.  The visitor center is new and worth stopping in.  I took this photo on a cold cloudy January morning.

February

Welding
A Welder at the Colorado Railroad Museum — Golden, CO

This photo is of a volunteer worker welding something at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, CO.  My brother-in-law worked here for a while and was able to give a behind the scenes tour.  I really like all the different lines in this photo.

March

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Tommy — Littleton, CO

Tommy was born at the end of March.  I took this photo when he was 12-hours-old.  I have tons of other pictures/videos from this time.  These are some of the most backed up files I have.

April

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Overpriced Beer and Rockies Dog at Coors Field — Denver, CO

My parents flew out to meet Tommy in early April.  My dad and I were able to catch a baseball game between the Padres and Rockies on April 10.  The game was pretty good for the Rockies.  There were back to back home runs for Car Go and Arenado in the first inning.  This was also at the time where Trevor Story was hitting home runs at a ridiculous rate.  He hit a home run in this game well.  This was a rare Rockies game that was worth the price of admission.

May

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Coke Ovens — Redstone, CO

In May, we attended a family wedding in Redstone, CO.  This whole area is my favorite in the state.  It is our go-to place for vacationing in the mountains.  This was also our first family vacation.  The photo shows coke ovens, which are alongside the major road that goes from Carbondale to McClure Pass.  These ovens were used in the production of coke fuel from the coal in the area.

June

Jefferson Vegetable Garden
The Vegetable Garden at Monticello — Charlottesville, VA

This was taken during a trip to the east coast at the end of June.  I have always wanted to take the tour of Monticello.  These gardens were the inspiration for my own “Jefferson Garden” at home.  There will be more on that in later blog posts.

July

Dark Hallow Falls
Dark Hallow Falls — Shenandoah National Park, VA

This was one of two hikes I was able to do with limited time in Shenandoah.  There were lots of pictures to choose from in July.  Hopefully the others make it on this site.

August

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13th Hole @ Arrowhead Golf Course — Littleton, CO

Arrowhead is easily the nicest course I have ever played.  I was able to play this course at a decent price as part of a work golf tournament.  I didn’t want to play this hole long, so my tee shot ended up short of the green.  In the past, this area was full of brush/rattlesnake habitat.  Recently, they decided to open up that area and make it into lower cut rough.

September

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Georgetown Loop Railroad — Georgetown, CO

In September, we took a trip up to the mountains to ride the Georgetown Loop Railroad.

October

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Tommy — Littleton, CO

This was Tommy’s halloween costume.

November

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Hot Air Balloon — Littleton, CO

This shot is of an unusual hot air balloon over Chatfield State park in Littleton, CO

December

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Tommy at Christmas — Littleton, CO

This is one of the photos I took of Tommy for the purpose of Christmas cards.

 

In 2016, I didn’t have the best photos, but had some of the best memories.  I hope that I’ll get some personal time to do some more landscape/nature photography in 2017.  There will definitely be lots of pictures of Tommy as he grows up.  Also, in 2017, I will be getting in to Aerial Photography/Videography.  More on that in later posts.  Happy New Year!

While writing this, I found a few photos that were just outside the month boundary.  If it was within a couple of days, I was ok placing them in the wrong month.

Hiking Roxborough With Tommy

As part of a new series on this site, I’ll be posting reviews/reports of hikes around Colorado that are at least minimally stroller friendly.  There are no good resources for these sort of hikes online.  Hopefully someone else in my situation will somehow stumble upon this site.  A lot of trails have a good bit of elevation gain, and typically have some sort of “natural stairs” or are very narrow and difficult to maneuver a stroller through.  There are some resources for wheelchair friendly trails in the area, however these are usually low elevation gain paved trails.  The trails I’m looking for are a superset of these.

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Google Maps view of the Fountain Valley Trail

Recently I decided on visiting Roxborough State Park just outside of Littleton, CO.  The Fountain Valley Trail is located adjacent to the visitor center and seemed to be the most favorable place to go for a hike in the park.  The trail is a nice loop that takes you through the north side of the park.  It is a 2.3 mile hike that takes 1.5 to 2 hours and is rated Easy to Moderate.  There is a lot of wildlife in the park, with a large concentration of deer, rattlesnakes, and even mountain lions.  I will only visit the park in winter to avoid coming in contact with an angry rattlesnake.  On this hike, I only really saw some birds, but there were all kinds of strange noises in the brush along the trail side.

From the trailhead, there is a short walk to a fork in the trail, this is the beginning and end of the loop.  I would strongly suggest taking the right side of the fork.  Not being familiar with the trail, I took the left.  On the day we went for the hike, the conditions were pretty good.  The temperature was increasing steadily to almost 60 degrees, but there were still some snow/ice in parts.  This was a bit of a challenge to get through, but Tommy went to sleep right at the start of the loop and didn’t seem to mind at all.  This side of the loop had the best views.

At roughly the midpoint of the trail, there are some buildings that were constructed in the early 1900s by Henry S. Persse.  It looked like the stone house was open, but I decided to just look in from the outside.  Seems like a good place for danger noodles to stay warm in the winter.

On the way back, which should have been the way forward, there was a steep incline to walk up while pushing the stroller.  This was the only real strenuous part of the hike.

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Walking uphill for the remainder of the trail.

It’s hard to tell from the picture, but this was a bit of a challenge pushing Tommy and all his support equipment.  The folks in this picture got a pretty good laugh at watching me struggle to push a sleeping baby up a hill.  It was clear that this was my first time on the trail.  This side of the trail didn’t feature any red rocks, but did have some secondary trails to view points.  These were impassible with the stroller, so I had to skip them.

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The start of the Fountain Valley Trail Loop

After the climb, there was a slight decent back to the end of the loop, which really ought to have been the start.  This is where Tommy woke up and took in some of the scenery before heading back to the parking lot.

Copying files in subdirectories to a single directory

In order to copy my files, easily to Google Photos, they must be in a flat directory structure.  Doing this on my machine is a bit of a challenge, since I’m running Mac OS and trying to easily copy files on a read only external NTFS drive.  The built in find functionality of the Finder window doesn’t really fit my needs.  This approach will work on most unix systems.

Make a temporary directory, if you don’t already have one.  For this scenario, I made a tmp directory in my home area.  I have gotten myself into trouble often enough, that I will never use the system level /tmp directory ever again.  From the Terminal in the top level directory where your images are, execute the following command(s):


mkdir ~/tmp

find . -name '*.*' -exec cp {} ~/tmp \

This will copy all files from your target location to a temporary directory in your home/user area.  Since a lot of my photos have different extensions, it is easiest to copy everything.  The post on uploading to Google Photos will come later.

What I’ve learned after one year of trading on Robinhood

About one year ago, I decided to sign up for Robinhood.  It’s basically a service backed by Google which is used to buy and sell stocks with $0 in commissions/fees.  Robinhood also offers a premium paid service for some folks that buy/sell a lot more often than I do.

Buying individual stocks is generally considered a poor financial strategy due to volatility, so my real investments stay away from single stocks.  Since there are no commissions or fees, I thought it would be fun to try and see if I how well I could do at playing the market based on my limited knowledge and some minimal research.

I put in a tiny initial investment, with a recurring weekly deposit of $15.  This represents the maximum amount of money I’m willing to try on single stocks.  My expectations are to break even overall and gain some learning when it comes to the overall market.  If it all goes to 0, I’m comfortable with that.  This area of investment represents a very small percentage overall for me.

The Robinhood app and service has been great.  To date, I have made probably around 40 trades, both buying and selling.  I have never been charged a commission or fee of any sort.  In addition to regular buying/selling, the app will also allow limit purchases.  I often use this method to purchase stock.  With this method, you can specify the maximum amount you’re willing to pay per share.

Over the year, I have learned quite a bit about the stock market.  My first trades involved solar energy companies.  I felt like the technology was affordable and made sense for a lot of consumers.  I even went pretty far into the process to acquire Solar City solar panels for my own house.  After purchasing a couple stocks in that area(SCTY and SUNE), I eventually determined that Solar City wouldn’t work for me.  In a short time, I was able to see a 25% return on the initial purchase, and knew it was time to sell.

My personal investment strategy is based off a simple algorithm.  I generally invest in companies that make a product that I use and really like.  If it’s not a product I use, it’s a product that I could see myself using.  I have also put some investments in some medical companies with great dividends.  When it comes time to sell, I only sell if I have made money.  I will never sell a stock for a loss.  This logic is almost certainly flawed, I know.

I have been a customer of Netflix since the beginning.  Overall, it’s a great service.  Coupled with a few other streaming services, it makes sense to cut the cord on cable.  I made a large(for me) buy on Netflix at a price of $85.19 per share.  The stock had just taken a dip due to some bad press.  I was confident that it would recover.  I’m still holding the stock for now at a current market price that you can check for yourself.  Depending on when you read this, it has either been a good or terrible idea.

I bought Fitbit back at a time when the stock was around $16.  At the time the expert consensus was that it would hit somewhere around $28.  I have been a Fitbit user since 2013, and generally like their products.  My first Fitbit product was the flex, I have also worn the Charge HR until it disintegrated last month.  I recently purchased the Charge 2 which has worked pretty well over the last month or so.  When the stock started to dip a bit, I decided that would be a good time to buy even more(at a perceived discount).  At the time, I thought the stock was still stronger than suggested by the price, and if things went bad, I had effectively cut down my average cost price so I could get out at a lower price.  At present time, I hold 55 shares of a stock all experts feel is a terrible buy.

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My tanking stock

I like the company and its products.  Hoping to see a recovery after Christmas.  Either way, I’m staying on the ship.

One drawback to buying and selling small amounts of stock is the tax implication.  There are some rules about paying taxes on gains from stocks.  Since I’m not really making a lot of money, the actual amount taxed is low, however tax preparation is a bit more costly.  I generally use TurboTax, and I now have to buy the more premium package to do my yearly taxes.  Robinhood does a good job of providing tax documents that ease with tax preparation.  However, the added cost of TurboTax effectively negates pretty much all gains over the year in my situation.

Overall, Robinhood is a great app that allows both small and large investors trade for free.  There are no catches other than some tax implications.  It just seems that you might want to know something about the market before putting a large amount of money in.  If you’re like me, and looking to play a few single stocks for the fun of it, Robinhood is the best way to go about it.

Redditgifts Secret Santa 2016

I have participated in a few of the reddit gift exchanges over the years.  This year I was paired up with a secret Santa that bought me a very nice bottle of Port.

Taylor Fladgate 1966 Port

This 5-year-old port retails for $300.  The average gift’s value in the exchange is around $20.  I seem to have received one of the best gifts in the exchange. 

I will update when I have the right occasion to open it.