Anniversary Disney Trip

25 Ears
We celebrated our 25th Anniversary this June. We decided last year to go to Walt Disney World multiple times this year. One of these trips being for our Anniversary. We were worried about going in during the summer due to the crowd levels and heat, but this was a once in a lifetime event.

We normally do a moderate amount of planning for our WDW trips. Decide on a rough schedule up front, reserve dinner reservations, and fast passes for our favorite or hard to get rides. We have also gotten into the habbit of always going for almost a whole week - Saturday to Friday. It takes us about 8.5 hours to drive there and back. You can use extra magic hours and crowd levels to determine where you want to go on each day of a trip. We almost always plan on one day for Animal Kingdom, one day for Hollywood Studios, 1-2 trips to Epcot, and 2-3 times at Magic Kingdom. We always have either a Season Pass or Park Hopper so we can jump parks and change plans if we want to. We also try to plan on a whole day or multiple half days for resort resting. Taking a break can make things much more relaxing and less stressful on your body.

The schedule for this trip ended up like this:

  • Day 1

    • Drive to WDW
      • Staying at Port Orleans Riverside
    • Magic Kingdom
    • Dinner at Skippers Canteen
      Required Castle Pic
      Tiki
  • Day 2

    • Breakfast: Resort
    • Disney Springs for Lunch and shopping
      • Lunch: Frontera
    • Animal Kingdom
      • Fast Pass for Everest changed to Safari due to rain
      • Fast Pass for Flight of Passage
    • Animal Kingdom Lodge / Kidani Village Resort
      • Dinner: Sanaa
        Rainy Day at Animal Kingdom
        Lisa in the rain
        On Safari
        Sanaa
        My meal
        Lisa's meal
  • Day 3

    • Breakfast: Resort
    • Magic Kingdom
      • Fast Pass: Big Thunder Mountain
      • Fast Pass: Haunted Mansion
      • Fast Pass: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
    • Lunch:
    • Back to Resort
    • Contemporary
      • Dinner: California Grill
        Magic Kingdom Train
        Haunted Mansion
        Port Orleans Riverside
        My Dinner
        Lisa's Dinner
  • Day 4

    • Breakfast: Resort
    • Epcot
      • Lunch: Fish and Chips
    • Hollywood Studios
      • Fast Pass: Tower of Terror
      • Fast Pass: Slinky Dog
      • Dinner: Hollywood Brown Derby
        Fish & Chips
        Don is hot
        Japan
        Lisa in Japan
        More Japan
  • Day 5

    • Breakfast: Resort
    • Lunch: Resort
    • Magic Kingdom
      • Fast Pass: Space Ranger Spin
      • Dinner: Be our Guest
      • Fast Pass: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
        Gargoyle welcomes us to dinner
        The Ballroom
        Rainy day castle
  • Day 6

    • Breakfast: Resort
    • Disney Springs
      • Lunch: D-Luxe Burger
    • Epcot
      • Dinner: Nine Dragons
      • Fast Pass: Frozen
        Mexico
        Another ride
        Yummy
  • Day 7

    • Breakfast: Resort
    • Drive Home

Good:

  • Fun vacation with my Best Friend.
  • Off the diet for a week and only gained 5 lbs.
  • Many days weren’t nearly as crowded as we expected.

Bad:

  • New smoking areas are outside the park, so we always smell smoke when entering the parks now.
    • Saw multiple people sneaking smoking and vaping in the parks. :(
  • Very rainy trip. Most days the storms kept it from getting too hot.
  • Last full day was hot hot hot.

Jumping back in, again

I haven’t been keeping up with the latest changes to Swift and the iOS. This has been keeping me from updating existing apps on the store. I have also wanted to update and bring some of my old apps back. I have a few ideas for new apps that I would like to create as well. So, I have been spending a bunch of time working on improving my iOS development skills, and getting up to speed on the current state of iOS development.

Wow

Wow, things have come along way. I was never a big fan of Objective C. It has some great features that really helped, but it always felt old and cumbersome to me. Swift seemed like the future right from the beginning. It feels like a modern language to me. The new versions of Swift have improved and evolved the language in wonderful ways. Perhaps more importantly, I enjoy writing code in Swift.

I have been using a Paul Hudson’s Hacking With Swift site to get back up to speed. I think his teaching style and pragmatic approach is very compatible with my own coding preferences. He has a large number of guided videos on YouTube that are great when combined with the content on his site and in his books. He also does an amazing job at updating everything for the latest language updates.

DispatchQueue.global().async {
    do {
        let data = try Data(contentsOf: url)
        let downloadedData = try self.decode(type, from: data)
        DispatchQueue.main.async {
            completion(downloadedData)
        }
    } catch {
        print(error.localizedDescription)
    }
}

I have headed down this path before. What makes it different this time?

Honestly I don’t know, but it feels different. I feel more committed to getting something new released this time. But, only time will tell. Will I stick with it, and dedicate my free time to it? I intend too, and I hope I do. There is nothing like the feeling of setting a difficult goal for your self and reaching it.

Get to Work!

More Trike Stuff

I finally got the trike a little more out of the way in the garage. My poor wife has had to move the trike out of the way and then back in to the garage, every time she pulled the car out.

Hung Trike
TerraTrike Rambler

I still really love riding my trike. But, I’ve recently been spending a bunch of time looking at some other models that have better gearing and a few other enticing features.

Current top contenders:

I really need to stop by Trident Trikes next time we are near Asheboro.

Disney World Birthday Trip

Trying to catch up on posts I should have already completed.

We went to Disney World for my Birthday this year. It was great, as always. We are going more times this year than we ever have. Having a season pass really encourages multiple trips.

Getting older at Disney World

This was also the longest trip we have ever taken with our Tesla. It made the drive longer than it normally is, but it was also more comfortable than normal. We stopped at 4 super chargers there and back. The Tesla charging network makes owning an electric vehicle easy for trips like this.

It really helped staying at Fort Wilderness. The cabin only had a 110v outlet, but that was enough to charge the car back to full in a couple of days.

Our cabin at Fort Wilderness

We try to go to the Magic Kingdom a couple of times during our trips.

Magic Kingdom entrance

This was our first time riding Splash Mountain. We usually skip it, because we don’t want to be wet the whole day. But, it was raining anyway and the lines were more reasonable than normal. Of course it was fun.

Cold and wet on Splash Mountain

We got lucky and saw Kevin at Animal Kingdom. This was one of the first times she was wandering the park.

Kevin sighting at Animal Kingdom

I’m always so impressed with the level of theming here. My photos never really do it justice.

Theming
Crazy Theming
Japan in Epcot

We are already planning for a couple more trips this year. Can’t wait.

3rd Gen iPad Pro

Apple just released several great updates to existing products. The most significant update was to the iPad Pro. I have been a huge fan of the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil since the first version was released. This update has refined and improved the iPad Pro in almost every way.

Specs

  • 11 inch, and 12.9 inch screens
  • Both available in silver and space gray
  • Sizes for both in 64GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB
  • Improved speakers and microphones
  • Home Button replaced by Face ID camera system
  • Not a feature but worth mentioning: Headphone jack removed due to reduced thickness.
  • USB-C connector replaces Lightning conector
  • 18W power brick included
  • A12X 64-bit processor
  • Improved cameras

What I ordered

I got the 12.9 inch, space gray, 256GB LTE iPad Pro. This is the first time I have paid extra for the LTE option, and I only plan on using it when I need extra conectivity. I wanted to get more storage this time, but I could not justify the added price for it. I was already ok with the larger iPad Pro, but this generation physical size actually got smaller while keeping the same screen size. It feels perfect now.

I also got the new Apple Pencil, which charges wirelessly while connected to the iPad case via magnets. The pencil is a little smaller. It has a new double tap feature for tool selection in apps that support it. Also, there is no longer a cap to lose. Pairing is done wirelessly when the pencil is connected to the side of the iPad.

I once again got the Smart Keyboard. Its a little better this time around, but still not perfect.

Pros

  • This is a nearly perfect device. It feels great, it looks great, I love using this device.
  • The pencil is always charged and I don’t have to worry about losing the cap.
  • Application updates are rolling out with support for the pencil double tap.
  • This thing sounds amazing, not as good as the HomePod, or a real stereo system. But, for travel this will be a great way to play music.
  • iOS keeps getting better.
  • How fast is this thing, It handles everything with ease.
  • With USB-C the dongles I already purchased for my Macbook Pro can now be used with the iPad as well.

Cons

  • This is an expensive luxury item. I wish it was cheaper. I would have bought more storage if it was cheaper.
  • Why does it come with the short USB-C cable. They sell a longer cable, it needs the longer cable.
  • No headphone jack is a bummer, but understandable. I can’t remember the last time I plugged headphones in to my iPad.
  • iPad does not support external storage connected via USB-C. There are apps that can do this, but this should be supported by the OS directly. I’ll be shocked if this is not in the next version of iOS.
  • I should be able to develop iOS apps on iOS. The OS upgrades that are needed to support this take iOS from a Mac companion to a Mac replacement.
  • No mouse and trackpad support. I need a cursor sometimes.
  • The Apple Smartkeyboard does not have media keys. I want the standard set of keys.

Recumbent Trike

What is it?

See this Wikipedia artical on recumbent bicycles

Basically it’s a bike you ride in a laid-back reclining position. They come in many variations. Mine is a trike. Two wheels in the front and one in the back.

You can find thousands of videos on Youtube by searching for Recumbent Trikes.

Why might you want one?

  • fitness like any bike
  • seat comfort even after long periods of riding
  • stable and easy to control
  • super fun

Brands and differences

What I decided to get

I did a bunch of research online then bought the best bike I could afford from a local dealer Charlotte Cycles.

I got a TerraTrike Rambler

My rambler has:

  • 20” wheels
  • Internal n380 NuVinci CVT shifter
  • Mechanical disc brakes

It’s not the fastest trike you can get, but its fun and easy to ride. I got a basic flag for it and a simple wireless bike computer. I also added a bike rack and a seat bag.

I plan to add some blinking tail lights for safety. I’ll likely also change the pedals to clipless.

Pros

  • I can ride much longer that I could with the standard bicycle.
  • I find myself actively looking for opportunities to ride.
  • I have had several people stop to ask about it and where I got it.
  • I have not had any incidents of people failing to see me when passing me in a car.

Cons

  • I can see myself buying another trike in the future, something that can go faster and has higher gearing.
  • The seat could be more comfortable. I can buy additional padding.
  • The starting price for a trike is higher than standard bicycle.
  • I’m thinking of buying special shoes for riding.

New Website

Meet the new Website, same as the old website.

I switched to blogger a while back. It was nice having free hosting. But I have to say I’ve remained underwhelmed with the features there. Posting was nice, but then the app was removed so I had to go to the website to post, or find a third party app to post. Theming was nice, but I’m a programmer and I sometimes want to add something funky to the site.

Back to roll your own site. Well, almost.

  • First get your data out of blogger. It’s great that google makes this easy to do. You may have to write some code to get the images and convert the blog posts to a format that can be used somewhere else. I think Markdown makes the most sense.
  • Pick a hosting service. I decided to use Linode. I should be fine with the basic plan $5 a month.
  • Pick a blog engine. I’m going with Hexo it’s a simple node based engine that generates a static site. This will reduce processor costs.
  • Pick a theme - I started with the default Hexo theme.
  • My domain is still being managed by hover.

How do I update the blog

  • New posts are created normally in Drafts on my iPad or phone. Since their written in Markdown I can create them any where I want to.
  • I have created a few actions in drafts to help with post creation.
  • I add tags to the blog entry so that it is easy to find within the site.
  • Once the post is ready I save it to a shared drive so I can generate the updated site with Hexo.
  • I then deploy the site to linode. For now I’m doing this manually - but this can all be automated.

My CPO Tesla Model S

I have been watching and drooling over Tesla since they first started selling cars. I believe that electric cars are the obvious path forward. As battery technology improves and becomes cheaper there will be no reason to have a fossil fuel car other than for entertainment.

Tesla has been leading the move forward with a top down approach to electric vehicles. Selling luxury vehicles now with a long term plan to start selling reasonably priced vehicles later. We don’t know for sure if this plan will work long term. But, I think it is already working. Tesla looks to be heading toward a profitable position as their latest manufacturing line is ramping up.

One area where Tesla has become the clear leader is with the Super Charger network. There are Tesla charing stations located along most major road systems all over the world. This gives their cars an easy and quick way to recharge that few other systems can compete with.

I originally signed up a Model 3 reservation, but decided to get a similarly priced Model S instead. Mostly because I’m impatient. But, also because I was very unsure of the minimal interface of the Model 3. I’ve been re-thinking that lately. But for now I’m sticking with my Model S.

Our Car

I only had a few must have options on my list:

  • Premium Audio System
  • Auto Pilot Hardware - would have loved version 2, but for the price I was ok with version 1.
  • Air Suspension
  • 19” wheels. The larger 21’s aren’t worth the hassle and cost.
  • I wanted Silver, Gray Metallic, or Blue for the color. But, I ended up with Multi coat Red.

Our car also has:

  • Power Lift gate
  • Sunroof

Our Tesla Model S

Purchase Experience

You order online and their web site works pretty well. I did have an issue with the car that I originally chose selling out from under me. I called a sales rep and he helped me find a non yet listed car in California that had everything I wanted.

I did have to pay, as part of the purchase price, to have the car shipped to North Carolina. It took about a week to ship.

All of the purchase forms and required documents were all handled via the website. Even the trade in info was entered via the web. For the most part this was a good experience. However, there were some issues with communication from Tesla. They sent us the final loan info right before the delivery. We had to scramble to get things notarized and completed. Due to out dated laws in NC Tesla only has a showroom here. They can’t legally sale cars here directly. So, we can’t sign and handle the loan info at the delivery. It’s silly and needs to change. It made things stressful.

Delivery

Our delivery was delayed a day due to a crack in the wind shield. This would normally have been fine, but Tesla did not call me to let me know this. I only learned about this when I was calling for another issue. Fortunately it was only a single day delay. They replaced the windshield at no cost.

Tesla does pretty well at training people during the delivery. They go over everything and let you ask any questions you might have. I pretty much knew everything that was covered already. You can spend some time on Youtube and get in depth information on every aspect of the car.

In less than an hour we were driving home.

We did have one issue with the delivery that was quite annoying. When we handed over the title for our old Prius, we had not gotten it notarized. I missed this completely. The delivery person also missed it. So they had to send it back to us to get notarized.

Charging

Initially we were charging the car at home with a 110 standard plug. This gave us about 4 miles of range per hour. This is not enough to make up for a normal day of driving for me. Luckily it only took a week to get a new 240v dryer style plug installed in the garage. With this I can charge up my normal daily use in a few hours. I regularly get around 30 miles of range per hour with this connection.

We have used the Super Charger network a few times. It’s been great, with some planning you can go pretty much anywhere you need with only a little more time spent charging than you would need to spend at a gas station. Your going to want to stop for food and bathroom breaks anyway. Getting used to the difference is the only real problem.

Driving

Driving this car is like a dream. Our car is a Model S 85. We do not have the performance or dual motor options. It’s not nearly as fast as the newer tricked out cars. But, it is crazy fast and easy to drive. When you need power its there. No hesitation, no struggle.

All of the included technology makes this a great driving experience.

Conclusion

It’s only been a few weeks, but so far I have to say I’m ridiculously happy with this car. It’s like having two car payments, and the insurance is a bit more. I’ve never had more fun driving a car.

Who knows what will happen in a few years I may trade it in on a new or used Model 3. We need more people to buy electric cars and to drive the price down. Don’t fight the future, embrace it, and have a good time.

HomePod Mini Review

So I got a HomePod. I did not previously own any of the other dedicated Voice assistant devices.  I could talk to my phone, and my watch, and my TV. But, the power of a dedicated, always listening assistant is just more useful. I have used the Amazon device in other environments and thought it was pretty cool. But, I'm all in on the Apple eco-system.

My short review is it's great.  I think it will get significantly better in the near future.

Sound Quality

This small speaker sounds great.  It does not sound better than my huge Stereo.   I won't be using it when I watch movies, but it is ideal for casual music in the kitchen or in the bedroom.  When cooking or preparing to start or end the day is when it shines.

Siri

Say things like:
  • "Hey Siri play some music." 
  • "Hey Siri shuffle Steely Dan."
  • "Hey Siri start a timer for 10 minutes."
  • "Hey Siri whats the weather for tomorrow."
  • "Hey Siri turn all the lights off."
  • "Hey Siri set the thermostat to 68."
  • etc.... 
Siri will most of the time hear you correctly and do what you want.  But, you need to know how to ask for what you want. Trial and error will eventually train you.  All the same issues you have with Siri on the phone are here. Contextual conversation often fails. Siri can't do some things that other devices can. You can only have one timer at a time. You can set alarms and reminders.

Siri needs more 3rd party APIs. Continue to develop and extend the limited apis already added to Siri. Add new apis. Let Spotify decide whether to develop an integration. Let Overcast develop an integration, etc...   I'm sure this will happen. I wish it would happen faster than Apple typically moves.

Siri needs to be consistent everywhere Siri can be used. The phone should be no different than the desktop, which should be no different than the HomePod.

Siri also needs to support multiple users on the HomePod.  I'm sure Apple wants this to be based on the person speaking. Not asking for a new profile to be active.  However, profile switching would be good enough for now.

Conclusion

If you use Apple Music. Don't mind talking to Siri occasionally on your phone. Have a place in your home where a good speaker would be nice. Then sure give it a try.  Don't buy it based on the possibility of future features. It does more than enough to justify the purchase.  If you already have Echo and are happy with it, maybe skip the HomePod.

I liked it so much that I already bought a second one.


Side Projects - So hard to get started

I have multiple side projects whizzing around my mind at the moment. The long overdue re-write of Simply Lists, my ill-fated To-Do list app.  I don't expect to make much money with it, but It's something I want to write for my own use.  I have a Trello board all ready populated with tasks. I just need to get started.

I also really want to move all the content I have here to a self hosted blog.  This involves exporting my content from Blogger, converting it to something like Markdown, and using a blogging engine of some kind.  I'm currently liking the idea of using something like Hexo. I like the idea of generating a static site.

Speaking of blogging, I've recently started using Micro.blog. It's an open replacement to things like Twitter. You can use the social graph of Micro.blog, but keep your content on your own site.

Now I need to decide which of these to work on in my limited personal time. Hmmmmm