New Years Eve isn't my favorite holiday (that's Halloween, in case you're wondering). Mostly it's because I'm not great at staying up till midnight.

But NYE is a great excuse to stay up play video games and tinkering with projects, which is precisely what I did. After eating tasty home-made turkey soup and biscuits.

Hooray for gaming and coding!


Today has been a day filled with tinkering. I'd like to do some data logging with the arduino and Raspberry Pi. Ultimately, I'd like to have multiple arduinos communicating (via RF) throughout the house taking temperature readings and sending the information back to the raspberry pi to log and graph. Basically, there are a lot of little components to that project that I need to figure out and then mesh them all together for the final project.

So today I spent a big chunk of the day playing around in python. I've been interested in it ever since the Kindle Weather Display project. It has a pretty easy to read syntax and seems like it would be great for manipulating data from the arduino and graphing.

The first step is getting communication working.

I hooked up a temperature sensor, installed PySerial, a module for serial communication in python, and plugged in the arduino. For the arduino, I used the sketch in the Ladyada program for DHT11.

The program in python was more simple than I thought. Here's all I did:


import serial

arduino = 'COM7'
ser = serial.Serial('COM7', 9600)

for x in range (0,3):
    print ser.readline()
    (x)



And as you can see everything worked out pretty easily. The program will print 3 lines from the arduino and then stop.

In case you're wondering, that shield on the arduino is the OpenSourceRF wireless shield. It wasn't actually doing anything, but I was too lazy to pull it off.

Spent a little time leveling my elementalist in Guild Wars 2. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Chris ordered a lot of random things online awhile back and they all arrived today. On top of that the Bucky cubes (balls were sold out) that I ordered during their fire sale arrived today. They stopped selling these things because they're hazardous when swallowed and there have been issues of this happening. So...if you're ever around them...don't swallow these magnets.

The evening was pretty non-structured. A poked around with a python library trying to manipulate the Hue bulbs and teach myself python at the same time. Since I ultimately want to use python and and arduino I figure learning python while playing with the Hue is a good use of my time.

I also made a tasty turkey breast in the crockpot. The photo I took doesn't look tasty, so I didn't post it, but I think it was. I pretty much used this easy recipe and then added some water to the bottom of the crockpot so it didn't dry out. I'll definitely try making a turkey breast that way again.

Chris has wanted the Philips Hue light bulbs for awhile. They're wifi-controlled LED light bulbs that you can control locally or via the internet with your iOS (or android) device. So for Christmas he received a starter kit that came with three bulbs and he's been enjoying changing the lights in the rooms to different colors. Honestly having the two different colors in the same room is somewhat irksome.

One of the really nice things about the Hue is it's hackability, and I wouldn't have even known about that if not for this awesome ars technica review. There's a pretty vibrant hacking community and the ars review does a really nice job laying out how to do everything. There's even a nice javascript file to set everything up for yourself. While I don't personally have any experience in javascript, Chris does. And the internet has an answer for anything we can't figure out.

So armed with the information from the ars review and information from rsmck, who has been pioneering hue hacking, I got to work.
The first order of business was to get access to the Philips Hue Hub so I could make requests (changing the colors, turning lights on and off). The way to do this is to make a HTTP POST request of the Philips Hue hub to establish a username. That username is then used to make changes to the various light bulbs.

I tried a few ways yesterday to get a POST request to work in windows with python and javascript, based on some examples I saw online and stuff Chris helped me with. No luck.
So tonight I logged into the Raspberry Pi I have running a web server for the Kindle, and tried my hand at cURL.

Not surprisingly, I'm not the only one who tried this and I found a pretty handy example of what to do. Here's what worked for me via the command line in linux:

curl -d "{\"username\": \"PLACE YOUR USERNAME HERE\", \"devicetype\": \"PLACE YOUR DEVICE NAME HERE\"}" http://PLACE YOUR HUB IP ADDRESS HERE/api

As noted on rsmck's website, the first thing I saw was an error saying the link on the hub wasn't pressed. So...I pressed it and tried again.

Success!
Next I downloaded and opened up the javascript file Lee Hutchinson from ars technicia provided in the Hue review. All that was needed was a simple tweak to the file to add my hub's IP address and the username I just established. Then I dropped the file on the Pi web server and away I went!
We can now control the light bulbs via the web server if we'd like. Sure, I could have just done that with the iOS app, but there's a lot more potential here. With access to the Hue Hub I can schedule the lights to act as a sunrise lamp on weekdays but not weekends, or only turn on on certain days of the week. Since the Philips app wont let you schedule anything based on weekdays or weekends (or even indefinitely) the whole concept of scheduling a lamp to slowly go on or off is out the window. And since I know Chris has always wanted a sunrise lamp, that's exactly what I needed.

I look forward to tweaking this over the next week while I'm off work. And the really great part is that Chris knows javascript and he's pretty excited to set up things how he wants them. Plus he can code and design the website and make it really nice.

Chris really likes Green Lantern. He wears a silver Green Lantern ring, has lots of Green Lantern clothing and figures, and in general is just a huge fan. So while he has a lot of Green Lantern paraphernalia, I feel he can never have too much.

So I decided to cross-stitch him a few ornaments for Christmas on some 3" wood embroidery hoops. The first ornament, just a simple Green Lantern logo, I made freehand in cross stitch app on my tablet. I chose a pretty basic green (DMC 700) for the logo.

If you'd like a copy of the pattern, you can find it here. The whole thing stitched up pretty quickly. I then eyeballed the cursive writing from a few examples I found on the internet.
Ch'p was a little more complicated and time consuming. After flipping back and forth between various websites and images, I finally settled on the free cross-stitch photo conversion site, My Photo Stitch. I used a classic image of Ch'p and then scaled it down so it would fit in a 3" hoop.
The Green Lantern Ch'p pattern generated from My Photo Stitch was a good base to work with, but as you can see from the photo above I made some notes for color changes and modifications.

Instead of the 10 different thread colors the pattern suggested, I used 9 total, 8 of which were from the pattern (I didn't use the pink-ish 3861 or the dark brown 3021 thread).

I could't find the exact same color at the store for one of the threads, so I had to substitute. I also didn't do as much shading as the pattern called for and instead made some of his limbs fatter with black thread. Here's what I used:
  • Blanc - white
  • 310 - black 
  • 371 - brown/gold
  • 524 - gray
  • 702 - light green
  • 700 - green
  • 909 - rich green green
  • 934 - dark green
  • 830 (in lieu of 3011) - light brown

I mostly just used the 702 green for the Green Lantern symbol and ring. I then used 700 for the body and feet instead of 702. With that change the ring and symbol felt like they stuck out more.
Overall I'm pleased with how they both came out, even if Ch'p isn't perfect.
Most importantly, Chris is happy with them. And, as a special bonus, they look pretty nice nestled in the tree above Hal and the standard Green Lantern symbol.


We started off the day with some tasty french toast. I even gave some to the squirrel hanging out this morning on the deck. I think the squirrel enjoyed it. 
As you can see, I got Chris some pants, just like I told him I would. I don't think he believed me...
Even with just the two of us we managed to mess up the living room.
Leki didn't mind. He loved laying on wrapping paper.
He had a pretty merry Christmas too. Lots of toys and treats.
Chris really liked the Green Lantern ornaments I cross-stitched for him.
 And I really enjoyed assembling Bag End that Chris got for me.
I even tossed Sam in when everything was complete (he's on the far left with the Light of Eärendil in hand)

Today has been a pretty low key day. A lot of hanging out and enjoying not having to go anywhere.
About the only excitement we had was getting the mail. Chris received about 5 packages today from various things he'd ordered on the internet.
Lots of action figures arrived, including the only Orange Lantern, Larfleeze (orange is for greed).

We showed up at my parents in the late morning and there was already a massive spread of cookies for just the few of us.
We hung out and caught up while waiting for my little brother and his girlfriend Emily.
When the arrived we sat down for a tasty steak lunch. Normally my parents do lasagna for Christmas but this year they cooked some steaks.
After lunch we passed out presents.
And presents...
And more...
We continued the tradition of passing the Xanth box. I received it this year, along with a gazillion Scooby Doo decals. I look forward to peppering the walls with them.
After all the gifts were opened Chris headed out to visit his best friend Chris who is is town from China. So I got to spend a few extra hours at my parents house, eating their food and using all their heat.

All in was a relaxing end to a pretty busy weekend.

We finally left around 7 to head back to home. The cat was extremely excited we were back and spent a long time meowing and leading us around the house. I'm not sure why...

We headed over to the east side of the state for the weekend this morning. I got to do some knitting in the car ride over, which is a nice way to spend the time.
Our first stop? Chris's mom's house to celebrate Christmas and her birthday from last weekend.
The four of us (Chris, Chris's brother Scot, their mother and I) went out to eat at a local tropical-themed restaurant. It reminded me very much of something my paternal grandparents would have enjoyed.
After lunch we headed back to her place to exchanged presents. We even squeezed in dessert.

After dessert we headed over to Chris's dad's place in White Lake.
We went out for a tasty pasta-filled dinner and hung out at his place for awhile. He gave me some awesome drill bits to make holes in the glass jar solar lights I started working on over the summer. I've got to start working on those again.

We talked about a whole range of things and he offered to teach me how to do electrical work, which I think is exciting. I'm looking forward to that!

Chris spent a big chunk of the evening wrapping gifts and making everything look nice for this weekend. I just had to make a pie.

I got off so easy!

This evening felt a little short. I'm sure spending several hours finishing up shopping before the weekend didn't help. Of course, I made sure to spend a little time in Guild Wars 2 and play some of the holiday events.

They're certainly not my favorite thing (I do miss Grenth and the Underworld which is what the original Guild Wars had), but I appreciate how much content Areanet put into the game, for free, just for the holiday. Crafting recipes, a dungeon, PvP objectives, holiday-themed clothing dyes and more.
Besides, gifts that balloon and then explode into smaller gifts just for you? Yeah, I'm ok with that.

I spent several hours doing arts and crafts for Christmas-themed projects tonight. Fun!

Rather than cooking dinner, I spent the first part of the evening baking tasty treats for canines and felines. I didn't use the whole wheat flour the recipe the recipe called for, but judging by Leki's reaction to the cat treats, they're still tasty.

As a happy bonus the house didn't smell nearly as bad as the one time I used a dog treat mix I bought at the pet store years ago. I'm sure baking a peanut butter-based dough didn't hurt.

This week kicks off a week of secret santa gifts in my department. This morning I arrived to a massive plate of fudge. Tasty!

Yesterday I did a fair amount of baking so this morning I wanted to wrap everything up. I whipped up the peppermint buttercream frosting for these fudge cookies this morning. It is super tasty and super rich. I used this recipe and these came out fantastic.

I would really heed the warning in the recipe to ignore how underdone the cookies look when you pull them out. They really do stiffen up on their own once they get out of the oven.
I also started in on a second batch of marshmallows. The ones I went to cut this morning were still wet feeling and not very fluffy. I'm going to blame the fact that I hand-whipped the eggs and didn't do it nearly long enough.

So I started on a second batch. My main problem was that I didn't have all of the ingredients in the recipe I normally use, so I had to find an alternative (I did not want to leave and pick up more Karo syrup). I found a tasty-looking recipe that used honey instead of Karo Syrup. Here's hoping when I pull them later to slice them they're super tasty!

Wintersday has started in Guild Wars 2!

I actually spent a large chunk of the day cooking and taking care of some secret santa gifts, so I haven't actually had much time to play.
But I did log in briefly during the evening to check out the in-game decorations. Very festive!