My First Pull Request to a project I don’t own!

When MakeMKV added a new requirement for ccextractor, allowing it to grab subtitles that are encoded on the DVD or Blueray as Closed Captioning instead of subtitles, there wasn’t a package available for Fedora. (There is now, but at the time where wasn’t) So I wanted to make an RPM that I could host on Fedora’s COPR for others who needed the package. There was a problem with their shell script for building RPMs. At the time I just kept hacking away at it until I was able to build RPMs. But I didn’t think about how the manual process wouldn’t be sustainable as changes were made to CC Extractor. They weren’t having releases too often, so I didn’t worry about it. But then they made a new release and I knew that this time, having leveled up on my git-fu, I would try and figure out how to fix that problem and submit a pull request.

I was doing this on a system that is well-configured for pull requests because making a PR triggers CI:

While some tests didn’t pass, I thought they were probably OK and the maintainers agreed:

and it ended up being merged! Hurray!!!

Going back to SQlite on Digikam

Based on the file modification dates, I went from using the Digikam SQLite database to using their embedded MySQL database in May 2018. I did it because at the time everyone was saying that for a large database it’s better to use SQL than SQLite. For a long time it seemed to work well enough like that. But, for the last few months, MySQL hasn’t quite been right. It’s been complaining about issues with InnoDB. Unfortunately, in my Googling I couldn’t figure out how to attempt to fix that issue with an embedded database. All the solutions seemed to involve using a “real” MySQL. So, sick of all that, I decded to go back to SQLite. Since launching Digikam (for the past two days) just causes my computer to go to a load average in the 50s and lead to an unending stream of SQL errors, I had to move the folder that contained MySQL and start from scratch. It was also an opportunity to do what they recommend and have the database reside on an SSD.

Luckily for me, I save all the photos’ tags in the photo files themselves so I wouldn’t be losing anything to do this. Well, that is, I wouldn’t lose anything but time. It took 3.5 hours to re-index all the photos. Considering that I have literally hundreds of thousands of photos, that’s probably pretty impressive. After that, the interface still wasn’t responsive – it wasn’t showing my Albums. But I didn’t panic just yet. I’d purposely launched it in a terminal (Yakuake’s my favorite to be able to check no matter what virtual desktop or activity I’m in) so I waited to see if I was doing anything. And I worked on other projects. Then, after about 5 minutes of seeming not to do anything, it started letting me know it couldn’t create thumbnails for my video files. So I guess it’s working on thumbnails. That started approximately 1315 and ended approximately 1349.

Right now, I’ve got a digikam4.db that’s 486MB, a similarity.db what’s 24k, and a thumbnails-digikam.db that’s 54MB. I’m hoping that once Digikam gets over the hump of dynamically creating some thumbnails as I load directories, things will run better than they’ve been running for the past couple months. Of course, since I have my database on an SSD now (my /home SSD) this does introduce the problem of having the database file backed up separately from the photos (/home vs /media/Photos), but I think I’ll just set up a cron job to tar up the databasefiles periodically and store a copy on /media/Photos.

Addendum to my KDevelop Post

A couple days ago, I wrote about giving KDevelop another look and posted it to reddit’s r/kde. In my post, I’d said it was annoying to have to configure the color schemas per file. Someone commented on the subreddit that if you use the View->Schema menus it’s per file while if you go into Settings->KDevelop settings you can change it for all files.

As a side effect I explored the same options in Kate and set it up like this:

Kate with Breeze Dark schema
Kate with Breeze Dark schema

While looking through the Kate options, not only did I re-enable line numbers, but I also rediscovered a feature that had annoyed me back when it first came out in Kate: modification markers. It’s those green lines along the left. You can find it in Settings->Configure Kate->Appearance->Borders. As you make changes to your file, a vertical line appears with one color and then another color when you’ve hit save. In this schema it’s orange when edited, but not saved and green when edited in this session. I actually found it very useful five minutes ago. I looked at the top of Kate at the titlebar and noticed the asterisk denoting the file had been changed. But I hadn’t done anything! At least not intentionally! In the past I wouldn’t have known what went wrong until I ran the file and then wondered why code that had previously been working wasn’t working anymore. With the modification markers I was quickly able to locate where the change had occurred – I’d accidentally typed into the window when taking the screenshot. I was able to undo it and see that all my bars were green again.

Moving to KDevelop for my larger Python Projects

When I first started programming it was just at the prompt of my Tandy computer. Then it was in the QBasic text editor on the IBM computers at school. But when I started programming again with “real” languages, I ended up going with Emacs. Although I was first annoyed at the way commands like save were prefixed, it became my favorite editor. I think that was partially because of diving headfirst into the free software movement and partially because I didn’t like vi’s different modes and how annoying that made things if you didn’t realize you weren’t in the text entry mode. Eventually, I moved on to Kate because I love KDE (been running it as my main desktop for over 10 years now) and I loved the features it enabled. Also, since vi (or vim) is found EVERYWHERE while Emacs usually requires installation, I ended up switching to vi whenever I’m ssh’d into a computer. If you add plugins like powerline, it can be pretty awesome to use. Even on my desktop if I’m editing /etc/fstab I’m more likely to pull up vi than the weight of KDE (not that it takes up THAT much RAM).

However, today I was reading this blog post about Kate devs planning where to go in the future, particularly the last paragraph where they talk about figuring out their lane where they don’t step on KDevelop, but also don’t fall behind compared to VS Code or others. I started thinking about KDevelop again (it’d be years since I last looked at it – maybe in the KDE3 days). It looks like Python is now a first-class citizen on KDevelop (before it was very focused on C and C++). So, while KDevelop is probably overkill on many of my Python projects, it might be quite useful for my Extra Life Donation Tracker Program, which now involves a lot of files. A few things caught my eye like KDevelop’s intelligent code completion and the way it handles highlighting. It would also be great if it kept track of function names across files. I love that Kate will let me quickly enter names of functions within the same Python file, but it doesn’t seem to do it across files that are open. It’s integrated git functionality also piqued my curiosity.

Here’s the way I typically use Kate:

Kate editor with many tabs open and two side-by-side windows of code.
Kate’s multiple tabs and side-by-side windows are indispensable!

And this is what my programming virtual desktop 1 usually looks like:

Screenshot of programing desktop showing Kate on first monitor, Konsole on the second monitor, Qgit and QT Designer on the third desktop
My typical desktop setup. Although a slight lie because I usually have QT Designer fully expanded and switch back and forth with QGit.

So I installed KDevelop and its Python3 plugin. According to their site, it’s up to distros whether they separate PHP and Python support into their own packages, but if you get the Appimage it’s included. On Fedora,which I run, it PHP and Python were separate packages. After I loaded up KDevelop I was worried it was going to make me make a project first and then import things. That would suck, since I hadn’t started my coding within KDevelop. But when I hit open project it actually allowed me to pick a folder that defined a project. Then it created the .kdev4 file on its own. Now, THAT is pretty darned smart!

KDdevelop understanding that I've looking at a variable!
KDdevelop understanding that I’ve looking at a variable!

Now, I don’t 100% understand everything going on in that dialog, but it’s pretty awesome that it understands from context that textfolder is a variable and that it is in the “save” function.

Kdevelop understanding scope
Kdevelop understanding scope

Again, I think it’s pretty awesome here that it understands the scope of this variable – that it belongs to MyForm as well as knowing it’s publicly accessible and a variable. I’m not quite sure why, but KDevelop calls its color themes Schema. Here’s the Breeze Dark, which I like:

KDevelop with Breeze Dark Schema
KDevelop with Breeze Dark Schema

And here’s a comparison with one (it’s called Solarized Dark) that looks a lot like VS Studio’s Cobalt theme (the one I always see people running at conferences)

KDevelop Solarized Dark vs KDE Dark Breeze
KDevelop Solarized Dark vs KDE Dark Breeze

This does highlight one thing that’s a bummer when using schema. As far as I can tell, it’s applied PER FILE. Maybe there’s a way to apply it to the whole project, but I didn’t see it here. I did a quick edit to play around with the integrated git and I. LOVE. IT.

KDevelop's built-in git integration showing the diff
KDevelop’s built-in git integration showing the diff

First of all, I love that it shows the diff here, but I love even more that it shows it here:

KDevelop showing where the change is. (I had to fudge this because my screenshot didn't save. So in this part I'm adding an extra space)
KDevelop showing where the change is. (I had to fudge this because my screenshot didn’t save. So in this part I’m adding an extra space)

THAT IS SO COOL! Usually I don’t do TOO many changes per commit to make it saner to revert commits if I have to. But sometimes I lose track of what I’m committing and so this integration is so great! By the way, speaking of it, go back up a few screenshots to where I was comparing color schemas and notice that it knows I’m in the devel branch of my git repo!

I’m pretty much sold! This setup saves me a whole screen in terms of not needing the console to the side OR the Qgit! I could use the extra screen to have some documentation up without having to flip back and forth between windows. The built-in launch is also so cool in all the config parameters that can be given to it. I might do an updated post after I’ve used this for a while to develop, but as of right now I’m hyped to do some Python development!

New Release of my Extra Life Donations Tracker Software

After a bit more work since my 21 July post, I’ve finally reached what I can consider to be beta status for the GUI. Things have matured to the point where it works well on both Linux and Windows and I’m now using it every time I game. I created a bunch of issues on Github to track new features I want to add in order to get to what I think will be a 1.0 release. I’m excited at the progress I’ve made and that the software continues to have interest. As always, the code is available on Github. Here are videos on how to use the GUI:

Using the GUI for my Extra Life donation tracker on Linux
Using the GUI for my Extra Life donation tracker on Windows

New Dishes I cooked in May 2019

I didn’t cook many new dishes in May, although I did have some encores of dishes that the family enjoyed. Since there are too few dishes to group them by theme, I’ll just go chronologically this month.

Ever since getting America’s Test Kitchen’s book on Mexican dishes, I’d made some great enchiladas a few times. Both their beef and ground beef enchiladas bring some great flavors to the table. The former is a bit more flavorful, but it also takes longer. So I wanted to see how the casserole version would come out. Overall, it’s very similar in flavor and tastes very good. Where it excels is as a party or potluck food. In the same dish that only makes about 12 conventional enchiladas, you can feed a lot more people because individual squares can be cut to any size. Also, like a lasagna, it has layers so there’s more to eat for a given amount of space on the dish.

It was my first time both making and eating huevos rancheros. It reminds me a lot of the egg curry dish I’ve made a few times. In fact that dish, huevos rancheros, and shakshuka are all basically the same thing. Just different regional spices and flavors involved. I liked it, as did my wife and father.

I’d never made or eaten any cobblers before, but in the past few years I’d started enjoying blueberries raw. I decided to make this summer picnic staple and eat it with some ice cream. It was delicious. Cooking the blueberries brought out a lot of flavor while mellowing out the sharpness of the blueberries. If it wasn’t for the fact that baked goods aren’t so healthy, I’d be making this all the time.

Finally, from America’s Test Kitchen Dinner Illustrated I made sumac lamb loin chops with carrots, mint, and paprika. It had me make a tahini sauce, a first for me. Overall it was a great compliment to the lamb. It’s not something I’ll be clambering to make again, but it was a nice new flavor profile.

Review: I Fight Dragons – “Canon Eyes”

Cover of Canon Eyes

I have been following I Fight Dragons for almost a decade now, including their journey from self-produced to being a label band and rejecting that to going back to being self-produced. I was a backer on their last album, the ambitious concept record The Near Future. That was a seemingly long five years ago. I’ve said before that I ended up enjoying the B-side of the record a lot more, and I think that’s because the lyrics resonated a bit more with me. But for a while I thought maybe the stress of the Kickstarter (in which they ended up ditching an almost completed version of the album and starting over) had split the band.

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about I Fight Dragons is that they seemed to make rock for adults rather than kids. I think they’re probably just writing music for themselves and we seem to be roughly the same age. A great example would be Suburban Doxology from 2011’s KABOOM! talking about the burnout that can come from a desk job. An analogy I’m starting to probably use a bit too much: as a kid I sympathized with Ariel in The Little Mermaid, now I sympathize with King Triton. Or, to bring it back to music: last week I listened to MxPx’s Teenage Politics, one of my favorite albums in middle school. It was not the same to listen to it. Lest you think it’s just nostalgia, Barenaked Ladies Stunt, which I got as a present when I was in high school still holds up because it’s much more adult (in fact, In the Car was a bit adult for me back then!) I feel that Canon Eyes is a great return to what I love about I Fight Dragons.

I was a part of the Patreon for this album and I enjoyed hearing the sound evolve from the acoustic demos through to the final mixes. I was afraid that, having heard variations on the songs for the entire cycle, I wouldn’t get as much out of the final album. My  fears turned out to be unfounded because the final mixes put that final necessary bit of polish onto the songs that still made them sound fresh in the final sequence. The band stated they were going for a 90s sound and I think they were successful without the music sounding dated.

I think this is I Fight Dragon’s best album so far and, after a week of listening, here are my impressions per track:

  1. Artifact – a song lamenting the current lack of popularity for rock. A good rocking song and a great opener for the album. My favorite line: “I am a dinosaur/ I was alive before we started fighting gulf wars”. Goes along with what I was stating above that this is rock by and for an older crowd who still loves to rock.
  2. Not Done Yet – Another great song that deals with getting older. A lot of rock, being for the younger crowd is about how the world needs to take them seriously because they’re here and they’re ready to take on the world! This song considers being a bit older, but realizing that there’s still time left for our dreams. I LOVE the opening lines: “When I was young I thought I knew everything about most everything / the answers had that ring of easy truth. But the older I get the more I see that everything I thought was black and white was grey and undefined the whole damned time.” So. Damn. True.
  3. Punch Drunk Destiny – a torch-carrying love song that doesn’t annoy me. 
  4. Oh the Places You’ll Go – a gem of a song. I think this is going to end up being on a lot of birth videos and/or graduation videos. Every time I hear the song, I think of my kids and tear up a little. While it takes the premise of the Dr. Seuss book of the same name – the person hear it still has so much ahead of them – what really gets me are the lines where the singer talks about how there’s hardship that the listener will experience and they can’t be protected from it all, but reassurance that they’ll come out of it stronger. 
  5. A New Brain – this is another great song; this time from the perspective of Dorothy when she gets back from Oz and is trying to deal with the experience ending back up in Kansas.  
  6. While We’re Still Young – This song occupies an interesting spot in the middle of the album as if to say, “yeah, we’re older now, but not THAT old!” I think it might be the second-most 90s song on here. It’s also, in an album full of awesome songs, the one that scores second-lowest for me, even though it’s not a bad song.
  7. Never Go Alone – it’s a more mature version of the love song trope – things are better with me. It shows that maturity with lyrics like  “sometimes it hurts / sometimes you lose your way / sometimes the words run off the page / just take a breath, we’ll be ok” as well as the chorus. Essentially this isn’t your teeny bopper song where everything’s hunky-dory because you’re together. But if you put the work into it, things will really work out well.
  8. One and Done – a song about those days where you just keep getting in your own way. Again, not a bad song. But surrounded by so many great songs, my least favorite on the album.
  9. Lighthouse on the Sea – another love song. This one, as you can probably guess by the title, is about being someone’s rock or….lighthouse. I mean, it’s kind of a perfectly self-explanatory metaphor.
  10. The Devil You Know – the most 90s song on the record (in my opinion) and it definitely sounds like it’s from an alternate universe Cake album. This one had quite a few transformations throughout the album process, but I think this final form works really well. 
  11. Burning it Down – this song and the next one show off singer Brian Mazzaferri’s range on this album. It’s a ballad that takes things down a notch as the album nears its end. It’s about leaving behind the things that aren’t working for us. But rather than a power-rock song, going for a ballad gives it a lot of power. It also causes guitars that come in at the end to create a really powerful song. It was the most transformed throughout the process, but it came out all the better for it. It’s probably my second or third favorite song on the album depending on how I’m feeling about the songs at any given time.
  12. Good Morning Sunlight – an almost acoustic song that’s kind of the perfect song to end the album on. It’s about having finally come out of a dark time and looking optimistically forward. 

The boys have put together a great album, and I think it’s definitely the culmination of all their talents in writing lyrics, playing instruments, and finding the perfect engineer to bring it all together. I can’t wait until they make their way to the East Coast again so I can hear these songs live.

I Fight Dragons have asked Patreon backers to please not post any audio from the album as they’re releasing the tracks one at a time. Once the whole album is out, I’d like to create a post that shows the evolution of a couple of the songs, using 10-15 clips of a couple of the songs through their evolution.

As for where they go from here, I think if they want to put out another album, but take a break from the more involved process of coming up with an album from scratch, I’d love to hear them do a Beatles cover album. When they teamed up with Nikki Lynette for some remixes, they did a great cover of And Your Bird Can Sing and when they were last in town for a concert they ended their set with a cover of The End. I think they would do a pretty great job either mixing it up or sticking to one album. 

new official band photo

New Dishes I cooked in April 2019

April was a month for getting a little more ambitious as well as trying variations on dishes I’d made before. Among the variations I would count the tilefish, grilled chicken thighs, and bratwust hot tub. The tilefish was just a variation on the Raichlen grilled fish recipe I’d tried before with blackfish. This time I removed the scales to ensure the flavoring on the outside of the fish wouldn’t be wasted. It still wasn’t quite what I wanted, but I think grilled fish like this one is a great candidate for an after-grill marinade. I’ll try that next time. The grilled chicken thighs were a variation on the gochujang paste recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. I liked the mustard-tarragon paste, but Danielle was pretty blase about it. Finally, the bratwurst hot tub was the third such variation on braising bratwurst on the grill. It was fine, but I prefer Meathead and America’s Test Kitchen’s versions to Raichlen’s, which was the one I did here.

In the middle I would place the burger and fries. We’d had oven fries before, but I’d never made fries on the grill. I’m also usually not a big fan of the taste of steak fries. I’m more a fan of fast-food style fries – I think those are called shoe-string, but I’m not sure if that implies something else. Still, these ended up tasting great and being a pretty big hit. The Vermont maple-mustard glazed burger was pretty great. I didn’t fully follow the recipe, which would have required a pretzel roll, but so far I’ve been really loving most of the burgers from the Weber book of Burgers.

As you know, when you try to go ambitious, you have a bigger chance of failing along with a chance for a huge success. Starting off with the failures were the scones. I’m still learning my way around baked goods and there were also some complaints in the reviews for the cookbook I used that some of the weights were not very good. But it’s also possible I didn’t know what I was doing. They came out a little overly dry and were more crumbly than coming together before baking. Slightly less of a failure, but still not what I wanted were the crispy chickpeas. I got that recipe from a Milk Street mailing list email. It was touted as a crunchy snack or a replacement for croutons. I thought I was following the recipe, but the chickpeas did not reach true crunchiness. They were OK, but they almost would have been better uncooked instead of being in that weird not-quite-crunchy state. The piadine continued my experiments with different breads, this time a flat-bread. I’d had it on my to-make list for a while, but after eating a piadine sandwhich at Zoe’s Kitchen, I wanted to try my hand at it. It came out pretty good and it was a pretty fast bread. But the biggest surprise for both myself and Danielle were the hot cross buns. She’d commissioned me to make them for Easter and I wasn’t sure – I’d never made a super fluffy bread like that. But they came out really really well and I was proud of myself for trying and succeeding.

Review: The Misbehavin’ Maidens – “Swearing is Caring”

When I backed The PDX Broadsides’ Kickstarter, they pointed out their friends, The Misbehavin’ Maidens, also had a Kickstarter campaign going on. As I mentioned in the review for Relatable Content, The PDX Broadsides started off as a pirate shanty band. The Misbehavin’ Maidens still are a pirate shanty band, or at least a few of their songs on Swearing is Caring follow sea shanty song structures and melodies. And, other than tamborines and drums, they’re an acapella band.

I got to see them when The Doubleclicks came to Maryland on their most recent tour and they were a ton of fun live, especially when they sang the Space Shanty. The album contains some fun, irreverant lyrics revolving around feminist and LGBTQ+ issues as well as nerd topics. It’s a pretty great mix of topics. However, this album is not for those who dislike protanity or explicit lyrics; Tipper Gore would not approve.

1. Bibliophilia – I’m a HUGE lover of puns, so an entire song revolving around library puns and sexual innuendos was enough to get me to back the album on Kickstarter.

2. Slytherins are Misunderstood – As I mentioned before, I’m just a little too old for the Potter craze, but I still really enjoy this song.

3. Mermaids and Queers – I first heard this song live when they were on the Doubleclicks’ tour. The delight comes from the ingenious ways the Misbehavin’ Maidens have devised for mermaids to doom all members of the sexual spectrum.

4. Space Shanty – I shan’t give away what this is about because that’s 99% of the fun. But it’s awesome live and I hope they do it again next time I see them live.

5. Smile! – A cover of the same song by The PDX Broadsides. It’s about how rude it is for others to tell you to smile. The phenomenon definitely disproportionately affects women, but it’s definitely annoying even if you’re a guy being told to smile.

6. Bunnies in my Brain – bunnies as a metaphor for anxiety; Also first heard this one at their concert.

7. 600 Miles (Dragon Con) – a fun song about traveling really far to perform for their fans. Funnily enough the PDX Broadsides also have a song like this that’s kind of lovingly annoyed at the sacrifices they make for the fans. Perhaps it’s a trope in the filk world or shanty world.

8. Dock Worker’s Song – a very explicit song about being a sex worker at the docks.

9. Pillowtalk – as someone who’s been on the offending end of this one – sometimes the most random things come to my head in the quiet after, I was able to knowingly laugh at the examples they came up with.

10. Mansplain Man – A song about how annoying it is to be mainsplained to.

11. Drinks Don’t Have a F**king Gender – JD of Scrubs would have loved this song. It’s about enjoying whatever drinks you want no matter what.

12. Dumb Ways to Con – a really fun song about things you shouldn’t do at a nerd convention … or any convention, really.

13. Do You Take It – Another explicit song. To quote my wife, “I guess it’s OK since girls are singing it?”

If you like nerdy topics, acapella, and dirty lyrics, you should DEFINITELY buy this album and support this group. ALSO, they’ll be opening for The PDX Broadsides when the do their east coast tour this fall, so I think it’s definitely worth seeing this awesome pairing.

Review: The PDX Broadsides – “Relatable Content”

This year I have sponsored a lot of Kickstarter creative work, including lots of music. One that I was very excited to support was The PDX Broadsides’ latest album, Relatable Content. They started off as a pirate shanty band and have evolved into a nerd filk band whose songs range from silly to profound. I really enjoyed their last album, Trust Issues, which had some pretty timely songs like Noncompliant (superficially about the Bitch Planet comic, but actually about the Me Too era) and We Want Rey (about representation in nerd toydom). It also had some fun songs (both feature Christian as the lead) like Tiny Little Octopus and Robot vs Boy (which I want to see made into a mini-musical). Their last Kickstarter also had a dirty album called Lust Issues that continued their trend of Shakespeare music with the great Dirtbag Romeo and their dirtier songs from their pirate shanty days with It’s Just Sex.

They’re going to once again release a commentary album that will explain all their songs (that was a really awesome part of the last KS), but since it’s not out yet, I’m just going to talk about what I get out of each of their songs and what I think they mean.

1. Let The Wild Rumpus Start – this song references Where the Wild Things Are and, together with the next track have a late 1800s/early 1900s sound to them. It’s a fun sound for the band to explore and I’d like to maybe see a concept album go in that direction.

2. Together Breakfast – I’m not sure what this song is referencing, but overall it kind of just makes me think of having breakfast with a best friend or significant other and the fact that it’s usually comfort food that can make things feel great.

3. Jerkbrain – this one is pretty self-explanatory (and also they explained it during a Kickstarter update). It’s about when your brain betrays you like saying the wrong thing or acting the wrong way for a situation.

4. Buffalo – Another Christian silly song. It’s also my kids’ favorite song on this album. It involves the narrator attempting to ride various wild animals and having things go awry. It’s pretty silly, but it’s really fun to listen to.

5. Love Good – I’m not sure what, if anything this is referencing, or at least I wasn’t until I googled “Nargles”. I figured this would lead me to the reference and it did. It’s a Harry Potter reference (I’m sure all the younger book readers got that right away, but I came to it in college and so while I appreciate the books, they don’t mean as much to me as the younger crowd). Essentially, it seems to be an ode to being neuro-atypical using Luna Lovegood as a metaphor.

6. Orpheus – I had to look up Orpheus because I’m not really well-read on the greek stories beyond the main characters – Zeus, Hercules, etc. From what I can hear of the lyrics, I think it’s about media, social media, etc consuming all of our attention so that we can’t engage in critical thinking. The singing is powerful and I enjoy the music as well.

7. Rewind – I love this song both lyrically and sonically. Basically it’s about moments you wish you could rewind. That happens to me all too often if I’m trying to be clever or speak without thinking things through.

8. Lost at Sea – A slow song that really showcases singing range. I’m not 100% what the metaphor is, but it’s almost definitely about a relationship ending.

9. The Alligators – Uses alligators as metaphors for all the haters out there. Very enjoyable.

10. House of the Wind – Based on the Kingkiller Chronicles – I only know this because of a Kickstarter update. I think they mentioned it’s about the feelings of performing on stage.

11. Heartless – About the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. It posits that she used to be much nicer before, but some crisis has left her heartless and that’s why she acts the way we see her in the stories.

12. Serotonin Dopamine – A song about those chemicals that control our emotions and how much they affect us. I really like Christian’s cadence in the song and the backup vocals work really well where they appear.

13. Winter is Coming – A really fun song from the point of view of Arya from The Game of Thrones. It was their first single from the album and probably my second favorite song.

Overall this is a great album that has the group continue to evolve musically and lyrically and I heartily recommend it. The best part is that you can listen to it for free on their bandcamp page or listen via Spotify or one of the other music sites before deciding to buy. (And buying does support them more than streaming fees)

2019 Concert #4: Anberlin with I The Mighty

My fourth concert of 2019 was also the first one in which I had someone else go with me as Danielle went to her first concert of 2019. It was fun to have someone to share the experience with, especially her. Anberlin was the first band I introduced her to that she also came to like. Many of their albums were bonding moments for us from dating through our married life.

Just like that last time Anberlin was in town, they played at The Fillmore and just like last time they basically sold out the venue. We got there as the concert was starting and the entire first floor was packed and on the second floor there was only standing room left.

I The Mighty was a good match for Anberlin, sonically. Apparently they met at the same Warped Tour I attended in 2014 and decided to tour together for this Anberlin reunion tour. I enjoyed nearly all the songs they played and have considered going on Spotify or Amazon Music to see which of their albums has the most music I’d like so that I can buy it.

I The Mighty on stage
I The Mighty

Danielle and I had seen Anberlin on their final tour, also a great concert. But they had an album to go along with that tour, Lowborn, and so the set was heavily weighted towards that album and their later albums. Those are also the ones we liked the least. We were definitely more into the first half of their discography with a few songs we enjoyed on the later albums. This tour, being a reunion tour, had a much more balanced set list, making it a much more enjoyable concert for us. In fact, in my head, it appeared they played slightly more of their older songs than their newer songs.

Anberlin on stage
Anberlin

Stephen Christian still has an amazing singing voice, exemplified when he did an acoustic version of The Unwinding Cable Car. It was electric in The Fillmore, demonstrating the power of live music and why a great band can make a concert so much better than an album, with its precise engineering (which I also LOVE, it’s just a very different feeling!). Also, probably thanks to social media, he learned there was a couple in the audience who met at a record store buying Anberlin and then got married. So the band played a song for the couple to slow dance to.

Stephen Christian singing The Unwinding Cable Car

As of right now, this is probably going to be my penultimate concert for 2019 (based on future concerts I want to attend) and the money spent was DEFINITELY worth it. (Even if it did make me wish Anberlin would put together a new album)

slow-dancing to Anberlin

New Release of my Extra Life Donations Tracker Software

If you follow the blog, you remember I’ve been working on a GUI for the donation tracker. Part of making that work involved changing the code to be object oriented. Also, it required moving the user-defined configs to be moved out of the main code. I’ve done that and finally tested that it works (I had a silly bug involving a typo that I had to correct) and merged the code into master over on the github repo. The new code required a change in the directions, so I made new instructional videos to go along with those changes:

Instructions for using EL Donation Tracker on Linux
instructions for using EL Donation Tracker on Windows

Also, while I was looking through my Github page, I was surprised to find that I’ve gone from just one fork of my code, to three!

a screenshot of the forks section of the Insights tab on github
A screenshot of the forks of my code

It’s like my code is growing up from just being hobbyist baby code!

Animal Portraits from Baltimore Zoo

Back in March we went to the Baltimore Zoo and I took my 120-400mm lens. I think this may be the first time I’d taken that lens to this Zoo (although I’d taken it quite a few times to the National Zoo in DC). I took lots of photos, but some didn’t come out the way I wanted and others just looked too much like they were in a zoo. I wanted (as much as I could) to have photos that could have been taken in the wild. I didn’t succeed with all the photos I chose for this post, but I was happy with the way they came out.

I don’t know what it is about prairie dogs – if it’s their silly chubbiness or their meerkat-like behavior, but I always love taking photos of them. This time I was able to get close up enough to see him sticking his tongue out at the zoo-goers.

I don’t think anyone would ever see this photo and thin I’d gone to Aantarctica or South Africa, but I did like that I caught them about to dive.

I’d seen flamingos my whole life, having grown up in Florida. But until this photo I hadn’t realized their eye color or the peculiar way their beaks bend. I remember reading once that they’re pink because they eat shrimp…but shrimp are only pink if you cook them. So I wonder if that’s true or not.

My absolutely favorite thing about this photo (that you may not appreciate unless you’re at least viewing it on a tablet) is the way the ostrich feathers look. They’re like little fir trees. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen feathers that look like that before.

The unease I feel at this ostrich staring at me is a good reminder that they’re living dinosaurs.

I know this photo isn’t perfectly crisp, but if you contrast the frozen water with the zooming ducks you’ll get an idea of just how fast they were chasing each other. My kids loved that they were chasing each other in circles.

I was pretty lucky this swan was posing for me for 30 or so minutes.

I don’t know what bird this is, but I do not want to get on his bad side. Not only is the one of the most bad-ass looking birds (behind an Eagle, of course), but that pointy beak looks like it could do some damage.

Right as we were getting ready to leave, this alligator was out on his own with a circle of people around him. The Florida person in me thought that was madness. But the photographer in me was happy to get a chance to take some really close up photos.

And also enjoy this video I shot of the crazy noises flamingos make.