Sunday, April 26, 2020

Sunday. COVID-19 Lockdown day 34.

Today. Now.  How have I been doing this week?

About the same as usual.  My give a s**t level is at its usual low ebb. Tireder than usual. Perhaps due to less exercise.  Haven't gotten out for a good walk in a couple of days.  It's been cold and rainy.  Today is nice out, but my motivation is missing.  My attitude comes and goes throughout the day.  Good mood, motivated for a while, apathetic for a while.  Fortunately, the lows aren't as low as pre-COVID; having an existential threat seems to have kicked the crippling depression to the curb.

How's the city and the environment?  Slowly settling into this new normal.  Stock levels at stores are coming up.  Grocery pickup times have gone from 5 days out to same-day if you get your order in early enough.  Police activity is still high, and still higher levels of idiocy.  Car theft and high-speed chase yesterday.  Multiple location shooting a mile West of here early last week.  Spring has sprung and the lawns are growing, people are out mowing every day, flowers blooming and trees budding.  Wildlife is coming out - we had a healthy well-fed fox come into the back yard this morning about 6:30AM.  Fortunately, we scared him off - RandomTheCat was outside under the deck doing his catly business.  Also, fortunately, I've been keeping the camera out and ready to grab for any interesting wildlife in the back yard.

Early Morning Fox in the back yard.

Otherwise, the routine continues.  Saturday grocery pickup at Hy-Vee.  A weekly grocery run for mom.  Order hard to find things (cat food, for some reason) off of Amazon.  Online meetings for work.  Online meetings for Scouts. The oldest son is stressed and depressed for a 6-page research paper that's due, along with a large scale 3D design project.  The design project is complete, now he just has to crack out a research paper in a couple of days.  Hours have been cut, again for the kids at the sandwich shop. The daughter is down to 2 hours a week.  She's going to be in a hard place when it comes time to pay for classes in the fall unless she picks up another job to put some income together.

So, all is nominal here. I need to get more exercise or ride a motorcycle or something.

With that, we'll close out this weeks head check and status update.

Your humble scribe,

Will England

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Making Disinfectant Solution against COVID-19

Most off the shelf disinfectants (Lysol etc.) are sold out and have been sold out for weeks.  But you can make your own assuming you have some laundry bleach and a good spray bottle.

First - the bleach - it should be the basic generic sodium hypochlorite 5% laundry bleach, no scents or color boosters.  The cheapest bottle you can get.

Next - the sprayer - in a pinch, a water sprayer from the health and beauty aisle works, but hopefully, you have a spare or running empty 409 or Tilex bottle in your house.  As you use that up, KEEP THE BOTTLE.  Why?  They have a spray head that's designed for harsh chemicals.  And the bottle is designed to pull solution from the bottom through a molded-in tube; not a central dangly tube that leaves the last dregs in the bottle.

Now, the solution.

For cleaning the worst bloodborne pathogens (Ebola, for example), the CDC recommends a 0.5% bleach solution - they have a nice printable PDF about making that concentration with simple ratios to follow.  However, that's a ton of solution they're making, and more concentrated than we need.  Note the CDC flyer says to discard unused solution every day; unless you are disinfecting on a large scale, you're not going to need gallons of this; it doesn't keep.  We'll work on making an 8oz solution.  You can use it for a couple of days but it will lose potency if stored longer than that.  You'll need to re-make it periodically.

According to a survey of various papers, SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19 disease) can remain infectious for 2 hours up to 9 days.  Also in the same paper, it notes what kills SARS-CoV-2 properly.  Isopropyl Alcohol at 70% works in 1 minute; 0.1% sodium hypochlorite  (bleach) solution also works in 1 minute.  As we noted above, we're going to make a solution a bit stouter than 0.1%, just because the measurements are easier.

The process to make the Disinfectant solution for COVID-19

To make the CDC 0.5% bleach solution you need to mix one part bleach with 9 parts water - on a small scale, that's 1 ounce bleach to 9 ounces water.  Not terribly hard, but not convenient units of measure.  Lets scale that back a bit - 1 tablespoon of bleach (0.62 oz) to 8 oz (one cup) of water. Easy, eh?  Add a single tablespoon of 5% bleach to a 1 cup measuring cup, fill with water to the 8oz line.  Pour, carefully, into your empty Tilex or 409 bottle. Shake, prime and you're good to go with a sanitizing or disinfecting spray.

In bullet form:
  1. Add 1 tablespoon bleach to a one-cup measuring cup.
  2. Add water to the 8-ounce line
  3. Pour the solution into spray bottle.
  4. Replace every day or three 

How To Video Making the Disinfectant Spray

(To see more videos, visit my Youtube Channel and subscribe)


  1. ObDisclaimer - I am not a medical, health, or chemical professional.  Take this advice as a friendly suggestion, not a prescription for action.
  2. Health and Safety: You're working with bleach.  It burns skin and eyes.  And ruins clothes.  Use some common sense - eye protection, gloves, don't wear your best concert T-Shirt while you're making this.
  3. The final product is still bleach.  Do not spray on anything that will fade (clothing) or be damaged by bleach.  Do not spray on people, and keep it out of your eyes, mouth, ears and other body parts.  It burns.  

References for the COVID-19 time to live and best disinfectants for it:

Friday, April 24, 2020

Black Box Debugging

Black Box debugging - finding a bug when you have no visibility into the source code.  Identifying what's going wrong by the outputs of the system when presented with various inputs.  Love it.  Most of the time you don't have access to the source code; either it's long since gone, or it's in the hands of a different team.  So - you provide a variety of inputs in a variety of patterns and observe.

From there, you take your observations and either work out a linear process of what's happening or if you are an intuitive thinker, you'll 'see' the inner workings of the code and what it's doing right - or wrong.
Screenshots are good. Even if it's just the console.

Even for the intuitive thinker, you'll need to double down and create a linear description of the issue, in each case you can create the issue, ideally with screenshots or console dumps, to provide to the developers to resolve.  That's the hard bit, at least for me.

And that was my 'Now' moment for today.  Friday, 2PM, black box debug a set of Javascript calls on a website.  No, I don't know Javascript beyond how to spell it.  No, I've never seen this website before; at least not this new section of it.  No, I didn't have access to the source code.  Nor did I have access to a developer, only a developer liaison who could give occasional garbled tips through his Apple Airpods.

(Side note - Apple Airpods do not work well with computer-based phone/video calls. Get a Plantronics UC earpiece or a Jabra 75 Headset).

Was I successful?  Yes. And an improved version of a website was made available to the customers, making wireless suck just that much less.

How was your Friday?

Your Humble Scribe,

Will England

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Setup OBS for DLive Streaming seems to be the latest thing for people to broadcast and earn virtual money with far less restrtions that YouTube.

So, how do you set it up on a Mac - I'm using a 2015 MacBook Pro and this is what I did.

Setup OBS for Streaming with Background Music.

First, download OBS:

Read this (older but useful) tutorial after the automatic setup goes through:

Now, fiddle with the settings a bit and stream.

Want to add background music?
In OBS, add a media source and pick an MP3 file to play; ideally one in the public domain or licensed via Creative Commons.

Better background music?  Add a VLC Media Container to OBS that has a playlist of songs you want running in the background.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Sunday. Today. Lockdown day 27.

I start these posts early in the day.
By the end of the day, I neglect to come back and publish them.
So, dates / days are all hosed up. C'est la vie.

Saturday Recap 

Picked up grocery order at the store.  They got most of it right.  I even got the specific tissues my mom wanted.
Did the unload, sanitize, put away routine.  Noticed my heart rate was hanging out about 100 the whole time.  Yes, I'm somewhere between 20 and 40 pounds overweight right now, but dang, 100bpm heart rate for carrying in groceries?  Ow.  Possibly a side effect of 35 days without much activity.

So, after lunch, I took SamTheDog out to visit mom and deliver her tissues.  He hasn't been out for a walk other than to the vet in a couple of years.  He quite enjoyed it.  Then walked to the post office to mail her bills, and got off track and wandered around the edge of Downtown Overland Park, checked out the work they're doing on the old Santa Fe Commons Park.  Just a bit too late to get a second lunch at The Snack Shack.  Ah well.  All told - walked about 2 miles. 6600 steps.

Decent ramble on a nice day.

Saturday evening I re-learned how to put text on a shape in Photoshop Elements; the wife was asking.  I think she's working on a logo for a live streaming service she wants to start.

Speaking of videos, I went through the WxExW archive and created two new playlists:
  • Environmental - Videos capturing the natural and ambient environmental images and sound, mostly here in Overland Park, and
  • How-To and Instructional - Videos that teach something.  Some cross-postings from the phone demo videos, along with karate (very old).  
A goal is to build more environmental videos to capture what the world in suburban KC is like in the 2020s; HowTo is more aspirational.  Those tend to take a lot more time, thought and effort.  But we'll see what comes to pass.

Today, Sunday, 19-April, Now. 

Up at 0500 AM; back is sore - not surprised from hauling around a 40-pound lump of fat over my belt for 2 miles yesterday - and the brain really wanted some coffee.
Today, I plan to walk down to the grocery for a specific vitamin mom is looking for and get the motorcycle out and head down to Costco to look for allergy meds, canned chicken and other small items they usually have.  Also, check the price on desktop computers; see what they are selling the Dell XPS Desktop PC for.

In other news, Heilung has a new video out for the song, Norupo.  Amazing visuals. Amplified history.  It's a sung version of the Norwegian Rune Poem. The Rune Poems were a recitation of the names and kennings (associations) of the runes.  The English translation

State of the County

Johnson County Kansas has a Tableau infographic based on their COVID-19 data breaking infections down by zip code,  hospital utilization, and ambulance dispatch.  As of today, we're still under capacity on hospitals and below average on ambulance dispatches.  We can assume fewer people driving, fewer accidents; fewer people stressed at work, fewer medical issues; fewer people at hazardous jobs, less work-related accidents. Social distancing and state lockdown seems to be having the desired effect of reducing the infection rate. 369 confirmed cases, 22 deaths from COVID-19 as of today, Sunday, April 19. 

Closing Bits for Sunday

Took a walk to Price Chopper - 2.1 miles by Google Maps, about 5,000 steps more or less.  I got a specific brand and type of vitamins for my mom, walked back a different route and saw some amazing Sycamore trees just starting to bud out.
Today's Walk

Sycamores over freshly mown lawns

Earlier in the morning (10:30 AM or so), I spotted this possum trotting across the neighbors back yard; I was able to get a good shot of him with the Sigma 18-300 lens.  Hopefully, he'll eat all the ticks that seem to like living back there. 
Possum in the 'back 40'

While I was outside photographing the possum, RandomTheCat idled out to see what I was doing; perhaps getting food ready for him?  No - but he did pose for a nice closeup photo:
The walk, and getting a couple of nice photos, were the highlight of the day.  Clear, cool weather. Nothing much else going on here.  Tomorrow - annual physical with the doctor, then remote work until I get the job done.

Until next time,
your humble scribe,

Will England

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Now. Today. Lockdown day 25. COVID Lockdown.

While the state, regional or national lockdown has only been in place for 25 days, I've been at home for 35 days now.  I took some PTO over Spring Break before thee lockdown orders came from the KC Metro area, then the State of Kansas, then the Federal advisory.  Kansas has extended this another 16 days, until 3-May-2020.  51 days home for me.  I think that's a record; at least in the last few years on this new team that emphasizes time in office.  Even before this team, when I was working as a business analyst or on the Social / Community team, I'd go in to the office 1 or 2 days a week for a few hours.  I haven't seen my desk since March 13th.

So, how am I holding up right here, right now?  Fair.  Touchier than usual.  Trying to learn how to be pleasant to people. Relatively low ebb - lots to do, merger completed, no idea who the new teams are.  Focusing on building up my workspace here at the house; upgrading computers, getting a big monitor, etc.  Keeping the same schedule - 8 to 9PM bedtime with an hour of reading or so, 6 to 7AM getup with the dog.  SamTheDog seems to know when the alarm is going to go off and *whuffs* outside my door about 5 minutes before the alarm.  Nice way to start the day.
SamTheDog wondering when I'll get off the computer and take him outside!

Stats break:

  • This is the most I've updated and published to this blog, in, well, ever.
  • I have 1,026 published posts since 2005.
  • Yes, this blog has been going for 15 years.
  • I have over 141,000 pageviews.
  • I have two followers.
  • Most traffic comes from Google searches.
  • The most popular post is how to unwedge your Plantronics Headset.
  • The most recent popular post is how to unwedge your Asus RT-AC68U WiFi Router.

Site Updates:

  • I just added a subscribe by email to get notified of new posts.
  • I also added an RSS block at the bottom of the page.
  • And I updated the header text shown on every page. 
At least I have plenty of time to tweak this.

Health and Wellness:

Yeah, I should have been updating this bit.  Physically - OK.  Tired, vaguely achy, frequent headaches. Stress, allergies and being very sedentary can certainly account for that.  We found on the County website there are 6 to 8 confirmed cases in our zipcode of COVID-19.  Not a huge threat to speak of, and hopefully, they are quarantining themselves well.  Mentally?  Low tide.  Lots to do for work, unsure of priorities, team structure, etc.  Lots to do at home, but it's bitter cold out right now, so outside projects have to wait.  Inside, everyone but me is living on a 3rd shift schedule (bed by 4AM, up my 4PM.)  So it's a quiet time in the house all day, every day. Minor depression; if I start moving more that should resolve.  Minor anxiety.  Significant movement (bicycling, long walks, motorcycle rides) would help with that, but again, bitter cold out today.

Enough for now. Work call at 10AM and 11AM. Need to be sure I have the work rig set up and connected.

(Never got back to this to publish it. So, 6:30 Saturday Sunday morning we're going to wrap Friday's blog post.)

- Will England

Friday, April 17, 2020

Bluetooth Headphones Microphone Comparison

I have a few Bluetooth Headphones with microphones, designed to listen to music, take calls and some have active noise cancellation.  Two have the microphone on the earcup; one, the Jabra, has the microphone on a boom. But how good are they at picking up your voice for a call, video meeting,  voice chat, or to use for voiceover recording on a video?  I thought I'd try and find out.  Will any of these work well enough for voice that I can skip getting a dedicated voiceover microphone? 


Jabra Evolve 75 NC


As a test, I recorded reading the same passage on each one, connected via Bluetooth to my Macbook using Audacity.  Each recording was normalized to match sound levels, and inserted into this Youtube video. The sound was left 'dry' - no further processing done beyond normalizing levels.

I tested the AKG Y50BT, Jabra 75 NC, and  AKG N60NC headphones - here are the results:

You can hear for yourself, the Jabra has the best sound of the three; it's designed as an office communication headset, so we'd expect it to work the best, and it does.

Just a tech note on these long socially isolated days . . .

Will England