I don’t like connecting odd devices to my home network.  A quick Internet search will reveal the problems with doing so–that manufactures have a tendency to never patch them, resulting in a bunch of small computers with large security vulnerabilities serving as network entry points.

But things can still be done right, for those who care.  And after years of hearing reviews for the Ring Video Doorbell on my favored information security news podcast (which personally endorses the product), I began to consider it as an exception to my otherwise rather rigid policy.

Then some neighbors began to complain about break-ins.  The tactic so often used: perpetrators would announce their presence at the front door to determine if anyone was home, and if so, to scan the interior of the home and come back later–if not, to break in then and there.  This was in fact the exact type of scenario for which the Ring was designed.  I proposed the option to Liz, who agreed.  So we used a collection of Amazon gift card credits and purchased their Video Doorbell 2.


Admittedly, their promotional videos are a little goofy, with actors creating a scene in which a couple guys in black trigger the camera and the homeowner yells at them through the speaker and they go scampering away like deer.

But, I could do that should I choose.  Through various settings, the camera and microphone activate from motion, which then records a 30-second clip, or if I acknowledge the video, it keeps recording until I stop it.  And of course it activates when someone pushes the button.  It’s wired into the existing doorbell circuit, which feeds the battery a trickle charge, and integrates with the old wired chime, and naturally–WiFi.  Alerts are delivered as push notifications through their official applications–both desktop and mobile.  And at any point I can activate the device to see a live feed, and through another button push, activate my device’s microphone so I can threaten whoever’s on my front porch.

Equally important, it updates its firmware automatically.

So far, it works as advertised, and while the price point was a little steep, they did not cheap out on its manufacture, even having included a variety of hardware/tools/wiring.

I have yet to catch any ne’er-do-wells, but that’s just as well.  I do, however, have a collection of riveting videos involving me shoveling the driveway and the car leaving and entering the garage.  In all practicality, it’ll probably be most useful when I’m working in the basement and can’t hear the doorbell, or to verify a package delivery, or to one day yell at the kid’s first boyfriend just for fun.

HD, but with the wide angle lens there are limitations on distance

In the meantime, it’s just cool.



Being American presents an odd dichotomy.  On one side of the coin we’re American, but on the other we’re descendants of another culture.  The latter is almost inevitable to most, considering the relative youth of the American nation itself.  I’m all about hotdogs and burgers and the 4th of July, but damn do I enjoy some good sauerkraut and bratwurst.

Consequently, I feel an odd nostalgia for things which represent the spirit of either, and considering my status as a suburbanite, for the former, they can be quite Rockwelian at times.

Over the holidays, mom brought down the old Flexible Flyer sled.  Now that’s Americana.  Or it was, but more on that in a bit.  Over the weekend we got 6 inches of snow, so it was decided that the kid would experience some sledding.

Watch some sledding:

The trouble with sledding is that long hike back up the hill

We were the only ones on the hill with Flexy Flyer.  Everyone else had various plastic contraptions.  I hadn’t thought them that rare, and it got me thinking.

Back home, I looked up the Flexible Flyer brand.  It dated back to the early 20th century, and had apparently gone through a number of ownership changes, ultimately being sent for manufacture overseas.  Disheartened that my piece of Americana wasn’t American, I checked for a label, but was pleasantly surprised to find out it had been manufactured in Olney, IL.  A Wikipedia search revealed that to date the sled between 1993 and 1998.  After that, they were made in China.

So, an American suburban family went sledding on an American icon, made when it was truly American.  I’m fitting in with suburbia more than I ever expected.


Audio Calibration

Now that a proper TV stand is in place, I thought it time to revisit the audio setup.  I say this because the stand slightly modified the arrangement of some speakers, and music sounded just different enough that I couldn’t let it go.  So when the girls went out grocery shopping, I used the rare moment of silence to begin a calibration.

In theory, the measurable amplitudes of a sampling of sine waves across the spectrum of 20Hz to 20kHz should register a similar decibel score.  In practice, the physical limitations of speaker drivers prevents this, but settings can be tweaked to reduce the disparity.  I lack any sort of professional calibration equipment, but in reality a good sound setting is merely defined as preference by the listener, so I opted to use what I had on hand and simply settle for a mere approximation.

Judge me not for the assortment of bands in the background

iTunes has, through whatever typical obscure Apple methodology, determined the above frequencies to be focal points in the human range of hearing.  I’m sure there’s some kind of math behind it, but I didn’t care enough to research it.

So, I YouTubed each of these frequencies for a test tone, played the tone, then measured the decibel level with a free sound meter app on my phone.  I’m not sure how accurate this method was, but I aggregated the figures as guidelines (chasing the dogs out of the room in the process as they did not appreciate the test tones above 1kHz):

I noticed an amplitude dropoff at the high and low ranges, which I found satisfying in that I had already adjusted the levels to compensate, based on my hearing alone.  I made some minor adjustments.

So my hearing may be getting worse, but I can still identify amplitude variations across the audible spectrum.  At least now when I’m forced to watch M*A*S*H reruns, I can at better appreciate the audio balance.



As an evolved omnivore, I can extract nutrients from a variety of unsettling plant and animal products.  In fact, the ones I treasure the most–alcohol, cheese, butter–are kind of gross upon a deeper examination.  And the foodstuffs not ingrained in my own culture, the ones I find even more revolting, are equally edible…and generally presumed to be enhancers of male virility.  Erections from bird saliva–who would have thought?

And to further push the boundaries of making this blog no longer family-friendly, let us consider the humble egg.  That’s right, a chicken gamete.  I often don’t consider the biology behind the food I consume, but one day I cracked and egg and into the pan fell the bloody indications of fertilization–I suppose that made it a zygote, for it not yet bore any indication of embryonic status.

Repulsed, I hesitated, for how often does one find a fertilized chicken egg in their soon-to-be omelet?  Squander not an opportunity I say.  And I knew intrinsically, probably from some long-forgotten documentary, that such an egg was indeed “a delicacy”.  At the worst, it wouldn’t kill me.  So, I cooked it and bit into it with determined curiosity, then promptly expectorated my sample into the sink.  It tasted, unsurprisingly, of a bloody egg.  Yuck.

I tell this story as a preface to another.  This last weekend I cracked an egg (for the former experience was insufficient to turn me off eggs forever), and was pleasantly surprised with a new kind of novelty: a double yolk:

I suppose this means that a chicken could, in theory, have twin offspring.  Naturally I took to Google to find evidence, but while the anecdotal postings confirmed the theory, they revoked the practice.  Apparently two chicks can develop in an egg, but ultimately complications arise which doom the progeny.

Pity.  I winced once again at the over-analysis of what I was eating, then added salt.


Mr. Once-Ler

The Christmas tree is down.

I spoke previously of the cursed tree that wouldn’t hold ornaments and gave me hives.  We’ve since blamed it for a shared allergy-turned-sinus-infection that’s turned the house into a mass of hacking, spitting, and overall generally miserable group of barely-animate skulking human flesh.  So after Liz packed up the ornaments and I the lights, I decided upon a solution more efficient than lugging the thing through the house once more.  I would take my revenge upon the arboreal abomination and in the process use a power tool.  How manly is that combo: violent revenge and power tools? …even if it was the reciprocating saw– AKA the small penis saw aforementioned.

And out the window
Even with the wider hose, the needles clogged up the new shop vac too
Someone got yelled at for getting in the way

I plan to institute a new holiday: Christmas Tree Burning Day.  It will be held on the first weekend day that it isn’t unbearably cold.  I find that appropriate, seeing as the tree itself is a take on the pagan yule log thing (and it totally is, despite having heard ex post facto attempts to explain the tree’s origins in Christianity).

Arbor Ignis!