kv0925: (Gromit Reading)


Sheesh, here it is more than halfway through January, and I see my last post was just after Christmas. I will hope this is not a sign of things to come, but.. I dunno. The week after Christmas is normally the most quiet and tranquil workweek of the year, but this time around it blew up. Some VP somewhere blew a gasket about something, and it's been pretty much nonstop work ever since. Today is quiet for a change, and my calendar is unusually clear, so I thought I'd better take advantage to say I'm not dead. Yet.

Anyway, there's too much to try to actually catch up on, so let's just recap a few things, shall we?

As you can see in the photo up top, Hallie's started horse-riding lessons. Heather found a little farm less than 10 minutes from home, a lady who's really just getting started up, so her prices for lessons were quite reasonable. Only 2 lessons in so far, but I think Hallie's enjoying it! I was able to go yesterday, since I had the day off for the MLK holiday.

Past couple weekends, I've put in a lot of work replacing stretches of our privacy fence around the house. It's all pretty old, and stretches have been threatening to disintegrate totally, so we decided to finally do something about it. I'd planned to get a fencing company to do the job, but I got a quote and it was a lot more than we expected, so I went back to the idea of DIY. So far so good, really, and a lot cheaper. Now my main concern is how to get rid of the old fence! I need to see if the county can come and haul it off, or if I need to make alternate arrangements somehow.

This past weekend I took a break from fencing so we could go visit my Dad, though. We didn't get to see him around Xmas, and then he took a cruise for New Year's and his birthday. Plus 3-day weekends are always preferable if we have a day trip in mind (and he lives about 2 hours away, so that counts). Anyway, it was a nice visit, mostly I did tech support like a good son. :) Perhaps the main thing of note was that he'd gotten an Amazon Echo for Christmas, which we all found pretty impressive. The voice recognition is cool, and we all had fun asking it random questions and asking for it to play songs. I thought it was just very cool! So of course we had to order one. :)

I went with the Tap, though--it's a little smaller then the Echo, and it's not always listening for its name, like the Echo does. But it has a battery which makes it portable, and it also works as a Bluetooth speaker. And we weren't necessarily keen on the idea of a device that's listening to us all.the.time. anyway. :) So far we really dig it. It's fun to mess with, though music is its main function. The girls will put it on the table where they play LEGOs, and take it in their room when they have playtime before bed. And it makes for nice background music for dinner, too. The main drawback is that the default music service is Amazon Prime, which is rather limited. It can do Spotify Premium, or Amazon's new Music Unlimited service, but of course those are both subscription services. I've been paying for the ad-free level of Spotify for some time, since I use it here at work a lot, and at home too when I'm working on the PC. So I'm considering whether to upgrade to Spotify Premium, or stop paying for that and go to Amazon Unlimited. Or neither, I suppose! Maybe I can get it to stream from my home media server instead, and I can add music to that as we find things we want. I'm doing the free 30-day trial of Amazon's Unlimited, so we can mess with that while I try other options.

Speaking of options, it seems like a very hackable device. Out of the box it can do home automation with things like Nest thermostats and Hue lights, and it can control media devices with the right hubs and whatnot. I'm going to try to get it to work with Kodi and/or Plex on my HTPC, and if that works it might be worth it to add a Dot in the TV room for the always-listening functionality (and Bluetooth audio streaming to my nifty new A/V receiver). I found the functionality for general-knowledge questions was a bit lacking since it defaults to Bing, so I found a step-by-step guide on the interwebs to add an Ask Google command instead, which works well. I look forward to playing with it more!

Okay, that can be enough for now. Hopefully the rest of this week will be as calm as today and I can post a bit more regularly! I hope you're all doing well so far this year. :)

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kv0925

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