I haven't done much "gardening" since my hydroponics system got washed/blown away by hurricane Ike. I started to get the itch again and decided this time to go with an Aquaponics system. Here are a couple of 275 gallon IBC totes to be used as a fish tank and sump tank.

275 Gallon IBC Totes

Deven's only requirement was that she didn't want things looking like "Little Appalachia" as she called it. So my solution was to hide the tanks behind a lattice half-wall.

Lattice Wall

Here are the fish tank and sump tank all plumbed up. The pump is in the sump tank and circulates water to the fish tank and to the beds on the deck above. The fish tank overflows back into the sump, and the beds drain back into the sump. That way the water level in the fish tank remains constant hopefully keeping the fish happy.

Fish and Sump Tanks

Here is one of the two grow beds planted with some pansies and cabbage. I also planted some onion bulbs and some lettuce, spinach, and radish seeds. Hopefully it won't get too cold before I get a little production out of the bed.

Grow Bed


USB Microphone

Man, what a difference a quality USB mic makes in audio recording. I just purchased the Avid Vocal Studio, and all I can say it was well worth the money. My YouTube shadow puppet shows will be improving for sure.


The Crow and the Pitcher

After putting Barriault Puppet Productions to bed nearly 20 years ago, I recently had an urge to do some puppeteering. I felt that the moral behind this particular fable was fitting.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Out of necessity I was determined to reinvent Barriault Puppet Productions. So I scrounged around for some materials, built a shadow screen, some puppets, video taped it, and added a soundtrack. This short shadow puppet show was the end result. I hope you enjoy viewing it as much as I enjoyed creating it.



One of my photographs made the back page of the March issue of The Islander Magazine!



The Spike

I've been speaking with a potential client the last several days. He described problems with their current developer's failure to properly estimate the time required for a project combined with feature creep, etc. As with most software projects they are behind schedule and over budget. Needless to say, the owner is hesitant to spend any more money. So selling my skills has been challenging to say the least. How do I provide an accurate estimate for a "nebulous" project? They are too small to spend a bunch of resources writing up detailed specifications, that will likely change anyway. And if I want a future with this company I need to be very accurate. The project sounded simple enough. Create a web app/interface into their current back end that looks and functions similar to their existing iPhone app. What to do?

Well, what I did was spike it. I sat down yesterday and looked at what they wanted. I also looked at some of their existing Groovy on Grails admin system source code. From there I took a SWAG and spent the day creating a web app just to see how long it would take me to figure out their existing schema. I've never written a Groovy on Grails app before, but I pride myself in being a programmer who understands things at a more pragmatic level where syntax isn't all that important. I discovered that their app had some controllers that served JSON responses. They weren't all that hard to figure out. The class names were all in the form Api{SomeName}Controller. I figured these comprised the API that were used by the current iPhone app.

By the end of the day I had mocked up a Ruby on Rails app that used HTTParty to communicate with the JSON API. I also used Twitter/Bootstrap and ended up with a very clean UI.

The spike answered two questions for me. Could I effectively communicate with the existing API and how much effort would be required to do so. And how much effort would be involved in completing the typical controllers/views for the project. By the end of the day I was able to estimate the project with much more confidence than I had originally. But more importantly, after placing the project on Heroku, the client had an example of my capabilities and what I could accomplish in a typical day.


Portrait of Deven

Deven needed a portrait the other day for something at work. So I broke out three SB-600s w/FlexTT5s and my new Westcott Apollo Orb soft box. Softbox camera left. Shoot thru umbrella camera right. Snooted strobe from above for highlight on hair. Here is the end result.

portrait of Deven


Pocket Wizard MiniTT1/FlexTT5

self portrait

So I got my new radio triggers this morning and decided to try them out. I have to say I'm totally impressed. Exposure was 1/30sec at f/8. SB-600 w/FlexTT5 at 1/32 power reflected into computer screen. SB-600 camera right at 1/128 power w/snoot into front of computer. Triggered from camera via MiniTT1/SU-800.

I probably didn't need to go radio to trigger these, but it sure made things easier. No worries about line of site and making sure the SB-600s could "see" the IR signal from the SU-800. I'm sure this is going to prove very handy when using my new Westcott Apollo Orb soft box.


The Battle of the Bulge

Those of you who know me know I'm a fairly large individual to say the least. Weight loss has been a constant struggle for me. Recently I've been working on my diet/nutrition program and a good friend introduced me to Nature's Sunshine healthcare products. I recently completed their two week CleanStart Cleanse program and all I can say is I feel great. They've got some other great products too, and I've been taking their Super Trio supplements for the last month.

On the exercise front I've been trying to get out for a walk every day. The bum knee makes that a little difficult on some days, but I'm managing to work through it. I probably need to start hitting the dumbbells again. Finding the motivation for that is always a challenge.

The good news is the little bit I've been doing is working. Slowly but surely over the last month I've managed to loose an average of .2 pounds per day. I'm at 370 pounds right now, and if I want to reach my goal of 300 pounds by July I'm going to have to step up my game and loose an average of .6 pounds per day.

Wish me luck . . .


Update Blog to use Redcarpet/Markdown

Well, I decided to update the blog to use Redcarpet/Markdown. I started by watching Ryan Bates' Rails Cast episode on the topic. It turned out to be a little out of date. So here is how I implemented it. First I created an application helper markdown method.

module ApplicationHelper
  def markdown(text)
    rnder = => true)
    mkdwn =, :no_intra_emphasis => true, :fenced_code_blocks => true, :space_after_headers => true)

I eventually want to use Google Prettify so my <pre> tag needs to look more like this: <pre class="prettyprint linenums"> In order to accomplish this I simply extended the renderer like this:

class HtmlWithPrettyPrint < Redcarpet::Render::HTML
  def postprocess(full_document)
    full_document.gsub("<pre>", "<pre class=\"prettyprint linenums\">")

Then I was able to use something like this <%= markdown(post.content) %> in my view.

How easy is that?


New Website

Well, I managed to rewrite this website and add some more stuff. And I added a matching header to my SmugMug site so it looks like the Photography link is part of this site. Hope you like it.

The new blog now supports a bit of textile markup like the old blog, including code blocks. Cool, huh? I know the Twitter/Bootstrap CSS supports syntax highlighting, so I guess I need to figure out how to turn that on too.

class HelloWorld
  def say_hello
    puts "Hello, World!"

Not sure I like RedCloth/textile markup all that much. But it was easy to implement. I'm thinking I might have to give Redcarpet/Markdown a try.

I need to add some paging, some sort of "more" functionality to keep the posts short when in list view, some categories/tags, and maybe some tweet and facebook share links.


New Direction

After 8 years of service with Benchmark Electronics, Inc. in Angleton, TX they decided to downsize and I was caught in the RIF. I have no idea where I’m going to go next. I’d love to find a company like 37signals. Or heck, maybe I’ll see what’s going on there . . .


Texas State IDPA Championships

I took 4th place for SSP Marksman in the Texas State IDPA Championships today! Scores are here on page 9.


Wuudchuck’s Wuudwerks

My Wuudchuck's Wuudwerks website has gotten a face lift. With the demands of life, work, and everything else I just never had the time to keep the blog updated like I originally wanted. So I've redesigned the site as more of a woodworking plans data base. Anyway, the old site generated around $400/year in ad and affiliate revenue. Maybe this new one will do better. Who knows.


IDPA Scoring

Last night we ran our second beta of my IDPA online scoring application at the Arms Room range in League City, TX. We had full WiFi strength in all three bays and everyone who entered scores provided positive feedback. The beta was a total success.


Basic Styling

Well, I think that does it. I have some basic styling added to the site. I think it is good to go for now. Oh, and I added an about me page.


Thanks Heroku

I swear, it took me longer to write this application than it did to get it deployed to Heroku. I don't know, maybe two, three hours to write. Maybe. And like less than 5 minutes to deploy. Heroku rocks!

Now all I need to do is add a little CSS styling and I'm good to go. I hate visual design work. I'd much rather stick to programming.