Studio711

Transaction Stats

countmoney I’ve been happily using Mint.com to track my finances for the last three and a half years. One feature they offer is the ability to download all of your transactions. I did that, popped it into Excel, and found some interesting stats. Note that these are for 2012-2014.

  • Our two most popular merchants are Amazon (544 transactions) and Safeway (521.) Home Depot (238) is next on the list. This means that we are spending money at Amazon or Safeway an average of once every two days. By the way, our favorite butcher is #14 on the list!
  • Since one of our grocery stores is #2 on the most popular merchant list, it’s no surprise that the biggest spending category (by count) is groceries with 818. Restaurants (332), home improvement (300) and gas (280) round out the top four.
  • What are our most visited restaurants?
    Chipotle (31), Dairy Queen (25), Whidbey Coffee (17), Five Guys (14), Red Robin (14), Papa Murphy’s (13), Brown Bag Cafe (11), Fiesta Mexicana (10), Factory Donuts (7), Mod Pizza (7), Qdoba (7), Sushi Zone (7), Cafe Veloce (6), Jimmy John’s (6)
    This list is a little bit skewed because sometimes another party will pay and then we’ll give them cash, but it’s a good rough idea of where we like to eat.
  • One third of the money we spent ran through a credit card. We average around 1.5% cash back so that adds up pretty quickly. I recommend the American Express Blue Cash card and the Amazon Visa for places that don’t take American Express. (This only works if you don’t carry a balance on your credit cards.)

If you don’t have an idea what your spending would look like in a similar study, I encourage you to at least sign up for Mint and let it start tracking your spending. Knowing where your money is going is the first step towards making important decisions that could dramatically affect your life.

P.S. It might sound a bit crazy that we go to the grocery store every two days. It turns out that going there is a great activity with Elijah. He enjoys it and we can either walk or drive because it’s less than a mile down the street. It also gets us out of the house so Tyla can have some quiet time to herself.

Garlic Chicken

garlicchickenandcarrotsWhenever Tyla suggests that we eat a really healthy meal, one of my first thoughts is a Garlic Chicken recipe from our favorite low carb recipe site (genaw.com). I admit that it doesn’t sound particularly appetizing when you look at the recipe, but the result is pretty good and it’s all good for you. Pairing it with a nice green veggie like steamed broccoli or peas helps to balance it out visually so you don’t just have a big plate of brown and orange.

Ingredients

  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled and sliced
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into stew-size pieces
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley for garnish, chopped or torn
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 Directions

  1. Combine the garlic, onions and carrots in a wok, and cook until the onions are translucent.
  2. Add the chicken and cook until the chicken is done and the carrots are somewhat soft.
  3. Toss in parsley just before removing wok from heat.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Blocking Traffic To Azure Websites

dosattackThis is a geeky post but I feel the need to give back to the community and help others who might stumble on a similar issue. Regular readers can feel free to skip this. Tomorrow’s post will return to more normal topics.

After moving my website to Azure and switching to WordPress, I noticed that my site was running pretty slowly. It kept getting worse to the point where a lot of users were seeing timeouts and errors. Bumping up the website to run on a bigger machine helped temporarily but the dual core CPU was still pegged at about 85%. For a site that gets a few hundred hits per day, this seemed ridiculous.

I stumbled onto a great Azure feature called DaaS – Diagnostics as a Service for Azure Web Sites. That tool helped me identify that about a few clients were hitting a link that used to serve up data to the CascadeSkier applications. All of the clients should have been updated by the end of last year, and none of them should ever have been requesting that file 1000 times per minute like these were. I don’t know if a few of my apps had gone wacky or if this was something more malicious. Either way, I had to solve it from my end.

Simply hitting a file that doesn’t exist shouldn’t take that much CPU effort to respond to except that WordPress was configured at the root of the site. WordPress did a bunch of checks to determine that the URL was indeed invalid and then served up a fancy 404 page. To mitigate this, I checked in a very simple file that returned a blank page. This took the average CPU usage from 85% down to less than 5%! I was able to drop back down to the smaller single core machine and save money.

When I asked the Azure team about blocking specific IPs, they said that isn’t supported for the Azure Web Site product, but they do support blocking based on the number of concurrent requests and the number of requests in a period of time. I’ve set this up to help protect against potential related issues in the future.

The net result is that my little website is now consuming an appropriate amount of resources and the average time to serve a page has dropped dramatically. If you’ve been visiting the site over the last week, you can probably see the difference.

Workbench TV

A lot of my projects have how-to videos on YouTube so it’s not uncommon to have my laptop sitting on the workbench while I work. That’s not terrible, but it would be nicer to have a more permanent installation. After a chat with KenC and some swapping, I ended up with a 32″ LCD. It’s a bit bigger than my initial thought but it ended up working quite well.

He included a mounting bracket with the pile of goodies and since the studs are bare in the garage, mounting was a breeze. The next concern was protecting it a little bit from the saw dust. Using scrap lumber, I whipped up some shelves to cover the top and the sides. They’re not beautiful but I didn’t have to buy anything extra to build them so the price was right.

I’ll have a future blog post with more details but to get content to the TV, I’m going to be using an Amazon Fire TV. For the sound, Ken mentioned that the speakers weren’t great, and indeed, they are not. They would be sufficient for this purpose but I’m going to try to hook up some old computer speakers to the headphone port and see if that sounds better. They can sit right inside the new shelves.

Thanks Ken for helping me upgrade my shop!

tvoverworkbench

Elijah’s Vocabulary

There are so many times during the day when I stare at Elijah and wonder what he’s thinking. He jabbers all the time, but what is he telling us? He picked up some baby sign language pretty early on (“more”, “all done”, “milk”) but now he’s building up his verbal vocabulary too. Here’s a list of what he has under his belt so far:

no apple cracker
thank you juice water
two hi car
truck tractor trash
diaper bye bye uh oh
oh no shoes cheese
slide ball keys
eye Jesus What’s that?
tree  Ike

In fairness, some of these words are only distinguishable in context by Tyla and I but others are decipherable by the general public.

The list of words he understands is much bigger. I’m always talking to him, and sometimes I’m amazed at the complicated instructions he can actually follow. For example, one day I said, “Can you please pick up this piece of paper and throw it into the trash can?” I turned my back not expecting him to do it and when I looked again, he was toddling over to the trash can across the room. One of our favorites is that he understand “May I please have a hug?” Sometimes he’ll say “No”, but that’s fine because it just makes the hugs more enjoyable.