generatorWe lose power at our house once or twice a year. In the last nine years, there have been a couple multi-day outages, but in general, our power is pretty reliable. But… we bought a generator. When we came back from vacation to a house with no power, food going bad in the fridge and an overtired kid who was thrown even more out of his routine, I snapped and clicked BUY IT NOW on Amazon.

Generators can get really expensive. I think I kept it fairly simple by making some compromises. I didn’t get a name brand, I didn’t get a super quiet model, I got gas instead of diesel, and I didn’t get one that is wired into my house. What I DID get is a DuroMax XP440E. It’s rated for a sustained 3500 watts, has an electric starter and it cost less than $400. I figure that if we use it even a few times, I’ll feel like it was worth the money.

My main goal during an outage would be to run the fridge along with some lights and cell phone chargers. That will be easily accomplished by placing the generator on the back patio and running extension cords into the house. Simple, but effective.

At some point I want to have a bunch of upgrades done on my electrical panel (per circuit usage monitoring, whole-house surge protection, etc) and at that point I might have them wire in a transfer switch. Then I could just plug the generator right into the panel and (carefully) power the whole house. Obviously we wouldn’t fire up the dryer, the microwave, etc, but it would be really nice to use light switches. Plus, our water heater requires electricity because it’s tankless so this would give us hot water. Brent, our HVAC guy, said we could power our furnace with the generator too. So there are lots of possibilities but I don’t plan to go down that route soon (or maybe ever.) In an emergency, I’m pretty sure I could hack up a solution to get the furnace powered by the generator so I feel like I’m covered. Plus it rarely gets THAT cold here.

Once it arrived, setup was simple. There are a few steps to follow to get it ready to run the first time, but now it should start up very easily via either the electric starter or the pull cord. We live less than a mile from the gas station so assuming they have generators, we should be able to get gas from them as needed if my small local cache runs out.

That all being said, I feel somewhat ridiculous for buying a generator. I grew up in a house that seemed to lose power all the time and we never had a generator. This was definitely a luxury purchase, but for I’m happy with getting this backup plan for only $400.

Fantasy Football – Week 4

2015week4 freemanWhew, the Seahawks squeaked out an ugly victory against arguably the worst team in the NFL. But even the Lions were able to run through that porous offensive line. Jimmy Graham is great, but was losing Unger worth it? And then we had “batgate” after the game was over. Apparently the touch in the endzone was illegal. Yes, it would have been better if the rules were properly enforced, but I don’t feel nearly as bad about this one as I did about the Packers one. Nobody seemed to even notice that something incorrect had happened (or maybe I just missed it as I fast forwarded to get to the action.)

We had some close games in our league. Luke and Andy faced off to see who would win their first game. Sorry Luke. Maybe next time? You are the closets to Detroit so I guess it fits. We had a lot of low scores, but looking at the rosters, a large part of it was some surprises about who made the points. There were a lot of points on the benches this week. I’m trying not to mention my streak because I know it will go down in flames.

The power rankings are back! Here’s what my super secret, proprietary formula says:

1. Ben
2. Tim
3. Logan
4. Austin

Now on to the weekly awards.

This Week Season All-Time
Highest Team Score Ben had 139.79 Tim 200.51 (Week 3) Tim 200.51 (2013)
Lowest Team Score Austin had 71.56 Andy 70.73 (Week 2) Luke 47.01 (2011)
Biggest Blowout Ben beat Austin by 68.23 Was Ben beat Dad by 60.90 (Week 1) Luke beat Andy by 113.02 (2010)
Closest Win Andy beat Luke by 5.53 Austin beat Jim by 2.49 (Week 2) Jim beat Ben by 0.12 (2012)
Highest Scoring Player Devonta Freeman had 35.40 for Ben Aaron Rodgers had 44.92 for Tim (Week 3) Peyton Manning had 60.28 for Andy (2013)
Longest Winning Streak Ben has a 4 game winning streak. Was Ben has a 3 game winning streak (Week 3) Micah had an 8 game winning streak (2011)
Longest Losing Streak Luke has a 4 game losing streak. Was Luke and Andy have 3 game losing streaks. (Week 3) Kyle had a 14 game losing streak (2011)

Apocolyptic Bunker

Imagine building a 70mph mobility scooter, a bed that launches you across the room as a morning alarm, or a jet bicycle. These are just some of the things that Colin Furze has done on his YouTube channel. His latest project trumps them all though: an apocalyptic bunker. He’s digging a huge hole in his back yard and building a bunker! You can watch parts 1, 2 and 3 on his channel now, but there will be a few more videos before he finishes. I love watching videos from makers, but Colin is in a league of his own. He dreams up crazy things and then actually makes them happen.

Job Change

microsoft-azure-logoI’ve been at Microsoft for over 9 years and in that time, I’ve worked on a bunch of different teams. However, I never went out and LOOKED for a new team. I was just moved around in reorgs. That kept me generally happy and I got to peak inside a bunch of different organizations. The key thread through all of those jobs as BI (business intelligence.) I spent a lot of time on Power Query and the language research that led into. Then Power Query joined in with the whole Power BI effort and I moved from the Power Query team into a data engineering/analytics team. Over those years my job title changed from Test Engineer to Test Lead to Software Engineer. All of these changes have been good and have increased my knowledge. This latest team, Power BI, has been really awesome. We went from nothing to a shipping product in about a year and we’re really shaking things up. This is almost certainly Microsoft’s next billion dollar business. (Go sign up. It’s free and easy.

One of the great things about being in a company like this is the opportunity for changing teams without changing companies. There are SO many things that I want to work on in this company that I’ll never scratch the surface. All it takes to change teams is a few emails, some interviews and bam, new job.

So for the first time in 9 years, I took advantage of that opportunity and I’m voluntarily changing to a new team. I’m going to stay in the big data technology space, but I’m swithcing to the Azure Compute team. This is one of the core groups inside of Microsoft Azure. Azure is the cloud computing offering from Microsoft. It started 4 years after the more popular “Amazon Web Services”, but it’s rapidly catching up according to Gartner’s latest report. You can also check out some of the recent financial disclosures to understand how Azure is one of the key bets for the future of the company and it’s going exceedingly well.

My new group handles the vast number of physical and virtual machines that are at the heart of the service. And my specific team is focused on customer analytics. Are you getting what you pay for when you use Azure? What areas are good or painful? What features can we add to make it even better? There is a LOT of telemetry and feedback data available and I’m eager to dip my hands into that pot.

While this feels like a brand new job, it’s awesome that my paycheck, benefits, title and commute are unchanged. Thanks to Microsoft for giving me so many opportunities to pursue my interests!

Moving From Groove To Spotify

spotifylogoTyla and I have been enjoying our Groove (Xbox Music) subscriptions. They work well on our phones, computers, Xboxes, etc. I have three main complaints about the service:

  1. I use it to play music through our whole-house FM transmitter. It crashes/stops pretty frequently and I have to restart it about once per day.
  2. There is no sharing of playlists. This is a huge negative for me. Sometimes I want to make my own lists, but very often I just want a curated list that somebody else generated. Or maybe I want to use the playlist that Tyla made of Elijah’s favorite songs. There’s no way to import/export or share playlists in Groove.
  3. There’s no family plan. Everyone buy’s their own subscription at full price.

With these thoughts in mind, I think we’re going to join the rest of the planet and switch to Spotify when our current subscriptions are up later this year. The first family member pays full price and additional family members are half price. It’s easy to switch but the only real pain point is moving our playlists over to Spotify. Manually recreating them would take forever.

There’s no great way to do this, but if you’re a geek, you can probably follow my vague instructions:

  1. Fire up Chrome. Browse to and open your playlist.
  2. Scroll down to make sure the whole playlist loads (it only grabs 50 songs at a time.)
  3. Press F12 to open the developer tools
  4. In the Elements tab, right click on the root HTML node and choose Copy.
  5. Paste that into notepad and save the file.
  6. Now you need to parse out the artist and song info. There are tons of possibilities here, but I used Power Query in Excel. Basically I filtered for the types of rows that had Artist and Titles. I stripped out all the extra info and voila. I built out a table with two columns: Artist and Title.
  7. I copied that table and went to Ivy. That site lets you create a Spotify playlist. It looks up each one of those songs in the Spotify catalog. You’re probably not going to find all of your songs in the Spotify catalog since the catalogs are different, but most of them will probably work.
  8. Ivy gives you a button to click that copies the playlist to your clipboard. Then you create a new playlist in Spotify and paste your clipboard into that playlist. Voila!

Easy? Nope. Hacky? Yep. But it saved me a bunch of time. There is an SDK for Groove but it doesn’t look like you can easily get playlist contents for a specific user. I started trying to code it up, but this was faster and I’ll never need to do it again anyway.