A Tale of Two Repairs

In the last six months I have had the pleasure with my washing machine and dishwasher both having issues. I’m a person who enjoys tinkering and problem solving which meant I met this challenge with both excitement and dread. My wife on the other hand was not necessarily as thrilled with the prospect of a machine needing repair or replacement and the associated costs.

The excitement for me was in learning something new and troubleshooting an issue. The dread was the cost of the repair versus buying new debate that waged. Where did I turn in a time such as this to solve the problem? It was a combination of YouTube, a local appliance repair store, and my father.

The first step in solving any issue is determining the issue and the symptoms. In the situation of the washing machine the machine would fill with water, go through the cycle, and drain. It would not how other spin or agitate which left the clothes soaking wet. This provided enough information that I could begin a search on the Internet for resolution of the issue. I had a guess as to the issue based upon listening to the machine but I needed evidence and validation in order to confirm the issue.

One possible issue could have been a bad switch and clogged line. This switch and line tell the system when it is time to turn off the water and move to the next stage. Through testing we confirmed this not to be the issue. The next possible issue could have been that the motor needed reset after a power surge. This involved turning the power off, back on, and lifting the lid rapidly five times in thirty seconds. This did not resolve the issue.

In talking with my father we both thought that the issue was the motor had gone bad (washing machine is 12 years old). In talking with the local appliance store they thought the same thing but they wanted me to check one more uncommon item. This is where having a local and honest store is an attribute to a town. The motor cost $300 and a new belt was another $30. They could have sold me a new motor and belt right then and there but there was a chance it wouldn’t have solved the issue.

My washing machine includes a wire that has a built in fuse which could have gone bad. They recommended cutting the fuse out and splicing the wire back together and see if it worked. We went home and tried this but it didn’t work. This meant that the next step in the troubleshooting process was a replacement of the motor.

The instructions provided for both the removal and installation of the motor were slim. I was able to locate a YouTube video the detailed this process with ease (it is always easier in the video). My father in law came over and helped put the belt on and the washer was repaired.

I tell this story in order to demonstrate how technology and human interaction must coexist in the world today. In the few hours I spent searching online trying to resolve the issue no resource had mentioned the fuse. The fuse could have saved me $350 and a few hours of work. It was through an experienced person in the field which mentioned the fuse as a courtesy when he could have sold me parts for $350 on my first visit. Life and the skills we learn are a series of experiences which all add value. We must learn to embrace technology but not quickly cast away the local store or the person with multiple years of experience.

AWS Connect

The upcoming weekend weather forecast is calling for inches of rain in the Ohio area. It would appear that we will be staying inside this weekend unless someone has a boat we can borrow. There are many activities which can occupy time when stuck in doors but I am plan on researching and building out an AWS Connect setup for fun.

AWS Connect is a call center offering from Amazon Web Services. Additional information can be found here. I am particularly interested in this service as a way to setup a voicemail box that doesn’t ring my regular phone. The idea is that you keep the cell phone number assigned private but instead could sign up for services which may sell the information without worry of the robocalls. Another example would be a number that would handle phone calls if you were in an accidental and the ambulance chasers kept calling.

Another question is how could I use this in my work or personal life? Stay tuned.

The Year of the Certification

As a lifelong learner I am constantly learning in an informal manner. The professional learning I focused on in 2019 centered around project management, regular expressions, and Python. These courses were completed through Udemy (www.udemy.com) and are of high quality. The Udemy courses created a just in time learning model which benefited me greatly. I took a course for Amazon Solutions Architect course in Udemy which was taught by the team over at acloud guru and I plan on purchasing a year subscription.

There are numerous resources online where I could have learned this information but the Udemy model stood out to me for a variety of reasons.

  • User Reviews
  • Question and Answer Forum
  • Quizzes
  • Videos (pause/rewind/rewatch)
  • Different “instructors” for the same topic

If I was in a Career Tech school setting I would be seriously looking into how Udemy could supplement the existing curriculum. This leads into the core subject of this post which is certifications .

In my experience, whether it is a fair assessment or not the real world values higher education diplomas and/or industry certifications for a job. If I’m hiring someone a diploma or certification may assist in helping me pair down candidates but there are other skills I’m looking for when doing an interview. A few of these skills are listed below:

  • Communication – How do they communicate with peers to explain an issue? This includes how do they explain an issue in a technical manner with their peers but also how do they explain that same issue in a non-technical answer?
  • Teamwork – How do they work in a cross functional team? Do they listen to feedback? How do they handle feedback?
  • Critical Thinking – We rely on standardized tests to determine how a student or district measures against another. The issue with relying on a standardized test though is that there is always a right answer. We know though in life there may not always be a right answer. When the answer for an issue isn’t a standard response how does a person react? How do they arrive at a solution?

The diploma or a certification certainly indicates commitment and understanding to a topic but in my opinion it doesn’t tell the entire story. In recognizing both sides of the equation my goal for 2020 is to obtain certifications in the areas listed below.

September Projects

Hello and welcome back after yet another long gap in posting. Here is an update on what I’m working on at this time.

  • Amazon AWS and UDEMY – I am continuing work in this front but was side tracked by another project which is explained below.

Current Project:

I do Erate consulting on the side and this involves a fair amount of paperwork and records retention for a defined time period. Over the last 12 years this has taken on a variety of forms from the classic Erate binder to a more digital approach. The approach I go back to at the end of the day though as always been the paper approach.

The challenge with the paper approach is you have this paper you print that ends up sitting in a binder on a shelf at the end of the erate year. Another chllenge is collecting the artifacts (bills, bids, evaluations etc.). I thought there has to be a better way but have not found a solution that works well for the client or for me at the end of the day.

Proposed Solution:

  • Electronic upload of documents by all parties involved. A solution might be a form accepting an uploaded document or SFTP server.
  • Client can easily download version of funding year at any time
  • Versioning of documents if more than one document of same item is uploaded (signed contract etc.)
  • Long term storage as the current requirement is that documents for a funding year are saved for 10 years after the funding year has finished.
  • Versioning control on my end through Git.

I am currently working on a solution that will solve these problems at the end of the day. More to come in a future post with the full solution. This all ties back into my last post because the goal is to use AWA services to achieve the solution.

Additionally, I am also working on refreshing my Python knowledge and expanding beyond my basic understanding of the language.

Cloud Computing/UDEMY

I’m currently working through a UDEMY course on Amazon Web Services. As I work through this course two thoughts have crossed my mind.

  1. Are schools taking advantage of Cloud Computing and integrating it into their IT infrastructure?
  2. How could a school leverage UDEMY and have students take advantage of UDEMY for learning.

If we look at the cloud computing the most obvious use in a school setting would be for off site backup (encrypted both in transit and at rest). This is what I’m doing with Arq and backing up my personal data. What else could we use to either enhance our existing IT infrastructure or offer a new solution at a reduced price?

I have taken now three UDEMY courses with two of them focusing on my job. The first course I took was on SCRUM project planning and how that process works. The second course was on REGEX (Regular Expressions) and it has paid off for me in my job while working on issues.

What could we do with UDEMY if it was unleashed in a school? What if the a final project for a student involved creating their own course based upon what they learned?

Learning Environments of the Future

A text message alert on my phone from a friend alerted me to an episode from Getting Smart (gettingsmart.com) with Tom Vander Ark (Getting Smart) and Randy Fielding (fieldingnair.com) that discusses why learning environments matter.

Full Episode: Learning Environments for the Future (via gettingsmart.com)

This led me to discover the the designsare.com of which Randy is the founder and also co-author of The language of School Design: Design Patterns for 21st Century Learning. This led to the discovery of Blueprint for Tomorrow: Redesigning Schools for Student-Centered Learning by Prakash Nair.

The purpose of this post is to serve as a reminder for me to purchase these books in the near future and also come back here to report on these books.

Learning Space Design

Learning space design is an area that interests me and is an area that I would like to study further. The theory of learning space design revolves around the design of a learning space or office or building. When we think about room design, we know that the same room can be designed in many different ways and create different atmospheres simply based on the design. If you think of a mall for example, you have multiple stores in a single space all with different designs. Take a minute and think about the experience of walking past Bath & Body Works. What do you experience? Bright lights, music, people at the entry, free samples (at times), and at times an over powering sense of smells that can make eyes water or for some a lure to come inside. Now if we take that same experience but instead we walk past an Auntie Anne’s pretzel stand. Now we experience the aroma of pretzels, the different flavors of pretzels, no people out front (except for the occasional free sample), and finally a small store front that is focused on making a transaction.

The goal of Bath & Body Works is to bring you deeper into the store and they achieve this through friendly people at the front of the store, free samples, bright colors, and scents. The goal of Annie Anne’s pretzels is to bring the person into the line which is achieved through the same methods as Bath & Body Works but the two organizations achieve this through different approaches. Annie Anne’s achieves this through free samples and aromas with some locations having the product made in front of the customer. Bath & Body Works achieve this same goal primarily through smell but also through touch. If they are giving out a free sample at the front of the store, you can not only smell the product but also feel the product.

The design of a learning space is simply not limited to the items we discussed but extends further by looking at the components which make up the learning space. The walls, windows, doors, and many other items all make up the shell of the learning space. What attention do we give to these components? This article I found on LinkedIn provides details of how these components that we may over think do play a role in our learning space design. Article: How to perform better at work by changing your indoor environment

After having worked at home for nearly the last four years, a change in my work environment was needed. I explored co-working spaces in July 2018 and landed on the Idea Foundry. The Idea Foundry is located in an old factory in Columbus that is now home to a Makerspace on the first floor and co-working on the second floor. The building has been designed with big windows which allows for the natural sunlight to come through and illuminate the area. There are groups of desks that you can work at or a mezzanine area where you could go for more focused work or smaller group meetings. I have been able to work here with a client who is from the area and brought in a new co-worker who also lives in Ohio for a day of training. The main point that both of these individuals made on different occasions was the realization that work was being done in what appeared to be an unstructured environment because the people who are working at the Idea Foundry have been empowered by their organizations or self-motivation to make a decision on where and how to work that best fits their personalities.

My favorite spot is on the mezzanine in a corner with the large windows mentioned earlier providing an Eastern view with plenty of sunlight but more importantly a view of an active rail line that has trains coming and going on a regular basis. I position a chair so that as I work I can look up and see the trains coming and going. I also enjoy working on the lower level of the second floor amongst the other people but having the ability to change my spot throughout the day to fit my need at that time is worth the monthly membership.

Where have I been?

Another year has passed (and then some) without an update on this blog. I have been continuing my learning and reading but have neglected to post on the blog. Here is what I have been up to since the last post.

  • Added Backblaze to my backup plan which has my data stored four different locations
  • Changed positions and roles within my job.
  • Explored Amazon Connect and setup my LLC phone number through the platform and forwarded to Google Voice for voicemail
  • Learned Regex (Regular Expressions)
  • Learned Agile and Scrum Project Management methodology
  • Wrote documentation for my job
  • Built the Saturn V Rocket kit from LEGO
  • Read for Fun:
  • The Widow Spy
  • Simple Rules
  • Business for Punks
  • Saint Mick
  • The Russian Five
  • Behind the Bench
  • If These Walls Could Talk
  • It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work
  • Five Presidents

Backup Plan – Updated

In a previous post from 2015 I discussed my backup plan and in Dec. 2016 I updated the backup plan after reviewing my existing plan.  I incorporated two off site backup options in my plan as a means for recovery.

On-Site Backup:

The On-Site backup plan still is using the Time Capsule device that I was using in 2015.  The future of this component in the backup plan is currently under review.

Off-Site Backup:

I am using the Arq Backup Software to backup my local computer and the Time Capsule device every two hours to a new piece of the backup equation.  The new piece of the equation is a Synology Box that is kept off site 90 miles away via SFTP server.  The Synology Box has 4 – 2 TB NAS drives in the box and setup in a raid through the Synology operating system.  This allows me to have a single drive failure but not loose any data in the raid.  The amount of storage though allows me to grow my data without fear of running out.  I am currently using 1.15 TB of the total space and have ample room for growth.

If the need to restore would come about for any reason I can quickly restore from the device with no wait or additional cost that you would encounter when restoring from Amazon.

It is always good to have two backup copies of the data so in case one version would become corrupted or in the case of recent news locked by a virus.  That is where the Amazon Backup option comes into the mix of the backup plan.  The same files which are backed up every 2 hours to the Synology Box are backed up every 12 hours to Amazon.  In addition to the every 12 hours backup, I have limited Amazon to a budget of $15.00/month.

In each instance of the backup task, the data is encrypted through ARQ with each backup using a different encryption key so that both backup sets could not be compromised due to an issue such as a virus.

I am looking at the possibility of replacing the time capsule device with another Synology Box that is kept at my apartment.  It provides me with increased capabilities than what I have with the time capsule device.  Additionally, it allows me to expand my storage needs as needed based on my data.



The Winged Wheel

The end of an era arrived in Detroit, Michigan and at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday April 9th 2017.  The home of the Detroit Red Wings had one final buzzer sound signaling the end of a 38 year residence and 25 straight playoff appearances.  The celebration was capped off with a final ceremony.
The names of those who have worn the Winged wheel over the years were called one last time by the public address announcer.  The only thing missing was hearing Budd Lynch call the names and hearing his voice echo through the arena just one last time.
Growing up as a Wings fan I can remember my first visit to Joe Louis Arena.  I was either in first or second grade (’93-94) and we lived in Lima, Ohio.  This was years before the city of Columbus would have the Blue Jackets.  I fell asleep at the game only to be woken by the Wings scoring a goal and that goal horn going off.  I jumped out of seat and was wide awake this time.  My dad I believe had to carry me to the car at the end of the game as it was past my bed time and we still had the drive home.  Except we parked over near what is now the Greektown Casino and it had snowed.
Over the years that followed that first trip, I began playing the game of roller hockey first in the summer and then in the winter.  This led to officiating and eventually playing ice hockey.  My passion for the game and the Winged wheel continued to grow.  The piece though that cemented it was a game on March 26th 1997 at Joe Louis Arena against the Colorado Avalanche.  Those in the hockey world know that date as it was the day that Darren McCarty of the Detroit Red Wings cemented his place in Red Wings history as he exacted revenge on Claude Lemieux for a hit the previous year on Kris Draper that left Draper with a busted jaw and more.
Just days after winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in 42 years, tragedy struck the Wings as there was an automobile accident that involved Vladimir Konstantiov, Viacheslav Fetsov and team masseur Sergei Mnatsakamov.  Konstantiov would never play the game of hockey again and Mnatsakamov would never be the a masseur again.  I recall hearing about the crash for the first time at Buffalo Wild Wings in Lima, Ohio.  The following year the Wings went on and won the Stanley Cup, the first person to receive the cup handed to them by the captain Steve Yzerman was Vladimir Konstantiov. Every time I see Konstantiov wearing the Winged jersey there is a lump that forms in my throat.  As the Wings held the farewell ceremony, Konstantiov was part of it and he was wheeled out on to the ice with chants of “Vladdy Vladdy Vladdy” with a hockey stick in hand (good form as well) not only did a lump form in my throat but a tear in my eye.  McCarty taught me how to stand up for my friends and family but Konstantiov taught me to never give up and always move forward.  The road hasn’t been easy for either of these players as the hand they were dealt played out before them but I want to think that it is the family that is generated through hockey that helped carry them along the way.
McCarty and Konstantiov both symbolize traits that helped contribute to the person I am today.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention though Steve Yzerman as a driving force in these traits.  Yzerman played his entire career with the Wings, changed his role through his career and more, but no role was bigger then serving as the team captain for 19 years.  During that time he had injuries and I will never forget him playing on one knee in the playoffs or a quote in one of the papers that basically said something to the effect that the best thing for his knee or any ones knee at this point was to not be playing but there he was night after night.  Yzerman instilled dedication, discipline and loyalty.  Yzerman who is now the General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning gave a speech at the farewell ceremony in true Yzerman fashion thanked everyone from the arena workers and fans up to the ownership.  As his speech concluded a chant of “Come Home Stevie” echoed through the arena as the fans long for him to return to the organization and lead us not on the ice as he did previously but lead us from a front office role.  I echo the statement of the fans in attendance that being of “Come Home Stevie” and say it is time for the captain to return.
The names of the Wings of my era were called out one last time.  Each of the names Osgood, McCarty, Chelios, Draper, Maltby, Holmstrom, Lidstrom, Probert, Kocur, Larionov, Kozlov, Fetisov, Konstantiov, Vernon, Shanahan, Murphy and of course Steve Yzerman brought back many memories and will forever live on not only in the storied history of Joe Louis Arena but the history of Detroit Red Wings.
At the age of 30, I said my final farewell to Joe Louis Arena on December 27th 2016.  My dad and I piled into my 2012 Chevy Cruze and headed North on Interstate 75.  We passed the nursing home where my Great Grandpa and Grandma used to reside prior to their deaths and the many other places that marked a piece of our lives just as our final destination that night marked a place in our story.  We stopped at Hockeytown Authentics in Troy, MI and as we opened the door to the store we were greeted by the voice of legendary public address announcer Budd Lynch who said “Welcome to Hockeytown, I’m Budd Lynch.”  We parked once more at the same parking lot as our first game (this time though dad refused to carry me, mentioning something about you are 30 years old and about 180 pounds more than the first time), we took the “people mover” this time around Detroit, we stopped at Cheli’s Chili for a dog and beer.  We waited in the cold for the doors to open to Joe Louis Arena and filed in.  Once there we paid tribute to the “troughs” in the restroom now steel and no longer porcelain.  We took in the smell of Joe Louis Arena, the banners high atop the rafters, the sounds of the game and one last look at the Joe, the arena that started a life long affair with the game of hockey.  As we walked out for one final time from Joe Louis Arena, I gave the door a final pat as a sign of respect and I whispered Thank You, Joe.