Home Automation

I’ve long been interested in home automation. Some people said it was because I was lazy. I prefer to think of it as automating things to make life easier.

The first thing I did was to purchase an Amazon Echo

Then, I bought a couple of Amazon Smart plugs

With that, I set up a fan and a living room light. So I could say ‘Alexa, turn on the living room light’ and the living room light would turn on. I also set up a fan, because my wife, even when it is 14 degrees outside, likes to have a fan going in our bedroom at night. So either one of us could say ‘Alexa, turn on the bedroom fan’ and the bedroom fan would turn on.

Worked well. Was simple.

When we moved into our house in March of 2018, we had a small issue in the master bedroom. The light switch, when it was turned off, turned off the electrical outlet by the bed. So for the longest time, at night, we had to do one of two things:

a) Unscrew the light bulb and leave the light switch on, so we could charge our phones at night
b) Leave the light switch off and use a different electrical outlet.

This bedroom has only two electrical outlets. One next to the bed (controlled by the light switch) and one on the complete other side of the room. So for the longest time, what we did is we just unscrewed the light bulb and left the light switch on.

We rarely used the light in the bedroom anyway. Since we just use it for non-lit activities 99.9% of the time.

But that got kinda old. Yes, we could have an electrician come in and resolve the issue. But that seemed really stupid to have someone come in and rewire an electrical socket when we could just unscrew the light bulb.

Fast forward to November of last year. I was looking on Amazon, which I do sometimes, and found this product The Kasa Smart light bulb . The beauty of this product is that it connected to wifi and could be easily controlled by Alexa. So now, I just say “Alexa, turn on the bedroom light” and we have light in the bedroom. Works great. Never noticed how many times a light in the bedroom is useful. Now, we have once again.

I have many other home automation tasks that I would like to do, later down the road.

I’d like to get an Amazon Fire TV to control the TV with my voice.
I’d like to get a smart lock for the front door. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gotten up, paranoid that I haven’t locked the front door. It’s usually, locked, but it would be nice if I had something like this August Smart Lock so I can either look at my phone from anywhere in the world and see if the door is locked, or alternatively I can say ‘Alexa, lock the front door.’

I’m sure there are other things that I can do, down the road, but for now, that’s where I have begun. If you have any questions, or would like help setting up your own smart home, I’d be happy to assist. It’s not difficult, it’s not scary, and can actually be a time saver and give you peace of mind.

320 Day Update

320 days ago, I was diagnosed with colon cancer.

A bunch of chemotherapy treatments later, I’m still here to type this.

A few people have asked for an update. Here we go.

Chemotherapy, has thankfully, been extremely smooth, for me at least. Up until late August.

In late August, my platelets wouldn’t get back up to a high enough level for me to continue getting chemotherapy. So, we decided (well, my oncologist decided) that the best course of action was to take a break and see if my platelets would regenerate themselves and I could continue treatments.

In November, I had a PET scan on the day before Thanksgiving. The PET scan showed that the tumor was shrinking. So, this is a good thing.

Went back in the Monday after Thanksgiving, hoping that I could continue chemotherapy. Alas, my platelets had risen, but not significantly enough for me to continue treatment. So it was decided, once again, that treatment would be postponed yet again to see if my platelets would cooperate.

My next scheduled appointment is on January 14th. I get my blood tested at that time, and will know where we are with regards to platelet levels. I’m optimistic at this point.

I also have another PET scan scheduled for the 4th of February and then chemo will HOPEFULLY resume on February 11th.

I will share with you all when I know more. I appreciate all the love and support and encouragement that we at #TeamStrockStrong have received.

22nd Annual Edmonds Classic Car Show

Today in Edmonds, there was a very large car show.  The 22nd annual Classic Car Show.

Lots of cars.  Lots of people.

Some interesting things I saw:

  • A Delorean, well preserved or well restored
  • A prototype electric Jaguar.  With door handles that pull out automatically when you approach the car with they key (I wonder where they came up with that idea? (Tesla)
  • A couple Ferraris
  • A 1986 Honda Prelude, which made me think of my friend Jenny Gleason Howard, who had a Prelude when we worked together.

https://www.mikestrockphotography.com/Edmonds-Classic-Car-Show

The link to the photo gallery is above.  Check it out and let me know what you think.  Last car show for the year I think. Next week starts high school women’s soccer and pee-wee football (if I can find the field).  Hopefully I will have a couple high school senior shoots as well, and a family that we used to live near might want a family session.  We shall see.  Keeps me out of trouble.

European Theater Day 2018

There is a gentleman who you may of heard of by the name of Paul Allen.

He has a museum in Everett, Washington called The Flying History and Air Combat Museum.

Mr. Allen has purchased and restored a large number of World War II aircraft, and tanks, and today, there was a European History day where a number of those planes flew.

Mr. Allen has had these planes meticulously restored, and they fly.  You will not very often (if ever) see this group of aircraft fly, at least in the Pacific Northwest.

I enjoy photography.  It keeps my mind off my cancer.  I like airplanes, as long as I don’t have to fly in them.

Oh!  There were also TANKS!  Firing tanks!

It will be interesting to see if this event continues now that commercial flights will be taking off from Paine Field in the near future.

So I went up to experience this event for myself today. I found out a few things.

The museum collection is huge.  It was very well attended.

Photographing flying aircraft is difficult.  It requires decent reflexes and decent equipment.  I don’t have the greatest reflexes.  But you work with what you have.  I think I did a decent job.  I hope you enjoy the photos.  It was a fun day, even if I forgot to wear my hat and got sunburned. LOL

European Theater Day September 1st, 2018

Cancer update at five months

Five months ago, I had surgery to remove a third of my colon.  Soon after that, I started chemotherapy every two weeks.

 

The goal, according to the oncologist, was to ‘improve my quality of life.’

I thought the quality of my life was pretty good, once the tumor in my colon was removed and I could breathe again.

Five months in, I recently had a CT scan.  That CT scan shows that the tumor (which had moved from my colon to my stomach, without my permission) has shrunk.  So, the chemo is working.

Am I still Mr. Positive about having cancer?  Most days.

Am I still going to fight tooth and nail and with whatever I have to beat this damn disease? Absolutely.

I’ve been blessed by the chemo treatments.  I’ve not had many of the side effects that other friends have had with their chemo treatments.

No loss of hair (didn’t really have any to lose, except on my back, which is all still intact.)

No loss of appetite.  I lost 30+ pounds after the surgery, but I am back to my fighting weight, plus (unfortunately, according to my oncologist).

No loss of energy for the most part.  I do get tired for a few days after chemo treatments are done, but that usually goes away.

I have neuropathy, where my mouth and fingers are effected by the cold.  I can’t drink cold fluids for a couple of days after treatment ends.

The only real issues I’ve had are with my white blood cell count (for which I am now taking a medication to help with),  and now I’m having some issues with my platelets.

To be honest, I didn’t know what platelets were before this whole cancer mess began.  I’m learning lots of new things.  Most of which I didn’t want to learn.  But it is what it is.

God has a plan.  So far, His plan seems to be that I stick around for a while longer.  My goal is to be around for at least 50 more years.  That’ll make me 102.  Same age as my grandmother when she passed away.  I think it’s a good goal.

Anyway, thought you’d all like an update.  Cancer is a pain.  I don’t recommend it.  But if you get it, or have it, remain positive.  I believe a lot of the non-issues I’ve had with treatment are due to the fact that I’m remaining positive.

Everyday is not positive.  Believe me.  For quite a while, I wasn’t sure if doing things that were ‘future based’ were worthwhile, because of the diagnosis.  But I’m past that point now.

I’ve got things I want to do.  I’ve got places I want to go.  I’ve got accomplishments I want to accomplish.  I’d like to see all my kids graduate from high school .  I’d love it if I got to see my grandkids graduate from high school as well.

Many of you follow along with me on Facebook.  Know that I appreciate each and every one of you and the love and support you have shown me, my family, my in laws and especially my wife.  It is greatly appreciated.  As my oncologist told me, they are my inner onion.  The one’s closest to me.

You, my friends,  are my outer onion.  I keep you close, and promise not to make you all into onion rings.  That’s all for now.

Blessed with colon cancer

At the end of February, just as Laurie and I were about to move to Edmonds from Bothell, I began having breathing issues.  I would walk maybe 20-30 feet, and then have to stop and catch my breath.  I went to the doctor and had some blood tests done.

I received a call back that same afternoon, telling me that I was low on blood and needed to go to the ER immediately.

I went to the ER, and was given four transfusions of blood.  They did some CT scans of my front and my side and discovered that I had an 8 cm tumor in my colon.  It was cancerous.  I spent the next two days in the ER, waiting for a room to become available at Swedish First Hill in Seattle so that I could have the tumor removed from my colon.

I was transferred to Swedish First Hill two days later.  I had an operation which took out the tumor and 1/3 of my colon.  I now have a semi-colon. 

After more tests, it was determined that the cancer had spread from my colon to my stomach.  The tumor that is in my stomach is too embedded in the fibers of the stomach to remove.  So, I need to start chemotherapy very soon to see if we can reduce the tumor.   The cancer won’t go away, so the chemo is just to improve my quality of life.

Honestly, I’m not in pain.  At least at this point.

I feel blessed to have colon cancer.  I know, you are sitting there reading this saying to yourself “Is he insane? Has he lost his mind?”  The answer is No.  I’ll explain why.

1 – I got cancer.  God chose me to have the cancer
      a) He didn’t give cancer to one of my kids. 
      b) He didn’t give cancer to one of my grandkids.
      c) He didn’t give cancer to my wife, or my parents, or my in-laws, or even my ex-wife.

He chose me. 

I’m not afraid of dying. I know where I am going after I pass away.
I don’t intend to let the cancer get me without fighting, kicking and screaming, doing whatever necessary to prolong my life.  But I’m not afraid for myself.

I’m more concerned about my wife, and my kids, and my parents, and my in-laws, and my friends, and others around me.

Cancer has already brought my wife and I closer.  It has also brought my parents closer to my wife, and my in-laws closer to me. 

I’ve had outstanding surgeons and doctors taking care of me.  I’ve met some outstanding people who work selflessly in the hospital taking care of patients, day in and day out, with little thanks other than a paycheck.

I’ve made it a point to always thank each and every person who has helped me along the way.  Whether it is the person who is trying to find a vein to take a blood draw, or the surgeon who took out the tumor.  Or the emergency room nurse who has come in for the third time because when I was trying to sleep, I turned wrong and set the stupid IV alarm off.

Cancer chose me.  I didn’t choose cancer.  But I intend to fight it with all I have to live and take care of those people around me the best I can, for as long as I can.

Home Office Plans

With those of you who have dedicated home offices, I’m curious your thoughts. Looking to build out a home office possibly in the near future. Will be dedicated to working from home, which I do 95% of the time. Here are my requirements so far:

– Decent desk. I hate small desks and I cannot lie. I have made a plan for a desk that is 8’x30″ x 8’x30″ in an L shape configuration. Should be big enough. But you can never have too big a desk, IMO.

– Desk will be facing the door, not with my back to the door or any windows. Sniper red dots are hard to see and I would prefer to stay out of the ‘light’, so to speak.

– Connectivity – I currently have Frontier FIOS which I would have in the new space. My plan is to put in eight network drops in the office, five by my TV and two in my wife’s office. You can never have too much networking, IMO. CAT6a which will allow for gigabit networking. Overkill? Probably. Don’t care.

– Large whiteboard made from melamin (tile board) on one wall.

– Possibly a large chalkboard on another wall. Not sure.

Biggest questions I have at this point are lighting. I don’t like to have lights on during the day. I don’t like fluorescent and I’m not sure LED is the way to go. Thoughts?

I’ve been researching home offices for many, many years. Here are a few I found for inspiration:

http://www.stefandidak.com/office/

https://danielheth.com/office/

http://www.hanselman.com/blog/NewJobNewHouseNewBabyAndDesigningATotallyNewHomeOffice.aspx

Yes, each of these is WAY overkill and more than I can or want to do. I use them as inspiration only.

I have failed

Fifteen years ago, I accepted a position as a technical support manager and IT manager for a small software company in Everett, Washington.  That company later branched out into a software company and an on-line plan room.  I worked for them for ten years.

After ten years, the CEO said he was shutting the company down because he had Parkinson’s and couldn’t deal with the stress.

I was giving the opportunity to take over the company.  I wrote up a plan, it was accepted, and five years ago, I took over both companies 1,828 days ago.

Everyone essentially quit, except for myself and another person.  She stayed with me to help me run things.  If she hadn’t, I’d have been more lost than I really was already.

For four years, we did pretty well.  But starting about a year ago, after we had rebuilt the website for the on-line plan room, and revamped many things, people started to stop returning our calls.

The economy really sucked at this point, but we endeavored to survive.  We cut expenses.  We took layoffs, both she and I. 

I did what I needed to do to financially survive, which allowed me to continue to support my commitments, including my ex-wife and children and my new wife.

I had a runway.  I had a runway of about a year, given my expense level. That runaway ends in September.  There is a brick wall at the end of the runway and I will end up hitting it very hard.

I failed.  I failed my wife, my children, my ex-wife, my investors, my customers, my employee, and most of all, I failed myself.  I really thought that like like Kevin Costner in the ‘Field Of Dreams,’ if we built it, they would come.

For  a while, customers did come.  But customers decided that free was better than paying for a (IMO) superior service with superior customer support.  They just couldn’t get over the hurdle of paying for a service when they could get a different service, albeit with less features, for free.

I haven’t figured out how I can provide my services for free and still be able to pay my bills.  It just doesn’t work that way in my world.  I don’t have the backing of Google or Microsoft or Warren Buffett. 

I hope I’m wrong.  I hope that I am somehow able to pull out a miracle in the next two months.  But the outlook is bleak, both for the business and for the economy. 

I feel drained.  I feel like I’ve failed so many people.  It keeps me up at night, honestly.

I certainly understand how people get into debt and become homeless now. It’s not all drugs and alcohol and bad choices.  Certainly a lot of it is, but sometimes, it’s just plain dumb luck and life.

Anybody have a winning Mega Millions or Powerball ticket they could loan me?

I want to go back

I want to go back in time. 

– I want to go back to when I was 20 years old, going to Western in Bellingham and live in a dorm instead of off campus in an apartment by myself. I probably would have enjoyed college more.

– I want to go back to when I returned from Western and started working at Target and use the money that I earned to put a down payment on a small house instead of buying a new car and a cool CD player for the car.

– I want to go back to when I  quit a very good job at a technology company and NOT go to work for the law firm in Seattle.  I might still have hair if that happened.

– I want to go back when I was in my late teens and spend more time with my grandparents.  I miss them.

– I want to go back to when my divorce was going on and hire a lawyer.  Maybe I wouldn’t have been financially ruined instead of taking the high road.

– I want to go back and tell people who heard one side of my divorce story to hear the other side of the story.  Their minds might change.

– I want to go back in time and spend less time dealing with things that ultimately didn’t matter and pay attention to those things that actually did matter.

– I want to go back in time and get a degree.  A degree that makes me an employable person in the real world.  Instead of muddling my way through life.

– I want to go back five years and re-think whether taking over two failing businesses was the right move.

– I want to back to when I was working for Buttonware and the developers offered to teach me to code in C++.  I didn’t have the time.  Sure wish now I had taken the time.

– I want to go back in time to when I was living in the small house in Edmonds.  To make the decision NOT to move to a larger, more expensive house and just be content with what we had at the time.

– I want to go back to a time where I didn’t constantly worry about money.  There was a time in my life where that was the case.  I miss that.

But I can’t go back. I can only move forward.  I can only learn from the mistakes I’ve made (and I’ve made quite a few) and do my best to move forward. 

Life’s funny.  When you are going through good times, it’s easy to not see that there will also be bad times.  When you go through difficult times, it’s hard to see that there will be good times again sometime down the road. 

I’m thankful for the experiences I’ve had.  I’m happy with the place I am at at this point, love my wife, love my kids.

But there are so many things I would change, given the opportunity.  But that is just wishful thinking.  The time is now to move forward, do the best I can, and try to live a life where I take care of those people who depend on me.

I promise them I’m doing my best, even when I fall down.

Seventy Eight Years Ago Today, My Father Was Born

 

My father is the greatest human being to live on the earth.  Maybe not to you, maybe not to everyone, but he is the greatest human being to walk the earth as far as I am concerned.

Growing up, I watched him go to school to better himself and get a Masters Of Business Administration at night so he could get a better career to take care of his family.

As we were growing up, my brother and I had very few things that we missed out on.  Nothing that I can think of.  My father was there, every step of the way.  Was always at sporting events and school events.  Was always cheering us on no matter what we did.

As we grew older, we both grew rebellious.  Me more so than my brother, but my father continued to love us and treat us very well.

When I grew up, I wanted to be a father.  I wanted to be as good a father as my father had been to my brother and I.

I know I’m not the same decent father that my father is, but I try.  Very hard.  But it’s a very high bar that my father set for my brother and I. 

Anyway, I love my father very much.  I’m SO happy that I get to enjoy him still to this day.

 

Happy 78th birthday Dad.  I love you.  I’m trying to be as good a father and person as you are and always have been.  I promise.