iOS Development

There’s something to be said for having a long-running development project. I can re-visit it from time to time, exercising new skills without having to do major analysis of the problem. I don’t get to program as much as I’d like, but I managed to over the break and now after as well.

The Fantastic Fiduciary Friend (the Triple-F) is a project that I have worked on since 2004. Tammy and I use it to track our expenses. It’s a MySQL database, with web services, a web app and a mobile app for iOS. It’s been a successful effort, and has undergone more revisions and changes of technology than you can shake a stick at. Every time I want to try something new, the FFF is the obvious choice. Just off the top of my head:

  • Java Hibernate & Spring
  • Dynamic HTML
  • Symfony (1.x, then 2.2, then 2.7…)
  • MySQL
  • Dojo
  • Responsive design (first attempt at mobile app)
  • Django (didn’t work out)
  • iOS development.

The mobile app has been especially successful, but it was starting to get dated. I had some ideas on how to streamline it, and I’ve put that into motion.

FFF on the Go, version 4.0.1

A key part of this rewrite was changing from using a UINavigationController as the basic metaphor, to using popovers (the transaction types is showing in the screenshot).

I’ve installed it on my phone and Tammy’s and we’ll see how it shakes out in real life.

Moar Bike Parking!

As Tammy posted on Facebook:

What do you do with too many bikes in your bonus room?

Well, you make more bike parking, that’s what.

Miranda’s bike on the left, Ian’s on the right

Since everybody has started using the trainers from time to time, that means there have been four bikes moving around in the bonus room. Two have been on the trainers at any time, and two have been propped up haphazardly. The addition of a bike for Ian (see below) pushed it to the breaking point.

So, here’s the nicest job I could do of the same basic concept as I built in the garage this summer. The hanger system is Rubbermaid FastTrack, and the oak panels are there to prevent marking or damaging the wall from the bike tires. The hangers can be adjusted left and right or removed entirely. As you can see, there’s enough clearance underneath that the Roomba can do its job.

On the subject of Ian’s bike: Tara, the club director, has a son who has outgrown this bike. It’s an extra-small Giant SCR 3.0 which has been customized somewhat. It’s a small grown-up bike. I’ve adjusted the seat and Ian fits it pretty well. We’re giving it a test run and if he likes it, I’ll pay Tara and keep it.

Our Trip to West Edmonton Mall

Yesterday morning, we headed out on the Queen Elizabeth II highway, pointed north. It was something that had been on the “to do” list since moving to Calgary (lo these four and a half years): a family trip to Edmonton. Specifically, going to the West Edmonton Mall. It all started with Dad’s Christmas gift. Tammy and I discussed a number of gifts we could get with it, but in the end the thing that resonated was putting it towards this trip.

I made the hotel reservation based on my experience going to see a client in Edmonton in December. The hotel I’d stayed at wasn’t right at the Mall, but it was close enough and reasonably priced and had kitchenette suites to boot. We drove up on the Friday morning, and arrived at the mall a little after 11:00. We walked from the east end to where the World Waterpark is before walking through Galaxyland and having an early lunch. Then we grabbed our swimsuits and spent the afternoon splashing and sliding. We were there for four hours before finally drying off and having dinner at Boston Pizza on “BRBN St“. Then we left, stopped at Superstore on the way to the hotel and then relaxed. Tammy and I watched the World Juniors gold medal game, and then the whole family piled on the bed to watch “Music and Lyrics” off of my iPad on the TV.

The next morning, Ian and I were in fine shape: he’d hurt his foot somehow at the water park, and my knee was hurting from all the stairs. Nevertheless, our plan was to spend the day at the mall, doing the actual shopping part of the trip. Ian had Christmas money to spend, but he’s a worse shopper than I am. We split up, with Tammy and Miranda shopping, and Ian and I limping and being lookee-loos. We explored a lot of the mall, and I tried getting him interested in doing some of the other activities there, like mini golf or Galaxyland. We did ride the “Autosled” mini roller coaster once just so that I could say that we’d ridden something. 🙂 But despite his limping, he wanted to go back to the water park. I even dangled going to see The Last Jedi in IMAX 3D in front of him, but he was adamant. So he and I did a second (shorter – 2.5 hours) round at the water park.

Then we were done and off to Calgary again. It was a short trip, but obviously the water park hit the target with Ian. Miranda bought some art pens, jeans and books. Tammy bought a bag and a shirt… but I haven’t seen them yet.

Not a lot of photos: when most of the vacation was spent in swimming trunks, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity. Tammy took some of the sunrise on the way to Edmonton. I might insert one later. Here’s a picture of the sea lion show that we caught a bit of today.

Sea lion show at WEM

Decided to do Paintnite at my place!

So the kids and I decided to do some painting at home today. I took a picture and painted it and the kids had outlines on their canvases to follow.

Starry Night with a Fox – Stephanie

Penguins Huddling in the Snow – Zachary

Flamingo Christmas – Brianna

Complete with leg warmers and a toque 🙂

We’ll try another day to do freehand a painting where I’ll teach them what to do and how to do it with their own variations.

Yay! Finally a ski day!

The weather decided that we’d had enough deep freeze and relented. Between the cycling-worthy weather in the first part of December and the frigid temperatures from the 24th onwards, we hadn’t been to Nakiska at all this winter.

Today it was about -1, and the snow conditions were perfect. Even the crowds weren’t too thick: maybe a lot of people were back to work today. Tammy’s teaching this evening, but that didn’t stop us from making the most of a gorgeous day.

C’est parfait

We didn’t stay too long, because Tammy wanted to be coherent at the college tonight, but it was fun.

We even saw some mountain goats along the highway on the way home.

Happy 14th Birthday, Miranda!

It’s the first of the year, and that means it’s Miranda’s birthday! Just like with Stephanie’s birthday when we were growing up, the Christmas stuff has been packed away and we’re ready to face the new year.

Unlike years past, Miranda’s “birthday party” was actually before her birthday, on the 30th. With the weather being as frigid as it has been, there was more than ample opportunity to have a party in the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Miranda invited her friend Sierra over, and we extended that to her mom Charlene, and we had a nice evening with sushi and a vanilla cake with whipped cream and fruit for dessert.

Miranda and Sierra

The girls went to see the late showing of Thor: Ragnarok at the Crowfoot theatre. Charlene dropped them off, and I picked them up near midnight. Then Sierra stayed for a sleepover.

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2017 Cycling Roundup

And for those who were waiting with bated breath, here are the cycling news stories from the year that was 2017.

It was another year of firsts and of new high water marks. It was the first year where the cycling events more or less dominated my planning, for the summer months at least. It was all about one fondo per month:

The Cycle of Life Tour was of particular importance. I raised $1300 for the Victoria Hospice, and it was significant. It was an effort to pull off, but from the point where I made the decision to do it, it came together thanks to Dad, Tammy and to friends and family and coworkers at Esri Canada. I did an interview via email with the event coordinators, so that’s immortalized me. 🙂 It worked into the visit from Zachary, and made for a great weekend, especially for Dad and Ian and their tour of Saltspring Island.

The early months of 2017 saw a first for the Bow Cyclists: events happening during the off-season. Traditionally, once the end of year party finished, the next time I would hear anything from the club was in April. But this year, Mark arranged a two-day mechanics course for the club members. That led to a couple of virtual Zwift club rides and then a couple of Zwift nights in the Bow Cycle shop. That had us primed for the spring and our kickoff ride on April 30. I’d already been out for rides by myself and with other club members (Derek, Tommy). The early season was a bit mixed, with some wet weather and storms, but the summer was dominated by dry, hot and smoky from fires in BC.

The club season was the best yet, with great enthusiasm and participation by riders of both genders and all levels (looking for no-drop, that is). If that was all that happened this year (my second as a Club Ambassador), it would have been fantastic, but this year Miranda grabbed Tammy’s bike and joined the club, too. I didn’t pressure her. She enjoyed the ladies rides most of all, and I think Tammy was jealous. Tammy also joined in on the Tuesday unofficial rides, which worked with her new evening work schedule. Her new bike really helped, but her new job put the kibosh on bike commuting.

Outside of the planned stuff, there were lots of other good things that happened:

The weather in late November and early December was ridiculously nice, which really bumped up my kilometers for the year.

I am not expecting this trend to continue indefinitely, but I keep surprising myself. I need to start making my plans for 2018 soon. The one fondo per month really worked well in 2017.


2017 Retrospective

Gather around for the great year-end wrap-up! Wherein we discover all of the stuff that we forgot happened during the year. 😉

This year was not as dramatic as last. Perhaps it was a matter of us getting our equilibrium back and adapting to the new normal. The single biggest mover and shaker was Tammy, leaving GEOS and starting her new job at Columbia House College. That’s a nice change: normally when I finish summarizing the year, I’m ticked off because I’ve got a grand total of two or three items for her writeup: birthday and Mother’s Day. It was a real shift to our entire family’s operation. She was working evenings Monday to Thursday instead of short days Monday to Friday. It also was a change in that the College is not downtown. It’s rideable, as the kids and I proved, but certainly not accessible by transit. But the job has been a really good change, even if it means her breaks between sessions are at weird times. She’s even getting to go to conferences.

2017 marked two major milestones for Tammy and I: August 27th was our 20th anniversary, and September 28th was the 25th anniversary of our first date. 😳 That’s amazing.

Tammy also got a new bicycle this year. To make a long story short, she never was comfortable with the drop handlebars and brakes on her Dolce, so now she has a Cannondale Quick with a flat bar. She’s much happier with it.

Which then leads us to Miranda, who immediately grabbed Tammy’s old bike and made it hers. She even joined the Bow Cyclist Club. (I promise, I’m separating the cycling news into its own post, but I thought that was a nice segue!) As a young woman who turned 13 this year, she was by far the youngest member but did amazingly.

She had a birthday sleepover party, with her friends Farida and Sierra. It was a bit painful on the old bank account to have Miranda start her second (and last) round of braces. The first round was mostly about expanding the mouth, and this time it’s getting all the adult teeth in place. She’s been doing crafty things all year, and she and I spent a day learning how to bind books. But I would say her dominant activity was reading, reading, reading! She is still reading lots of manga, but “real books” are being read at a fantastic rate. Good thing we don’t have to pay for parking at the library. 🙂 She continued her piano lessons, but this year switched to a different sort of program instead of the RCM. It is focused on musicality and playing the sort of music she likes. When Miranda’s playing what she likes, she is amazing. This year also had a milestone for her: her first real bank account (and debit card and Apple Pay, too).

Ian’s year was good. Perhaps not flashy, but solid. He started and ended the year with the same basic interests: Minecraft, Duck Life, bike riding and ferry boats. Speaking of ferry boats… there probably was no moment that was more triumphant in 2017 than Ian getting a chance to steer the Queen of Cumberland. It’s right up there with his visit to the top of the Bow in 2016.

He turned 10 this year, and his birthday party, while simple, was a big hit. He also got invited to his friend Ethan’s party. He’s growing, and while still the shortest in the family, he outgrew the Kona mountain bike. We toyed with getting him a junior road bike or cyclocross bike, but in the end got him a Cube mountain bike.

Ian’s interest in video games has led him to learn about the way that they actually work. He and I tried this year to work through a tutorial on how to code games for iOS. It was probably not the right time for it. Perhaps we will give it another go in 2018.

He also spent time at Antosz Orthodontics this year, but it was getting the expander and braces out of his mouth and getting a retainer. When he’s Miranda’s age, it will be time for round two, no doubt. The orthodontist isn’t all bad, though. We got to see a private showing of Star Wars: The Last Jedi courtesy of Dr. Antosz! Ian also got to see a movie showing of Hugo at the Globe theatre downtown with his class. Ian is also still taking piano, and he did very well at the year-end recital. He’s funny in that most of the time we have to tie him to the piano bench to do his homework, but there are times that every time you turn around, he’s at the piano, practicing. When those happen, his playing leaps forward. He was in one of those before Christmas. Since Christmas, it’s been more about Lego and Minecraft.

Myself, I’ve been doing a lot of cycling and cycling-related activities, but there’s been more to 2017 than that. Writing has definitely been a big part of 2017, participating in Camp NaNoWriMo in April and NaNoWriMo in November, as well as two solid months dedicated to editing previous drafts. Related was my restoration of the typewriter that Tammy found in the snow. The bronze medal goes to learning French. I have been using Duolingo regularly and have a copy of The Lord of the Rings (Le Seigneur des Anneaux) that I have been reading. I’m 270ish pages in now…

Speaking of deciphering, I did work really hard on a programming project to create an app to control my guitar effects pedal. In the end, the MIDI messaging stumped me. It bugs me that I failed at it, but it was fun. This Christmas vacation I have been working through the Stanford University CS193P course online, which has been more successful.

I turned 44 this year, and got an Apple Pencil. I didn’t do as much drawing with it as I’d like, but what I did do turned out well. Sister Stephanie has also been flexing her art muscles, with these painting drop-in nights. Tammy ended up using one of Stephanie’s pieces as my Christmas card this year.

We had lots of travel-related news this year. There were the trips to Nakiska, and my various trips for work to Toronto, Sarnia (2), Tech Trek, Toronto again, Brampton, Sparwood, Parkland County, Edmonton and Edmonton again. Generally all of these trips went well, but I did get sick coming back from Tech Trek.

But there was also Zachary’s visit in July. I didn’t expect everything to work out as well as it did when I first suggested it to Stephanie, but it did! The week was over too quickly, but then there was the adventure to Victoria for the Cycle of Life Tour and the trip back home with just Ian and I (where I lost my glasses).

We also had our friends Jeff, Katya and Alyosha drop in on their way across Canada, and Carol started posting pictures from their trip to Mexico this year.

And we did have our traditional trip back to Victoria this year. There was so much that happened on that trip (as usual), including the aforementioned ferry incident, a near-total solar eclipse, as well as a great trip to Pender Island and our 20th anniversary. The Tour de Victoria was not a solo endeavor for me this year, as Tammy and Miranda both took part. (BAD SIMON! No cycling stories!😁)

We’ve been in our “new” house for over four years now, and we’ve had a mix of repairs and improvements. The hot water tank got replaced and so did the roof, so we’re covered on those fronts for a few years. The Ikea sink’s plumbing decided to pack it in (one plastic bit broke) which then led to my best bodge ever. I have since finished the job with the real parts, but that held up for a couple months. The deck continues to be a source of work. Last year was recoating the deck itself, and this year was rehabilitating the pergola.

Miranda had been making noise for a while about changing her room. The final design and agreement on what to do took months, but it got kicked off with re-painting the loft bed for Ian, painting Ian’s room, then her room, then floors, trim, and finally furniture. It looks good.

Speaking of four years, we finally unpacked the china, and got a cabinet to put it in. Which led to a complete re-organization of the storage room. Two major improvements this year were the new wireless network access points and the new bicycle parking arrangement in the garage. Both have improved things around here immeasurably.

And this wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the newest Biickert: Twinkie. She had a rough first few months, but she’s an adorable addition to the extended family. Squeak is now 19, and has been flying solo for over a year now since Nochie passed away. She’s still yowling in the night, but c’est la vie.

I hope everybody had a great 2017. Ours was very full, and we’re looking forward to 2018.


Not really, but… it’s not been a week for going out a lot. We’ve been playing lots of board games and Minecraft on the XBox and doing other stuff to pass the time. Ping pong was great until I wiped out the day before yesterday in sock feet on the laminate floor. My knee is bruised but not seriously damaged. The damage to the wall is minor.

And this morning we woke up to another six inches of snow. At -27! Normally, I’d expect snow closer to zero.

More snow!

The weather is supposed to warm up by the 2nd. Tammy will be back to work then, but expect to see us skiing a lot that week, with this kind of snow!

Tonight is Miranda’s “birthday party”/sleepover with Sierra. Gotta go shovel the driveway.


Today we played Seafarers of Catan! It’s been years since I made all the hexes for it, but this is the first time we’ve played it as a family.

Miranda was the winner at Settlers of Catan last night and at Seafarers today. She’s on a roll.

Lego Day

This Boxing Day was much more fun than last year. Ian and I were up early and got to work building Lego. He took on the Star Wars BB-8 that he got from Grandpa, and I built Buckingham Palace from his collection.

Mission accomplished

The inner workings of BB-8 are pretty impressive. Ian managed the whole thing himself.

It took him all day, except for the shopping trip that we made before lunchtime. I finished up the palace in the early afternoon.

BB-8 is watching you…