My O'Reilly Bookshelf -- Photo for August 13, 2012

August 13, 2012

Probably a grand worth of paper and ink. Worth every penny.

In the mid 1990s, I taught myself Perl so I could build more powerful websites. After false starts with books from other publishers, I stumbled on O'Reilly's "Learning Perl1" by Randal L. Schwartz and Tom Christiansen. That's when my journey hacking code truly began. Ever since, whenever I've needed to pick up a new computer skill set, my first step is to see if O'Reilly has a book on the topic.

Most of these books are old and will be retired to the library soon. If I consolidated all the other O'Reilly titles scattered around my home and office, I'd have at least another shelf's worth. That's not counting titles I've given away over the years. There would also be significantly more if hard copies of all eBooks and Safari Books Online2 texts were included. All that's to say that I'm a fan of the O'Reilly publishing house. If you need to pick up a tech skill, start with them.

Links and Notes

  1. Learning Perl - The book that helped start me on my current career path.

  2. Safari Books Online - A subscription tech book service. Well worth it if you code for work.

Snakes and Gators - August 11, 2012

Posted: August 12, 2012 - Updated: August 11, 2012

Welcome to golfing with phobias.

Clouds (August 7, 2012)

August 10, 2012

The Spider Outside My Office Window

August 09, 2012

This spider was hanging (get it) outside my office window for a few days. I haven't taken the time to figure out the type, but I've always heard that when you see a bright red mark on something in nature, you're best to steer clear. Of course, it looks cool so I got super close to get a photo. This was also show with my little Canon S100. That camera is fantastic.

Distressed Ghost

August 08, 2012

Pac-Man must have just eaten a power pellet.

Lightning Off The Back Porch (August 2nd, 2012)

August 07, 2012

A summer lightning storm blew through last week. I was driving home for most of it but managed to make it back in time to catch one nice shot off the patio.

For the photo nerds: This as a 66 second exposure at ISO 400 with the aperture set to f/5.6.

There was barely any rain for most it. Some sprinkles started toward the end. Since I don't seem to own an umbrella anymore, I had to improvise a cover for my rig. Two Magic Arms1, some Super Clamps2 and a piece of mat board assembled together did the trick.

It wasn't windy at all. If it had been, I would have used a light stand to hold the jerry-rigged shelter. Otherwise, there would have been motion blur in the trees.

Now I'm off to buy an umbrella. I don't care about getting wet, but I'd prefer my gear stay dry.

Links and Notes

  1. Bogen/Manfrotto Magic Arms - Indispensable tools for your lighting and photography arsenal. These things, along with the multitude of clamps, brackets and studs, allow anything to be attached anywhere and pointed in any direction. Highly recommended.

  2. Super Clamps - You'll want at least one of these for each Magic Arm. As with all clamps, there's no such thing as having too many.

Turn Spare Change Into Music

August 06, 2012

For the past several years, I've been following Dave Ramsey's1 advice and using cash instead of credit or debit cards2. Every time I come home I throw the change in a little container on the counter. After several months, this results in the accumulation of lots of coins. I used to take these to the bank, but have started taking them to Coinstar3 machines instead.

When Coinstar machines first appeared they looked interesting. After throwing spare change in the machine, it spits out cash. The catch being that Coinstar takes a hefty cut of ~10%. At some point, they started offering gift cards as well as cash. Unlike the cash though, Coinstar doesn't gouge you when calculation the value of the gift cards. You get 100% back on what you put in.

Here's what the process looks like: Start with a few months of loose change.

Like, 14.8 pounds of it.

Visit your local Coinstar machine.

Check out the cash option first.

They want almost 10%, so back out and start over.

Try the 'No fee' option.

Check out the options on page 1.

Check out the options on page 2. (I tried 'Amazon MP3' in the past. As far as I can tell there was no difference between that option and the regular option. The credit appeared to show up in the same place.)

Stick with plain old Amazon. Getting a friendly reminder that you won't be getting cash.

Go through some legalese.

And more legalese. Once you hit accept, you're ready to go.

Put coins in the hopper. Then, lift the handle and dump them in.

The machine churns and churns. Every now and then, it will. It drops a little gate somewhere inside preventing more coins from entering. Once it's caught up, it opens again and the process continues.

After it's done counting, it give you another chance to loose ~10% of your money.

You have to take a survey before they'll give you your money. This time, it was only one question.

And they want your email address, just like everyone else.

A few seconds of a progress bar.

Seems like it should know if coins were returned or not.

In my case, some were.

And that's it. You get a nice message that seems to indicate you now have more coins than you started with.

The gift certificate prints out on a little slip.

In this case, 14.8 pounds of coins came to $193.82.

Just punch the number into Amazon and you're good to go.

I use these cards as "fun money". Specifically, I get Amazon cards and use them mainly to buy music. When the funds from the card run out, I stop buying songs. It provides a nice throttle and makes it clear how much I'm spending on music. And since it's coming from spare change, it feels like I'm using money that was already spent.

Overall, the process is quick and easy. If you're not already saving your loose change, I recommend you start doing so.

Links and Notes

  1. Dave Ramsey - A powerhouse in the personal finance education industry (and a great self-promoter). I'm not always a fan of his views outside of personal finance, but I recommend everyone follow his Seven Baby Steps to Financial Peace. If you have any debt, it's a solid way to work yourself out of the hole. It takes work, but you'll be better off for it.

  2. Some exceptions: Gas, Online shopping.

  3. Coinstar - The makers of the machines that turn your cash into gift cards (without charging you a fee).

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© Alan W. Smith
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