2016 Holiday Letter

I kept putting off writing the year end newsletter. I couldn’t think of anything to write about. Once I got started, I couldn’t believe how long it had become. Anyway, 2016, that was the year that was.


Last summer, niece  Alison Kiehl and Sarah married. This summer, they came to the beach to celebrate their union with Alison’s Virginia Beach friends and family. They rented a nice beach house, held a reenactment of their wedding ceremony, and held a reception for family and friends.

Alison and Sarah

Sadly, three friends since high school days, Dar, Elmer, and Fred Kiehl passed away. Fred was a high school classmate overcome by advanced lung cancer. Fred’s parents, Dar and Elmer lived to 88 and 90 respectively. Both were good friends and gracious hosts for summer holiday when I lived up north and were the center of Kiehl extended family life, as much a result of their charm, wit, and patience with offspring as their oceanfront address in Virginia Beach.

We live in interesting times

My countrymen surprised me by electing Donald Trump president. I’m hoping for the best but fearing the worst.

Donald Trump, in his election eve speech, said some hopeful things but I fear his darker nature will keep them from happening.

In my old age, I’m a pragmatist desiring a competent government that works to create a future worth living rather than struggling to prevent futures we fear. In my life, I’ve watched our fear-motivated policies squander so many opportunities to make a better world for all to enjoy.

Around Home

This year’s home projects were all small potatoes. A local contractor replaced the carport columns and front porch rails and my fencing contractor installed the bits I deferred until the carport was repaired. The perimeter fence and carport fence make a nice playground for my greyhounds.

As part of last year’s renovation, a landscaper sodded the side yard, installed paver walks for carport access and wheelie bin storage, and constructed a small bed with flowering shrubs and ground cover at the new porch. This year’s strange weather resulted in a wet fall and spring that caused significant fungus loss in the new sod and the jasmine developed root rot and croaked. I also lost one of the two spreading rosemary plants in that bed. Feeling brave, I planted Encore Azaleas to replace the jasmine that I lost. I’m watching them nervously. A dry October and November followed a hellishly wet August and September. Mild weather is keeping shrubs active longer than normal.

The Dogs

Nick and Missy

Oh no, Mr. Nick!

This was Nick’s year for minor injuries. First, he skinned up his forelegs belly flopping in the hurricane Matthew flooded street. Just recovered from the street encounter, he cut a pad hooning in the garden. Probably while trolling passers-by at the fence with Missy.

Krash Boards

Guest Dog Krash

Life with 3 is interesting. Krash is a perfect gentlemen, about 5 years of age and a year off the track. Krash visited while his mum toured the Biltmore Estate for 2 days. So I had to figure out how to do routine with 3. Three dinners. Walks for 3. Play for 3. The dynamic was interesting. The youngsters played while Nick chaperoned. Every time Missy and Krash began to hoon, Nick would break things up. Finally, I kept Nick in and let the 2 young ones have a go. They played some serious chase tossing a prey stuffy back and forth. After 2 minutes they were spent and settled for the evening.

Krash liked his ration wet with canned food. So I fixed his wet and the resident’s rations dry. Mine turned their noses. up at their dry rations. Finally, I had to feed them all wet and share the canned food for three. I continued feeding my two wet food which completely fixed their fussy eating. A few ounces of warm water and the ration goes down immediately. No picking at it. And Nick cleans his plate. No more food thieving, Missy.

It was really funny watching him the first evening. Judy slipped out to join her trip mates without a visit so Krash was a bit unsettled. He looked for Judy for a while and paced for a while more. After 2 hours of this, he settled until bed time. Come bed time, he had no idea what to do. Who sleeps where? Where do I sleep? Nick took a bed in my bedroom. Missy took a bed in my study. Krash finally settled on the second bed in my room. All made it through the night without issue. Nobody stepped on. Nobody chomped. The second day, you’d think he’d always been here.

Technology Tinkering

Each year stuff wears out and needs change so I keep tinkering with the household technology. This year, I changed the video stuff around to add a Roku set top box, nVidia Shield Android TV, and a Google Chromecast Audio gadget. I also figured out how to get Adobe Lightroom CC to earn its keep.

Roku Premier

Clarkson, Hammond, and May move to Amazon Video after Jeremy slugged one of his assistant producers. Being a fan of the show, I had to change things up to see the new program. Apple and Amazon are competitors as music and book distributors so Amazon keeps its original programs away. No Amazon Video for Apple TV. But Amazon Video is on Android TV (Amazon Fire) and Roku. I bought a Roku box because all the distributors play with Roku. It works decently well but doesn’t have that nice Apple look and feel.

nVidia Shield

I’ve been wanting to move the music serving chores off my Mac Mini so I could log it out when not needed. It looks like I can actually do this. I added MacOS Server to MacOS. This program sets up and administers file sharing and other services present in MacOS. I was able to export my iTunes library and should be able to mount it on an nVidia Shield (coming). nVidia Shield includes a PLEX player and PLEX server as part of the standard software load out. I can also add Kobi to it making it a flexible media player. More on this when it happens in a week or so.


I also have a Google Chromecast Audio device. I use it as an alternative destination for PLEX which has chrome cast built in. Although Google doesn’t make a big deal of it and most reviewers fail to mention it, Chromecast Audio has a TOSlink optical interface built in to the 3.5 MM connector in addition to the normal stereo TRS socket. This lets me pass the pristine bit stream on to my Parasound Halo P5 preamp. It’s a bit fussier to get going than AirPlay but once going, you can’t tell the difference. And the Chromecast puck is all of $35.


Apple’s tinkering with Photos has pretty much abandoned the hobby photographer. Photos is fine if you take snapshot and want them automatically organized. It is lacking if you want to render them. So, about a year ago, I subscribed to Adobe Lightroom CC which includes Camera Raw and Photoshop CC. This summer, I downloaded Lightroom Mobile and figured out how to set it up. I now have it rigged to post photos from my iPhone and iPad to CC and from there to Lightroom CC. Apple convenient but with Adobe rendering muscle. The images appearing here are all original images

Institute for Learning in Retirement

‘m Communications and Technology committee chair for Institute for Learning in Retirement, a local seniors club. ILR is a life long learning institute affiliated with the Road Scholar network. Other Institute is a similar organization. Both promote senior’s life long learning by running local institutes and Road Scholar offers senior’s “adventure” travel overseas. Outdoor Adventure Travel offers similar programs. Both organizations aim for local culture immersion rather than a posh travel experience.

Back office automation

Last year, the board tasked CTC  to find a replacement for our home brew registration system using MS Access and MS Excel. The system was single user and amateur developed (lacking input validation, etc). Our registration workload had grown too large for a single operator to process it in the time available. After a market search, we settled on ProClass, a software as service operation with 1500 clients that included many life long learning clubs like ILR. We’re part way through the transition with both systems operating in parallel. We expect to shift to the new system in 2017 and hope to offer on-line registration later that year.

ILR Website Rebuild

I’m also our webmaster. Our current website is an Open Academy Drupal 7 based site that replaced a legacy MS FrontPage site that was becoming seriously out of date. Our new site uses the Drupal 7 content management system that separates editorial content from presentation much like WordPress does for this blog. The site is relatively easy to maintain  with a built-in menu system and document rendering that is responsive to screen size and shape. It automatically does layout for phones, tablets, and desktop displays.

Drupal 8 is replacing Drupal 7. Our Open Academy environment is last in a sequence of open source projects that must be revised for Drupal 8 which picked up many of the capabilities of the middleware packages in Open Academy as built in Drupal 8 capabilities including the page by page paned layout engine. But Drupal 8 does things differently. So it is not a matter of removing the redundant package. The client bits must be rewritten to use the new Drupal 8 native implementations of the capabilities added to the core. This is not happening quickly, and given that small consultancies wrote these modules for their own purposes, it may not happen if the shop’s business has taken a different direction.

For this reason and to expand our volunteer author and editor pools to a size greater than one (me), we’re moving the site to WordPress at our current host later this year. We need a custom hosting service (Pantheon) because the ILR site requires an added module or 2 for things we want to do. WordPress hosting restricts us to pre-packaged versions of WordPress and curated fixed plug-ins. To add an event manager, we need custom hosting. To restrict content by user roles, we need a custom host. So ILR will be staying with Pantheon.

I’m an ILR Presenter

This winter, I gave my first ILR presentation on electric power with an emphasis on the history of electric power, understanding of the utility business characteristics influencing utility decisions, and the challenges posed by renewable generation. It was a bit too much material for 2 hours but nobody threw produce.

And, ILR invited me back. This spring, I’m planning a new presentation on nuclear power. This presentation will focus on the early history of reactors, Alvin Weinberg, and the emerging molten salt reactors with emphasis on their safety and operational advantages over the expedient light water reactor technology in use today.