Wages

I was filling the Heep up with gas today at the local Cumberland Farms and noticed a help wanted sign “Starting pay $13 an hour”.
This made me think of Al Vermalia he was an old codger I worked with years ago. He used to tell me how easy I had it since when he started out at seventeen cents an hour back in the day.
When I started minimum wage was $2.65 and I got a raise a few weeks later when the state minimum went up. I’m starting to understand why that seemed so huge to Al and I think I might be the old codger now.

When I hit seventy how much will that dollar be worth then?

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Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

One large spaghetti squash
one pound mozzarella
sixteen ounces ricotta cheese
four ounces butter
garlic cloves to taste
one pound boneless skinless chicken
four ounces Italian dressing
basil cubes to taste

Heat the oven to four hundred degrees
Split the squash in half and remove the seeds
clean and crush the garlic cloves place them and a couple pats of butter on a cookie sheet with the halves of squash open side down over the garlic and butter. Cook for one hour.

When the squash is close to having been in the oven for one hour take the chicken and dice it up in a pan on the stove top. Brown the chicken and add the Italian dressing and cubes of basil letting it all blend together.

Once the squash has cooked for an hour remove it from the oven and flip them over. Add a layer of ricotta cheese then the browned chicken and last a layer of mozzarella into the squash. Put this back in the over at four hundred and cook for another twenty minutes or until the mozzarella starts to brown.

Remove form the oven and let sit for about five minutes, serves four to six people with left overs.

I like to add a diced up tomato or mushrooms into the squash with the chicken, ricotta, and mozzarella. You could add anything you like to give it a little more something.

Basil Cubes
Harvest the fresh basil from the garden and puree it into a mush add a little olive oil and dump these in an ice cube tray. Freeze and save the basil for later use, long after your basil has all frozen outside.

I got some great spaghetti squash this year from the Suzy Dan team, thanks guys we had a great dinner Sunday.

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Bread and Butter Pickles

3 Quarts Bread and Butter Pickles

I added a little chili powder, lemon and pepper to give it a slight bite. I also ignored the onions as I’m no fan of onions and celery. I let these sit with the weight on them for about twenty four hours since I got busy, I think it just let the flavor sink in more.

  • 15 cups sliced cucumbers
  • 3 onions, thinly sliced
  • 1cup coarse salt
  • 4 cups cracked ice
  • 1cups cider vinegar
  • 1cups sugar
  • 3teaspoon turmeric
  • 1teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds

pickles

Directions

  1. Combine cucumbers, onions, salt and ice in a large bowl.
  2. Mix well.
  3. Put a weight on and allow to stand 3 hours. (I used a plate with a jar of honey, anything will do).
  4. Rinse and drain thoroughly.
  5. Combine vinegar, sugar, turmeric, celery seed and mustard seed in a large pot.
  6. Add drained cucumbers.
  7. Place pot on medium low heat.
  8. Bring almost to a boil, but DO NOT ALLOW TO BOIL.
  9. Remove from heat.
  10. Seal in sterilized jars, 10 minutes in a hot water bath.

 

  1. Easy way to sterilize jars: Wash them well in hot soapy water.
  2. Dry them off.
  3. Put on a cookie sheet, right side up, at 225°F for 15 minutes.
  4. Turn off oven and leave them in there until you need them.

 

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BLT Steakhouse and Ford Sync by Microsoft

At first glance you would think these two things have no relation. However they seem to originate from the same place.

I was riding home in works 2015 Ford Escape, equipped with Sync. I asked for some Willie Nelson, which I had loaded on my USB stick and and put in the cars USB port. What played was something entirely different, Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus. I didn’t even know that was on there, but the song always make me laugh and think about the Bama fan. I do love that snippit of video.

Not entirely unlike my visit to BLT Steak in Washington DC. I ordered a stout but they were out and I ended up with a Duck Rabbit brown ale no other stouts on the menu. Then I ordered dinner, a baby spinach salad, spiced tuna and asparagus. What a tasty meal right? The first thing to come out was a Caesar salad. Not to bad I was waffling between that and the baby spinach, maybe this is what I said when I was ordering. But I thought I even pointed the item out on the menu since it was very noisy in there.

Then out comes my steak and baked potato. What? I told the server I had ordered spiced tuna and asparagus, he apologized and took the steak back. Wait a while and a great meal of what I ordered and they added some mushrooms. They also comped a dessert of warm apple cobbler.

I went back to my hotel room happy and full for the night.

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Eco Plug

With a lot of help from Viktor I tinkered with an Eco Plug that I got from Home Depot for $7.50ish. I can turn it off and on using voice commands on Alexa. This has an esp8266 wireless board in it that we loaded with some code to make it look like a WeMo to Alexa.

img_0148

The wires were soldered on temporarily so I could connect a USB FTDI from my PC. There wasn’t enough room inside the plug to leave the wires on so I ended up removing them.

usb-ttl5vt-uart-pinout

Arduino IDE was used to upload to the esp8266. A tutorial for how to work with this is here.

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Wemo Lights

I wanted a way to control my Smart Home devices inside the house if I had no Internet connection. I have a mix of Wemo and Kankun plugs right now that I’m using to control various lamps and my outdoor light.

I built a small web page on my Raspberry Pi with buttons for each device. I need to do a lot of cleanup to get the buttons lined up but what I used for the Wemo devices had a lot of padding around each image that was used. The small red light indicates the switch is on, on the Driveway button no light indicates it is off.

pi-webpage

Below is an image from the Wemo pages that I replaced with the buttons shown above.

on-1

For Wemo’s I used the instructions found here. I had a fair amount of trouble getting this working correctly because of permission issues. First it wouldn’t build the database because of a missing line at the top of wemo_backend.py not sure if I deleted that or if it was just missing but I added “#!/usr/bin/python” and that ran. Then I had to create the logfile in “/var/log/wemo/switchlog”.

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Samsung Smartthings Hub

To get Google Home to play with my WeMo switches I ordered one of these hubs. For about fifty dollars it added a bunch of other features like door and window sensors along with multi sensors that can detect water leaks and motion. I sent Google Home back as it wasn’t as well integrated with other devices  as the Echo Dot ,aka Alexa and cost $99.99 on sale compared to Alexa at $39.99 on sale.

This has been easy to setup but requires another app on my phone and a connection to the cloud to work.

I used the labs section and connected my WeMo devices immediately and they worked with no more problems. I went to the Google Home and said hey google, “turn on the Christmas lights”, and everything worked. With Alexa I didn’t need the smart hub to make this work as the plug for this was a WeMo and native to Alexa.

The hub did add other options though like motion, and temperature sensing. I can’t find a decent doorbell option though. I just want the doorbell to ring inside and record when it was used, no fancy video or two way communication needed.

Geofencing

Once I got my location set this seems to work pretty well.

I have eight devices setup with the hub now, Belkin Wemo, Amcrest SmartPlug, Samsung Multisensor, Aeon Multisensor, and a Samsung Door sensor. The Amcrest SmartPlug has been the most interesting so far, it is a re-branded Kankun plug that needed some slight tweaking to make it work but cost about ten dollars less than the Wemo switch that does the same thing.

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