Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Jesus' Birth: An Inpromptu Christmas Skit for Children


I found a skit at kidssundayschool.com and used the idea for our weekly Wednesday-night kids program tonight. Thanks to Kidssundayschool.com for the ideas.

Jesus' Birth
About 15 to 20  minutes long
A skit for children from pre-school to 5th grade.

Props:
  • A baby doll
  • three boxes (fancy gift boxes or shoe boxes will do)
Notes
1. If there are multiple children who want to be specific parts, the players can be changed by scene (if four children want to be Mary, they can take turns by scene)
2. Tip: When choosing people to be parts, start with the less popular ones so maybe there won't be so many who want to be the main parts
3. This skit is structured to be done easily without much reading or preparation (this allows younger children to participate who are still learning to read), so the narrator reads the lines to the actors and has them repeat
4. I did this tonight with the children. I held the microphone and talked the children through the scenes: I told them where they should stand and I spoke their parts (off mic) and asked them to repeat (as I held the mic to them).  All the children had a part (not all speaking). For the speaking parts, I used short sentences so they could easily repeat. There was lots of improvisation and I could even ask them questions about the story as we went (and added a bit of humor too). We had about 30 children, with 3 playing Mary (they took turns).  I asked everyone (and the teachers of the various grades) to applaud the players at the end of each scene.

Parts:  (ask in this order so that there isn't too many volunteering for the main parts)
  1. Shepherds (and sheep)
  2. Angels (Leader will select Angels with lines)
  3. Roman Soldier 
  4. Inn keepers (3)
  5. Animals in the stable (one of these can be the donkey)
  6. Magi (3)
  7. Joseph
  8. Mary
  9. Leader/Narrator: it's suggested that this be an adult who leads the actors
Scene 1: Mary's home
(Mary is in her room. An angel from the angel group is selected to deliver the message)
(Angel approaches Mary and she jumps because of being surprised)
Angel: Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.
(Mary trembles)
Angel: Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. ...his kingdom will never end.
Mary: How can this be?
Angel: The Holy Spirit will come on you. The holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
Mary: “I am the Lord’s servant, ,may your word to me be fulfilled.”

Scene 2: Joseph's home
(Joseph is in his bed, sleeping. Another angel is selected from the angel group to deliver the message)
(Angel stands over Joseph and he stirs, but remains sleeping)
Angel: Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because baby in her is from the Holy Spirit.


Scene 3: Town square

Roman Soldier: Hear ye, hear ye. Caesar Augustus declares that there will be a census. Everyone will be counted and must return to their native towns. Let this be known to everyone!

Joseph:  You know, we're from the line of King David, so we must go to Bethlehem
Mary: I'm going to have a baby, this will be a difficult trip and yet, I know that the Lord will be with us.

Scene 4: Road to Bethlehem
Leader/Narrator:  It was a long trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem, especially when Mary was about to have a baby.
(Joseph and Mary and the donkey walk around the room to show they are traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem. This is a good place to ask the audience - which is also the players - where they are going)

Scene 5:  Bethlehem

(Joseph knocks at a door to an inn)      
Innkeeper 1:I'm coming. I'm coming. Hold on.
Joseph     We have been traveling for a long time, do you have any room for us?
Innkeeper 1:I'm sorry, but there is no more room here. Try next door.
(Joseph and Mary walk over to the next inn keeper, and Joseph "knocks" at the door.)
Joseph     We have been traveling for a long time, do you have any room for us?
Innkeeper 2:I'm sorry, but there is no more room here. Try next door.
(Joseph and Mary walk over to the next inn keeper, and Joseph "knocks" at the door.)
Joseph     We have been traveling for a long time, do you have any room for us?
Innkeeper 3:I'm sorry, but there is no more room here.  But, I can see that you need a room for your wife. I have a stable out back. With the animals, it will be warm there. And, there is lots of straw to make you comfortable
     
Scene 6: Inside the stable (pick an area of the room)
(Joseph and Mary are in the stable. Animals are near and making quiet noises)
(note: we have a stable in the front of the church, so I used this opportunity to ask the children questions about the birthplace and explain what the stable was and that the manger was used to hold food for the animals)
Joseph     I know God is with us. It is much better to sleep here than outside.
Mary     Joseph, I don’t feel very well. I am really tired. I am having birth pains. I think it’s time for the baby to be born.
Joseph     Please Mary, lie down here on this nice bed I made for you. It won't be long now.
(the baby prop can be given to Mary at this point)

Scene 7 (A field nearby - pick a section of the room)
(shepherds and sheep baabaa quietly - they can have a chance to baabaa in the mic as the leader holds it for them)
Narrator:  The shepherds where watching their sheep in the fields and angels appeared
(Angels )
Angel 1: Behold! I bring goods news, of a great joy. Today, in the city of David... there is born for you a Savior...who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you...you will find a baby. The baby will be lying in a manger.
All Angels     Glory to God in the highest! And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.
Shepherd 1     Let’s go to Bethlehem and see what the Lord has told us about.


Shepherd 2     Let’s tell our friends and we all go. Praise God for this Good News. Come on it’s a long journey.
     
Narrator     And so the shepherds, after hearing the angels, went to see the Baby.
(ask the Shepherds to walk around the room)
(ask the 3 Magi / wise-men to come to a place away from Joseph, Mary and the baby. Give them the 3 gift boxes)
(ask the Magi to point above the stable)
    
Magi: (I only had one wise man that wanted to speak, you can split the words up among them): Look, a Star!  It must be a king being born! Let's go see!
(Wise Men/Magi walk to the stable area)
   

Scene 8: the stable
(Mary and Joseph, and the baby Jesus are still at the stable, the Magi come near)
(Wise Men/Magi place their gifts before the baby Jesus)
(the shepherds and sheep are directed to come near the stable too - remind the sheep to baabaa quietly)
Angels:     Glory to God in the Highest! And, on earth peace among men!

Shepherds: Let's tell everyone!
(here we transitioned to sing the song that the children are practicing "Go Tell It On the Mountain")
We also told the children about the symbolism of the candy cane (see the mini-booklet link just below). As they left the program for the evening to go home, some volunteers helped me give each of them two mini-booklets and a candy cane (my lovely wife had to go to 5 stores because I directed her not to buy candy canes that were made from other continents- thanks honey).

The two mini-booklets are printables: One about the Symbolism of the Candy Cane and the other about Christmas Symbols.

I'd like to hear if you used this skit (or a variation of it) at your church or Sunday school

The end

Friday, November 06, 2015

Wireless Update: One Year Later: More Than $1000 Saved Using Republic Wireless

By RepublicWireless (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I've been wanting to write a followup to my post last year on this subject. One of our friends just asked us how our cell phone carrier is going, so here's my chance to post here so everyone can see our thoughts.

If you saw my earlier post, we switched to Republic Wireless last year. It's still highly rated (see PC Magazine).

In that post, I mentioned three issues we had. The issues were all fixed soon after that post. The forth item (how they use Sprint as the cell phone carrier) is still the same as far as I know.

Here's how the service has stacked up.

Cost
The cost is low because it uses wi-fi when it's available for talk, text and data. 
We are paying $25 for unlimited talk and text and 1GB 3G cell data/month (Since I have wi-fi in so many places I go, I only use 0.5GB/month of data) for my phone and $10 for unlimited talk and text and wi-fi only data for our second phone. There is a bit of tax on top of this, about 10%. There are also new rebate plans we're considering that give a rebate for unused. Every time we have a little issue with the phones, I keep reminding myself how much I'm saving every month.  There is no contract, it's month to month.

Coverage
Coverage has been very good. We rarely have a dropped call. Only when we were way out in Pennsylvania a few weeks ago did we have to roam. Of course, we live in a densely populated area. Coverage maps are available on their website.Again, I keep reminding myself of how much money I'm saving each month.

Audio Quality
The sound quality isn't quite as good as we experienced with our last carrier (Verizon), but it's still pretty good. Again, I keep reminding myself of how much money I'm saving each month.

Customer Service
This is a bit difficult because they don't have a phone number to call. But, you use the "help" link on the website or their app on your phone and they have a community of people who usually answer your question within 5 minutes with an email. I've found them very helpful and knowledgeable.  They give very clear and concise directions. Again, I keep reminding myself of how much money I'm saving each month.

Phones
You are limited in selection to only the phones they offer. You have to pay for the phone up front, but they offer a free trial period. They are currently Motorola phones (which was acquired by Google) and they all run the android operating system.  We've found them to be pretty good phones with nice features. Maybe they're not as great as an iphone, but I keep reminding myself of how much money I'm saving every month. I have a 1st Generation Moto X, my wife has the Moto E (1st Gen). We're both happy with them.

Texting
We've had some issues with text messages being lost (not sent or not received), but that's infrequent and again, I keep reminding myself of how much money I'm saving each month.  We can send text messages

Phonebook
One aggravating issue is that you can't put in a conference call number, then a pause, then the access code. So, you have to put the access code in manually. Again, I keep reminding myself of how much money I'm saving each month.

Caveats
There is a list of publicly disclosed caveats. I suggest you read them in advance of considering them.

Alternate Wireless Phone Carrier Options
If you look at the PC Magazine article that I linked to above, you'll see some other options. We have someone in the family who is using Straight Talk. They like it. They can chose from a few major carriers and still use any phone they like.

Questions / Comments?  
Do you have any questions or comments to add?  Please let me know and I'll do my best to answer or join in the conversation. What do you think of your cell phone wireless carrier and who are they? Did you find this helpful?





Monday, November 02, 2015

Social Sharing Etiquette : Sharing Good Exciting News the Best Way!






We probably have all heard that we should be careful what we share because "anything on the internet is there forever" and there are employers that look at what you've posted to tell if you qualify for a job or not.  But, what about how to consider our friends and family with our posts?

I've noticed that people we know find lots of success by following the steps below when a big life event comes up (like a wedding engagement, or a something else to celebrate).

I thought it might be helpful to post this so that people can think through it and comment. And, for those who know me, you know I like to analyze things and put them into steps and formulas.

Before the event occurs, it's usually only known to a few people (usually two). So, how do they  get this exciting news out in a considerate way?

What I've seen people do successfully is to first tell their closest family and friends about the announcement. And, VERY IMPORTANT, they ask them not to tell anyone else or make it public until they can tell all their friends and family.

Second, they give their closest family and friends some time to tell others. And, VERY IMPORTANT, to tell those who they are sharing this exciting news with to NOT make it public until the original couple of people announce it publicly.

Then, after their closest family and friends have had a chance to tell their closest family and friends, then they announce it publicly (facebook or whatever).

And, now, everyone can join in and comment and celebrate!

Oh, what fun it is to be spreading the great exciting news!

As Christians, we like to share the best good exciting news! We know a savior who gave his life so that we can be free, so that we can have a relationship with our creator, and so that we can be part of his kingdom now and forever.  He has the lifeboat and we're all sinking.  I'm going to the one with the lifeboat. If you want to know more, let me know. I would be happy to tell you more!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Putting TV and Electronics in Their Place


Photo By Eckhard Etzold (Self-photographed) [CC BY-SA 2.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons




We know families who don't have a TV in their home. When we were married and got our home, we decided to put the TV in the basement room, not in the living room.  This allows us to have a place of relaxing in the living room. And, the living room is a place for conversation. 

I mentioned this to someone recently and they thought it was great, so I thought I'd mention it in a blog post.

We've also seen the rise of electronics in our lives. Smart phones are ubiquitous. People are checking them all the time. I do that too. And, sometimes I don't check it when I should, so I missing important things.

I've been trying to live in the present and not use my smart phone while with people.

What have you done to "put TV and electronics in their place"?



Monday, September 14, 2015

Cabin Fever Part 5: MQTT and IBM Internet of Things Foundation



Note: There is more in a newer post on this topic: Part 6

In our last installment (Part 4) of this long "saga," we ran into some roadblocks with Temboo (namely that it doesn't allow enough free "calls" to it's "choreos" to support checking for email commands at a reasonable rate).  So, I "switched gears" to a new solution:  MQTT, IBM's Internet of Things Foundation, and Bluemix (Programming on the cloud).


I found this tutorial and started working though it

Build a cloud-ready temperature sensor with the Arduino Uno and the IBM IoT Foundation, Part 1: Build the circuit and set up the environment

This is a good tutorial because it takes you step by step through lots of things to learn about the hardware and the software.

Different Temperature Sensor
I have a different temperature sensor, so I had to make some changes..  I just changed the "sketch" (program) to not call the code to get temperature and humidity and I just added a little bit to the temperature every loop so it went up by 0.1 degree.

Lesson Learned: How to Add Arduino Libraries
I ran into an issue with the MQTT library. When I followed the links to download it from Github, I tried to add the library from the Arduino IDE by importing the .zip file I had downloaded. I kept getting errors that the header file was not found (pubsubclient.h). After hours of being stuck on this (in my spare time over two days), I realized that I needed to unzip the .zip file and only move the one pubsub folder into the library folder for the Arduino IDE to find it and use it.

Needed to fix a line of the Arduino Code
I also needed to fix a line in the arduino code. This line:
"messaging.quickstart.internetofthings.ibmcloud.com"
needed to be changed to
"quickstart.messaging.internetofthings.ibmcloud.com"
(you'll find this change in the comments)

I see data!
On the 2nd part of the tutorial, I was able to use the quickstart (although the screens shown in the tutorial changed a bit) and I could see the data being displayed!  Now, that was exciting!


Asking Questions about how to get it working with Node-RED

With all of this excitement of seeing my data, I then started right away on part 3 of the tutorial!  It  has several steps. The screen pictures in the tutorial were different than the current screens. I guess the screens changed a bit. Finally, when I tried to "register" the device (the Arduino), there was no such dropdown that allowed me to register the Arduino as was shown in the tutorial.  I asked by posting comments on part 2 of the tutorial and was told just to create my own device and skip putting in all the information that it asked for.

How Does MQTT Publish and Subscribe work?
I wanted to understand more about MQTT. I got some help from the forums and they pointed me to this for an understanding of The Internet of Things Foundation (publishing events and commands). I found out from reading it that my Arduino with the Ethernet Shield and Temperature Sensor (called a "Device") will be publishing "events." I also found out that the Bluemix app (which I will program in Node-RED) will be publishing "Commands" to the Arduino "device".See the graphic above.

Learning how to use Node-RED and Bluemix:
I learned about Node-RED on Bluemix using this YouTube tutorial (be sure to read the comments for changes). I created an app following the directions there. It uses a temperature sensor simulator at:
https://quickstart.internetofthings.ibmcloud.com/iotsensor/
This was fun to play with!  I could change the temperature and watch how the Node-RED code worked.

What's Next?
 Now that I understand Node-RED a little and MQTT a little, I want to next build a simple application on the Arduino and in Node-RED that will allow me to talk in two directions.  Stay turned for part 6 of my "Cabin Fever" journey.

Monday, September 07, 2015

When You Can't Stop the Weeds, at Least Stop Them From Going to Seed


This week, I take a week off from the "Cabin Fever" project to tackle something else: Weeds.

I've been tackling an area of our yard that has a real lot of weeds. Over the past few years, I've tried mulch and stone to stop them. They are significantly diminished from the "jungle" that used to be there, but they are very persistent. I don't want to use roundup due to the health hazards and because this is near an area that drains into the storm drains and then to the river down the street. I hired a college student recently to help pull the weeds and after 4 hours, he had 6 full size trash cans filled to capacity. That worked for a while, but now, they're back!

I'm reminded of a joke I heard:
A daughter was starting out in her new marriage and was working on a flower garden. She called her mom and asked "When I'm weeding, how can I tell which are weeds and which are the flowers?" Her mom answered "pull everything up, the ones that come back are the weeds."

My new goal
So, over the past few months, I've come up with a goal:  I will prioritize pulling out any weeds that are about to go to seed. If I see the seed pods starting to form, they are the ones I pull out first. I can't keep up with pulling them all at once, but at least I can stop them from spreading.

There has to be a lesson here for life
I got to thinking; there has to be a lesson here in life. Maybe we can't tackle all of our challenges at once, but we can at least stop them from spreading.  Is there something that you've been putting off and it's only festering as a result?  Is it getting worse because you're avoiding it?  Is it spreading out into other areas, spilling over into other parts of your life or relationships?  Is it time to "pull those weeds?"

Proverbs 24:30-34 Is a also a good lesson for us. It's a different thought about weeds, take a look!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Cabin Fever Part 4: New Plans For How The Unit Will Work

In Part 3 of this "Cabin Fever" project, we were able to get a Temperature reading sent by email.

We realized that it was quite a lot of work for this little computer (technically a microcontroller) to send email. Now, we wanted it to receive emails too.

Revisiting the Original Plans
Our original plans were to:
1. Read a Temperature
2. send an email when the temperature was below some setpoint (like 32 degrees Fahrenheit which is the same as Zero degrees Centigrade, the freezing point of water).
3. Send an email every day with the past 24 temperatures that were read for each of the past 24 hours so we know that the unit is still working
4. Take a command from an email that tells the until to report temperature
5. Maybe, just maybe, also report when power failed

We have realized now that we need to simplify this a bit to allow it to fit into the small RAM memory (1K) on the Arduino Uno we are using.

New Plan
So, the new plan is as follows:
1. Read a Temperature
2. send an email (and copy the email address for the cell phone) when the temperature was below some setpoint (This will orignally be set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit because that is what was requested by the person I'm doing this for).
3. Send an email every week (and copy the email address for the cell phone) with the temperature so we know that the unit is still working
4. Take a command from an email that tells the until to report temperatures  (it will tell how often and how many times)
5. Forget about reporting when the power failed, it's just not practical at this time.

Detailed Requirements
This is what we decided when thinking about the details of the above:

1. When it starts up, it will send the temp once just to let you know it's working (and if it comes back from a power failure)
2. It will send the temp once a week just so you know it's still working
3. When it senses a temp below some setpoint (originally 40 degrees F) then it will send the temp.

It will work in 15 minute increments.
If the temp remains below the setupoint, it will send the temp every hour for the next 24 hours
Then it will send the temp only once a day.
(note: to use the email sending service on temboo that I selected, they only allow a certain number of free "calls" to their routines per month: 250, otherwise you need to pay )

Of course, if the temp goes above the setpoint, it will send one email to show the temp was above the setpoint , then it will stop sending emails again.

4. We can send an email to cause it to send some temps.
The subject of the email message must have the following characters, then it will send the temp according to the parameters:
CFRxx,yy
Where CF means "Cabin Fever" (the name I gave this project)
and
Where R means "Report"
and
where xx is the number of readings you want it sent (01 to 99)
and
where yy is a two digit number of the multiple of 15 minutes (01 to 99)
So, for example,  The following command:
CFR08,12
will cause it to send 8 temp readings that would each be 3 hours apart (12*15minutes)

5. If there is enough memory, I would also suggest we support a command to set the setpoint
CFTzz
where zz is a two digit setpoint temp in Fahrenheit

Issues with Oauth
In order to use Tembo to get gmail emails,we need to set up Oauth. You've probably seen it before, it's usually used when you allow a website to use your facebook or email login to login to some third party website. Oauth (Open Authorization) is used a lot for this. You can read more on it here on wikipedia and technical info here on the Oauth.net website.
This isn't all that complicated, there are instructions, but I ran into a problem that used up 3 to 4 hours because my temboo password had a backslash in it and that was causing issues with the temboo website. It took about a dozen emails  back and forth over 3 days with the temboo support staff to figure out that the password I had used was the issue.

New Issues with Temboo
Once I got past that obstacle, I started looking into the Temboo "choreo" that allowed me to get emails.  I realized that Temboo only allows 250 free "calls" per  month. I want the "Cabin Fever" until to check for an email and when there is on, use the information in the email to tell the "Cabin Fever" unit how often to report temperatures.  Well, since checking for email is a "call" that counts toward the 250 free calls per month, that limits how often I can check for emails.   Using a little math:
24 hours / day X  30 days / Month  / 250 Calls /month =  2.88 hours/call.
So, we would only be able to check email every 2.88 hours. Not good.
We need a new solution.

IBM Bluemix and the Internet of Things Foundation
So, I am now looking into IBMs Internet of Things Foundation and Bluemix programming on the cloud.

An account for Bluemix is free for 30 days and I understand it's also free after that as long as you stay under certain limits.
So, I am following this tutorial and I'll be posting more info about this next.
"Build a cloud-ready temperature sensor with the Arduino Uno and the IBM IoT Foundation, Part 1: Build the circuit and set up the environment"

See part 5







Monday, August 24, 2015

Cabin Fever Part 3: Sending the Temperature Using Email


In the last installment of this project, I was able to send email.
This next part of the project is to send the temperature in an email.
The Hardware: Adding the sensor to the Shield
 I wondered if the Ethernet Shield would be using pin 2 where I had connected the temperature sensor in the first part of this project. I thought about reading up on the shield to find out, but then I decided to just try it.  So, I added the sensor to pin2, then I reloaded the first program and it worked! So, "all systems are go" from the hardware standpoint.
Running out of Memory
I quickly found out that I could run out of memory with the Arduino Uno. My program started doing weird things when I had long text strings to send (when I tried to send the temp in Centigrade and Fahrenheit with those words like I did in the first part of this project).  This used up a bit of the time to figure out too.
Simplify
So, I changed to having a very minimal program. I only sent the temperature.
I was able to send the temperature to two email addresses and to the email address for the cell phone so that it came to the cell phone as a SMS message!

What's Next?
So, then, since I decided to simplify, what would come next?  My original plans to do so much seemed too complex and out of reach with the memory constraints.  It was time to "go back to the drawing board."
What do you think would be a next step or a re-planing?
(see Part 4)


Monday, August 17, 2015

Cabin Fever Project Part 2: Sending Email


In the first part of this project, I was able to get the unit reading the temperature.
This second part of the project was be able to send email (so that I could send the temperature).

I spent about 5 or 6 hours total on this part of the project.

The Hardware
As you can see in the photo above, I was able to just plug the ethernet shield into the Arduino Uno board.  They just stacked on top of each other. There seems to be a clearance issue between the ethernet cable socket on the shield and the USB socket on the Uno below it, but I can put an insulator in there later. For now, I just made sure they were not touching; we don't need any electrical shorts now, do we?

Barking up the wrong tree (going down a path that led to nowhere)
The first 2 to 3 hours was spent following a few instructions I had found for using one technique to send emails (located here and here and here). But, after trying to get email working using this technique (an email SMTP server), I was not able to get it to work. It seems that finding an SMTP server that doesn't require encryption (SSL or TLS) isn't possible anymore. And, the Arduino isn't powerful enough to do encryption. Also, it appears that projects that used free services in the past (like twilio and SMTP2GO), no longer appear to be free to use (for some I seem to be able to set up a free account to test, but then have to pay to use it regularly).

Using a Service
So, I found this article about using a service called Temboo. It's free if you make less than a certain number of calls per month. I don't see us going over that number, but I can program it so that we don't.

Within a few hours of playing with this service (I was slowed by some technical issues of being logged out of the Temboo service), I was able to get it to send email from the Arduino.

 I also was able to send a text message (SMS) to a cell phone by sending an email to a specific email address for the phone carrier. Most carriers support this.


(Note: upon writing this, I also found some other means to send email. I may want to check these out:  sendgrid article (which talks about using node.js code instead of C for the Arduino) and this article which talks about using MongoDB for storing data)

So, now I have the email working. The next step is to connect part 1 of the project (Temperature) and Part 2 of the project (sending email) together so that I can send the temperature via email.

Stay tuned!
(see part 3)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Cabin Fever - A Temperature Sensor and Alert for A Cabin Away From Home

Part 1 of a multiple part story...

I wanted to help out someone I know by making a temperature sensor that would alert them if they were away from their cabin and the temperature went below freezing (which could cause the pipes to freeze). I through it would be fun to use the term "Cabin Fever" as the name of this project.

I started with an Arduino Uno Microcontroller. Arduino is open source hardware, so I have a clone.

There are three components to this project:
1. Temperature - we want to measure temperature
2. Email for notifications - we want to send a notification when the temperature is below a certain point (and, if possible, receive email so we can get commands to send a report or change the setpoint temperature)
3. Time - we want to record the time of when we get the temperature (we want to have an option of sending a report of past hourly temperatures with their corresponding time)

And, maybe (if possible) we might add a 4th component:  Sensing a power outage because this unit won't be too helpful if the power goes out too!

Parts to Buy:
  • Arduino Uno
  • Ethernet Shield (this allows the Uno to be connected to the internet to send and receive emails)
  • DS18B20 Temperature sensor
  • Power supply
  • Case to hold it all in
  • a few extra parts:  4.7K Ohm Resistor, Connecting wires

Here's how I tackled the project:
1. Temperature
I found a "sketch" (program) for the Arduino uno for the DS18B20 temperature sensor.  To connect the hardware, I looked at the diagram there. I found another article that helped me understand the pinout a bit better. I connected up the hardware and had it printing out the temperature through the serial monitor. You can see the three wires and resistor I connected in the photo above.

This worked really well and I had temperature readings working within and hour of starting!

Since the sensor reports in Centigrade, I did add some code to convert it to Fahrenheit.

 Serial.print(temperature);
  Serial.print(" Degrees C, ");
  temperature = (temperature * 9.0) /5.0 +32.0;
   Serial.print(temperature);
  Serial.println(" Degrees F");
 delay(1000); //just here to slow down the output so it is easier to read

Originally, I was getting the wrong conversion to Fahrenheit, so I found this article that taught me to use 9.0, 5.0, and 32.0 which fixed the conversion error.

Here's the output I'm getting:
24.69 Degrees C, 76.44 Degrees F
Our thermometer here says it's 75 degrees, so that's pretty close.

So, now I'm getting the temp readings.

My next task is to get the function working to send emails. That will be in my next post.






Monday, August 10, 2015

Treat People Well While They Are Still With Us

Recently we've had some people leave us : People have passed away (some seemed way too young), people have moved away, and people have left our employer and moved on.

One of these people passed away (at a relatively young age) just recently. At one point, she had posted on Facebook a story about a child in her family asking why we treat people so well after they're gone. He asked why we don't treat them well while they're with us.

This is a good question and something to think about. I'm trying to remember to treat people well while they are still with us. I'm learning to spend time with people now. I'm learning to encourage and compliment people now - while they are with us. 

The Bible says: "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."  (Romans 12:18)
And "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." (Philippians 2:3).

What are your thoughts on this subject?

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Story of the Orange (negotiating)

The Orange
 

Even though I have 39,000 views of my blog, I have only one follower, so I guess I need to step things up a bit here. I'm going to try to post every Monday.

This is a story I heard in a negotiation class:

The Orange

There were two children (a boy and a girl) who were fighting over the last orange when their mom walked into the kitchen.
The mom took the orange, cut it in half and gave each child half.
This seemed to be a good compromise to make them each somewhat happy.
Neither of them were very satisfied with the result.
After more questioning, the mom found out that the son wanted to eat the fruit and the daughter wanted the peel to make orange zest for a recipe she was working on.

So, the point of the story is that sometimes we quickly think of a compromise (we're jumping to the "solution") when if we spend time to listen to the "need" we may find a better solution that meets the goal best (a better "negotiation").

So, when negotiating (and we use negotiations all the time in life and at work), try to find out the needs and goals of each party before we jump to solutions.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Pros and Cons of Having a Dog



A friend recently mentioned that they are thinking about getting a dog. So, I thought it would be good to blog about having a dog.

When I was a child we had a midsize dog that was a mix of mongrel and beagle and a few other special ingredients. Now we have Toby who is a miniature dachshund.
Every breed has its pluses and minuses.

Here are some pro's and con's about having a dog
Pro's
1. They show they're love like nothing else. When you come home, it's like it's a party!
2. They are good listeners
3. They get you out of the house for exercise
4. They're compassionate
5. They're good watch dogs and will warn you in a time of danger
6. They can learn tricks and they are very entertaining to watch
7. They're soft (usually)
8. They are fun to play with
9. Dog is God spelled backwards (here's a song about it)

Cons
1. Somebody has to take care of them all the time (even after your child's promise that they will do it wears thin). Small breeds are less work, they are lighter, make less messes, fit in smaller spaces, etc.
2. They bark a lot sometimes
3. You will need to find someone to care for them when you go out or pay for them to be in a kennel or have someone care for them in your home
4. Because not many places allow dogs, you sometimes are held back from doing things you would do otherwise. But, that's what love is all about, caring for another more than yourself.

So, 9 Pros and only 4 Cons!  What are your questions or thoughts about dogs?  Please comment.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

What to do Before you Lose your Mobile Device (or it's Stolen)

I recently misplaced my cell phone for almost a day. As you can see in the photo here, I had dropped it in the driveway and shoveled it away while shoveling snow after church a few Sundays ago.

It's not the first thing I've lost.

Whether you have a cell phone or a tablet, here are some things I learned from this episode and "events" when I've lost other things. I've listed my tips in the following categories:

1. What to do before you misplace, lose, break, or drop in water your mobile device (or have it stolen)
2. What to do after its gone

1.  Beforehand

Make it easy for someone to return
Put a label on it with contact number and address
Put contact info on the screen. Many phones let you put a message in the lock screen or change the background screen. You can make a background screen with your contact info.

Make it easy to find
Install the iOS Find my iPhone app or the "Android Device Manager" app

Make it difficult to Steal
Put a screen lock on the phone so that if someone steals it, then they can't get to all your private information. (you can usually find this in settings).
Use an app that allows you to wipe your phone if someone steals it (iOS Find my iPhone app or the "Android Device Manager" app)

Backup your data regularly
For ios devices you can use icloud
For Android (and some of these apps work on ios devices) you can use google sync or "Back up photos from a mobile device"
You can also use the Flickr app on ios or android and it will automatically upload all of your mobile photos!

2. When it's gone
Find it right away 
Don't wait for the battery to die (like I did). Use your "find my phone app" or call it.
Retrace your steps
Where did you last see it? Where did you go since then?

Use online tools
If you are using a mobile device that you have connected to a Google account, this tool can show you where the last places are that it was located: Google Location History (Try it now to see where you've been).  This was very helpful to me when I shoveled my phone into the snow and the battery died because it was so cold!  I could tell that it was somewhere near my house. 
To set up location history on your mobile device, you might want to read the following:

If it's been stolen, wipe it clean
If the phone is stolen, consider using one of the apps mentioned above (iOS Find my iPhone app or the "Android Device Manager" app) to wipe the phone of all your data.

 What pointers to you have?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Learn From "Safety Warnings"

One of the companies I worked at in the past wanted to increase their safety record. A person was brought in to talk about safety. What I remember most was that he told us that when we get a "safety warning", we should learn from it and remove the safety issue.
   For example, if someone trips over something, but they are alright, they should move it so no one else trips over it and gets hurt more seriously. Or, they should report it to someone who can get it moved.
   Another example of how I've applied this is if I have a thought like "someone could get hurt by that " then I act on the "safety warning" and remove the issue before someone does get hurt.
   How can you keep this in mind the next time you get a "safety warning?"