Anniversary Trip: NC Wine Country

Posted: October 14, 2015 in vacation
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For Christmas (2104), we decided that we should treat ourselves to a weekend away from the kids. We had spoken with Jason Hibbets about suggestions on nc wine country, and decided that was our plan. It only took us 10 months.. and our 19th Anniversary. But, we made the trip, and we had a great time.

We headed out to to the Yadkin Valley. We planned out two days, with a hike at Pilot Mountain Sunday Morning. Like most good adventures, we through out the plan and rolled with the flow. The trip turned out great, and I am willing to say the NC wines are very good. It is not just Muscadine and Scuppernog.


Use at Rag Apple Lassies

We started at Rag Apple Lassie. We were there early in the day, so we had the place to ourselves. Frank, the owner, chatted with us about running a winery, growing grapes in NC, and how to start out. Jenny and I have always chatted about how it would be fun to do a winery at her dad’s place, so it was fun to get the inside scoop while drinking some good wine. Frank suggested we would not like their other winerys we had on our list  so we left the cow and headed over to his suggestion of Raffaldinis.


View From Raffaldinis

Raffaldinis is an Italian winery. The wines were fine, but the place was crowded. Folks came for the view. The person doing the tastings said they picked the location because it looked like Tuscany, and was at the same lattitude. All I know is the view was beautiful.

The winery’s must get along well, because they suggested we head next door to Piccione Vinyard. It was opening day for their tasting room. Their wines were young (vines were about 5 years old), but tasty. We are looking forward to visiting again in a few years.

That night we had dinner at Shelton Winery. We were told that more than three winerys was too much, and they were correct. We owe another trip there to do a real tasting. The original plan stopped at Rag Apple, but all and all, we had a great day.


View of Pilot Mountain


Jenny Looking Beautiful at Pilot Mountain

The next day we planned to work off all the toxins with a hike at Pilot Mountain. The grey skies of the day before broke, and we were treated to great views from the top.  We hiked for about 2.8 miles, stopped to enjoy the views some more, and then planned to head off for our next destination.


No Camels

If you know Nathan, he has a thing for LLamas. So, when we heard there was a winery called Divine LLama, we had to go. Great wines, and a friendly staff. We got an extra glass, and headed down to see the LLamas. We saw happy Llamas, crazy Llamas, and Big Fat Mama Llamas.

At the end of the day, listening to a nice jazz band, we discussed we needed to head home and be parents again. We talked about how everyone we met had suggested we needed to visit Cellar 4201.  We were right around the corner, so like good parents we decided to do one more winery!

Cellar 4201 had the best wine of the entire weekend. Aaron, who chatted with us while there, told us that they prefer quality over quantity. Although they only have 5 acres under grapes, they cut down the vines to only have 2 bunches of grapes. This gets the brix up, and the quality of the wine up. Great wines, and it was great chatting with someone who had helped start a winery 13 years ago on such a small plot of land.

All and all, a great trip and a great anniversary. And, as I started, NC wines are alot better then I had thought. We visited 6 wineries, and liked multiple wines at each. We liked 4 of them enough to buy wine and bring it home. And, after chatting with Aaron, Jenny is now ready to go get some Cab Franc grapes and kick off Brick Quarter Vinyards!

This weekend we spent Sunday morning at a defensive driving course. I have heard of several of these classes, but we went to B.R.A.K.E.S. I say we, because these guys require that the parents and the kids take the course at the same time. The kids get alot more time behind the wheel, but the parent (or parents) get to see what the kids are going through. I am by no means an expert, but a couple of things were obvious to me after this weekend:

First, I don’t know why you would not have your kids go through this. The class was 4 hours. One hour was classroom, 2.5 hours of real world situations, and then 30 minutes of wrap up., The classroom was a bit drivers ed-ish, but probably good for the kids to hear again. The situations where just amazing. They did the skid pad, they locked up the abs breaks and tried to turn, they did a slalom course, and several others. None of the material was new, but doing and experiencing is so much better than just hearing about it. Plus, my son had a blast.

Second, I don’t know why adults do not want to do classes like this. As part of the class, Jenny and I got to do the same Slalom course, the same ABS lockup drills, and several other things. All the while, professional drivers are critiquing how we drive.. which was pretty humbling. We did not get to try the skid pad (bummer) but we did get to try some cool skid car which made every 90 degree turn into a fishtail. Jenny and I learned alot, and we had a blast.

All and All, BRAKES was a great course. A good way to spend a Sunday, and I suggest any parent of a rising driver to check it out.

My son has a week off, and is interested in learning how to write an iPhone App. He has worked with various visual programming environments like Scratch, Lego Robotics, etc. I put together a quick lesson plan for working up to iPhone apps. It walks him through HTML, Javascript, Ruby, Rails and then onto Objective C and XCode. It pulls together tutorials from code academy, kahn, w3schools, and

If anyone has any experience with this, or better paths, I would love to hear them. Thanks!

Over the break, Jenny and I finally finished watching the West Wing. We had seen about 5 seasons when it originally aired. However, we never saw the last seasons. It is amazing, or sad, how well the politics of the show still resonate today. The first few seasons were gay rights, faith in government, social vs fiscal conservatism, and issues in the middle east. All things which dominate the airwaves now. Thanks to all the folks who worked on the show, it was alot of fun to watch. And if you were a writer on the show, Jenny and I would like to hire you to be writers for our lives. You did a great job, and we feel you would improve how we communicate with our kids and co workers.

It took me a while to find this… so I wanted to post it very clearly. You can upgrade a Fedora 18 machine directly to Fedora 20. Thanks to Christine Caulfield for pointing out a few gotchas at However:

fedup --network 20 --nogpgcheck

worked great.

Halloween 2013: The Minion!

Posted: October 29, 2013 in funny, geek stuff
Tags: ,

A few years ago I worked with Nathan to build a Master Chief costume. I had not done one yet for Gillian. Over the summer, Gillian and I had a date night to go see Dispicable Me 2. We both got a kick out of the Bee Do Minion. That seemed like a great idea for halloween, so October 1st we started on the Minion.

First up, was google to try and copy some ideas. I found a really good website with a tutorial here. I am not going to copy another step by step, I will just add the differences. First off, the materials. I found the wallboard equivilant from the totorial at Lowes. As of 2013 in Ralegh, NC the price of the wallboard is $35. So, it was a bit more expensive then was hoping. But I got it, and some bolts, and brought it home.

1I measured the rough circumference of my daughter and guestimated the circumference. We went to a Five below store and purchased an exercise ball just like the While They Snooze guys said, and went to town. The only difference was that we did the paper mache on the tube so that it had a lip to fit “over” the tube later. I learned a couple of things… first… I did not know  how to make paper mache. I found a good recipe here.   I used the raw recipe. Second, fans can dry paper mache alot quicker alot quicker the air drying. We did 6 layers, and alternated the direction each time. I dont know if it mattered or not.

2 Next I measured out my daughter next to the height of the minion. I figured out roughly where the mouth should go. We cut the mouth next, and she was able to try it on. We used webbing and some bolts on the inside to hold up the minion.

After that, we started with the eye. Gillian likes the one eyed minion, so using the cans was not going to work. Nathan is interested in trying to build an iron man costume, so we decided to use EVA foam instead of tin cans. We cut out the width of the mask and shaped it using  a heat gun. The eye itself was another piece of EVA foam which was shaped over a basketball. If you wan to learn about EVA foam, head over to and search there. Lots of good tutorials. The foam you see here is from Harbour Freight, covered with 50/50 glue water and then painted with spray paint.


I went away on travel for a week, and came back to a great pair of overalls which Jenny had made after a trip to Hancock Fabric:


At this point, it was pretty much assembly. I was thinking about paint or using felt for the color. But after failing with the poker felt, and watching this DeadMau5 tutorial we went a more stretchy fabric. You can see us putting it on here with spray on glue. The fabric covered up most of the bumps from the paper mache:


We did a quick Test Assembly:


And then headed back to Joanne Fabrics for a bit of leather for the strap (she thought we were making a batman costume), some white, red, and sheer black. The final product looked like:


And with the happy owner to give a perspective on size:


The hair is an old night light painted black. All and all, a good family project. The company halloween party is in a few days. Here is hoping it goes well! BTW.. if you are a redditor.. vote me up!

At my kid’s school, a couple of times a year the parents are invited in to teach electives to the kids. I thought it would be fun to try to introduce the kids to something fun, and along the way expose them a bit to the open source world.

Now, I am not a graphics person. I have no mad photo editing skills. However, every once in a while I take photos of my kids and swap their heads to just to get a laugh. I figured this was a skill I could teach kids to do that in about an hour. The next step was to incorporate open source. I figured I would not be allowed to install the Gimp on the machines. So, I decided to create a live image for the kids to try on the school computers. I went out to the Fedora Spins Page and created a variation of Fedora 17 which included the Gimp and defaulted the background to the school logo. The desktop looked like:


The next step was to get my live image into school. I made the image small enough to fit onto a CD, but I figured it would be fun if the kids could save their work. I went to work, explained what I was going to do, and begged for donations. I got great support from Mairin Duffy and Robyn Bergeron from the Fedora Project; Theron Conrey from the Ovirt Project; John Adams, David Huff, and Paula Weigel from Red Hat. They were all very generous:


With a bunch of USB keys, I went to work burning the images onto the keys. My son did a couple of test runs for me to make sure things worked, and I learned a bunch about burning live usbs. For example, now know where my laptops hard drive is mounted because I blew it away :). I ended up building the images with the following command:

livecd-iso-to-disk –reset-mbr –home-size-mb 45 –delete-home –force –noverify –unencrypted-home /home/bkearney/code/spin-kickstarts/Lourdes.iso /dev/sdb1

The day of the electives, I ended up having about 20 students over two classes. In each class, I explained about open source, and what Fedora is. I also explained what a live USB was and that they would be running Fedora. We then powered up the Gimp and went through a quick tutorial of putting Darth Vader’s head on top of Tony Stark’s Body. The end product looked like this:


Then they were allowed to play around with a set of faces on the images. I saw things like Taylor-Maximus:


Beyonce Obama, Sorcerer Tim Sherlock Holmes, and Terminator Black Widow. The usb keys would freeze up if they kids saved them. I am not sure if it was how I built the keys, or the hardware.

All and all I think the class had fun. They got to learn a couple of basic photo editing skills, they were introduced to Fedora, and they got to take  home the USB keys and maybe show it to their friends and family. In case you were wondering, I did hide the “Install to Hard drive” option. Although it would be cool to have them use Fedora at home, I figured I may get an upset parent or two. It is still in there tho, so who knows!