If you haven’t signed up for a VPN service yet, you need to. I’ve been a customer of Private Internet Access for more than a year now, and the annual $40 has been more than worth it.

Here’s a quick list of what I’ve used it for:

  • Tunneling torrents through it
  • Connecting to IRC networks that don’t use SASL and/or mask your IP
  • Watching Netflix outside the US1
  • Connecting securely to public wifi

Especially that last one. Every time you sit down at a Starbucks, a public library, or anywhere with a publicly available wireless network, there could be someone listening in on your wireless transmissions. It doesn’t require much knowhow to pull off either.

Note this matters even more when you log in to websites that aren’t using a secure connection (http://). Your credentials transmit in plain text. That should scare you.

So get a VPN account, set it up, and start browsing securely.

  1. This goes both ways: sometimes you want access to the US catalog from outside the country, and sometimes you want access to another country’s catalog (e.g. Canada’s) from inside the country. 

I’ve created a WordPress plugin that uses Parsedown as a Markdown processor. I actually finished version 0.1 a few weeks ago, but I wanted to iron a few bugs out before I announced it publicly.

It functions as a 100% drop-in replacement for the original Markdown plugin, PHP Markdown Extra by Michel Fortin. Everything is the same, down to the same filter behaviors and priorities.

Unlike other plugins, my plugin has no settings. Just upload the plugin, activate it, and you’re off.

Download Parsedown for WordPress v0.3.

The plugin’s page in the WordPress repository has more information. Development takes place over on GitHub, where you can also report any bugs you come across.

If you’re looking for a live example, this site is currently using the latest version.

My half marathon stats

After training for almost 4 months, this morning I ran my first (and probably only) half marathon at the Lake Sammamish Half. My realistic goal was to get under two hours, with my “wishful goal” being under 1:45. I’m proud to say I ran it in a few seconds over 1:44, achieving both of my goals.

To train, I used Hal Higdon’s guide for novices, and I recommend it as a reasonable way to get prepared for a half. Unfortunately, I had been too busy to do the long runs on weekends for the past three weeks, so I was a little worried going into this half. This probably made the last few miles harder than they should have been.

Pacing myself for 13.1 miles

I stuck to a pace between 8:30 and 8:50 per mile in training, but I managed to hold just under 8:00 per mile for the real event. The first few miles are always a little rough, but once I warmed up around mile 5 or 6 autopilot kicked in and the miles just racked up.

Getting to 10 miles felt good, since that meant double digits. But after 11 miles, everything became infinitely harder. Mile 12 was almost all a zigzag through a park, and it was absolute torture to keep running back and forth next to people ahead of you. The last 2 miles or so felt like they took an eternity. I think the middle 60% of the distance went by the easiest.

Map of the half marathon

How far 13.1 miles really is didn’t kick in until the shuttle ride back from the finish to the start. The bus drove back on a lot of the running route, and the time it took the bus to get back really emphasized how far we had ran.

I just wanted to finish and get a time I was happy with, and I accomplished both these goals. I can say I’ve ran a half marathon in under 1:45 and had fun doing it, but it’s hard to say I would want to do it again.

Note that I started this post more than a week ago, but only finished writing it now.

A little more than two weeks ago, I discovered a rat living in my house, to my horror. I’m pleased to report that this nightmare has come to an end.

The exterminator came by a few days after I first discovered the rat’s presence to assess the situation and leave some traps out, baited with peanut butter but not primed. Since some of my own lesser quality traps had gone off without catching anything, he opined that the rat may have became “bait shy,” so the first priority was to retrain it in thinking the peanut butter was safe to go after.

A few days later, after some of the traps had been licked clean, the exterminator returned to put more peanut butter out and prime the traps. This whole time I had been keeping food and plants out of the rat’s reach (apparently rats can have a 36 inch vertical2, so this wasn’t that easy), and spent my nights sleeping with towels stuffed under my bedroom doors.

Then, it finally happened. Around two or three in the morning, a loud snapping sound woke me up, followed by the sound of something bulky and solid tumbling around in the room directly above me. It didn’t stop on its own, so I eventually went up to see what the commotion was. This is what I found:

Despite its neck being caught in the trap, it was still very much alive, squealing and struggling to break free. Not wanting to deal with this at three in the morning, I put a bucket over the trapped rat, then stacked some textbooks on top of the bucket, then put a suitcase on top of the textbooks. Somehow, I still wondered if it would get out.

I didn’t have time to deal with the situation in the morning, so fast forward to 16 hours later when I’m finally at home with some time to take care of the rat. I took the suitcase, textbooks, and bucket off and found the rat was still alive. Not just barely alive, but as alive as it was at 3 AM. In fact, I’m not sure if that above video was from that morning or evening.

I had already called the exterminator, and he came by to take the rat and remaining traps away. He looked around and concluded that was very likely the only rat in the house, so it appears my saga has finally come to an end.

I foresee much Clorox and paper towels in my immediate future.

  1. Terrifyingly enough, this is about the height of my dining table. 

Smarter Archives 3.2.2 has been released. This update has the following:

  • Updates to the Italian (it_IT) translation
  • A new Dutch (nl_NL) translation, thanks to Micha

Download it now.