Sunday, November 4, 2012

Site update check script (or how I knew the Viriginia Bar results within 5 seconds)

Joy just passed the Virginia bar (congrats baby!!!). The way that bar results work  in Virginia, is at some random time over the span of a couple days the list of everyone who passed gets posted to This results in 1500 people staring at their computer endlessly beating the refresh key. To save Joy the stress on her fingers I wrote up a script to do it for her. I thought of two different ways of doing it.

1. Using the document.lastModified property

2. Checking the filesize of that webpage.

2 seemed like a cleaner/quicker option but did have the extremely unlikely chance that the modified page would be exactly the same size as the unmodified page. To fix this, I decided to do a checksum instead of a file size check. I also had it either dump the page to shell or email a copy of the source code just in case it got changed back quickly. I wrote the script in a way I could reuse it in the future. It should work on any *nix system. However, if you want an email instead of a shell output you will need to have mutt installed and outgoing mail properly configured. It will probably not work correctly on most dynamically generated sites. I’m sure there are better ways of going about this but this worked well for me and let Joy and me know results were up within 5 seconds of them being posted. Example usage and output below.

[harlow]$ ./
Usage: $site [$email] [$sleep (default 30)]

harlow]$ ./ 5
Sun Nov 4 19:57:13 PST 2012 no change
Sun Nov 4 19:57:18 PST 2012 no change
Sun Nov 4 19:57:23 PST 2012 no change
Sun Nov 4 19:57:28 PST 2012 no change
Change detected. Sending email to
Sun Nov 4 19:57:38 PST 2012 no change
Sun Nov 4 19:57:43 PST 2012 no change

Script can be downloaded at

Or it’s dumped at:

#! /bin/bash

#Check for at least one variable

if [ $# == 0 ]
echo “Usage: \$site [\$email] [\$sleep (default 30)]”

#Create temp file


#Create initial md5 sum

curl -s $1 > $tmp
md5old=`md5sum $tmp | awk ‘{print $1}’`

#Get site again, compare to inital md5 checksum, rinse, repeat

while true; do
curl -s $1 > $tmp
md5=`md5sum $tmp | awk ‘{print $1}’`
if [ $md5 != $md5old ]
if [ -z $2 ]
echo “change detected”
cat $tmp
echo Change detected. Sending email to $2
echo $1 |  mutt -a $tmp -s “$1 updated” $2
echo `date` no change
if [ -z $3 ]
sleep 30
sleep $3

posted by admin at 8:02 pm  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Odom Family Cane Grinding 2011

Every year, on Green Friday (the day after Thanksgiving, not to be confused with Black Friday, its evil twin), my family has its annual cane grinding. The first cane grinding on my family’s farm was some time in the late 1800’s, however it was stopped about 60 years ago and not started again until 2005 when my father rebuilt the original shelter that housed the boiler.

The process we use changes from year to year but the following is a description of the process as it was done in 2011.


The preparation for the grinding is usually done 1 to 2 weeks earlier and the process hasn’t really changed in the last 100 years. The leaves of the cane must be stripped off using a tool with a forked metal piece on the end.

A machete is used to cut the tops off the cane stalks and to cut them down.

The stalks are placed in wooden holders designed to fit approximately 1/2 of a boiling and be easily transported using a tractor forklift.

The stacks of cane are covered in the leaves that were stripped off earlier to protect them if there is a freeze during the 1 – 2 weeks they are there.

The Grindin’

The leaves are cleared off of a stack of cane and a fork lift on the back of a tractor is used to pick it up.

The cane is then sat down on a rack designed to make it easy to reach the cane and feed it into the grinder.

The cane is then fed into a Kenwood 1895 No. 0 grinder which is powered by driving a tractor in circles around the grinder

The juice comes out and is strained with a tea strainer and a burlap sack.

The juice then runs through an underground pipe system until it comes out and flows into a 60 gallon cast iron pot.

Once the pot is full, the juice level is brought down using the drain valve and then the juice is diverted into a 55 gallon barrel so that grinding can continue while the juice is cooking.

The Boiling

A gas burner under the pot is lit using a homemade matchstick.

Once the juice starts boiling (usually 20 – 30 minutes), a homemade skimmer made by wiring a grease splatter guard to a handle is used to skim any impurities that come to the surface off of the cane.

Once the juice start boiling up, a burlap sack is placed between the lower and upper rims of the pot. The juice then boils over the lower rim and through the burlap sack, further purifying it.

Once the juice is getting near done the level drops and the burlap is pulled off. The juice will then start “thumping,” or having explosive bubbles that shoot the juice up to 2 feet above the surface of the rest of the liquid.

There are two methods of telling when the syrup is ready to be bottled. The first is counting how long it takes for the boiling bubbles to cease once it is scooped up. The magic number is 37 but this is not 37 seconds, it is specific length of counting that is passed down from one generation to the next.

The second method is measuring the density of the liquid using the Baumé scale. The density of syrup when it is ready to be bottled is approximately 35 baume.

Once the syrup is ready you can see it flake when you pour it.


The syrup is then poured through a cotton cloth to purify it one last time.

The syrup is then put into the bottles from the aluminum pot which was fitted with a brass valve at the bottom.

The bottles are then labeled and ready to go!

posted by admin at 8:56 am  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Random Pic of 2011

Taken from my apartment on an overcast evening (not many of those to choose from) looking back towards the Hollywood letters.

posted by admin at 2:31 pm  

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Free in LA – The Nethercutt Museum and Collection

One of the hidden gems of Los Angeles is the Nethercutt Collection in Sylmar. This is a large collection of cars and musical equipment that was collected by the founder of Merle Norman. When he opened the collection to the public, he funded it with a trust ensuring that the public could view the entire collection at no charge. The tours of the Nethercutt Collection are by reservation only.

The first part of the tour goes into a room that is designed to look like a car showroom from the 1930’s. All of the cars here, and throughout the museum, are well maintained and functioning.

Later in the tour, they had a room full of orchestrians. These are basically large mechanical musical instruments that are a combination of many different instruments meant to sound like an orchestra. The picture above is of me standing beside one 🙂

This is one of the smaller orchestrians opened so that you can see the mechanical gears inside.

Across the road from the Nethercutt Collection is the Nethercutt Museum. This is a large room with row upon row of old cars. The cars were so well polished it was impossible to take a picture without getting myself in it!

One final attraction is behind the museum. They have a 1937 Canadian Pacific Royal Hudson Locomotive. The train is also pulling a private car that you can tour.

We only lived a couple miles from here but if you are in the LA area, it is definitely worth the drive into The Valley to see the Nethercutt Collection and Museum! More info at

posted by admin at 11:16 pm  

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Picture of the [insert random time period]

This Halloween Joy and I went to my company Halloween party as ghosts from “It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.” While we were at the party, Joy got this awesome shot of me. A little more sinister than I had planned for the costume to be but still fun 😛

Charlie Brown Ghost

posted by admin at 11:09 pm  

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Free in LA – Grunion Run

Friday, April 30, 2010, Joy and I went to Last Friday’s in Santa Monica. This is where the businesses on Santa Monica’s Main Street stay open late and give specials, deals, and discounts on the last Friday of each month. After this, we made our way to Venice Beach to the Venice Oceanarium Grunion Party.

You may be wondering what a grunion is and why it would be partying. A grunion is a small fish that can only be found off the coast of southern California and Baja, Mexico. The grunion is partying because it is mating season. They have an unusual mating ritual where the female buries herself in the sand, the male wraps himself around the female, and then they both swim off.

We were given some illumination by the moon, but we were glad we brought our flashlight with us.

Soon, we started catching glimmers of the fish as they swam off.

I gave the flashlight to Joy. She was a lot better at spotting grunions than me.

This guy was trying to catch one but failed to notice the one swimming by his foot.

“Hey, have you seen any cute cold-blooded guys around here?”

“Nevermind, I found one.”

“Bye, come back soon for another Free in La. Thanks @365cheapdates for the idea.”

posted by admin at 9:26 pm  

Monday, April 5, 2010

Free in LA – International Pillow Fight Day

On April 3rd at 3:00 p.m., I was at Pershing Square. A picture speaks 1000 words. Here are 83,000 words.

posted by admin at 2:10 pm  

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Free in LA – Olvera Street “Blessing of the Animals”

Each year, on the Saturday before Easter, just outside of Union Station on Olvera Street, a tradition takes place. It is the “Blessing of the Animals.” Hundreds bring their pets and livestock to be blessed by the priest.

There is also live singing and dancing, both traditional Latino and Aztecan.

This dog is super excited about have a priest spray him with water,

as is this Alpaca,

and this dog and rabbit sharing a baby carriage.

As cows have given us the most, they are first in the parade.

Since llamas look cool, they go in the middle.

Snakes are scary so they go last. This one goes very last, far far away from me.

There are also a ton of vendors selling various items. Joy wanted a sombrero, but with our small budget we couldn’t get her a full size one 😀

posted by admin at 10:58 pm  

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Free in LA – Mount Hollywood

An awesome way to get out and meet people as well as have some fun is by joining a meetup group. They have them all over the US in hundreds of different areas of interest. We are a member of the local hiking meetup group. On March 26, 2010, we had a TGIF hike to the peak of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park. Mount Hollywood is a very interesting hike. You are in on an undeveloped mountain top. You can here coyotes and other wildlife yet you are completely and total surrounded by a city that stretches for as far as the eye can see. I didn’t bring my tripod so the pictures aren’t as sharp as I’d like. These pictures are representative of the view in every direction from the top of Mount Hollywood at night.

This is from the top of Mount Hollywood looking south. You can see downtown on the left side of the image.

This is the Hollywood sign with Hollywood in the background.

This is looking down at the Griffith Observatory with Los Feliz behind it.

posted by admin at 7:47 pm  

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Snow in south Georgia?

The last time it snowed in my hometown, I was 3. The first year I move to Los Angeles (it ain’t snowing here) it snows 😀 My brother asked me to remove the date stamp of the following pic so I decided to play around with it a little. Picture was taken by my father, Dennis Odom. All rights reserved. All editing done using Gimp.

Image with date stamp removed and color adjusted.

Grayscale, high contrast

Color, high contrast

posted by admin at 4:11 pm  
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