Mortgage Account Finances

Budgeting has always been an interest of mine, here I figure out a way to get two "free" mortgage payments a year!

Read more at Mortgage Account Finances

Thread Safety in Node.js

Probably my last post about Node.js for a while. My original implementation of the webserver used page objects in the following way:

index.html -> /site/pages/index.js

Meaning that when index.html was requested, index.js was located and executed. A side effect of this, using the node.js construct "require", is that the js page will only be loaded once. Which was bad because I had my code structured in the following way:

//index.js: this.title = "My page title"; this.load = function(..., finishedCallback){ this.title = figureOutDynamicTitle(parameters); finishedCallback(); }

Granted, when someone went to index.html, there was a very small time that they might get the wrong title, in this example. But for things, like setting an array on the page to the value loaded from the database, or where you might have another case in the load function where the array doesn't get set at all, there's a very good chance that someone will see something that someone else was only supposed to see.

How I fixed this was to pass back the page object to the finishedCallback. The page object was declared, built and passed back all within the context of the load function, so it never has a chance to be wrong! This is how it looks now

//index.js this.load = function(..., finishedCallback){ var page = { title: figureOutDynamicTitle(parameters) }; finishedCallback({ page: page }); }

This works. And it's super fast still.

Borrow the good, discard the bad

In my many years of web development, I've come across a lot of good ways that platform authors did stuff, and a lot of bad ways. So I'm writing my version of a web platform on Node.js, and I decided to keep the good stuff, and get rid of what I didn't like. It wasn't easy but I'm pretty much finished by now.

As with most things I develop, I'll decide on an architecture that allows for changes to be made in a way that makes sense, but I'll start with what I want the code to look like. Yes. When I wrote my ORM, I started with the simple line,; (it turns out that's how you do it in MongoDB so I didn't have to write an ORM with Mongo :) When starting a web platform, I started out the same way.

I wanted to write:

<list value="${page.someListVariable}" var="item">
Details for ${}
<include value="/template/item-template.html" item="item" />

Obvious features here are code and presentation separation, SSIs, simple variable replacement with ${} syntax.

There aren't a lot of tags in my platform. There's an if, which you can use to decide whether to output something. There's an include, which you can pass variables from the main page so you can reuse it on many pages. This one takes an "item" object, which it will refer to in its own code with ${item}.

Recently I added a layout concept. So you can have your layout html in another file, and just put things into the page in the page's actual html. For instance, you might reach the file index.html, which would look like this:

<layout name="main">
<content name="left-column">
<include value="/template/navigation.html" />
<content name="main-column">
<include value="/template/home-content.html" />

Java Server Faces used a two way data binding mechanism which was really helpful. But then you need controls, like input[type=text] or whatever. My pages will not have two way data binding, but you can use plain html. Which I like better. (However, those controls were very simple to swap due to the generous use of interfaces by Java, and their documentation pretty much mandating their use. e.g. using ValueHolder in Java instead of TextBox, and if you were to make it a "select" or input[type=hidden], your Java code would not have to change, which is one thing I absolutely hate about ASP.NET).

I borrow nothing from PHP.

ASP.NET pretty much does nothing that I like, other than it's easy to keep track of what code gets run when you go to /default.aspx. The code in /default.aspx.cs and whatever Page class that inherits, or master page that it's on. In Java Server Faces you're scrounging through xml files to see which session bean got named "mybean".

My platform is similar to ASP.NET in that for /index.html there's a /site/pages/index.js (have I mentioned that it's built on node.js), that can optionally exist, and can have 1-2 functions implemented in it, which are "load" and "handlePost", if your page is so inclined to handle posts. Another option is to have this file exist, implement neither load nor handlePost, and just have properties in it. It's up to youme.

Here's a sample sitemap page for generating a Google Sitemap xml file:


<!--?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?-->

<urlset xmlns="">
<jsn:foreach value="${page.entries}" var="entry">

I use the jsn prefix, which just stands for (now, anyway) Javascript Node. I wasn't creative. I guess I can call it "Jason's Site N..." I can't think of an N.

And the javascript:

var date = require("dates"), common = require("../common");

this.entries = [];

this.load = function(site, query, finishedCallback){
var self = this;
var now = new Date(;
var yesterday = new Date(now.getFullYear(), now.getMonth(), now.getDate());
var yesterdayFormat = date.formatDate("YYYY-MM-dd", yesterday);
common.populateCities(site.db, function(states){
for (var i = 0; i < states.length; i++){
var entry = {
loc: "http://" + site.hostUrl + "/metro/" + city.state.toLowerCase() + "/" + city.key,
lastmod: yesterdayFormat,
changefreq: "daily",
priority: "1"
finishedCallback({contentType: "text/xml"});

My finishedCallback function can take more parameters, say for handling a JSON request, I could add {contentType: "text/plain", content: JSON.stringify(obj)}.

That's about all there is to it! It's pretty easy to work with so far :) My site will launch soon!

MongoDB and Node.js

I am starting a joint venture with my very good friend, where I am doing the coding, and I decided that I will be doing it in Node.js with a MongoDB backend. I was thinking about why these two technologies, and how I would explain my choices to another techy. I think I have my explanation figured out...

First and foremost, Javascript. I have come to love everything about it! For my side projects, I used to use Java, and wrote a pretty decent web middle tier and rolled my own ORM also. You are witnessing it in action by reading this post. I could make an object like "Book", add properties to it, give them properties in an XML file (a series of them, if you know how Java web apps work ;), and my ORM would create the table, foreign keys, etc. It was particularly magical in how it handled foreign keys and loading referenced objects in one SQL query, knowing which type of join to apply and everything. However, this was all a daunting task, made even more so by the fact that Java allows abstraction to the Nth degree. If I could remember that code, I would be very much more specific on how it worked, but I had an object for connecting to the database, an object in another project for building SQL because I thought I could abstract that out and rewrite it if I had to, and swap in SQL building engines. That was the main cause of pain, I would think "If I just wanted to swap in another X, it would be easy." I initially made plans to have it either go to SQL or XML or JSON, whatever you wanted, and you would just swap in an engine in the config file. It was heavily reflection based :)

So, I've been writing Javascript a lot. Only lately, but before discovering Node.js, have I come to realize its power... anonymous methods and objects, JSON, Functions as first class citizens. Of course there are the libraries, like jQuery, and Google APIs, like maps for instance. There's the shear fact that you don't have to think ahead about every possibility for an object before creating it. Like, my Book object would have an author, title, etc. If later I wanted to add the ISBN or something, in Java I would have to update any IReadable interfaces (well, considering that you could read a cereal box that would undoubtedly NOT have an ISBN, this example is falling apart, but you know what I'm talking about :P ), then update the Book class, update the list to enable searching by an ISBN, etc. Tons of stuff. Javascript:

var Book = function(opt) { for (var i in opt) { this[i] = opt[i]; } }

Imagine I start calling it with
var book = new Book({title: "Brainiac", author: "Ken Jennings", ISBN: "some string of numbers});

I can now just get the ISBN in other places by calling "book.ISBN".


I've grown weary of writing server side code in Java and C#. ASP.NET is a CF with its control design, JSF was a CF with its configs and my ginormous web framework that is almost 6 years old now, and I never tried updating past JSF 1.1, so I don't know if it's gotten any better. But Java web development was nuts, you always needed 34 external libraries, most of which came from Apache's Jakarta project (which is awesome though), intimate knowledge of how to set up Tomcat or your favorite application server, you had to know how to write servlets and JSPs, JSTL, JSTL configs, and to read a Catalina.out file. I'm sure I'm forgetting something worth hours of learning...

Node.js is simple. Create a server, attach a listener to the request method. It's so barebones, that requesting anything will not work at all on the server you just created. I researched some libraries for web app development, and I decided, F it, I'm not falling in that trap again. I've dealt with enough code in my life, I could write one. One that takes my favorite things from the frameworks I know, and works on that. It is nearly done...


MongoDB is clearly the only choice for me on Node.js. JSON documents. That should about clear it up, if you were still wondering. If still... imagine we need an ISBN on a book. There's no updating 14 stored procedures that perform CRUD ops on Book to now also include ISBN. No alter table statements... There's simply, Book has ISBN now...{title: "Brainiac", author: "Ken Jennings", ISBN: "some number"});

There'll be other books without ISBN, but that's simple... if (book.ISBN != null) (or simply if (book.ISBN) of course). So you think of the basic stuff you need to get off the ground running, and you run. You can run, and you can run fast and recklessly, because if you think of something to add, you put it in. There's very minimal pain, or slowing down, in change.

Node and MongoDB are built for scaling, but I'm not too concerned about that at the moment. Then why, you ask, am I using them? Simply because I do not know them! Although it is 10% for the learning factor, 90% for the cool factor. If it's not cool and I don't know it, then I won't go out of my way to learn it. You might ask, if you're trying to make something awesome, why don't you do it in what you know first, then convert it once you start making money? I'd rather do it in something awesome. Knowing these technologies will be more valuable to me than selling the site to Google for a billion dollars! Ok, that's not true. But if it hits that point, and I didn't do it in Node + MongoDB, then I would not have learned them, and I would not have much reason to NOW, being a billionaire, would I? :P

Oh yeah, Happy Birthday to me today :)

The Best Diet Ever

Not. For the past 3 months I've been on somewhat of a diet, but for the past 3 weeks, I really started pursuing "thinness". My goal is to be at 170, or lose 30 pounds, by the time I reach the age of 30. I think it can be done, and I've put a lot of money into making sure I can do it. First I bought a blender. The BlendTec Total Blender. It was expensive but it really works like all those videos of that guy blending iPhones say it works. I bought a digital scale. I bought a lot of fruits which I'll do every two or so weeks. And I bought a lot of granola, which will get me through the morning and will be half of my dinner every day. So far I've seen a steady decrease in my weight on my new scale. Here's my plan:

Eat not a lot of calories a day. A granola bar, a salad for lunch, a granola bar and a small dinner every day. Those granola bars are 150 calories and they fill me up for a good four hours.

Work out a few times a day. Since I still smoke (another part of my weight loss plan), I can't do 30 or 40 pushup or pullup sets every two hours. In fact, I can still only do about 4 pullups in one set! I'm getting a lot stronger though. 10 pushups right now is my max. Take the dog for a brisk walk and do 10 pushups right afterwards. Then watch tv for a bit, go upstairs and do my normal amount of pullups.

From Thursday of last week up til Monday morning, I was losing a pound a day! Then Labor Day happened and I gained 2 pounds! I had a hamburger, a hot dog, some corn, and lots of chips and salsa with cream cheese. But after a short nap (it was the most I've eaten in 3 weeks, I was tired!), I did 10 pushups. Then got my hair cut.

If you want to try this diet out, it's open source! Eat a Kashi GoLean bar with coffee, half and half, and sugar (I won't make any sacrifices regarding coffee!). This is also delicious since coffee and chocolate are brilliant together. For lunch get a small chicken Caesar salad (don't skimp! Dressing, cheese, bread crumbs). For dinner, have a turkey sandwich on one slice of 12 grain bread cut in half and another Kashi. Basically, I could give a flying f%#@ what food tastes like, or how varied my meals are. Really, I don't care. They're just something to get us through the day, not part of the day.

Workout schedule: When I wake up, I do my pullups and get a shower and go to work. At work, run up stairs and walk briskly to go pick up your salad. Usually I get a diet iced tea with lunch. When I get home from work I spread out the workout like I mentioned above. Walk in the door, pullups. Rest for 20-30, pushups. Before bed I do 10 upbeat pushups and my regular pullups (I try not to mention more than once how many of these I can do right now :) It's embarrassing), although I might do less because I just did 10 exhausting pushups. And of course take the dog for a brisk walk. It's good to get a fast dog.

That's it! Before I really started this, I was at 210 in mid June before Jamaica. Thursday when I got the scale I weighed in at 198. Monday morning I was at 193.5. Then I gained 2 pounds at the barbecue! Oh well, as long as I stick to the workout.

The real method behind my madness is to not have to work out too briskly and let my lack of previous binge eating (I would never eat between meals or eat fast food or anything really junky, but I would eat a lot...) replaced by very light but satisfying eating lose the pounds for me. It's really a mix of the two. Since I smoke I wouldn't have the breath right now to work out enough to lose the weight if I kept on my normal eating habits. That's really all I have been trying to say :) Enjoy.