Living in a 10×12 foot room

For the past 2 years give or take, been renting rooms out from landlords. Its been an interesting journey. My first room was the so-called master bedroom. That room had a dedicated bathroom but the house was falling apart in so many ways. Yet it had an element of charm somehow. Perhaps the repartee was what I liked. We all knew the house was decrepit yet we lived there. Then the owner decided on a stupid whim to try to sell the house and asked us all to leave in preparation for the legions of takers. Of course, that never happened because the house was decrepit and who in the world would want to buy the place.

Then I moved to where I live now. In a house with 5 bedrooms. Everyone works in the house. One works for the City of Fremont. Two work for facebook. One works as a sales manager for a company out of Germany and then there’s me in the smallest room in the place. I live next door to the guy from Germany.

Room living is a bit different than having an apartment or house. Here in the Bay area, its an affordable way to live while still having a degree of autonomy and freedom. I don’t have to worry about getting things fixed like bathrooms or kitchens or plumbing. Those things are all handled by the owners. I just live here. There are downsides. The internet is one. At this point, I am using powerline ethernet so I can actually stream movies and stuff to my room. When I first got here, I got an amazing 5mbps download speed. Whoa! Hold me back!! Not enough to stream and get email basically. So off I went and get a good set of netgear powerline ethernet adapters. Now I get about 27mbps download and about 10 up. Sufficient to stream video from netflix and hulu and others. A real step down from the comcast plan I had before though when I got 150mpbs down and 10 up.

But, I don’t pay for the internet now so I weigh and measure what I get and what I give. Another area of getting and giving is the condition of this house. This place is fully remodeled where everything actually works. The heater does not sound like a world war II plane taking off. There is AC here. The plumbing works. The bathrooms are clean. The house is very quiet. Sometimes way too quiet. I joked about wanting to have the cops show up here sometime to stir things up a bit.

A question I get a few times is what its like renting a room. Imagine renting an apartment where everything is in one room except there is no bathroom or kitchen and the room measures 10×12 feet or so. All your living is done in this area. For me though, I am at work most days and only have the evenings here. Weekends I spend more time in the room but still I am gone for hours at a time. Its not the best of conditions but its not the worst either. A few things are of primary importance in a 10×12 room. One is you have to keep the place clean. A mess in a small room soon takes over the entire room. The second is furniture. ou cannot have couches and nice chairs and ottomans and stuff. I have a Japanese futon and a trifold mattress I use for everything. When I sleep, I roll out the futon. When I want to sit up, the futon is rolled away and I have a couch like thing. I also have a night table, a small TV table and a tray table. I bought most of the furnishing from a donation store like Good Will. I have a gold lamp which cost me like $15. The TV table cost $25.

I get by here on a day by day type of philosophy. I have the plus things and the minus things which I tally each week for this place. I pay the rent with a clean conscience knowing that others are paying roughly 3 times what I do for an apartment. They have more rooms. I have a community bathroom and kitchen.

What’s better? I don’t really know. This is okay and I made smart choices in a bedroll. The Japanese futon is the best thing I’ve bought for myself. Its a harder sleep than most mattresses but Its also resilient, able to be stowed easily, and I sleep better on it than I have for years. No back aches.

Could I do this?

Probably you could. Should you do it? Maybe not if you want to walk into different rooms with different functions. Here in the Bay area living is not so easy. I choose to spend less, be able to take vacations, spend money on stuff I want but perhaps don’t need.

Its living and I like it for the most part. It does take some settling in. You don’t have to be a social person to do this. You have to be somewhat flexible though and not set in your ways. I will continue to do this through next year. When December 2016 happens, a few things will change that I am still planning. We’ll see how it works. I have a year to go. I can live the way it is now for a year.

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Technology at Crossroads – When What Works is not What Is

I’ve posted a few times about my general questions around the choice I made since 2009 to use Android as a primary mobile and tablet OS. I never really questioned the use of a phone because Android just worked for me. More than that, it achieved. Something happened though around the time that the Nexus 9 tablet was released last year or so. Respected technologists like David Ruddock proclaimed that the best tablet was an Apple iPad Air 2. Its been a year now. A year of releases of new devices across the spectrum. Even Blackberry released a Android phone called the Priv. Earlier this year, Google released two Nexus phones to build upon the success of the Nexus 5 and rev up the Nexus 6. People either loved or hated the Nexus 6. For me, it was one of the best phones I ever had. It allowed me to shelve the Nexus 9 which I had less than stellar feelings about since it released. I could lay down the Nexus 9 and the iPad Air 2 side by side and there was a fair amount of difference in quality, performance, build style. Many people use their devices for many uses. Perhaps all different uses. We tailor the devices to fit what we need them to do.

Let me ask though when a device fails to live up to its use; what happens? Do we go out and buy something new to take its place or find a reasonable alternative without doing that? For me the Nexus 6 took the place of the Nexus 9. It was faster, more fun, more funky looking.

So thus far, we have two things I believe I have covered that we use devices in our digital lives for. See if you agree:

Use. We use these things. We want them to provide something of value, fun, entertainment. Maybe we travel with them. I’ve liked Jonas’ write-ups on technology for awhile and his blog is one I still read almost daily. I enjoy physically visiting the site because it changes . His takes on the “use” factor cause me to weigh what I do, look at my use factor. I would never model how i do weblogs with what works for Jonas. His needs are different than mine. But how he uses a thing, how it propels itself into his kit, what of his things make a difference allow many of us to see how a person makes a choice around use.

Performance. I link performance to a variety of things. Does the device have the required or needed or fun applications on it to make it fun to use? Fun is a key indicator of performance to me. Why use a mobile OS which has no fun applications that perform or act a certain way. We want Google Maps to demonstrate knowledge about how to get to a place. Its even more though. We expect it to provide “hints” of what is near, how to get there. Maybe pictures in street view to help us find a place. I link all this to how the deice and its OS performs but perhaps you choose to break it out separately. Finally, a key indicator of performance is subjecting the device to other requirements. Does the ecosystem stand up when you have to travel with it? Is it unlocked and can perform in India or are you hamstrung to a certain cell provider? Let me just say that we in the US are so far behind how countries operate with cell phone technology. In Vietnam, I bought a prepaid data and phone plan for cheapo. In Singapore, the same. The phone is the important thing. The data and phone cards are replacements. All of this colors and impacts our performance and use.

So now we have the two blending together and they should. Performance impacts use and use performance. We would not choose a feature phone if we wanted to play some heavy graphic game. There is a third indicator besides use and performance it occurs to me.

Fun. These things are supposed to be fun things. Our lives while being enriched by the first two are supposed to be fun to use. If it takes 10 minutes to launch an app on the Nexus 9, do you just live with it? You paid for the thing and to live up to the first two, it has to be available and functional. To reach the third thing, you have to laugh, cry, use, perform. Its a superset; this fun thing.

I think we have lost sight of the “fun” criteria in our hunt to have the smartphone OS wars. One side says,

I could never use mobile OS Y. Its too much this or that.

The other side says,

I could never use OS Z. Its locked down or not locked down or whatever.

Meanwhile, the real users, the real habilis have chosen. They will use what works. There is no real crossroads because we all make our choices based on what works for us. After using an iPhone 6+ for a few weeks, I think its a fine device. I think the Nexus 6 is a fine one as well. The Nexus 9 is not though. Its fails on use and performance and its too finicky to be fun. What happened to the Android tablets I wonder? Some questions to consider:

  1. The IOS tablet interface is not remarkably different than the phone.
  2. The Android tablet interface is not remarkably different than the phone.

The difference is the big “Q” thing. Quality. Quality imposes its standard on my three criteria. Somewhere, with all the tablets that are released, we don’t have a quality tablet experience on Android. Its not whether there is a taskbar and a launcher. Its more about how the three criteria match up. Its simply not fun to use an android tablet effectively. I got spoiled using an iPad Air 2. It has the same interface but its “fit and finish” seem to make it live to another level.

Each of us has to make our choices and reach our crossroads. We have limited time really on the devices. I’ve made mine. I’ll use what is fun and productive and performs and gives me the best bang for the buck. The current crop of Android tablets are not “killers”. There is nothing that promotes them beyond my Nexus 6 phone. I could probably do without the Air 2 but the final level comes in. The FUN level. Its fun to use.

Android needs to get beyond the crossroads. Perhaps launch less devices and find how to form factor the three things. Most of all the entire tablet environment is changing. People have less need when the phones are bigger. I could use my Nexus 6 as a tablet and my iPhone 6+ as a phone pretty easily. Where does the vaunted iPad Air 2 and Nexus 9 then reside? In the drawer; that’s where. In the drawer of seldom used tech.

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Thanksgiving 2015

I’m off work for an extended weekend. Left work yesterday kinda early and walked at home for a change. That was nice. Today, I drove over to the Alameda Creek Trail and walked down the unpaved side to an entry at Quarry Lakes Park. The sun was hitting the sweet spot and bouncing crazy rays off the water. A few hikers, bikers, runners jaunted by. The Quarry Lakes park is a good solitary walk so I did it today. I used to walk over to the park often and walk when I lived in the fractured home.

Here is a life lesson I learned today even after I blogged a similar thing last year for Thanksgiving. The lesson is,

you can never go back again

I learned this today thinking I would get left over Thanksgiving dinner from my ex-wife today. I had thought I would have turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing. You know. Thanksgiving foodie food. Not to be. I was not expected until tomorrow. That left me with a few feelings. The real thing was hunger. I had not eaten since breakfast. Finding a place to eat on Thanksgiving is challenging.  I ended up at a 7/11. I got a large fruit bowl, a chicken salad sandwich, and a butterfinger candy bar. And a six pack of beer.

It also dawned on me yet again, that I really dislike the holidays but especially the holidays which run from turkey day to New Years. Its the lowest I feel of all the days in a year.

If I ran an advice column and a divorced guy asked me if he would ever get used to the holidays being alone; I would tell him to go find a Sizzler’s restaurant. Its a great place for divorced guys. Perhaps Denny’s too.

Anyways, happy Thanksgiving. i knew you wanted to see that.

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Project Fi Services

So I got Project Fi because I moved my primary Tmobile account over to my iPhone 6+ for work. As I mentioned, the IOS ecosystem is much kinder at work to handle mobile email, calendaring, wireless at work. I guess this means my iPhone 6+ is my primary device. My Nexus 6 now runs Project Fi. I’m going to evaluate what I do but the whole deal is something I have wanted with Project Fi. At some point, I’ll cancel Tmobile completely and just use the Fi service. If you travel around, have no home, have no real base of operation, Project Fi makes more sense. It bonds to whatever cell/mobile operator is out there and it makes use of WiFi as well. I also ported my Google Voice number to it. This means if I do take another job where I would use that number as a work number, its much easier now since I can have Google Voice on a piece of equipment. Who knows what happens next? A friend at IBM has let me know that her hiring manager wants me to work with her team in the cloud operations group. I would manage medium to large on premise and cloud gigs much like I did before.

Thanksgiving Blahs

I hate it say it; but the holidays really mean little or nothing besides time off from work. I don’t have any kind of that blessed spirit or desire or thankfulness or faith or desire to have any of those things. I just take the time off, drink beer, and do whatever it is I can do to try to survive the days. I think that this is a product of the divorce and the fact that Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday of all. I loved the food part of things, being with the kids, cooking the Turkey on the BBQ grill. Watching the football games through the day. Perhaps it was that prime American dad thing. That’s gone and now its just a day that I spend as another weekend day. I bet lots of people really don’t like the holidays and I bet there are a lot of divorced folks out there that really don’t like them. Someone told me once I was broken and the pieces did not fit together again. That’s true. I broke into some pieces and I cannot even find all of them. But I would not be looking anyways over the next 40 or so days. I just want to get through that so I can talk about…

Work Stability

I don’t really like the way it is at work now. Big projects pending and I don’t even know if I will be there. Bunch of BS. This or that could happen. I could stay or leave. I could easily go back to IBM for another year or I could stay at TiVo. By the end of December though, those folks will hear from me. I won’t start projects that I will not finish. They will have to tell me at the start of the year if I stay.

Gobble Gobble

Have a nice one if you observe it. If not, enjoy the time off. I intend on doing the latter.

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My iPhone Work Experiment

You have probably all read the newsy articles that state things like

I switched from Android to an iPhone and I…

People stay, they go, they compare, they like, they dislike. I bought an iPhone 6+ on eBay that was an unlocked GSM phone so all I needed to do was plug in my SIM Card  and away I went on the IOS side. I had originally planned on giving it away but the person was uncomfortable taking it. My boss told me to give it a whirl with work email, calendaring, collaboration. So here are some initial impressions:

  • The iPhone 6+ is a nice piece of kit. Very responsive. Performance is good. Battery life seems decent.
  • The Work applications depend on AirWatch MDM for security. On Android you must use this dusty old application called TouchDown. It may have been good in its day; but now? Piece of crap on Android MM. On the iPhone it all integrates into the apple mail and calendaring client. Setup Gmail and you get an integrated calendar with personal and exchange events in different colors.
  • Applications are nice. I’ve found a few really nice apps and found a few others which are better on the Android side. Alarm clocks that are third party do not work right on IOS devices basically.
  • Walking is just as nice streaming music from Spotify on IOS as it is on Android. The iPhone has a dedicated chip or something for tracking so the pedometer apps use it to help track walking.
  • There is no need for iTunes. That’s good! I always hated iTunes.

So what does this mean for this little green robot guy? I’ve decided to use my Nexus 6 with Fi and continue using my iPhone 6+ for work. I am tired of the Fortune articles saying this person stopped with this and did that. I’m tired of the either/or thing and getting judged in the smartphone wars. These things are supposed to be fun guys. Stop with the judgments already. Use what works for you. Be a good habilis.

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Passion and Phun

I had the occasion to dwell in my little abode on my negativity. A spirit came to haunt me in the form of my mentor RWR. I complained to his specter mightily about my lot in life and how the passion seemed gone. He listened somewhat patiently but kept looking at his blue land cruiser jeep. He had left it running just around that last desert path. I could hear it snorting and waiting for him impatiently. He studied me much like a similar event years or perhaps decades ago when I whined to him about my Master’s Thesis and my thesis committee. He listened then too. He was a far and crackly voice on a pay phone as I stood in the middle of Portales New Mexico. Portales at night was not one of those places you stood into. Most people went home; but I needed my mentor. I needed him to tell me to quit.

RWR would have none of that though so many years ago and his specter now would have none either. He gently lambasted me and reminded me of his advice from so many times asking. Advice that came out one day as we walked down a desert scape. We hardly ever talked then but I asked him the most important thing in life. He started ahead and got that smile that seemed to spread across that long bearded face.

Why Mike. You have to know where you are and where you are going.

That was it. He never said he had an answer to my lack of passion, drive, ambition. He just knew a bigger thing. I’ve since felt that the advice, so simple, was timeless. It covered the ebbs and flows of my times whether it was archeology or project management. Whether I walked the Tehachapi’s or Route 66 or around a lava blasted field north and east of Barstow. Whenever things got to a point, now I know I had lost sight of where I was or where I was going or both. You cannot set a path with a GPS either physical or moral or with a compass and a map if you don’t know the things. You cannot find a thing you seek unless you know where you are.

Later that same day I think, the powerful jeep ran out of gas and we were stranded. We hiked into town and a lady gave us a ride in a long cool Cadillac or Lincoln. The AC blasted and RWR seemed totally at home and talked with the lady about the desert, why cars could possibly run out of gas. I just sat there quietly listening to my wonderful mentor. That one person who could say a simple thing that covered so many life conditions. I was happy those times with RWR. Drinking beer Knowing where I was and where I was going.

Twist to Now

So now I know it too. I know I cannot simply have that attitude and hate and disaffection. I have to put into the thing more and then I’ll know where I am. When I can stand up, I can see where I’m going. It all makes sense RWR.

Its only only knowing but its acting on what you know. I may never see RWR again but I don’t need to. Some people have a common thread that glows and connects. When I called him after not talking for so many years, RWR was not mad. He simply asked,

where you been, Mike?

That’s another one of those hard questions to answer. Its not geography or climate or a place or a time. We go through life with relatively few people I think that matter. Many of the people are detritus. Waste materials that we have in our orbits and then the gravitational pull from something else takes them. That’s okay. Because we have the few people that can ask the simple yet profound questions. And tell me the same answers.

Now for the current thing, as I walked my walk today after work, I knew. I have to give this its due. I will probably stay longer but I don’t know. Its part of the formula of not knowing where I’m going. And perhaps we never really see the entire picture but that should not stop us from trying. When I walk to no place in particular; I know. Walking is a mechanism that lets me see the things beyond the beyond.

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There’s Work, there’s Play, there’s work, there’s play

Things with capital letters denote the super sense of things. You do them to lift yourself beyond. Perhaps find a super criteria of fulfillment, challenge, scope. Sometimes the things bring sadness or lead to less than stellar results. But you know when you are engaged with Work or Play that your senses are elevated, mind is working at a higher level, emotions are attuned. Sometimes out walking I reach the Play side of the equation. I feel this lifting thing where the problems, questions, issues, irritations become less. Those special little doodads release and I am lifted into the higher elevations of Play.

The onerous truth is though we don’t reach the vaunted halls and kingdoms of the capital letters too often. We instead plunk along with work and play. These lower case things are not satisfying. Perhaps they are escapes for a lunch time diversion or an evening at a movie or a night of watching Netflix or Hulu back to back.

In my 10 x 12 room, the big letters are not so easily found these days. The work is not Work. The play is not always Play. In fact, neither really trigger the endorphins. The happy chemicals that may lift you up higher.

What to do?

What to do is the question. Is life meant to be lived in all lower case letters?

I went to the laundromat today and posed the question on Google Plus. Do dryers only spin clockwise? I am not sure but I do know that the stairs leading to my room are meant for right-handed people. Nothing is as it seems in the world of dreams.

I still struggle to find meaning in work. Forget about Work. There is no ecstasy or fulfillment like in 2009 and early 2010 for me. No bigger challenges in either Work or Play. In fact, I don’t get a glimpse of either too often. Walking does not free the endorphins these days. I only get a sense of relief at the physical level.

Its too bad really that we humans cannot achieve what we really want. It seems forever out of reach except for those limited moments when all the life streams are in concert. Then something happens and the apple cart turns over. Or perhaps its the coconut cart…

Coconuts in Chennai

Don’t upset the cart! The coconuts will go rolling into the street in Chennai and the Auto drivers will go crazy :-)

We all balance the coconuts like in this cart though. Life coconuts, work coconuts, play coconuts.

No capital ones unfortunately.

What to do. What to do. I know. Go back to Chennai and go to the Chennai Citi Centre Mall for KFC on a Saturday.

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Notes and Outlining

I’ve tried a few workflows in the past. First was Evernote which I still like. Then there is OneNote which I use at work. Then there were countless others which I used and dropped because of cost, issues with cross-platform sync’ing, or lack of updates or simply stopping the client. So what are my prerequisites for note taking, journals, and outlines? Some complex combination of GIT push, local markdown, remote server machinations? No folks. None of these really do anything but make the entire workflow more complex. What my needs are:

  • Effortlessly sync to Google Drive whether on chromebook, tablet, or phone.
  • Be able to share a document. Okay, I have never been good at sharing. But you never know. Perhaps this will become important when I become a world class blogger and note taker.
  • Integrate tables, lists, drawings and images.
  • Have a common interface that I can use without a steep learning curve. I’m dumb and I don’t like using 4 things when one will do. If I’m offline, I’ll write it that way and copy it over later. I don’t need elegance when simplicity will work.
  • Ability to organize by folders and have search capabilities
  • Be part of a ecosystem of tools. This is at the bottom but its not a bottom dweller. When something fits into your ecosystem of use; it empowers you to do more with the tools!

So, what is there out there that does all these things, does not require arcane spells over a GIT repository, lets me integrate my ecosystem of choice? Why Google Docs, sheets, and slides of course! Here is a workflow I found online by a cunning and smart guy that lays it all out but lets you build flexibility.

How does it work at Starbucks? Well, it works the same on my tablet of choice and my chromebook. Does it sync? Yes. In real time. What about offline access? I don’t know and really don’t care. If I’m truly offline perhaps I am doing something else that is radically different but its been my experience on numerous walking trips here in the States that I am rarely truly offline. A phone with LTE, free wifi. Lets face it though, there is time to be offline like when life is online. So let it go and it will be there. The gridless state is something to not overlook when simply putting a foot in front of another. Why have four tools to do what a single one can do. Someone once said “Simplify”. If I blog, I can just use the WordPress mobile application. I rarely have to do complex mind-bending and numbing feats. If I journal or outline, I can approximate the same workflow as above.

In the end, I have all my stuff and its with me across platforms because Google is so good at presenting me with options across platforms. Its all good!

There’s no reason to choose my approach over one that has complexity with lots of plugins built in. Unless you are looking to…


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Changes in my Digital Lifestyle

I’ve been reading a lot about increasing numbers of Android users jumping ship over to the Apple side of the house. I think people do this for a lot of reasons. I decided to do it also for a few reasons. Truth be told, I’ve been getting unhappier with the quality of things for awhile. But even more is work. Work email on mobile, calendars mobile, vpn on mobile are big things at $work. They make much better use of Apple iGear than Android.

It all really comes down to making changes. For me, I’ve decided to move away from Android. I bought a iPhone 6 plus 64gb model today and I bought a new iPad Air 2 64gb model today. I could list bullets of things of why. Maybe its the pace of the updates. Maybe its the quality of the applications. Could be the work experience of mobile email, collaboration, calendaring. I could state any of those things and people would either berate me or agree. The real thing though is me. I’m tired of Android. I need a sea change. I want something that is more central. Something where updates just come and I don’t have to flash things. It used to be that the whole iTunes thing turned me off. The iDevices these days don’t need to ever touch iTunes. So I won’t have widgets on the home screen. I can probably live with that. I won’t have freedom and open use. I can live less with that.

It comes down to what I need and want and I’m sorry but you don’t really matter. You see; I don’t care about you at all. I’m so selfish and self-absorbed. You knew that though right?

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Back here

I changed things around quite a bit and decided to move my domain to google domains really is irritating. Don’t go there if you can help it. Their vaunted support is next to nil when you ask a basic question and their answer is the same no-go thing each time. Then I went to Medium for awhile. I did not care really for the community there that much. If you don’t publish the 8 of the 12 or the 10 hack reasons, you are unwashed and dirty.

So back to to my domain on my chosen VPS. This simply works and I doubt I will vary far from the fold.

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