Cutting the Cable

For years I lived in the relative comfort of a Comcastic house. I had channels upon channels for info-edu-tainment. I could sit comfortably with one of the favorite channels like History, BBC, AE and watch the hour by hour play of some show. Perhaps I took it for granted until Comcast would lose the signal in the house and then things would get rather boring because I had gotten used to my Comcast. I never did figure out how to break myself until February of this year. I determined in February to cut that cable.

There are some steps to doing this. You don’t have to get a divorce and move out of the house first like I did but having kids around will make it more difficult to implement the remaining steps. Kids want all the channels even if nothing is on. I’m gathering its not the reality but the choice. So, after moving out, I made a conscious effort to break the vicious cycle of cable and its cost for a service which I felt I did not really need.

What I did need were a few things to get going. I needed a decent Television that would take HDMI input easily. I needed a Chromecast to plug in to the TV. I needed some applications that would cast from my Android tablet to the TV. I settled for a Samsung TV which may have cost under $200.00 when I got it. I bought the Chromecast for $35.00 from Amazon. The application of the Chromecast to this particular TV is dead simple. Samsung pretty much designed this cheap little TV for Chromecast. The device requires a HDMI port and a USB power port for it. For whatever reason, Samsung places the two ports right next to each other so plugging in the dongle to its USB power supply took no additional cables, adapters, or frustration.

I then installed the Chromecast app on my Nexus 7 2013 wifi tablet and did the setup thing. I may have gotten an update to the Chromecast immediately. But after associating the device with my wifi in my room, it all worked. About 10 minutes of setup.

Now the applications part. Lots of choices depending on what you want but I settled on two subscription services given what I wanted:

Netflix – I think Netflix is king for many of us cable cutters. It offers a wide variety of TV and movie shows but not everything so this led me to the next subscription service.

HuluPlus – I bought this to watch shows that are not on Netflix. The Hulu implementation for casting leaves a bit to be desired at times and there seems some buffering or waiting at different times. But for the price and the value I get, its okay.

Watch ESPN – I can watch pre-season football games after logging in to a friendly comcast account and cast it. Very nice!

Casting the screen – I just tried this with the NFL preseason app which does not have chromecast support now. On my Nexus 7 you can start the Chromecast app and hit the cast the screen button and then start some application and it casts it to your TV. I tried this last night again and for applications like TV Go from Comcast and the NFL Presason app it all works well.

So how much have I saved and how much do I spend? I spend about $15.00 per month for both Netflix and HuluPlus. I spend nothing for Watch ESPN but use a comcast account because the application will not stream without some cable participation. Perhaps its cheating a bit since I don’t pay for the service but it does work and its free (for me).

Casting the screen is free and I can cast whatever I want that’s on the Nexus 7. So this represents a final way to get content that is not Chromecast supported onto my cheap Samsung TV.

If I get to the point of wanting to watch an Amazon prime video and there is no Amazon Prime Video app (not a good play, Amazon), I start the movie on my chromebook, attach a HDMI cable from it to the second HDMI output on the TV and off I go. Not exactly casting but I get to watch the shows on Prime Video like Downton Abbey or others which are on Prime. Amazon may release the Prime Video app but will probably never give it casting support since it would then compete with their set-top box called Fire TV.

As a note, I did try Fire TV and its not my cup of tea. I prefer the disruptive nature of the Chromecast. Ability to cast applications like Google+ or Youtube or my photos. I still have the Fire TV but it sits quietly in a drawer and has only been used about three times.

Well, there you got it; my recipe for going without cable and thriving. You can find the way to cut the cable and pay less. Be sure you have decent internet though. I do use comcast broadband internet because the room I have is coax equipped so getting cable internet at 50 down and 10 up was a piece of cake. I just ignore all the email on special deals for TV or phone service.

Cutting the cable can go further as well to phone service. Perhaps I will write up some time how I have a phone in my room which also did away with the Comcast Voice service at the house where I once lived.

Give it a try and see if you can get by.

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Seize the Day you know how to whistle

I am missing the magic…

“seize the day”

and the beauty

“you know how to whistle”

These are difficult days. The genie is gone and the woman who enthralled us, made us veer toward her sexuality and beauty and held us like so many dolls  has bid adieu.

This world suddenly means so much less.

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A song

This is an old Jackson Browne song which for some reason resonates too much for me. I listen to and wonder at the genius of Mr. Browne and how he does it. This was written years ago. The world was younger. But this is so good. Not the original. But better. Give a listen.

Its a powerful thing. Like a life cut short. Like Robin. I miss Robin already and its only been a day. Jackson’s songs go on.

Robin’s songs were cut short. Like another noted…

Genie you’re free.

Bye Robin. I’m sad. The world is missing something which was so unique.

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Saturday Morning

Today is the good day. Saturday. The day to let the phone calls, the email, the emergencies die a slow death and just relax with Netflix and the Chromecast. Perhaps make a coffee run to Starbucks this afternoon. Then I’ll take my daughter out for some Indian food. Perhaps we will do the Chicken Tikka Marsala and the Lamb curry. Some rice and some Naan. I’ll stare over the plate at her and she’ll catch me and say,

what? what is it?

There is no explaining because having kids means there is no way to deglue the thing and produce a thing of meaning. Its far beyond and more basic. I’ll know that since she and my son came into my life that divorces, lies, cheating really have no meaning any longer. What I’ve come to realize on this Saturday is perhaps what th Buddhists have known. That life has its karma and it swings to and fro. Like the ball bouncing back up a thing happens and there is a reverse thing. Often times the reverse bounce is lower. I’ve known for awhile that karma strikes us and leaves us understanding that we do pay for the sins and the good things we do. One day I think redemption comes in the form of the bounce.

My ex-wife used to say the very same thing that those that create evil in the world or cause it will get it back in greater measure.

But my daughter is far beyond those things. Her carefully placed brown eyes and sometimes uneven smile make me realize that we all pass on the good and often the bad to our kids. We tell them early on what’s right and wrong. But I think they form the real knowledge far beyond our gates. They venture into the world and we cannot force their opinions or options.

I’ll enjoy the dinner in Milpitas tonight with my daughter and I’ll sneak looks over the chicken curry at her. See her carefully grabbing pieces of chicken and lamb with the Naan.

Now I know the answer to the “what” and “what is it”. Its us. Maybe not us together all the time but often the best rewarding times do not require the 100% togetherness and perhaps its not even needed.

Happy Saturday. Watch out for karma.

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Employment Thoughts, Dreams, Realities

I was thinking about some of the content on my old blog this last weekend. Since I decided to not copy it back over to my Linode managed machine, I don’t have the ready access to it. In the past, when I was desktop rich I would bring up a private blog instance on a Debian server and be able to read back in the so many years of detritus that gathered there.

Here is the thing I noted though which has stayed the same since the days at Celestix Networks. Perhaps its a bit baffling or even results in sadness to realize; but I realize a few facts:

  • Challenge – how many of you are truly challenged with the work? I think that most people are not challenged but may have been at one time. But the job or the person changes and after awhile the person does the job or the job does the person out of a sense doing what they must do to stay alive or pay the bills or remain relevant. Forget the challenge!
  • Staying Power – how many of you on a contract or consulting agreement would agree to stay at the current place full time? When I was at Cisco Systems, a person asked me hypothetically if I would consider a full-time position there. I would never had chosen Cisco to stay at. I never liked the company culture thing and the expectation that the full timers would “just work” whatever hours were necessary to get the job done. As a contractor, I could basically say “no OT approved” and get away with it. Even though, the management would tell me they fully expected a contractor to work 60 hours but only bill 40. Is that the message for the person wanting to convert?
  • Job vs Career – I’ve given up on this one. I’ve done a number of things which are not even closely related. I have applied things I learned in anthropology and archeology to situations during my time in IT. Here is the question I’ve looked at. If I found a job which was not in IT but paid what I consider to be what I need to survive and then thrive (ain’t that much anymore actually), would I leave IT? In a heartbeat I would. IT is a demanding partner. It wants it all and then it wants more from you. It never settles for what you have to give. Its okay if its a passion that does this. When I did archeology I did not mind the passion of doing it because its an active thing with archeology. You don’t sit behind a desk and write excel or word or powerpoint documents; you are out there doing the work. A key difference to me.

Anyways, when you measure all the reasons you may do this or that as a job (not a career), what is your chief reason for choosing? I’ve made stupid decisions based on the rationale by a person once in my life who made such great statements as “forget the challenge; this is survival and you need to work” or “its the pay that matters and not the happiness” or “why would you quit? do you know at all what you are doing?” I probably never deserved that level of support or dedication or lack thereof. That’s why at this point, I have finally earned back the right to make decisions on what I do. Life is never as simple as you want. It gets more complex but why not use some metric when you decide on what you will do next? I’m down to the final questions like,

  1. Why do I persist in doing this? Am I happy doing this or is this a relic of the previous thing?
  2. What do I need? Need meaning financial, personal, or other?
  3. Would I change?

I’m still answering the questions. Even on a Tuesday morning when I start thinking about a change that may come and my vacation in September that will come. You ever asked and answered the same questions? Maybe its just me and I tend to look at things when they start failing me or I fail them or something inbetween.

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Now for Coffee

Its Sunday morning here and spent yesterday changing out how I do coffee in the mornings. My 5 cup coffee pot finally broke and would not start. Uh oh… Very dangerous thing for me since I tend to pull so many longer days starting in the early mornings. Buy another coffee pot? Just use instant (blah)? Or take it to another level? I decided on the final alternative and went to get one of these.

press

I did not do a bunch of research, compare reviews, or try others. I just bought one at a local Starbucks shop.

I wanted to try something new though and give my coffee a new taste and way of preparation. The old automatic drip coffee maker had become less than ideal. I was buying good bean but the taste was bad. No real excitement or desire to try other blends. Stuck in a java rat.

Then I graduated to the Press above. Here are my steps to coffee nirvana. Kinda the same from a number of websites like this one:

1. But a tea port or electric water cooker. I tried the electric route first but this could not work due to our wiring issues in the house. I would most likely blow all the fuses in the rooms and piss off the residents. So I went with the old fashioned teapot for about $12.00 and the electric stove.

2. Heat up water until steaming and then let sit for 30 seconds to cool off a bit.

3. Add 4 scoups of Starbucks Breakfast blend coarse grained bean.

4. Add water on top and cover with plunger top and let sit for 4 minutes.

5. Now plunge gently downward and leave down. Grounds get stuck at the bottom but there is this wonderful coffee oil flavor which permeates the cups.

6. Pour into decanter for second and third cup.

7. Tada! Done.

Now I have a new way of the coffee morning. Its cleaner, faster, tastes better and I can make as much or as little as I want. I spent maybe $30.00 on the teapot and press and another bit on the blend of coffee I wanted from Starbucks. I also bought some more bean already ground up from BlueMoose Coffee. Just another thing to try out as I go.

If you want a change, this is a good one. The difference between some electric pot that brews it and this is like miles. I’m just getting started though so there are so many different kinds of coffee bean to try. More on this later as I go.

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Evil Beast Memories

I went for Indian food this evening down in Milpitas. Went by myself. No daughter force. I went to the hiding place I have for food where the staff takes an order and gives you a table assignment and then your food is whisked out. I had chicken, rice, and naan. As usual, the chicken is cooked to a treat. I was alone the last half of the meal and the restaurant staff basically leave you alone after the food comes out. That’s a nice thing I think. The TV blared music videos from India and perhaps that’s what did it.

We know that time machines don’t exist (yet) but we can have another media to get back. Memories. Perhaps memories don’t offer a 1 to 1 recording of actual events and we color and tint them with the passing of time. So forgive me for going backwards. This is my blog and I’ve traveled a far pace in life since 2009 when I worked as the global Software Engineering manager for Celestix Networks. I was offered the job by the then President because the other way that went on before did not work. I was challenged by the role immediately. We had so many things to get done to launch new products. We had teams across the US and Asia. Teams to build that would do things that would bring the products to life. I knew we had to have a quality assurance group because we could not release the products without having a process by which the builds released were tested internally, were QA’ed, were loaded into SVN, were tested by a wider group. This went on for months. I also traveled every few months. The mark of my travel is that I got to about 400k miles on Star Alliance in a few years.

They were good times those days in 2009. I hit the road often. I remember so many times stopping in the Raintree Hotel in Chennai. Back then it was the only one. If my stay was longer as it turned out in mid 2009, I would then stay at the Hotel New Woodlands. The New Woodlands was a more traditional place but the clientele was international. I enjoyed there too. It was Mylapore. The name still stirs so many memories as I sit here now watching a documentary about India. I would ride the light rail from the STPI offices and my auto driver would wait for me and take me home. VJ was a kindly soul who took me where I wanted. If others were in town, I would meet them at Raintree and have VJ take us. He took Todd and I to Sparky’s Diner. He would take me to the Chola Sheraton and haul me back rather the drunker. I often would head to the Savera and joke with the local IT guys that I “came to the Savera for a beera”.

Back home though things were changing and I was gone that year. I learned the mettle of a relationship that now I believe was flawed from the get go. You can never believe or trust in a thing implicitly I have found. It takes the burden of proof to get there. Relationships are not just a word. They are a cause, a way, a method. But one of the persons cannot cheat. The other person then became the victim as I sat in the restaurants and bars in Chennai drinking, eating, talking.

But back to India. The daily life. The methods of my own moments. Living for months was interesting and sometimes strange. I was in this bubble of a room with slow wifi, with evenings and weekends to myself most of the time. I sometimes never left the room on a weekend and would curl up with a book in the bed and listen to the rain striking the hotel and the thunder and the car horns and the people. Weddings went on as I read. I would see them and balloons went skittering across the ground as I walked slowly to the Savera for a Beera. Other times down the street and across TTK and I was at Zaras. Zaras. The place where the Kingfisher was ice cold and the bartender would ask me how it all was. Where the young folks came to party and be seen. I would think on a weekend of going to the Chennai Citi Centre and having lunch at a KFC on the fifth or sixth floor. I would visit the book shop called Landmarks. I would find big thick books that would mean days and days of blessed reading. But I would also watch those young folks watching other young folks that yet watched others. Sometimes I would walk there and back and just see the streets and the cars and the smells of a city which seemed to pull in a thousand directions at the same time. Buses and cars and motorcycles with 5 people on them.

What was it about Chennai that got so under my skin that I would immediately miss it when landing back after a three week business trip? Could it be the food and beer and people? Yes and no. It was that and more but the evil beast of memories hides certain things which I knew of before.

All these things brought a divorce which was meant to be and led me to a new place on my life’s path. I’m grateful for that. Its never too late to learn a truth and act on it. I know I’m a selfish, introspective, anti-social type. I don’t care for others overall. I believe if you go looking for happiness outside yourself you will fail. No one can live up to the hype you set and the bar you set for that happiness.

So Chennai and Bangalore, and Mysore and Goa were the places I went. I traveled there because I could. I remember stories of the events like renting the 12 seat tourist bus and heading to Pondicherry. Where Doc lost his rings and hit his head on a tree branch. I remember the train ride to Mysore and the very expensive Dosas that Deepak and Raghav laughed over. I remember VJ laughing and complaining about the big buses and the small auto. I remember the people there and the women’s only train cars with the cops carrying wooden batons.

Yes evil memories translate at some point into stories. But the stories really aren’t told any more. I just blog them as I find them lurking around when I eat the chicken and savor the Naan.

Please excuse me this memory heavy trip down a lane which still has a path less traveled. I remember the words rather fittingly if you know my gmail account from a certain poet,

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

–Robert Frost – Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Yes miles to go. I still have miles to go. Now perhaps you know like my friend Nancy from IBM does where that email address came from. Not an accident at all but due to Mr. Frost.

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Life, lemons, juice, android!

Well, in my never-ending attempt at finding completely bogus blogpost titles, I thought I would sum up some stuff, offer some other things, and perhaps conclude with yet another group of things.

In my sphere and circles, the things that weigh a lot are Linux and Android. Its no accident of life that adb and fastboot work the best on Linux. No messy device drivers with linux. In fact, I think that USB devices just work that much better on Linux than they ever did on Windows. My flash drives, bigger USB drives, camera all just work on Linux. On Windows they require mumbling incantations, waving MSI files around, rebooting, swearing, fighting, getting madder. Windows is just not meant for the work of adding Android devices. Its like a messy after thought.

In the game of life, you have choices to make and sometimes the choice impact things later on. You can believe that life is all random and nothing really has an impact on a thing that is going to happen; but I believe that for the better or worse the choices you make will come back to you. I think sometimes even the best things you do come back with the worst consequences and it works the other way too. Perhaps when you are making juice from the lemons of your life you should remember that nothing is for certain. But its a sure bet that the pendulum force of life will swing back and I think it has a ruthless memory.

I was out walking the other day considering. Thinking about how life and lemons may interact. The sun was setting on this walk of mine. I had been out an hour and ten minutes and was heading home. It dawned on me then that my walks were gradually getting longer. Where before I would do about an hour and wanted about 7000 steps now I do an hour and change and really want 8000+ steps. This is goodness I think because even at my old age, walking has a positive benefit. I get better at it!

I started thinking of an article to write about how to experience cities using pedestrian tourism. What cities I have been to which lend themselves to that type of visiting. I came up with some prereqs for the walking that you can easily find out by looking at city websites, google maps, or whatever:

Sidewalks – well, this is a duh thing but many cities really do not have good sidewalk systems. I’ve found that my best walks start with having an access system which covers the city and allows the tourist to travel with ease. As an example, in Tokyo, the city seems really made for walking. Sidewalks, city signs in english, and the final exhausted subway sign with a noodle place that servers beer is heavily recommended.

Light Controls – I think many cities are dangerous and pedestrian tourism should not be done. As a positive example, the city of Eugene, Oregon has some of the best light controls and really gives you a chance to cross. How many times you seen the walk light in green turn to a don’t walk after about 5 seconds? What’s up with that? Another city that has this beat is Kyoto, Japan. Kyoto really has the walking thing done. You can tour the city with a map, camera, android tablet with google maps stuck on it in style and comfort. I still got exhausted but the streets did not scare me. Lights were well done and you could see the traffic easily.

Accessibility – Its nice to have the big cultural, historic, and social places accessible. One should be able reach them by walking first and foremost.  The city of Sydney, Australia has this really well done. Walking the Sydney Harbor Bridge with its walk path really lets one do the distance in comfort. Remember to allow time to visit The Rocks and eat, drink and be merry. Its all about accessibility! The other part of accessibility is access to mass transit and understanding it. The city-state of Singapore and Tokyo Japan win here. Never have I been to places where access to mass transit is so easy. Of course, most things are easy in Singapore. Most everyone speaks English so access to help is just right there!

Cost – The final point is what it costs. If the cost is too high because of any of a myriad of factors its not worth it. Its not much fun to walk a place and be scared of your every turn or not have the places to walk. The cost goes way up.

My next walking endeavor comes in September. From September 1st to the 7th, I walk Seattle and take a day tour to Victoria. The day tour is via a ferry that will take three hours to get there on a Saturday morning. The next day I come back to work, the house, the new family.

So, there are my life, lemons, juice and a dash of the Droid. Android really is an atom smasher of a thing. I want it disruptive, making inroads to new devices that I may never buy. I want the Nexus program to widen and the Android Silver program to wither away

 

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The Point of the Tip

A projectile point can be a thing of beauty when seen. I love the materials often used to build these things. Consider these two as samples.

obsidian

The obsidian point is a thing of beauty I believe. Carefully crafted.

See how the technologist structured the flakes taken off. While its a thing of beauty, this obsidian point is deadly as well. Ever touched obsidian or wonder at its make-up? Its actually silica or otherwise called glass. Sharp as glass and sometimes as fragile if the technologist/artist wrongly works.

chertNow consider the chert projectile point. A completely different base material. The chert stands out in its tough makeup but the beauty here is that chert comes in so many different wonderful colors. The material is also known as crypto-crystalline silicate and the names are wonderful. I love the rock names like Chalcedony, Jasper. The coloring is almost hypnotic in nature. See how the pinks, blues, and almost greens bounce around in your vision? Truly something of beauty yet lethal.

The artistry and technology of these things has always interested me. It seems that the art and style and technique were valued enculturation items taken from father to son in a odyssey of style and approach. Perhaps though as the new generation got the design elements, changes were made. There was evolution of style and approach. Nothing stays static in technology and science as we know. To remain static is to lose relevancy.

The art of building stone tools evolved as we all know. It started here, went there, evolved, changed, became different when the need was or perhaps as an innovation not based on extreme need. Who really knows since the ideas can never be excavated along with the rock material. We can only build our surmises and theories and approaches based on what we see. The archeological record is incomplete. Like a rather famous southwestern archeologist once told me,

ideas and thoughts are the hardest to excavate

Yes indeed! The mentors I found or that found me on my journey way back when filled my head with wonder at the shapes of the tools above; but never stopped there. They also told me perhaps what the ideas and thoughts were as the person built the tool. Maybe its more like the tool building the person though. The tool evolves, the person evolves, the need evolves, the society evolves in some kind of cosmic dance.

The art of simply building a hearth or cooking pit I believe was always more than just the rocks burned up and the dead bunny bones we would find. I have thought the ideas and thoughts we could not excavate pointed at a rich social and oral tradition where the pit was the social media, the Google Plus of the time. We have circles on Google Plus and the hearths were in circles. No coincidence there? I believe that these things were more than just fires built to keep warm. They were socialization institutions where families gathered and poured over their lore, told the young ones the stories of the day and the past day. Perhaps those flintknappers gathered then and taught their young the art and style. But they also knew that the young would enrich the style and bring a new element.

Question for Today

How many things do you innovate do you think? Do you touch things and build your own mental projectile points to thrust at the prey? Perhaps that prey is work. Maybe life. Maybe conditions you find yourself in. I believe if you apply the old, tired methods you will not build things of value. Just like trying to teach someone a set of morals and guidance from some old book if you know what I mean. That old book had a set of morals and codes maybe good for the day. We have evolved since then. Has the book? It still seems to teach the same ole, same ole to me.

If religion is to be the point of the tip, where is the evolution that it dances around to stay relevant? If our lives are to be relevant, where are our evolutions? As the anthropologist once said,

there is nothing so constant as change

Are you under the wheel of the change or driving it? I admit to not being a vehicle of change but being the victim of others that conducted the change. Perhaps without my knowledge or approbation. But hey… When you consider how it all works you may not be the headmaster of your own change. Time to still adapt and adopt and build your projectile points.

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I’m Tired of Things

Every so often I reach the plateau of being tired. I’m tired at this point of doing what I’m doing, being what I’m being. I reach a point of hating the job as well. I don’t like inheriting stuff that’s messed up. I am really looking forward to the weekend. I may just leave and find another place to be fed up.

I’m tired of living here. I’m tired of this town, this city, this state, this country.

Great way to welcome a weekend but this blog is Mikes Thoughts and that’s what I’m thinking about.

I always think there is a bright side to a thing and I can transcend and reach the point of rescuing a severely fucked up thing. Then I think why? Why should I put my name on a thing. I think I will take off tomorrow afternoon after I get done with the most screwed up thing I have worked on in awhile.

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