Traveling in Spirit

Today I met up with my friend Dinesh and for the first time met his wife. We spent a gentle hour or so at Starbucks talking, laughing, remembering times spent in India. Its fun to meet up with friends from Chennai and talk about how different a new person finds life here in the US who is from India. A particularly humorous comment of hers was that she never thought she would see so many Indians here but where she lives all of her neighbors are from someplace in India. We talked about driving in India versus here because she wants to get a driver’s license. Its funny to relate how my Auto driver in Chennai regarded the buses that would not share the road with anything smaller.

He would cuss them out and gesticulate at them when they did something particularly offensive. VJ would tell me that the buses were not nice and they were big and he was small and life was unfair. Then I would laugh and he would smile and we’d motor on toward my destination. VJ was a gentle and kind soul who took me to the places in Chennai I wanted. He hauled me home drunk and took me to restaurants and let me get to places otherwise that would have been difficult. I paid him more but I always felt I got more. In all honesty, I lived pretty well getting paid in US dollars and translating to Rupees for my local living.

So we talked more and Dinesh’s wife wanted to know about my family. I think Dinesh explained to her the realities of me and the family unit and how often I either see or don’t see my kids. We shared stories about restaurants we had all gone to and our lives when I lived there and worked for Celestix Networks India. Those were mighty fine days all in all.

I also heard that my friend Rajesh is coming over from Mumbai later this month so we will get to see him. Dinesh, Rajesh, and I would go out to eat quite often together in India and they would haul me all around to restaurants and bars and buffet places. It was always fun to have friends there that would take me to a place or that would meet me at the Savera Hotel for a beer. The Savera was down the street from the traditional hotel I stayed in and it was my watering hole and rescue from a otherwise no beer life in most places. I sometimes pulled the plug and went to Singapore for a long weekend of eating and drinking or would move over to the Raintree and stay and enjoy the room, food, and beer there.

So the travel in spirit was in effect and I have this recurring fantasy of just leaving all of this behind and traveling the roads and paths of the world. Seeing it all. Riding a train in China and a ferry boat in Japan. Seeing the country unfold from Bangkok to Singapore on the 23 hour trip on the rails. Flying into Chennai in the afternoon and feeling that warm heat touching me so close and then seeing those sunsets which light up the sky and the mind. I miss all that but its not to be yet.

Now I travel in spirit and have the memories of photos and old clippings and a manila envelope of a trip to Kyoto. I carefully landscape my list of places and I know there are so many cities I still want to walk in and see. The cities out there gesture to me and are waiting for me to move beyond traveling in spirit. The great wall and the great dream. Both stretch out before me.

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Moving from here to there

I’ve lived in the same dump for almost 1.5 years now. That’s 18 months living in a room I normally would overlook based on conditions, the commitment of our so-called landlord, and how far down the entire room rental thing has gone here. Whatever happened here is not a recent thing. Its not a turn of the coin from a day or so ago. This place took 10 years to get so far down as it is now. Now he seems intent on trying to sell this dump. I walk around in constant wonder how someone would agree to buy this place. Broken bathrooms, sinks gone, leaky roof, bad plumbing, bad roof. How is it possible that a person can let a thing go so far down? All the renters have wondered.

So I’ll move in about two weeks and not look back. The rest of that have lived here will also depart in the next three weeks or so. My friend Free for his new life in Salem, Oregon. Others will leave to find their next thing.

Work as work

Work is another thing which has moved from here to there. It takes a bit to challenge me these days and I seem to have forever lost the elusive feeling of accomplishment and joy at the work somehow. Now I just get by with a sense of completion. I am not sure what happened with the earlier feelings of joy and elation. They simply went away at some point between 2009 and now. Just like other things went away. At the current place I show up each day and deal with what they say are the issues. I find a way to get  a thing done and they act happy to have me. The part that bothers me is that I don’t have the same feeling. Work has become like work. How do I get the other feelings back I wonder.

Normally I would call my buddy Nancy at IBM and ask her and she would listen and tell me in her slight Texas drawl,

well buddy boy you need to apply your best methods but you know nothing now can be like something then. So just man up and do the best you can do. Either you will get the feelings back or you won’t No one is paying you for your feelings though. They want your soul and your abilities.

I think she would say something like that after I asked her what was happening.

So its time to just go on and get on with getting on.

Play as nothing

I’m not sure what happened with the concept of play. Or Play. I mean the big Play. The Play that stretches over the times and gives you the keen zest for life. The regular old play is what gets you by in a day. The big Play gives you that feeling, that zest, that wonder. Play has not moved from here to there either.

So I guess I will go on. I’ll work and play and think. No big letters assigned.

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Working Days – Saturday Thoughts

Its always hard starting a new gig. The people are all different. Projects require a different look and touch. They hired me and want me to be their infrastructure PM and catch the things, be able to discuss stuff with network and systems engineers, virtualization folks, storage admins but still retain the management focus. I think I bring all that and more to the game. I gently took over a meeting yesterday with a network engineer and we drilled down on the issues which he had not been able to introduce to the project. The network is the critical path but yet the actual requirements were missed. We got those into the plan finally and now people can see that its not the servers and the firewalls and the wireless access points on the new floor. Its what delivers to all them.

Moving Along

By the end of the month, I have to move out of the current digs. This is no big thing to me. The current place sucks at so many levels and our beloved landlord refuses to deal with the garbage in the house, the refuse from tearing walls down, the general cleanliness. I reduced the final rent to remind him he missed out on his duty to us.

I started looking this last week but the truth is that most rooms really are not available this far in advance from when I need to move. I hate not having the whole thing proactively planned but such is life. Everything comes together or not for a reason or reasons out there.

So moving along means finding a thing I can live with for a year or so and then I can implement the Mike plan part two after next year.

Android Gets Under Your Skin

And it never gets tiring. Just like Linux. Once you decide to use something you are empowered to change, it creates new vistas for how you can use and own a device. I always laugh at the IOS users and the pathetic phone interface they’re stuck with. I want widgets and a real file system I can use. I want to use the device.

Like Linux, Android lets me adopt and adapt to what I like. New active wallpapers that change every two hours? Tapet has that covered. Just the little things folks. A little thing like a changing wallpaper or having weather and my calendar as active widgets on the home screen. Just making the device mine. This was the major frustration owning an iPad Air 2. No matter what I did, it was never mine. I could not change a little thing on it. Forget the big things!

The Changeling Strikes

We are all owners and victims of change you know. We can plan a thing out but change is inevitable and it carries with it perhaps rules we know about and many we don’t. Other forces act and interact on our little corner of the universe. We may not ever see those things but yet they impact us.

I realized walking last night that we are all beings of incredible joy and sadness. We have the stuff of the universe in our bodies and yet we are so little and miserly. We’re made of star stuff but our exploding universes are so tempered with the experiences of us. We simply cannot see past our noses but the stars and worlds and people and change are all out there.

Why can’t we see farther? Its simple. Its the way it is and was. Want to change it. Tough. But that does not mean you should not try.

Go make it a miserable Saturday. You deserve it.

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These were Nexus Days

A lot of good things coming out of Android these days. Two new phones, a few chromecast goodies and perhaps a tablet. I looked at both phones pretty carefully and I’m torn with getting one of them or moving to the Moto X Pure Edition which also can have an unlocked boot loader and may have a decent development community. Lets be honest though. There is nothing like the Nexus line so I will probably buy the 6P 128gb model just because they decided to sell one with that much memory.

I don’t think I will do a tablet again running Android. I don’t see the benefit of it. I also cannot seem to see what Android brings to tablets compared to phones. There is just not a thing that tablets can do any longer that my Nexus 6 cannot do better. I think the screen cutoff for me is at about the size of the Nexus 6 or 6p or Moto Pure Edition. To be able to enable what I want which is a single device across my uses, the phone screen size is important.

In the end, I don’t understand things like the iPad Pro or the new non Nexus android tablet. But to be fair, I don’t understand Microsoft Surfaces either. I had one and it was just as dumbed down as my laptop running Windows 7 just in a more irritating form factor with more little pieces to plug in or stroke the screen with. These convertible devices really do not lend themselves to my use cases easily.

So for me the Nexus days are the new fangled Chromecast and the Nexus 6P when I can do it.

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Back to Work and New Living Digs

Tomorrow, I’m back to work at TiVo. My first day at new digs. I also need to find a new place to stay so am going to go look at a room today that’s closer to my work place in Milpitas. Our landlord decided to sell this decrepit house even with so many things completely wrong with it. A few of the newer things are county or city issues:

  1. Illegal building and construction of walls, electrical systems. The garage and the family room had un-permitted and illegal building of walls and installation of electrical wiring to make room for other people to move in. Our landlord got caught here by the city due to a previous renter that turned him in.
  2. Inability of our landlord to fix common areas like the oven, the washer and dryer and just not caring about the cleanliness conditions of the house.
  3. Desire to sell the house “as is” by the landlord. Lets just be clear. This house is a disaster area which has not had anything done to it for a decade or more and somehow some poor sap is going to buy this place?

I’ve lined up a new place for this afternoon to look at which would be ideal for me but if the place falls through, I’ll continue looking and will be out of the room by end of October at the latest. I’ve taken care of the car issues already and my new car is easily able to take me to work each day for a fraction of the gas cost of the old beast I had.

Apple and Android Thoughts

So Apple launched their iPhone 6S and 6S+ which are modest improvements. Let me get this straight though. These are not revolutionary changes and just modest or “step” improvements? I don’t really understand why people buy these things. I guess if you have an apple watch and an iPad though that the whole upgrade path is attractive.

There is also a misconception about the Nexus phones. I don’t think Google ever meant them to be successful at the same level that a Samsung or LG want. This year we have two new Nexus phones and no new tablet. I think that’s good. I don’t see the Android tablet thing coming together these days. The Nexus 9 is simply not good enough and there is not a device I look at which stretches any of the boundaries. I also question why a tablet is even necessary these days. My Nexus 6 or the next phone I get which may be the Motorola X Pure covers both needs. I start my Nexus 9 and 7 tablets and I don’t see the need there any longer.

End of Days and Beginning of Days

Now my days are ending of unemployment and soon I’ll start being productive at a new thing. I will also move by end of October and perhaps to the room I am going to look at today if we find compatible interests and she accepts my terms. I would want to give an amount to hold the place for me until end of the month and then I could move in around Halloween time.

I’ll be glad to have this place be done and the next thing to start. I think the life just around the corner will be much better. Definitely working again, being productive, learning new things and being a resource again will be nice.

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In Fours

In Japan, things that happen in 4’s are bad. I’ve often tried to count when things start happening and whether they get there. Most recently, our beloved landlord decided he was going to sell the house we all live in. That means we all must leave. There are 4 of us impacted. One will go to Oregon. I will go to Milpitas to be closer to work. The other two guys will go on to what awaits them.

The last 1 year and some months have been marked by a deterioration in how our landlord manages the place. We often must follow-up with him to clean up messes, pick up dirty dishes, clean up dirty clothing. Somewhere along the line he has let most of this stuff go.

Now its the house he is selling and as I look around, I cannot imagine someone actually buying it. Yet he has gotten a so-called bridge loan to help him renovate the house. Renovation is not what this house needs. This place needs basic construction. Its that bad.

So I will move along now and I found a place to look at this weekend in Milpitas. Its more money but there is carpet on the floor, central air and heat, the windows work, the bathrooms look clean. All of the things you kinda expect when you rent a place.

All of this happens as I wait to start the new gig next Monday. Life would not be anything if not in 4’s.

I’ll be sure to count things from here on out. If I get close to 4’s, I’m gonna stop.

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New Car Happiness

Today I finally replaced my old 1999 Ford Expedition. I had hoped to have the car another year but reality and the the facts of car ownership conspired against me. I bought a 2008 Hyundai Elantra from the local Toyota dealer and the car is really nice. It gets about 27 miles per gallon on the streets and 32 on the highways. Much better than the 12 and 15 or so before.

I drove the car off the lot with a full tank of gas and the dealer washed and detailed it a bit for me. I also got the 3 year warranty for no real additional cost. I pay the first $100 and they do the rest.


This car will get me to and from work and also over to get my kids for dinners and stuff. It was a good day and I was able to find a car I felt really good about. Now perhaps a few Saturday night beers!

Enjoy your weekend all.

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Chapter Two – Cutting the Cable and Cutting the Costs

Here’s a bit more on the whole cable cutting thing if you are interested or even if you are not. Be aware of what thing you have. I have both a chromecast and roku. Both are hooked up on my cheapo Samsung TV. For the money spent this little TV has a lot of value for the limited space I have for these things.

Now on to the real stuff if there is really real stuff in all the garbage I write :-).

Streaming for Things

Sports Streaming. Its football season so I want to watch a variety of NFL and NCAA games. The NFL is brain dead when it comes to streaming live games. I would pay $200 for a season of live streaming where I could start an app on the chromecast or roku and just watch all the games. What we do have the Watch ESPN app and the NFL Game Pass. The Watch ESPN app is nice but the caveat is that you need to have a provider ID for a cable or other network to be able to see the streaming for the most part. For the Game Pass you can only watch the games after the game is over.

Movies and TV Streaming. Life is decidedly good when wanting movies and TV. You can have Hulu Plus and Netflix and a bunch of channels on the Roku with older movies that I happen to like. Many are free and others that are very high quality like Acorn TV cost a bit. Streaming is good and the solutions are very reliable and just work.

Over the Air for Things

Sports on OTA HD. Yes this is very possible and I’ve happily watched games on an over the air antenna in really good HD. I also watch HD quality movies and news on a OTA antenna. There are so many different antennas but you need to check out a few things first before buying. Can you even get broadcast channels? Check out TVfool and see. It will give you a report on various channels you can get. In my area, I get decent reception using the HD Cable Cutter Antenna


This antenna provides a very high level of quality for what I want but it may not work at all where you are. In other words, you may spend the bucks and have to return it.  I know it looks kinda weird so if you have a boutique nature going you may want to put it outdoors or something. This also is not the cheapest antenna.

My main uses for the OTA are broadcast news, sporting events not covered on ESPN, and the occasional movie on one of the OTA or PBS channels. PBS is a darned good option when using over the air BTW.

Conclusions or Lack Thereof

Looking to the cut the cable or reduce the cost? Consider the caveats above. ESPN and many other “streaming channels” require a login on xfinity or ATT or some service before they give you the goods. If you have a friend that gets all the comcast goodies, you can simply ask him for an account. Its a 5 minute thing for him to do. If this cannot be done,  you still have options like Sling TV. I tried Sling TV and its good. It encapsulates all the channels I really care about and you can buy it month by month with no long term contract. One thing of note, Sling TV does not do chromecast yet but its support on Roku is very good. One major point here is to be aware of your solution and its limitations and what you want to watch. The NFL is rather frustrating and I may sign up for Game Pass even though I cannot watch the games until after. I would prefer to have all the games for a season even if its delayed.

I would say cable cutting for the Mike experiment is about a 90% solution. I could always head to a local sports bar to watch but I want the challenge of finding the things and using my solution. Half or even more of the fun is figuring out how not to use comcast or ATT.


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Mini Vacation Starts Now

Spur of the moment thing. Drove down to Monterey for 2 days because I could. Going to kick it back a notch, go for a few longer walks starting today and spend tomorrow investigating the parts of Monterey I have not been able to see such as the Historic Park.

The new gig starts on Monday. Just got confirmation from the recruiter. They have all the paperwork and I’m ready to get going on the gig.

I’m glad to have taken the gig with TiVo. I get away from the never-ending issues about IBM deciding to restructure and other biggies like HP deciding to downsize because they want to split into two companies. I don’t think HP really knows what it wants to be when it grows up.

Now am going to plan out a few hour traverse here in the area I’m and end up at a brewpub for some well-deserved beverages and dinner.

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Cordcutting in 2015

The new or almost new thing is cordcutting. Getting rid of the accursed cable TV but streaming replacement channels over the internet. There are new ways of doing this but you cannot simply replace the channels or get the football games or see the programming yet. You can see parts of things by subscribing to various and sundry services. Here is my basic attempt at some sanity without cable TV:

  1. Chromecast – the chromecast simply does not do enough and there are not enough options to provide a reasonable level of service. Each application has to have the chromecast application support baked in or you cast the entire screen or the tab on my chromebook. Not a replacement so unfortunately my chromecast has gone away.
  2. Amazon Fire TV and HDMI stick – this is closer but things are missing. You cannot get google play movies but you can get slingtv.
  3. Roku HDMI and Roku devices – much better at the level of support for streaming. I basically get enough programming and streaming to take the edge off. Present is Amazon Prime Video, Google Play Movies, SlingTV, and a whole host of options. Almost a replacement.

So what is missing?

Network TV. There is no real way to get network TV unless you purchase a Over the Air (OTA) HD TV antenna. These antennas work to bring in HD level programming of network TV stations like Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC.

Premium Cable Channels. The Turner Classic Movies and other channels stream but require an account with a provider. I have no provider account any longer so cannot stream the channels at all.


What is the next best bet?

I think a combination of a Roku device plus SlingTV provides a reasonable alternative but I will probably get another OTA Antenna and try that again. I miss the network TV channels quite a bit. Gone are the NFL football games and the evening ABC college game.

I will never understand how a person can simply forget to pay a bill like a utility bill. This house has some serious issues and the remainder of the renters now have no internet either because our landlord decided to simply not set aside the money. A stupid thing to do.

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