7 Miles Later

Well, what a great day for seeing the north part of Seattle I wished to see. I started at about 930am this morning hiking up the street my hotel is on and from there saw Seattle Center with the Space Needle but from there I just took turns and saw a lake and then hiked over for a cheapo McDonalds lunch and over to Puget Sound and the wharves where the Ferry boats and perhaps cruise ships dock.

I got to see really quiet neighborhoods with leaves swishing around and more touristy attractions but there are not a lot of people here now doing the tourist thing. I got some quiet introspection time at the pace I go and have to admit that Seattle is another one of those cities made for the foot tourism I love to do.

I ended at a Starbucks with my choice of rewards which is a Vente Iced Caramel Macchiato and sat there watching the ebb and flow of Seahawks fans heading toward the game today. After an hour or so back to the comfy room and shoes off for awhile. I ran my pedometer application today to see what I would do out of curiosity. I did about 17000 steps and about 7.5 miles for the day’s hike.

Now its getting to be evening time and the clock has fallen back so darkness claims the earth sooner. By 530pm, I’ll head out for dinner tonight. I found a nice sounding pizza place where I’ll sit and relax and eat and drink some of the good locally crafted beers and then head back and start planning my day tomorrow. From the looks of it I will head south for the day to see the central business district and the International areas. I may ride the Monorail back north and then reach my Starbucks reward place :-)

The weather here is interesting. Rain falls very lightly a lot of the time and the city is a noisy, vibrant, funky thing. I like it! I have two more full days here and then I head back to work, back to home. I gave a lot of thought out walking today to my story. We all have stories I think. I kinda feel at times that what I had for so long was lost way before the other person decided to have an adulterous affair. I was just blind. A friend told me that I should wipe that last line from the etcha sketch but the lines are burned in and I remember these displaced things every so often. Perhaps trips like this are needed to further blur the remaining lines. I can see I am not a good mate for someone, not a good friend for a woman, not a fitting husband for a wife. I’m just me.

Traveling always means introspection when I walk the distances I do. I observe other families and other guys with their women. I wonder if they are really happy or they just go through the motions because its what’s required to do. I’ll do some more thinking tomorrow but the nice thing is I get the travel back as I want it.

More on Seattle ramblings tomorrow. Hope you all remembered to change the clock. Stupidest thing I have ever seen and I have never understood the need. Its like we want to attempt to have some control over time and space. Good luck with that.

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SFO to Seattle

Today was the first real day of my Seattle 2014 trip but was spent relocating from the Bay area to Seattle. Included was a nice 1.5 hour flight from SFO to SeaTAC. I used to fly into Seattle a lot when I did this work for Microsoft some years ago.

After landing here in Seattle; I caught the Link Light Rail from one end to the other for $2.75 one way. Great value for the ride if you ask me. The terminal is about 4 blocks from the hotel so it will be easy to head on back on Wednesday when its time to go back.

Today I goofed around watching college football in the hotel room and am going to leave for a bit now to get some beers and something light to eat. Not really interested in some long walk tonight. Tomorrow I’ll start the real vacation and head on out for the day walking. I plan on being gone for about 4 to 5 hours seeing the northern part of Seattle and adding a new photo album.

 The Real First Day

So here it is Sunday morning in Seattle. Its cloudy out and about 50 degrees. I’ve decided on the location for the day and by 10am I will be taking off. Seattle has many amazing diversions but today I will focus on the north part of the city.

seattle_downtown

 

There are many different places to attend to but I will do the Seattle Center and a park and then hike back down by 2 or 3pm and after some 5 to 10 miles of walking are done.

Tomorrow, I will probably ride the Seattle Monorail along the Puget Sound in some direction.

The Moore Hotel is very centrally located and the street the hotel is on is a major way for me to get to the points north of here today.

I love the exploration phase of a new city! Off we go!

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Here’s How We Go

Time for the final planning sequence for my trip tomorrow to Seattle. I follow faithfully the advice from OneBag on all trips. There is no reason to check bags whatsoever in this age. Checking baggage means you are putting your comfort in the hands of the Airline baggage handlers and TSA. Is that what you want? Here are Mike’s rules for travel to any old place.

Apply the Rule of 4 for clothing like t-shirts, socks, and underwear. Even when gone for weeks I have done this and have sufficient clothing for a week and then off the stuff goes to the laundry or cleaners.

How many pairs of pants do you really need? How many warm shirts or hoodies or sweaters? I think for a trip of 5 days you need one spare pair of pants. Wear the warm shirt or hoodie.

What do you really need for electronics? Do you really need the laptop, the tablet, the phone? Consider not only the devices but also the power bricks for each thing. It quickly turns into a mess of cables, bricks, different proprietary connectors. I guess I’m spoiled with Android devices with their same USB power cables. I also throw in my Tmobile Wifi Hotspot for good measure. Its nice to have 4g based network connectivity at most places.

Lets review the power requirements for this stuff next. You need to simplify there too. I pack a single 4 port AC adaptor which is rates for 110 to 240. Very important to find this since many of the places I’ve gone are not 110. I next plug into this a 5 port Anker USB charger which can hold a tablet, a phone, bluetooth headset and charge all at the same time. This plugs into the AC adaptor. Now I have power for all devices I use. The goal here is to get down to a single AC plug into the wall in the hotel folks. You don’t want to worry and fuss over the stupid places hotels tend to put their AC plugs.

Now we have the clothing, the electronics, and the power requirements all together. Back to OneBag and lets see the smart way to pack. Forget about rolling and folding and all that stuff. None of that works and it just takes up room. Here’s the smart way to pack.

bundle-wrapping

Notice the method to the madness here folks. This creates an easily manageable bundle of clothing. Some would say its more difficult to maintain but I have never had problems with rebundling and relocating.

Combine this with my RedOxx AirBoss carry on bag and I have the consummate traveler setup. The AirBoss has a deceptive looking amount of room and I’ve packed it full even past the rule of 4 I stipulated above.

airboss

This bag can be crammed full of stuff and still meet the Airlines space limitations on carry on bags easily. I’ve flown on regional and smaller airlines and it fits. Flying into Chennai India is a breeze with this bag. Back in the day, I was out of the airport and in a pre-paid Taxi or in the hotel taxi while the other folks were still getting their bags scanned. I imagine I saved a good 30 minutes in India at each airport traveling this way.

This also worked for me flying into Changi Airport in Singapore. I was out the door with the AirBoss for a cab by the time the other people were claiming baggage.

For this trip though, its even simpler. The rule of 4 applies and I have a restricted set of electronics to carry. Power needs are minimal and when I head out tomorrow, its with two carry on bags for my two hour trip. I’ll be out of the airport at SeaTac and in the light rail while everyone else is wondering why their bags have not left the airplane yet.

Conclusions or so…

So travel this way is less worrisome but it takes a re-thinking of the rules that we seem to be born into. The rules like carry the stupid roller bag that will not fit as a carry on bag anyways and bump everyone’s heads or ankles or knees. Try to travel with more than the allocated number of carry on bags and piss off the others. Carry way more stuff than you really need.

I’ve learned after a lot of international flights and business travel, the light travel meant less concern about lay overs either planned or not planned. The worst part once was having my checked luggage go straight through from SFO to Chennai and I had a hours layover in Singapore. No clean clothes, no toothpaste, no nothing. Very irritating.

Don’t be one of those. Think about what you want to accomplish with travel and plan it out.

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Travel Mode Ensues

Well, time is ticking down for me for the last little vacation of the year. Saturday morning I’ll be heading toward the airport for my flight up to Seattle. I’ll spend about 4 days which is about all I could get and two of those are weekend days. Originally, I had requested a week off and would have flown one way and taken the Amtrak back after a few days in Portland.

There’s not a lot I hope to accomplish in Seattle besides days of walking around the city, eating some of the great food up there and drinking the beer at a few of the taphouses and brewpubs, and just getting familiar with the city. Gonna be a good time I think. Much better to go with no real expectations and just let it happen. I’ll snap some photos with my new Nikon camera, enrich my GooglePlus photo albums, and then come on back down on Wednesday to work. Probably will not have another set of days off until around next May or so given the new work schedule.

Tomorrow I’ll pack up my RedOxx AirBoss and Saturday I’ll hit the road. First do some breakfast and then drive on over to the SF airport. Probably only gonna take my Nexus 7 this time since it does all that I need with the Google Voice integration. Won’t need to lug the cell phone from what I can see.

Vacations are good times ™.

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The Sunday Morning Blog Post

Its been some days since I wrote here it seems. No lack of commitment on my part. I attribute it to the ebb and flow of either worthy or stupid things to commit to the database and for your public perusal. I could look at it as a positive sum event that work has taken over some of the daily grind for me as I transition away from projects which have driven me down to something hopefully which will pick me back up again.

I like writing news blurbs here and trying to bring things to date with my own ramblings and thoughts. To be fair I’ve started a few entries for this place yet dropped them for a variety of reasons. Not really a quality or quantity thing. More like a desire to see things through. Now its Sunday and I sit here with some French Press coffee watching morning news. Its quiet here in the house. Last night I went out with my son for dinner to one of the four or five places he will eat. I had some fears after our lingering divorce and the relocation of my wife’s new husband that my son, so resistant to change, would forever be a victim of the change. He simply is not capable of adjusting like my daughter and resisted. I am somewhat happy to say after 9 months or so he has found a way forward to deal with how it all came to be.

I’ve enjoyed reading a few blogs that I’ve written about here before. I still like the act of visiting the actual blog. Seems like a conscious type of thing which I can choose to do and the words seem to have more force and focus for me when I read them first-hand. Thanks for Jonas for his 15 years on the job. Pioneers in blogging are really few and far between and many times I’ve asked the why of continuing it. Reading another’s journey kind of reinforces my own. These blog things come and go and people often post their very first entry and walk away to their own drumbeats and we never hear more. I wonder how many blogs are simply started and we are left with a single announcement post and then the writer simply leaves the building. I’ve “almost left” a few times.

Finally, its a Sunday morning here in the house. I hear the voices from my roommates now echoing the house. Its a Sunday morning and the blog content runs strong in me. At least for today. I decide to try to write more often here but I know next week I really will because I enter travel mode next Saturday and fly up to Seattle to go experience that city on foot. I’ll walk and drink beer and try to get a degree of separation in a few days.

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The Big Android Day

If you use Android, yesterday was big. Yet the news outlets this morning only carry news of the pending release of a new iPad. To be expected I guess given the pandering nature of US news coverage. It matters not that Android is the Number One mobile OS in the world. What matters is that these news folk seem in lock step with how they portray any possible news story that Cupertino may decide to illuminate us with.

But on to the news at hand. Yesterday we saw the arrival of major things, the changing of things, and even more.

Nexus Program Changes – We got three new devices yesterday from Google but the real thing here is that the Nexus program is at a crossroads. Before, we counted on heavily discounted phones with reference platforms of the new mobile OS. These were fun factories for all of us that appreciate the basic OS experience of Google without any of the skins or themes. But now, the price points have gone up as have what we get. From here on out, the Google Nexus program will be a highlight for more expensive devices. My take is if you want to play you will have to pay going forward. I don’t mind it at all. We are seeing costs commensurate with what carriers have done to us across the board and we get more. The things we get by buying direct are the updates, the factory images, and the developer support networks. Each of the things is a value but I think the biggest thing for me personally is the factory image support. This has saved my hide more than a few times. We may get the Nexus Player, the 6, and the 9; but we are getting really a new program which will simultaneously launch on all the carriers. This also is a major change.

The Nexus program also widens its scope in other ways. There is now a Asus infused Nexus Player and we welcome back HTC to the fold. The guys that made us the first phones running Android are back with a tablet which looks gorgeous. Motorola joins up and we get the Shamu sized Nexus 6. Whether this phone is in my future or not remains unclear but what is clear is the program is evolving. Maybe it becomes what Silver was meant to be. Who gives a s**t? We have new Nexus toys! Spend your hard-earned dollars and support them. Give the developers some cash to help them build for our devices. Lets all flash and root and break warranties starting early November.

The Android L experience is new. We are seeing a major shift in the OS now and it gets the 5.0 moniker. This is new and undoubtedly we will see minor version bumps and changes. This is like Linux in so many ways. What Lollipop really means is not new software though. What it really means is a changing of how we get Android. I believe we are moving to a annual cycle so that phone maker OEMs and software guys can catch up and remain relevant.

I know I’ve missed a whole bunch of things. Just like our news agencies around the Bay area. But don’t doubt. Yesterday was a huge day for Android. Now what remains to be seen is how Google handles the pre-ordering and shipment queues. That has been the other challenge when getting the devices straight from Google. I will be pre-ordering the Nexus 9 and Player tomorrow when they open for pre-ordering frenzy. I still love the Nexus 7 2013 version dearly and it will run Lollipop as will the Nexus 5 which should be considered as an alternative if you don’t want or need the so-called phablet. I think the N5 is sufficiently powerful to stay relevant with the release and its a beautiful handset all on its own.

Since Android is a “never done” experience much like Linux, everything evolves as the OS evolves. That’s the way it is.

And I love it being that way.

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Netflix and Linux – A Match made in…

Its been only recently that Netflix would work on Linux without installing additional software. Then we had a relatively minor step which was masking the user agent in Chrome on Linux. Now we have full compatibility by simply using the beta version of Chrome. Others have reported no need to even do that and I was reading that a person is able to use the stable version of Chrome as long as a certain patch level of the libNSS is installed. This is a huge thing for Linux users everywhere. It had felt for years like we were some kind of sub-standard citizens and many folks maintained a second real system or ran a VM in VirtualBox to do these kinds of things.

Now its finally happened and on my Debian Linux testing laptop, I can start Netflix and watch movies or TV shows with no skulduggery at all. Simple and straightforward and the way it should have been all along. I will never understand why they simply block things for Linux users. If you want a dedicated group that will pay for premium services, I believe Linux users are that group. Just because we use open source software does not mean that we do not pay for things we desire that cost something. Or at least that’s what it means to me. Linux is about freedom but its also about choice. We choose to use a thing because of a certain set of core values like,

  • Freedom from the proprietary hooks that Windows puts us through. We all want to be able to own the computer and the OS we use. Its not a rental or a lease. We should not be stuck with firmware or other things which preclude us from using or limit us.
  • Choice to use the computer the way we want. We should be able to install multiple physical OS’es on the system if we so desire. We should be able to choose the software stack and applications that take us to the tools.
  • Open standards versus walled gardens mean we can expect to use sets of applications which are supported by the wider audience. The core tools we use to communicate, exchange, move our data should not be hampered by a walled garden approach where we pay to play.
  • Wider community support means we can access fora, groups, and communities that all express a common interest and value in extending the use of the tools. Linux has been and will always be this type of community.

If there were a manifesto of mine it would be that our choices of what we use are tempered with what we need to get done. You will not use a hacksaw to hammer a nail in. The expectation is though with an open source and standard you can see the source and not suffer a lock-in. My manifesto says that to get better at a thing you must first use a thing that’s suitable for the job at hand. Finally, my manifesto says that the OS you are using should not preclude or limit you from the task at hand due to some restriction or limit. I am paying for the entire thing not a lease of a particular component.

That’s what turns me off of Apple gear most of all. I never felt ownership of all that music on iTunes. I don’t feel that an iPhone is mine. I cannot break the warranty if I so choose to do so. I cannot use the device in a manner in which I want.

Perhaps my manifesto of being a good habilis is not for you and that’s okay. We all excel at our paths and choose what we choose to use. Not having a choice is making a choice. If you live in a walled garden, you can still see the flowers. You may not be able to reach them though due to the limits of your choice.

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Integration Points

I’ve used Google Voice for quite some time to do intelligent call forwarding, managing voice mails. Now we have the Hangouts integration with Voice and the whole thing has moved forward a few paces for me.

Now having a Google Voice number means I can use one number for just about everything. For work, people dial that number and my office phone rings thanks to the Obitalk 200 device. I can now make and receive calls if I desire from my Nexus 7, get SMS messages there, get missed call notifications. What this really means is when I go to Seattle in a few weeks, I can just take a tablet with me and no cell phone at all. I will be able to call my daughter from the Nexus 7, receive calls and also do regular chatting.

This is ideal for the person with a converged home office system like me. I only want a single device and number bothering me but I want the flexibility to move around to different devices but have the same integration point. Now there is a new Chrome app for my chromebook which extends this to sets of discussion chat bubbles and also integrates the whole Voice experience onto the chromebook. Very cool!

This blurs the distinction of a locked landline phone with only one way to answer very effectively. There is more work to be done though with how the Voice integration happens and how we can do dialing and see missed calls. Everyone thought that Google Voice was in some soon to be retired capacity. Now with Hangouts integration, Google Voice has become so much more for a home worker like me. Since I spend about 90% of my time either on my Acer chromebook or on a android tablet, the integration of services means not having to worry about missing a call or SMS. When I go on vacation in three weeks I’ll pack only my Nexus 7 tablet and a wifi hotspot and I’m in business.

I don’t know of a free solution which does all this and then extends it across all my platforms excluding my Linux laptop for now. That will come too though I think. If not though, that’s okay. I boot the laptop only to mount up and use ADB and Fastboot and I enjoy watching Netflix on it and seeing the warning sign before I change the user agent that its incompatible.

End Game

I believe in the end we want integration of things. We don’t want to carry around 5 devices that each do a thing if we can get one that gives us the 80% or more of integration points. One day we will be able to add our Android phone numbers and verify them and choose to get those calls forwarded or managed at those times when we don’t have the phone available. Sending a SMS from hangouts using my cell phone provider would be a great next step and one I would use to limit what I take on trips.

I also would like my Android phone to be a trusted node and unlock my chromebook instead of futzing with passwords. Maybe that will also come. I’ve heard of a thing like this already in the non stable channels.

Here is the big thing. Android and Linux are fun. Fun to use, to explore with, to modify, to hack on. Perhaps its my mindset or my desire to make the phone mine much like my laptop. I don’t want some OS telling me what I can do or not do. If the garden is walled, I will always look for a way over the wall.

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Back to the New Thing

Last few weeks been waiting patiently for the official announcement from IBM about my new project. Today I got it. I guess I am exceedingly lucky as the project runs through next September at this point. That locks me in to a year of work which is what I asked for basically. I didn’t want to have numerous little projects. Now I am in my second year with Global Technology Services and I’m thankful. I’m also spoiled at this point working at home and cannot imagine not sitting here in the mornings with PJs on doing conference calls with my home setup. The most useful thing for me has to be Google Voice and how it now integrates with Hangouts. I also purchased an Obitalk 200 which allows me to place and receive calls from the Google Voice number and my Nexus 7 tablet can pick up calls if I so desire plus making calls from the voice number. This really extends the idea of “home office” to places I may end up going where I want phone service.

Some day I may write a tale about my work from home endeavors and how I made this a comfortable and persistent condition. Now I’ll just sit here with my morning French Press coffee and take a morning off from work and dwell on the basics.

Android Basics

Its an interesting voyage since I first got a Android handset in India back in 2009. That HTC Magic had no Google apps on it and Airtel had locked it down completely. Very frustrating but finally figured out how to unlock it, root it, and get a ported HTC Hero ROM installed. My HTC Magic started going down as my time in India was ending so I picked up a HTC Hero with its major jaw in Singapore at one of the Duty Free electronics shops. I rooted it and installed a new ROM on it soon after.

Now the phones bear little resemblance to those phones of yore. My OnePlus One is a classy thing but seems unfinished in some ways. It has glitches here and there but Android is one of those things much Linux that is never finished and I think people forget when they buy into the ecosystem that’s the way it is. I believe one must also accept upgrading handsets every so often as new technologies are factored in. When I first started with Linux back in 1998, we had support for a handful of things like network and sound cards. The servers, desktops, and laptops of today could not hope to run those kernels successfully. Linux is on the move! Same with Android. If you want locked down, take a bite of the fruit instead. In the end, its your choice. I choose the unfinished one because the path to “getting done” moves forever forward as the days go on.

Life Basics

At some point after moving out, after the divorce, after finding myself again; I realized that life was more basic in nature. I had this bubble of a room again like in Chennai but the internet is a bit faster. I enhanced the basics with my own comcastic cable internet which turned things nicely. I do the things in life which make me happy now. I travel again and this year will have done three vacation by year’s end. I realize now how much my indomitable spirit suffered before. Its okay though. When I go out and walk every day, I re-invent and invigorate and find again.

Getting back to life basics is fun too.

Finally basic…

I found new friends but I have also realized that friendship is this bartering thing. I knew this for a long time but after moving to Al’s home; it became even more obvious. If someone gives more than he gets, its not friendship.

Now I will leave for donuts and some introspection or perhaps Starbucks and some Latte.

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Getting Darker Earlier

The time of the seasons is changing. Soon the clock will flip back in its senseless backpedaling. It reminds us we are the slaves of time. Walking will become an earlier in the day habit starting soon. This last Friday, the runtastic Android app told me I walked almost 1 hour and 40 minutes for almost 5 miles of distance. I left around 540 and it was dark by the time I got back. Tonight the sky was just changing it hues and the sunset started kicking in as I got around 10 minutes from the house.

I’m about to change my work assignment I think and go back to the Petroleum company I started at a year ago. Almost the same time too. They are sending emails out now requesting me to come back sooner rather than later; but I also have  vacation planned out for three days in early November and I really feel the need to take it. I’m a bit burned out and need to hit the streets up in Seattle and get back some sensation back.

I also heard my friend AFT is heading back from the Philippines. I worked at a company he started way back when that Linux in the enterprise and before that we all met at the GAP. A bunch of us moved over in 1998 to this start-up and had a rather fun and funky time at the start but after some years it got bad. I ended up going back to the spin down side of it years later and lasted a year before the same CFO severed me in the same month. I remember telling him he should be happy he got to sever me from the same company twice in about 5 years.

Now here I sit at IBM for another year. A new project for me finally and not one that is in trouble with clients that are pissed off already.

The sun sets on so many things I remember. My trips to Singapore and India. The side trips to Japan every so often. The sun rises on the new me though. The me that can take vacations as I want with money I earn to places I want to see. Train trips await me too. I still want that trip across the United States on Amtrak.

I have some other goals or desires. I guess a desire is a goal with no planning. So perhaps I will do some planning and let them graduate.

 

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