Happy Thanksgiving

Be thankful for what you have and don’t have.

I intend to as I binge drink tonight.

Turkey Day Wishes

I binged last night not as much as I thought and woke up this morning after sleeping in. This is my first Thanksgiving in the house where I live. I’m used to a house where the family gathered and one of the fundamental things was eating the food together. This fell apart after about 2010 and the house became some kind of holiday purgatory where each of the high holidays seemed to have yet another set of limitations or conditions put upon it.

I’ve come up with some wishes or blessings which perhaps are set for posterity or at least for me to come back to every so often when I doubt things or start feeling that those days were better than what I have now.

  • You can’t go back again. Its better to find the goods and even bads in what you have now. The past cannot be resurrected even if you spend your afterlife in a pyramid. Basically, what you have now is what you have. Be thankful.
  • Families change. What we call family today may suddenly change. My friend Ed can testify that what he once hoped for was that he would have this family unit but it changed under him. How divorce acts on this during the holidays is a strange thing.
  • Time and Space changes. Everything at all times changes. Whether you really want it to or not. In fact, I think the things change in spite of your wants, needs, desires. In 2009, I spent Thanksgiving in Chennai India. It was one of my last weekends in India. It was, and I still remember, a strange, hopeful thing. Here I was so far away in a place I had lived for most of that year but something shaped like a metallic cigar would whisk me away first to Singapore and then home. Takes me to the new thing.
  • Homes change. What we call a home today and what we may call one tomorrow are up to the same forces. Nothing stays stagnant besides those things which have gone already. This is another one of those things you just have to accept or deny. Denial means you have not come to grips yet with what you find @home.

Finally, I wish you all the measure of goods and even bads you all need. You need the goods because they show you a path and how you reach a place. You need the bads because they challenge and make the trip to the goods worthwhile. Never discount the power of the bads as transformation engines. If you merely accept and don’t strive to learn, you are the dodo bird of the creation story and will spend your time not knowing the extent of the goods or the level of the bads.

Thanks for reading the blog. Its become important again to me to write here after whimpering in my non blogging solitude for a bit. I still feel sometimes that the engine allows me to write things you all don’t really care about. Dished out in family sized portions of inedible recipes of my own goods and bads.

That’s too bad. Or too good. Pick one.

Happy Thanksgiving you all.

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Those Hunters

In the way back machine, I once tromped the deserts of the Mojave and Great Basin. I would walk all day long staring at the ground. My nearest colleague was 30 or so meters away. That person also stared down. The desert wind rifled through my old Army fatigue coat and I could feel it’s merciless hunting for my sweet skin. It would find a way inside and by the end of that day I would find it hidden in those places you wish it would not be. Archeology is this active thing. It’s you and the weather and the twin forces that carve the desert into its realms. Those forces cause the places to move, to steal away, to become more or less. They make our earth or take it away. Erosion and deposition create or destroy and make the desert whine in denial or acceptance.

We are intruders to this primordial soup. The forces have acted before our puny feet walked and our little primate brains wondered. Others, those hunters, probably learned to read the story. The hunters and gatherers knew and often left perplexing messages on canyon walls and caves. They also knew how the desert would store that priceless life giver water. Maybe they drew maps on those walls or left us unfinished blog posts about  their worlds. Their fantasies.

I still wonder at things about the anthropology of the moments of my life. Those folk knew so much and here I sit still enthralled at the thinking of the moments I was lucky enough to spend staring out of my sleeping bag on the ground in some nameless place watching the cosmic dance of the universe.

Yes it was a love affair. Yes I miss it.

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The New Travel Methodology

I’ve written a few times about a particular way to set out on foot to see a place. I’ve practiced the approach more than a few times now with varying degrees of success. My list of cities particularly amenable to foot excursions grows with each vacation. I’ve selected a next city already for spring time next year that I will visit. Boston is the city. Its not a terribly complex matter to find a place and often includes searching on pretty basic terms in google like “unaccompanied foot tours” or to locate websites which specialize in maps or descriptions of how to get around in the city I’m interested in. As an example, for Boston there is Boston by Foot which is a destination to clip for Evernote. The site includes maps and PDF files I can download and then copy over to Google Drive and use on my phone or Nexus 7 tablet. Then there is Walk Boston site which also includes maps and reviews of foot tours. This one also has maps and reviews of walking tours. Two great sites from which to gather reference data and make a decision about visiting.

The City of Boston website proclaims that Boston is a city for walkers as well and particularly mentions the Freedom Trail as a historic walk.

A lot of times you can find a lot of detail by simple searches but how you keep and catalog the information and then retain it can be challenging. Enter Evernote on android tablets and phones. I basically build a new notebook for every planned trip and never retire them just because I’ve done the tour. I had a nice folder for Seattle and Eugene which I will keep. You can also email your travel details to Evernote and move those into the folder.

As I get closer to the date I’ve decided to go, I start more refined searches like how to get around using local light rails, subways, buses, trains. When I visited Tokyo in 2010 and Kyoto in 2011, this was particularly handy. The Tokyo metro subway will get you wherever you wish to go in the grand city. In Kyoto, you can locate your hotel with respect to the various stops.

The workflow for this is to start a grand level and find a city with basic searches. Refine the search and start an Evernote folder for the city. As the time gets closer and you have your flights or train booked, get those into the folder. Find the ways to get around in the city and copy the PDF files or maps to Evernote. Get hotel reservations into Evernote.

Now your trip is ready to begin! The magic is that you can basically chart your approach how you want. I start with a coffee the first day and the map I’ve found and decide to explore a particular direction or location first. I try to get the major streets and intersections looked at but that never works. I just go and let whatever happens happen. Sometimes getting lost is the thing that happens. One time in Japan, a friendly Tokyo policeman got me all the way back to the ANA Intercontinental Hotel. I thanked him profusely and he let me know they are very happy to have visitor to see their city. So don’t be afraid to explore the new place. You can do it! The steps and miles are yours too in the new place. You’ll get tired and your feet will be sore but you will know you have seen the city in a way that relatively few are able to. Walking the cities means you are able to see it at a self-guided pace where each thing can be stopped at and explored. You don’t worry about travel guides and buses trying to show you what they think is important. In a city like Kyoto you will find sleepy neighborhoods, smaller temples, interesting little noodle shops and even large malls where lunch came along with seeing all the Christmas decor.

You should give it a try sometime. Pick a city easy to get to and try it out. I have my list of places which are particularly amenable to the foot tourist. Yours will be different. My next city is Boston in the late spring. I’ll most likely fly out and train back since that’s another dream I have. I want to take the Amtrak from east to west coast. Time to check that off the list too.


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Traveling Ways and Means

Its Friday so often I think of a retrospective type thing. A post or a few thoughts on the “where I’ve been” and “what I’ve seen” type thing. So many folks are more traveled than I; been to so many different places. Yet I count myself lucky and fortunate to have been able to do the things I’ve done. An old friend asked me once if the long trip to Chennai (almost the entire year in 2009) was worth the price of the loss of the marriage and all the things which have happened since then. He believed that I just lost everything and nothing was gained in the travel. This is so untrue. Nothing is ever lost in any endeavor you do. You may not be able to check off all the positive blocks but negatives teach as well.

A friend also remarked he never knew his significant other until they married. I believe you never really know the other person until you divorce. Marriage is supposed to be this union of two into one, a state of bliss and partnership where the two meet and work through the highs and lows, the good times and bad. What the travel to India and afterwards taught me is that we never can reach this union of thought, mind, body, spirit. We simply are too distinct to ever walk in only one set of footsteps. We never find out the difference though until we go our own ways. Then you find out in short order what the other person is really like. Your nice and rosy painting of the person soon is colored with the realities that you chose to either ignore or overlook in all those great years.

So the travel in this regard enriched my life. India became the home or native place I never had. Chennai particularly became this sea of humanity riding around in auto’s, going to restaurants, watching the Diwali festivals. There is so much there to love and so much that is weird, unusual, not easily explained. When you face it head on you learn. If you just sit in a room somewhere like some folks I met at the Raintree Hotel, you never really see even a block away.

I also was able to travel after that to Japan in 2010 and 2011. Its the most wonderful, exotic, fun, and delicious place to visit at so many levels. I always get to Tokyo as the jump-off spot and want to walk in yet another direction, get completely lost. Ask a city policeman to help me find a subway station. Find a noodle shop. Buy cheap beer at a local Circle K. Ride the Tokyo Metro with bunches of kids which approach me with their school taught English and ask me to talk. They want to learn the vernacular or colloquial English. Stuff schools do not teach. Then its off to the evening places. The Ginza and others turn into sub-culture hangouts and its even more fun. Streets are blocked off and soon the Elvis impersonators are out with boomboxes singing. The anime funfest also starts in different places and cosplayers roam the streets of the Akihabara where before we went to buy techno-toys with Art.

Finally there is Singapore and its many wonders crammed into a small land mass. A place where food reigns supreme and the people mark their time with evenings out at the Hawker pavilions drinking, eating, talking. They all “take a moment”.

Its dawned on me we don’t do that much here in the US. We don’t take a moment. We seem to march toward accomplishment, plans, goals. Striving to strive. In only a few places have I seen something like the old adage,

Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits

We seem obsessed with the rush. We don’t cosplay our lives at all. We don’t take on the other character which may be strange or odd or just different. Maybe that’s why travel is so jarring when we go to a place that does take the moment. We are trapped in a social anomie where our values don’t add up.

Travels frees us but I believe its the act of the travel itself that does. It marks a changing our internal guards. The time changes but so does our perspective. If we never leave the hotel in Chennai, we will never know the same Thai place right down the street where I went more than a few times.

You must strip away that outward shell and let the cosplayer roam.

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Reviews and Encores of the Nexus

I’ve been a Nexus boy for some years now. I guess the main reason is that I want android like google intends it. I don’t like skins and themes. If the OEMs would offer an alternative for regular old android on their phones I would take it. Lets just say a program existed for each of the flagship phones called Android Gold.

Android Gold would allow you to purchase a phone like the LG G3 in two flavors. One would have the UI skin that LG puts over everything. The second alternative would allow you to get the “gold” version which would have an unlocked bootloader and generic AOSP android. I would pay an additional XX dollars for the privilege of not having Sense, Touchwiz or whatever. I would pay and sign a release from liability for an unlocked boot loader if I could just have the phone the way I want it. No Google Play Editions. No Nexus or Silver or any of those. Just give me the gold!

But here is the other thing with the Nexus program and its devices. You all remember all the issues with the Nexus 7 and screen of deaths, strange rebooting, problems with wifi? Well, when the 7 came out in 2013, it had its share of issues. Its because the stuff its made of is not only hardware. Its software too. Some things like the hardware we rely on the vendor and how they do it. The software though people should remember is never done. Just because its released does not mean its bug free. Its too easy to think all of everything is simply fixed and we get perfect devices.

Here is what I think the Nexus program is in a nutshell. Its a testing ground for devices which may not build up to 100% when they’re released. Not developer previews or reference platforms; but a chance for the developers to contribute with patches, updates, changes back into AOSP. It empowers both sides to do more. So the program is really meant to mark the release by having a challenging hardware platform which has bugs which excites and challenges the developers to do more. New kernels, new ROMs, new ways of doing things.

Now its not subsidized any longer and we have to pay to play. We’ve had it good for way long if you ask me. We got nice hardware for a busted price. We got access to a build environment where factory images and updates rolled. Now people are not so happy that the Nexus devices are not first. Give it a break already folks. The vendors and carriers have done a pretty bad job historically at this. Now they are starting to show what they can do with getting commercial phones updates and we are mad? Samsung sells kazillions of devices. I don’t know how many Nexus devices are sold by Google. Don’t those millions of customers deserve to get their updates too? Grow up a bit Nexus brothers and sisters.

We will get our beloved factory images and blobs. The AOSP developers will reign supreme because AOSP is really never done. We still own. Us Nexus users buy into unfinished software and hardware because…

its fun

Its supposed to be fun guys. Linux is supposed to be fun and educational and enjoyable. AOSP is supposed to be the same. Don’t make it into something its not. Go off and enjoy Nexus brothers and sisters. You all rule. Sometimes you won’t be first though. Get over it.

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Saturday with the Nexus 9

I got my Nexus 9 tablet yesterday after having used the Nexus 7 2013 for quite awhile. I consumed all the reviews I could before it arrived. Read some Google plus comments. So what is the consensus result from this test of one? First off I chromecasted most of the evening with it. Before that I added in many of the applications I like to use like Netflix and Hulu. Then I started thinking about rooting it. I cannot come up with a reason now. There are no custom Roms for it. No abundance of kernels.

So what is the overall feeling? If you think that this will simply take the place of the Nexus 7 you are not facing reality. These are two different device folks. But what it can do is replace it if you acknowledge the differences. What I like about the Nexus 9 though –

The performance at most things is impressive. Lollipop is a joy and it shines on the Nexus 9. Applications for the most part are OK but it will take some bit of time for them to be taking advantage of the new design philosophy. Holding the tablet is quite a bit different and takes some adjustment when coming from the Nexus 7.

What does it all mean for my use? I will use the 9 as more of a productivity device. I have not decided on video. I am not a big time gamer. I don’t consider the price prohibitive. The days of Google subsidies are over. Either accept it or stick with the older devices. No one forces you to update. Lollipop will come to the Nexus 5 and 7.

I’ll continue to play with the new toy. Take it to Starbucks and on weekend trips. Enjoy the differences. Get used to it and my use case for it. By the way, I’m using it now to create and update this blog post along with the WordPress Android application.

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Seattle Goodbyes

I’m down to the hours remaining in Seattle now. Spent my days and nights enjoying what I love to do most on the trips. Ate really well, drank really well and now I’m a bit tired still from yesterday’s 16000 plus step walk. All in all, I feel really thankful that I was able to take off the days and enjoy Seattle during an off tourist time. Weather here was quite suitable for walking I believe. Cool and crisp most days with some isolated rainfall. On the food and drink side, the restaurants were very open and I got immediate seating at each place with no problems.

My favorite place had to be the Pikes Brewery. The beer and growler from there was truly fantastic. I also enjoyed the dinner places I went including last night’s Icon Grill steak dinner with the Mac and Jacks amber ale desert.

Now the time dwindles down but there is no choc full of nuts instant coffee in these rooms so I will shower pretty soon and head the 1.5 blocks to Starbucks for some morning Latte and a breakfast roll.

Here are some highlights if you are considering visiting.

  • Downtown – I think the downtown hotels are the best value if you are interested in going to points north, east, and south from Seattle. For me, foot transit was very well done. Learning how Seattle is organized only requires a map the first day. Numbered and name streets make it easy to get around. I’m not so sure about parking though. I did not see large parking garages like in San Francisco but perhaps they exist.
  • Foodies – Restaurants, bars, brewpubs are sprinkled liberally throughout the city and I think the quality of the food you will find is excellent. Not just one type but a broad variety that even the most discriminating of you will enjoy.
  • Transit – There are lots of buses and a light rail and a monorail. The buses seem very well organized but I did not really try them. The Light Rail called Link works very well and you can travel to the SeaTAC airport from the last stop in about 40 minutes for $2.75 one way. Very reasonable. I did not ride the monorail but I saw it moving all around between the Space Needle and points south.
  • Recreation and Fun – Lots of museums, parks, places to visit if you are into that. I mostly did not do that stuff. In other cities like Kyoto, part of the journey was visiting historic sites like castles. Here I wanted to see as much of Seattle as I could in the few days I had. I think if you come here, you will not be disappointed in the cultural and park/recreation sides of things.

I know this does not cover it all. Seattle has so much to offer that a person needs to bus or quickly tour around to see an approximation of things here. To me though you do not get the spirit and variety and I will treasure each of my 20k some steps and the views of Seattle I will upload from the camera as soon as I am home.

Its almost time for me to end this part of things and go find some coffee and breakfast and package up the remaining stuff in my AirBoss. I’ll find a T-shirt or two perhaps at the airport so I don’t have to carry all of that all over the place. By 1030 I will be at the airport queued up for my United flight home. Get my car at SFO long-term parking and drive the 30 minutes or so home.

Thanks all for reading along on my Seattle adventures!

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End of my Days Walking

So here it is the ending of yet another walking trip to another city. Today I decided to just walk north and a bit east to places I had not seen. I was looking for a road that would let me cross over the Interstate 5 to a road that would allow me to walk back south and see more stuff. S0me how walked past the road by a few blocks. There were only a few roads that offered an overpass according to Google Maps on my Nexus 5 phone. Roanoke East was the road I needed. So I doubled back and crossed the interstate and got on 10th street east. Then I walked south on 10th street east. South and down to Broadway East. What a wonderful set of miles to go!

I ended up at a Mexican place for lunch which was quite enjoyable. I love walking up to new places knowing I will probably not get there again. The food tastes that much better and as I sat there today I realized that this was it. My last day of walking.

I tallied up the distances today and I believe over 3 days I did about 20 miles of walking. Today it was over 16000 steps. Very cool.

Now I sit here at 3pm or so and consider how my vacation went. Some would say its a lot of work to do what I love to do. Too much hard work to walk those miles. I would submit I get to see Seattle or Kyoto or Eugene or Sydney in a way that riding a tour bus or taking a taxi does not. My feet touch the pavement and I integrate somehow with how the city breath ebbs and flows. I took some good photo’s today as well which will enrich my new photo album on Google Photos as soon as I get home.

I can see that Seattle is this live, funky, cool, hectic but very fun city to visit. Whether I come back again I don’t know. My feeling is that there are so many cities and countries to yet visit that I really want to visit them, see them, taste them the same way.

I’ll write up some summary things tomorrow as I get ready to clear out of the hotel and head to SeaTAC for my flight back home.

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Day 3 plan – Go East

Last night I went to a very nice brewpub and came away with a Growler that I can carry home. I admit to drinking the 32 ounces last night with the Monday night NFL game and then lapsed into serious sleep through this morning. I hiked the 1.5 blocks to Starbucks to get some easy breakfast and coffee and now I’m back and planning my last real day here. The weather looks accommodating if I wait a bit. The weather man says some blue sky moments coming up today even though the weather online does not. Rain here is not some cancellation event for me anyways.

I’ve made the plan now to head east for the day starting in another hour and gave up this morning on the hotel wifi. It seems to just randomly disconnect this morning so I started up my tmobile wifi hotspot instead and will use it. I can connect all my devices and securely and comfortably surf around.

Lollipop Arrives

The biggest news from last night through today is not the Seattle trip though. The biggest news is Android L has made it to AOSP for the Nexus devices. This means my choice of devices will soon either have factory images or custom ROMs if I choose to wait. Right after the factory images or an OTA update, an enterprising developer will create flashable zips I can use if I want to update without wiping it all. This is the Nth reason I use Nexus stuff because we all know we want the latest and we want it now. My Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 2013 model will soon benefit. Perhaps even by the time I get back.

What this really means are changes to how things work. Getting root is seriously different now and from what I gather, I need to have a boot.img which is different and more permissive that I can flash to replace the secure kernel that is shipped by default. The new devices like the Nexus 9 and 6 may require a change in developer options to allow the ever popular “fastboot oem unlock” command to actually unlock the boot loader. There are requirements for the new devices too. Someone has to create a recovery image that can be flashed that will allow us to flash new stuff. Given we are talking Nexus here, I think we will not wait long for support for the Nexus 9 and 6.

The biggest change though is Android itself. This is the biggest release ever I would say and there is so much to go learn and learn again. New ways of interacting with the OS. New customizations. Newly designed applications and how they interact. I’m really excited by this more than anything else. It signals a revolution and evolution and not just a minor change for the sake of change. It advances us habilis users to new places.

Final Thoughts on this “vaca” day…

I’m hoping for enlightenment today on some stuff I want to consider but its not happened yet so not gonna punish myself if I don’t get there. I want desperately to place myself into what happens next in my life. I want to find my next thing which is not just some new project at IBM. But the next thing for me. I don’t know that yet. I do know its not to be found in California and I still feel like I want some more adventures and challenges. I am not done with the whole change thing yet.

So I’ll think and muddle through things while my feet carry me up and down the streets. The cloudy skies and the ever so isolated raindrop will remind me that life is in the here and now. Perhaps its like Casey Kasem said

keep your feet on the ground but keep reaching for the stars

I think it sums it up well for the final thoughts for today. See everyone on the flipside of the day’s reporting. Perhaps today will start it from my Nexus 7 and the “getting better” Android WordPress app.

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Day 2 – Points south in Seattle

I headed out this morning at about 930am after some breakfast in the coffee shop at the Hotel. The trip today was scheduled around looking at the area south of the Hotel down to the ball fields but I ended up going past them and ran out of road on the day’s hike. I walked back up on 4th Street South past the SafeCo Field and all of its food and gear outlets. Back up into downtown Seattle and then over and back and left and right on different blocks with no clear direction or focus since that’s what I do when I walk. I figure I walked for about 4 hours today but for some reason now the phone app I use says it cannot count the steps in screen off mode which it never has done before. Not sure why that is up here. Hopefully that is not a regular occurrence when I get back home.

For lunch, I ended up at the Cheesecake Factory over by the Seattle Convention Center. There were lots of Raiders fans still in town from the other day’s fun watching the Raiders lose again. I did not attempt conversations since there really is not much to say. I then walked backup 7th and 8th Streets to Lenora and over to my Starbucks for my reward of a Vente Iced Caramel Macchiato and sat there watching folks come in and go out and read some news. It dawned on me that my legs are tired and sore after today :-). That’s a good sign BTW. It means I’ve pushed myself farther than the norm walking at home.

I also had some time to consider things about life in general since walking tends to bring that on for me. I thought about my friend Free that is facing his divorce consultation today and will find out what his results are. I fear he will not get what he really wants which is some money to go move out of the house. I don’t see myself how that will happen and I wish I could just give him the money. I’m not as unhappy living in the house as he is. He really hates the nature of the beast at the house and I just feel that I can live around it.

I also was thinking today of my own movements and how walking like this makes me feel so much better. I feel that I own a piece of each city I have walked in that tourists in buses and taxi’s cannot. I touch the ground in each place, see the things at the speed of foot travel, understand more about how the city works.

Now my second day is over. Tonight its over to a local brewpub for dinner and beers and then tomorrow I’ll head out for a trip to see the east side of Seattle. The trip is planned and I will attempt to cover another 4 hours of walking and end up back at my Starbucks. That will signal the end of this vacation and on Wednesday I’ll head to the airport.


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