bike

Moving, the last frontier

Yesterday I groused about some of the last dregs of moving. While the majority of the unpacking has been done, there was still a clot of boxes in the middle of the garage. Annoying, yet stubborn.

This morning I was determined to do something about the clot of boxes. It was about 3/4’s of Barbara’s stuff. From her old office and from her folks house. Once I got determined, I was on a mission.

garageFirst up was the boxes. With Barbara’s help, I was able to find three boxes she wanted to rifle through in her office. Cool. There were 4 more that went to the over-garage storage area. Bam, middle of garage floor clean.

Second, like most techies, I have a box of cables, power supplies and other detritus of 25 years of tech goodies that I could never part with. I sorted them into three piles:

  • Power cords and adaptors. It is amazing how many of them piled up.
  • USB, Firewire, and network cables. The astounding collection is extensive.
  • AV and video cables. About 10#’s of them.

shoesThird, all the bikes were hung except the Mountain Bike. It didn’t fit well on the wall hangers, so it got hung from the rafters.

Lastly, I built a pile of donation boxes. More good fortune for the charities.

As I was putting items on the side wall, I noticed that there was something rattling inside a cooler. My missing cycling shoe. Yay!

last-supper

Moving Notes

Well, we are mostly unpacked, and all is mostly well. 95% of the boxes are unpacked, and the house is well organized. The boys are settled in (and too comfortable).

However there are a few wrinkles.

Before we moved from Chandler, I bought a new pair of cycling shoes. My old ones were 13 years old, and hurting my feet, so $225 later some new wide Sidi shoes were there.

Unpacking, I have found only one of them. Damn. Of course my old shoes made the move so I am using them again. But I really miss my new shoes.

On the plus side, before we moved I had bought a print from an artist in the UK. It arrived before we moved, but I couldn’t get it framed, so I left it wrapped up. It turns out that it was a limited edition of 200 prints, and I have 1 of 200. Way cool (the print came from almostanangel66 on Etsy.

The Skype Virus

Whenever someone wants to talk to me and they say that they want to use Skype, I cringe. For a long time, I was unsure of why I cringed, I just did. Until recently when I installed the latest Skype client on my work PC.

Sigh, there are plenty of things to hate about Skype. It is owned by Microsoft. It has occasional audio drop outs. But some things are truly pernicious:

  • It really really doesn’t want you to quit it. In the menu, you can log out, but the “close” option really just minimizes it. It is as if they know that you really don’t want to quit the program (to exit it, you must right click on the tray icon, and select “exit”).
  • Spurious contact requests. Every day I get two or three contact requests. Often for ridiculous named contacts. Often with naked avatar images. And often with pitches to ask me what I am doing (like phone sex). No, I do not want to video chat to “watch U cum”. This is one reason why I stopped using Yahoo Messenger.
  • Advertisements. I guess it is the bane of the modern tech world, but advertisements are everywhere. Some tools make them unobtrusive. Not Skype. Front and center. While messaging, or while calling. Groan.
  • Hijacking anything that looks like a phone number in the browser. Be damned careful in what you agree to when installing, as it will try to install a browser plugin that will “Skype-ize” anything remotely resembling a phone number in your web browsing. Really fucking annoying.

Sadly, I install Skype, use it, and now uninstall that pig as soon as I am done.

I should add that it is far less annoying on the Mac, as cmd-Q will quit it.  Still hate using it though.

Getting old sucks

Freshly into my 6th decade, I am beginning to feel my age. Some observations:

Once you get gout once, it is likely to recur. Sadly, now when I have even a couple of malted beverages, I get the start of a flare up. Not being able to have a couple brews on the weekend sucks.

Your appetite doesn’t match your caloric or nutritional needs. I still love to eat steak and potatoes, but even when I balance with a lot of leafy green veggies, and other “healthy” items, I suffer for a couple days after. Turning 40 altered the metabolism, and the medications post MI further fouled with the engine.

Aches, pains, and weird popping/creaky noises accompany you everywhere you go. Partly due to the heavy abuse of cycling, motorcycling, running that I did in my youth, I suffer.  A modest bike ride can yield three days of awkward awakenings. Groan.

I fear I am looking at milestones of when I can no longer do things I used to enjoy. Oh well.

 

fifty

Marking a Half Century…

Today, May 10, I turn 50. Like many milestones it was both looked forward to and dreaded at the same time.

I was working on a long, sappy, post, but screw that.

I kind of remember turning 30. I was working at Read Rite as a process engineer, having fun, but still felt young. Life was simpler then, but living in Silicon Valley meant that I wasn’t going to be buying a house anytime soon.

40 was much more of a struggle. Your metabolism changes, and it is difficult to adjust. It became really difficult to control my weight.  That was a struggle. Of course, by then I had:

  • Gotten married (to my wonderful wife and best friend, Barbara)
  • Become a “marketing” person in product management
  • Moved to Arizona, with the snakes, desert and blistering hot heat.
  • Became a huge proponent of Greyhound rescue.

The most ominous time though came at the age of 44, where I had a heart attack. An eye opener, and really the first glimpse of my own mortality, and the limitations of my body.

Today I mark the 50th year, and I am seeing a lot of changes. First, post heart attack I get to take a not-so wonderful array of medications. Statins, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and anticoagulants. These all mess with my metabolism, and are by no means “fun”. But it is better than the alternative.

I no longer ride motorcycles. I gave them up in 2008 when a few close calls on the streets of Tucson reminded me that my reflexes were beginning to suck. That was a hard hard thing to give up, having ridden since my pre-teen years, it was a big part of who I was.

My sense of invincibility is now gone. I used to think nothing of heading out for long hikes on isolated trails, or bicycle rides with no particular route chosen. Heck, in the 1990’s I used to load up my truck with my dirt bike, head out on a weekday to one of the riding areas and ride alone, oblivious to how bad it would be to get hurt when you were in a 20,000 acre riding park alone.

I am quickly getting to the point were I can’t play guitar anymore. A few years ago I was struggling with pain in the base of my left thumb, and instead of it being some transitory ailment, it is osteoarthritis, and the cartilage in the joints is virtually gone. Hence, my ability to play is evaporating. A cortisone shot provided remarkably little relief, and the surgical options, well, let’s just say that the doctor said we don’t do them on people as young as you, as the downsides are drastic.

It is this which I am lamenting the most. I am at a point in my life when I can afford the fine instruments that I have long desired, and I can’t possibly enjoy them.

Wrapping up…

As I enter my 6th decade, I am recognizing my limitations, and accepting the future as it comes. It is sobering, but it is also hopeful. I still bicycle, I still hike, I still enjoy listening to music, I still enjoy exploring technology, and the advent of social media like Facebook has allowed me to reconnect with many people from my past that I had lost touch with.

I am back in the San Jose area, where I grew up, and enjoying that (although, I really loved living in Tucson), regardless how the demographics have changed.

For those who have read this far, thank you for the time you spent. I remain amazed that anybody reads the dribble I write.

 

WordPress musings

My first flirtation with WordPress was in 2009, and I have been a regular user since. It has mostly been an enjoyable experience. Initially, I created a free site on wordpress.com, and quickly dove into the self hosted solution.

Early on (pre 2.0 era) I got hacked. Entirely because I used sketchy plugins from authors who were only a little more sophisticated than myself.

As time has gone on, and I have become (ever so slightly) more sophisticated and diligent, I have had good success with WordPress.

However, recently, an incident that was a throwback to an earlier era threw me for a loop. On the installation for my wife’s page wordsbybarbara there was an included plugin, the Revolution Slider (a slideshow plugin), that I installed, but never used. Sure enough, it got a driveby sideload of a series of malware exploits.

After spending far too many hours cleansing, scanning, cleansing, scanning, and then recreating content, I am getting fed up.

WordPress is a great platform, and the creativity of the community and the team that maintains it has matured greatly. If you stick to using plugins from the WordPress.org repository, and are diligent about doing updates, you will be fine. The theme selection is fantastic, and with some modest CSS and HTML skills, even a duffer like myself can put together a decent looking and functioning site.

But I am beginning to move my main properties away. I just have far less “fun“maintaining it then I used to, and my time is valuable. I have moved my product management blog to the new Ghost platform (with their hosting solution, so I no longer have to futz with the back end), and I am beginning to curate my content here for a similar migration.

I am not sure when Tralfaz will make the switch, as my, uh, discipline with using tags and categories has left something to desire.

I should be cautious. WordPress doesn’t suck. Far from it, it is solid, reliable, well supported with a fabulous community of support, and so many themes/plugins/modifications that you can do pretty much anything you might want. But because of this complexity, it has become a hassle to manage on the back end.

Not too happy with WordPress right now…

Nothing like getting an out of the blue “Abuse Notification” from you webhost provider. Sigh.

About 9:00PM last night I got the warning that there was malware on my wife’s WordPress site. Scripts in three unrelated files, and who knows what else damaged.

Earlier, doing my normal maintenance, I found that the plugins and theme updates would fail. This was the first hint that something was amiss. (for the record, the three other WP blogs on the same VPS were and are fine).

I manually changed the permissions, and forcibly re-installed these plugins, and thought all was well.

Then the Abuse message. Shit.

The hosting company quarantied the affected files, and they all were in a plugin that was part of the theme. Revolution Slider. We weren’t really using it, so I removed it (forcefully), yet there is still something hinky going on.

This weekend, I will do a deep clean, and fix it all up. Alas, I really didn’t want to blow a bunch of hours on this. I will also look at a malware monitoring tool for my VPS.

The joy of Vinyl

Last year my father in-law passed away, a sad occurrence. However, we inherited his stereo and music collection. A couple hundred LP’s with a lot of jazz and big band recordings from the 50’s through the 70’s, and even some more modern items.

This weekend, I have the stereo setup, an okay Marantz unit, with some decent bookshelf speakers, and a Sony belt drive turntable. Nothing too fancy, but it gets the job done.

In the albums are a ton of great jazz albums. Lots of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Duke Ellington and many other less recognizable names.

Right now, I am listening to Don Ellis recorded in SF at the Filmore. Damn fine recording.

I have of course added a few of my own, but I am listening to the old albums now.

There are some oddities though, the Scottish pipers for one.  Nothing like bagpipes in the AM.

Apple Disappointment – Photos

Being a long time Apple fan, I have often sung their praises. Products that work, fit in with my natural workflow, and in general delight. That said, a recent experience has tarnished the gleam.

About 6 years ago, I realized that the built in photo management tool, iPhoto, was completely unsuitable for the task. I had graduated to a decent DSLR, and started shooting in RAW format. iPhoto did read the files, but the size of the files, and the huge quantity of files brought it to its knees. It really was painful.

I jumped to Aperture, a "Pro" application that had a decent workflow. It was that or the Adobe product, Lightroom.

Aperture worked well for a long time, but about Mavericks timeframe, it was reworked to add in the photostream, and the quality of the experience was diminished. I had made the decision to bolt to Lightroom, knowing the end was in sight.

Recently, Apple deprecated iPhoto, replacing it with "photos" that more closely works like the photos application on the iPhone. Meh, but whatever. However, the path was to migrate from iPhoto or Aperture to Photos, a one way migration.

It went OK for my aperture library, but the wonkiness was helping a friend migrate her iPhoto library.

She had a well aged (but quite serviceable) MacBook Pro. It was bought in 2009, and works. She had about 38Gigs of photos from her digital camera, in iPhoto. the '09 version that came with the computer.

A hard disk failure, and the genius bar upgraded her to 10.10.3 when they replaced it. iPhoto is not supported so she must go to Photos.

But it hung up at 24% in migrating. She brought it to me, and I tried all my magic.

  • Used an external drive and a clean copy of the iphoto library – no dice
  • repaired the library with my wife's computer – still running the same version of iPhoto (the advice from the support forums). No dice.
  • Disk warrior – rebuilt and optimized the directory structure – no dice
  • Repaired permissions – No dice.

After about 10 hours of fiddling, nothing would get past the 24% hump. I had to admit defeat, and advise her to make a Genius bar appointment.

Yesterday, I heard that after 4 hours, the genius bar tech was importing a year at a time. Painfully slow.

From reading the forums on apple.com, it is clear this is not an uncommon problem.

My suspicions: Apple didn't test enough variants of iPhoto, assuming that people upgraded as it was available (a faulty assumption), that minor glitches in iPhotos databases can fatally halt the migration.

There really needs to be a built in database check/rebuild that eases the migration.

In the mean time? I am moving all my photos to Lightroom. At least Adobe just uses flat file system folders for storage, so future migrations will be simple tasks.

House Journal – Failed Project

House Journal – Failed Projects

Yesterday started innocuously enough, a trip to Lowes to get a few items we needed, and to pick up an under-sink water filter. There was a filter when we moved in, an old GE unit, that was so old, that filters were no longer made, and old enough that I couldn’t find cross referenced replacements. Perfect time to upgrade to a reverse osmosis system.

A little more challenging to install than a simple cartridge filtration system, a reverse osmosis system will have a solvent stream (drinking water), and a solute stream (the stuff you remove) that will need to be handled (disposed of). This requires a connection to the drain, and therein lies the cause of my failure yesterday.

As I mentioned, there was a filtration system that was so old, filters were not readily available. It was probably installed when the last owners remodeled their kitchen, 20 years ago. So it is safe to assume that the sink and the plumbing is 20+ years old.

Step 1 in the installation was to insert the waste drain in the sink drain. Unfortunately, the P-trap holding nut was corroded solid. So, after removing the old filtration system, I was stymied at step one.

Foiled by a plumbing challenge.

Many years ago, I would have made multiple trips to Lowes, bought tools, cursed, banged my knuckles, and finally gotten it done. But in my old age (almost 50), I have learned that it is far better to pay the man (a plumber or handyman) and avoid the frustration.

Things I used to do myself but now just pay for:

  • Plumbing – except for minor things, it is far cheaper (in time and money) to just pay a pro.
  • Electrical work – I will still replace a socket, or a switch, but anything that requires conduit, romex, or cutting a hole in drywall? Pay the man.

I will still do most appliance repair though.