Last weekend I finished the 12 seasons of NCIS that are available on Netflix. Not quite a binge watching, but a pretty addicting stretch of TV.

While this isn’t a surprise, I often watch old TV shows and series on Netflix, I usually get to a point where I give up. Either the story line becomes tired and stale, or I get bored, and move on. Rockford Files and Columbo are two examples where I fade away after 5 or 6 seasons.

However, NCIS was different. There are several reasons why I stuck with it (and will likely pick up the 13th season when it hits Netflix.)

The Writing

Visiting Family

Since we moved back from Arizona last year, we are a lot closer to our families, and we need to take advantage of that. Of course Barbara has been much more proactive than myself, but that is no excuse.

Last year we visited my sister, Tracey and her wife in their home in Mountain Ranch, California. A lovely place nestled in the hills of Calaveras county, and a modest 2.5 hour drive away (depending on traffic, naturally), and loved it. The boys did as well.

Of course, living in the country, they have a veritable menagerie of animals.

First, they live in a nice manufactured home, comfortable, and remarkably spacious inside, it is definitely “home”, and the fresh coat of red paint, just screams “BARN”, and I love it. It is perched on the top of a slight rise, and their neighbor on one side grows grapes (presumably to make wine).
Of course, having (I am guessing) 5 acres, means you can have some animals that the “townies” aren’t used to, like Donkeys, Chickens, Ducks, Pigs, and Goats.

And then they have 4 dogs, two aussie cattle dogs, a black lab named Jane, and Woody, the basset hound mix.



Computer Repair Man

Earlier this week, I got a Facebook message from my sister. Their iMac was behaving poorly, lots of spin-y beachballs (the “I’m thinking” on the Mac OS-X), so I asked the usual questions.

  • What model iMac is it? (from the about and system report)
  • How much memory is there?
  • How big is the disk, and how much is used (from DiskUtil)?

All the standard things, but the DiskUtil reported that there was a problem with the disk, and to back it up and take it for service.

Sigh, a failing drive. And their closest Apple store is about 90 minutes away. Rustic, rural living has a downside.

Being the good brother, I made the trek to their house in Mountain Ranch California, carrying a new HD, and all the goodies to make the swap work.

Their iMac, a 2011 vintage 27″ iMac is a breeze to work on. iFixit has an abundance of how-to guides, and since I replaced the HD in my wife’s 2009 vintage iMac, I knew what to expect. Everytime I remove the glass façade, and the panel, I am amazed by how well designed the inside of the iMac is, and how serviceable it is. Well laid out, very modular, and very accessible.

I dropped in a 2TB Toshiba 7200 RPM drive, added the proper sensor for the temperature to keep the fans from running full blast.

From glass off to glass on, was about 25 minutes. As I said a breeze.

Powered it up with my portable drive that has OS-X on it, and reinstalled 10.10.5, and then transferred all the old files, applications, and settings. Fortunately, the original drive hadn’t failed completely, so it was possible to recover.

Then did the usual, check/repair permissions, and verify disk. All good.

The last step, using a boot DVD of Disk Warrior to do a directory repair, something that has saved my bacon so many times it is impossible to count, and the system was rocking.

The last test was to run my sister’s favorite game, Diablo III, and I got the two thumbs up.

Of course, I got to spend some time with their hounds and other animals, and to get a glimpse/tour of the devastation of the Amador fire that ripped through there in September. Bleak.

Evernote Dumpage

Back in 2010, I was looking for a note taking solution. I had a taste of the Microsoft solution, OneNote, but being a “Mac” person, and the fact that OneNote wasn’t cross platform, and I went looking for a solution. The obvious choice at the time was Evernote. Cross platform, and while it wasn’t as flexible and convenient as OneNote, it was serviceable.

Over the years, the Evernote did a lot of incremental improvements, and it worked well for most of my needs. They added a pretty feature rich ios application that made adding notes from the road trivial. Adding the capability ingest PDF files, and do OCR on them, making them searchable.

But, some things were always clunky. Exporting via copy and paste was an unmitigated disaster. It was compelled to export in some really funky HTML format that always required a shitload of finicky reformatting to make presentable.

About 2 years ago, Microsoft released an ios client for OneNote, and a year ago a Mac native application. Suddenly the barrier to switching became lower. Not negligible, as about 4 years of notes and various data was trapped in Evernote, and that kept me from making the change.

However, recently, I have started using OneNote for work, but it was majorly inconvenient to switch back and forth between the two platforms. The last straw, was the change of their CEO, and a “disturbing”  blog post about them shedding the distractions, and going back to attempting to be the “best” note taking platform. Coupled with an 18% reduction in staff. Excuse me, if you were serious about being the best blogging platform you wouldn’t added all the foo foo rah features, and concentrated on your strengths, cross platform, consistent interface, and friction free note taking.

Last week, I had enough. A brief search of the web found that there was a solution to move the data. Fortunately, it warned me of a potential issue. Apparently, the “tag” feature of evernote complicates the import. OneNote uses the notebook/tab hierarchy, with each note being a page, whereas evernote uses a notebook structure with tags to help filter/search. The importing tool will take the tags from the Evernote notebook, and drop them into a OneNote notebook with a tab for each “tag”. If you have more than one tag on a note, BAM, it is duplicated into each tab.


So, I spent 6 hours today, cleaning up tags, exporting/reimporting, and then moving to OneNote.

I am finally done, and I went from about 20 different notebooks, to 5. A lot more structure. Better integration with Microsoft Office (this is really important incorporate land).

Rinse, lather repeat, a process that goes on indefinitely

Music Streaming Services Revisited

In the last installment, I had raved wildly about Apple’s then new ‘Music’ service. Same price as Spotify, filled some holes that Spotify had in their library, and since they have my entire collection in their cloud, they have the inside track on offering suggestions that I will enjoy.

Add to that the fact that Spotify’s curated playlists had been somewhat stale and I was sold. Even before the first month of the three month Apple Music trial, I was ready to cut the Spotify cord.

However, I didn’t, and today I am increasingly glad I didn’t.

Apple Music is still a great service, and more than a credible competitor. The selection is large, and their “For You” recommendations rock. A constantly updated set of playlists that are eerily on target to my listening habits (and no recommendations for things that are completely out of my taste – like hip-hop or country).

But adding the Apple Music library items to my self curated playlists (I sound like a fucking hipster there, don’t I?) is somewhat painful. You have to “add” the music to your library, then you can add the tracks to a playlist. Yes, only one more click, but seriously, it is painful to do a large daily grind playlist that way.

On the contrary, searching for, and adding tracks from the Spotify universe is trivial and well thought out in Spotify.

Streaming quality is good on both, and good thing, as sometimes our work network does some traffic shaping that really fuck with the Google and Amazon streaming. However, the buffering and network glitch tolerance is just a bit better on Spotify.

And, I can’t sugarcoat it, but the Spotify player on my iPhone does stream a shitload better on cellular data than Apple. Not sure why, but when I walk, hike or run, Spotify rocks it better.

Add to that the fact that the better curation by Apple Music has driven Spotify to be much more proactive. The playlists I follow have magically become well groomed, and even more interesting. A win.

So, while I groove on the Apple Music service, I believe I will keep my Spotify subscription active, and just pay for both until I become homeless and indigent.

Bicycling Magazine – More hilarity

As a Performance Bike “member“, I get a free subscription to Bicycling Magazine. I find that every month, I almost (barely) enjoy thumbing through this rag because it is chock full of hilarity. I have written on it before, and this may be my last installment.

Like most print magazines, their once vaunted position of the monthly dissemination of information, learning, and relevance has been eroded (decimated? eradicated?) by the advent of the Internet. One no longer must wait until the mailman drops the mag in the box, or the local drugstore has it on its periodicals shelf, all the information is now at your fingertips 24/7.

Yet, magazines cling by their fingertips trying to remain relevant. Bicycling is no different.

However, that is not my rant today. As I mentioned in the lead-in, I didn’t consciously subscribe to Bicycling, I get it for free with my annual Performance Bike Membership. However Bicycling seems to think I will renew and pay for their rag.


It starts about 4 months before the year is up. Pleas to renew that increase in their intensity. At first, it is a claim that it is my “last issue” and to “hurry” to take advantage of “significant savings”

I mean, I didn’t buy it to begin with, so why the hell should I pay to renew. Odds are excellent (near 100%) that I will renew my Performance club membership, so I will once again get a comp’d copy of the rag.


Then each month the ratchet up the rhetoric, trying to instill a sense of urgency, adding to the call for all I will miss by not renewing TODAY.

I mean, where else will I learn about entry level road bikes for a mere $3200? As if to even get started on riding, you need to spend three fucking grand to enjoy bicycling? And the push to make it finally the year of Cyclocross bikes? And the Dream bikes, where custom frame builders will measure you and make a frame specifically designed for your body for $8K and up?

Or short articles about gear like this one that talks about the glory that is Campagnolo Super Record groupo where for a mere $3,680 you can get crankset, shifters, derailleurs, and brakes made in Italy?

Hell, in the short review, they mention that those “Japanese” components are easier to setup, stiffer, required no special (read: expensive) tools, and in general outperform. But there is something magic about Campy. Whatever, I prefer riding to wrenching, and my one friend (a racer) who is a Campy fanatic spends hours each week keeping his Campy kit working well.

Then after the last “LAST ISSUE” warning, I get another issue. Christ, can’t you guys even end a fucking subscription already? Or is this the plan, to scare or trick people into renewing?

It even has an extra adder, what we in marketing label a “Call to Action”, in this case a sticker to emphasize the seriousness of how much information I will lose, and how I should “act now” to get my best deal on renewing.

I mean, who can resist a call to action? It is like those late night TV ads for the Ronco Vegetable Slicer. Call now and receive at no additional charge, a cutting board to go with your slicer! Limited time offer. Yada yada yada.

Of course, if I wanted to renew, this might prod me to take the leap, but nah, I never subscribed to the magazine in the first place, and I am pretty sure that their partnership/agreement with Performance Bike is a way to increase their circulation, so that they can brag about their reach when they negotiate the advertising rates with potential clients.

Is that being cynical? Nah, it is being honest. Print media is dead.


BDIU – Driving – Audi takes top spot

In this year’s balloting for the biggest douche in the Universe – Drivers, we have a new winner. A position that has been literally owned by BMW drivers so long, it seemed hereditary, has finally been overtaken by Audi drivers.

BMW drivers have held the top position for so long it is almost prehistoric. From the fact that they seem to come without turn signals, and that speed limit signs are merely a suggestion, as well as audacious merges into traffic on the freeway, their hold seemed unshakable.

However, this last 12 months it is clear that a bigger group of asshole drivers has emerged. Those who drive Audi’s.

While a step below the BMW on the rung of brand value, Audi drivers make up for that slightly lower stature by doing ever more outlandishly douche-y things on the freeways.

What was merely a “holier than thou” attitude merging in on the freeway by BMW drivers, is now a “fuck you, I’m coming in” by Audi drivers. Literally, they just force their way in. And it isn’t because there weren’t ample distance to merge normally, but they wait until the exit lane, or the merge lane is gone, often driving onto the shoulder to force their way in al the while flinging debris into the roadway.


Then there is the not new, but certainly escalating, exit “dive bombing”. This is where there is a back up at an exit, and some douchebag prick drives to the first car in line, signals, and forces his way in. This is far more often a fuckwit Audi driver.

Did I mention they were assholes?

But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the exit lane surfers. Alas, this isn’t dominated by Audi drivers, but they are more than representative. This is where there is a 3/4 of a mile exit only lane, and main traffic is backed up (like every morning here in Silicon valley) they jump into the exit lane, racing to just before the exit, and force their way in. Sort of a reverse exit dive bomber. All to get a dozen or so car lengths ahead.

The mythical Audi turn signal stalk

Of course, with how rarely they signal, unless they are dive bombing or surfing the exits, one would be excused to think that the turn indicators was a $20,000 option.

Yes, the 2015 Driving Douche of the Year goes to Audi drivers, for their tireless effort to unseat BMW owners as the biggest assholes. Because at the end of the day, an Audi is just a jumped up Volkswagen.

(note: Audi might be in the top spot for only one year, as Tesla drivers are rapidly vying for the top Douche spot).

Insane bicyclist

This morning, I saw quite possibly the most ballsy, insane bicyclist I have seen in a LONG time. And that is saying something.

As I exited off of 280 at Lawrence Expressway, this dude on his bike pulled off of Lawrence behind me. The light changed, and he kept taking the whole lane, turning left on to Stevens Creek. See the picture below:

Looks innocuous enough, but after passing under Lawrence Expressway, you get to deal with quite possibly the worst intersection in the valley. You have traffic wanting to merge into the onramp for 280 North, you have traffic turning right from the Lawrence Expressway wanting to merge left onto Stevens Creek, and you have us brave souls who actually work at Keysight or Agilent, and have to turn right. This Google Earth view of the crunch area, with the “Green” bike lane shows the chaos.

That little strip of bike lane has a never ending, criss-crossing of cars whose drivers are impatient, and grumpy.

This cyclist followed me onto Stevens Creek, and turned right into the Agilent/Keysight parking lot.

A ballsy, and extremely dangerous maneuver.


The Aftermath

After the low speed, but still catastrophic fall cycling yesterday, I knew that the next day would be brutal. I am not disappointed.

The swelling is down, the golfball-sized lump on my elbow is gone, and the scrapes are scabbing up. Yay.

However, the other damage is now coming to the front. The inventory isn’t great, but I guess it could be worse.

The Elbow isn’t broken, full motion, but there is soreness beyond the scrapes and new scabs.

My left hamstring seems to have a deep tissue bruise. I am wondering what the hell I did to get that. No surface bruising, but yikes, the muscle is painful.

My nose, and left cheek have some edema’s that were caused by hard contact with my sports glasses. Enough force to pop out the lens is enough to leave some permanent marks.

General muscle soreness in my lower back, my pectorals, and other places that will not be mentioned.

Yep, Vitamin I for the win today.


Bad Day of Cycling

Statistically, the more you ride, the more likely it is that something bad will happen. Bicycling is no different. Every time I set out on the road, I realize that things can go horribly wrong.

Today, that was put to the test.

I started off on my usual 33+ mile loop, with a twist. The prevalent winds are southerly, meaning that the first half of the ride is usually with a moderate but steady tail wind. Today, the wind direction was reversed, with a southerly wind, blowing in my face for the first 13 miles. For that entire stretch, I was picturing the return path, wind at my back, and racking up the record segments in Strava, but it was not meant to be.

As I was restarting from a red light on Butterfield road in Morgan Hill, my right foot slipped out of the cleat, and in what felt like slow motion, I lost my balance, and fell.


Fortunately, I didn’t do the dumb thing, remove my hands from my handlebars to break my fall, or I would probably have broken my wrist. 240# falling is plenty of force to do serious damage.

But plenty of bad things did happen. I landed first on my right elbow, scraping it up. Apparently I bruised it well as is has swollen up to the size of a golfball. Not too painful, and I can move it fine, so apart from some soreness, it doesn’t feel broken.

Also, as I fell, I couldn’t keep my head up, so it had hard (and I mean hard) contact with the asphalt. Rung my bell a bit, but the helmet took almost all the force.

I got up, and walked my bike across the intersection, and took stock. A water bottle was left in the road (more on that in a moment), I was missing a lens from my prescription sports glasses, I was dripping blood from my elbow, I knew I cracked my head, and the chain was off the bike.

A few drivers who saw the incident asked if I needed help, which I declined, as I was more embarrassed than anything else.

Of course, the water bottle that popped out was my $25 “Cleantech” bottle that allows it to be easily cleaned and disinfected. Some asshole car driver ran over it. Hard for me to believe that was an accident as it was in a turn only lane. Fortunately, the fucker didn’t run over the corrective lens, so I was able to get my prescription sports glasses back together.

My helmet took the brunt of the head bounce, and did its job. The energy dissipating styrofoam dissipated energy, breaking, and preventing my head from a really nasty bounce.

My elbow is sore, and swollen, but it doesn’t feel broken. The anticoagulants I take mean that minor scrapes often bleed enough that I look like I battled an axe-wielding serial killer. However, a shower, and some ginger clean up and it looks fine.

I am sure to be really sore. I will need to buy a new water bottle (I am really pissed about that), and a new helmet (c’est la vie, it did it’s job, and now it will be tossed). A quick look at the bike in a stand and nothing looks bent, thus I am pretty sure I will be able to get back on as soon as my aches and pains are gone.

What I am really pissed about? More than anything else, is the fact that an opportunity to fly back, with a strong tailwind, and to set some personal records on Strava all the way home. Oh well, I got 14.7 miles out of my planned/expected 33. I shouldn’t complain too much.