Fun with Dentistry

I had a cleaning and “new patient” visit a couple weeks ago.  My first visit since I moved to Chandler from Tucson.  All was good, but they did tell me that my amalgam fillings were beginning to age, and probably should be replaced. I was not surprised by this, as I had some major work done after my orthodontic work was removed. Some big cavities were filled, and this was 30-ish years ago (before I graduated high scho0l for sure). Since two upper right molars have crumpled, and been crowned, I am not surprised that it was recommended to replace the amalgam fillings with some new composite fillings.  It also turns out that silver-mercury amalgams are becoming rare, as the modern composite materials are in many ways vastly superior.

Fast forward to today.  I had half the at risk amalgams replaced (the left side). Ugh, I forgot how much I hate dental work. Of course, on the lowers, there was a place where they had to drill deep to remove the amalgam, and it is likely to be cold sensitive for a  while. I got a view of the “holes” and yikeys, it was a lot removed.  I guess I never realized how much repair I had in the way back time. Of course they did a brilliant job of numbing me up, I had 4 shots of Novocaine, and am drooling like an invalid.  I guess my plans to go to dinner with my visiting sales engineer are off.

The good news is that the new fillings are going to last longer and hopefully will not need any more crowns.

In 2 weeks, I do the 4 on the right side of my mouth.  Oh joy.

 

The search for good Mexican food

When we moved from Tucson to Chandler last year, the last thing I thought I would have trouble with would be finding a decent, authentic Mexican restaurant. I mean, it wasn’t like we were moving to Seattle, we were still in the southwest, and there are plenty of authentic people of Mexican heritage here. But it has been trouble.

Some background. Our first night in Tucson in 2003, we walked from the hotel about a block and into Casa Molina. It was Sonoran style Mexican food, and we loved it (they also made kick-ass house margaritas). We dined there all the time, and greatly enjoyed the cuisine. Not quite a hole in the wall, it was a family owned establishment, and had been a fixture on the east side of Tucson since 1947.

When we moved to Chandler, we started looking for our new Mexican restaurant. I tried Diegos (when I was commuting) in Mesa, and wasn’t impressed.  There was a little place not far from our house called Cafe Posada, that was passable (but not great. Anyone who puts carrots and peas in their spanish rice is meh). But they went belly up, and we had do hunt.

There are some great places that sell “street taco” style food.  Order and wait for it to come up, but that never really scratched the itch.

The problem isn’t that there aren’t Mexican restaurants, it is just that most of them are chains, and are too slick, too polished, and have so so food.

Last night, for our anniversary, we tried another place. Yelp! had it rated good (3.5 stars) and the reviews were good.  It is a local franchise, called Nando’s. The food was good, tasty, well cooked, and almost authentic. They have great margaritas, and we really enjoyed the decor.

We will certainly go back, often. But I am still looking for my “hole in the wall” Mexican restaurant. My latest theory is that the part of the valley that we live in 20 years ago was pretty much all farmland. There aren’t many places that have been here 20+ years, to acquire that homey feel.

I am not giving up though.

My, how risk averse we have become

On my bike ride today, I was pondering the changes that have happened over the last 20 something years. When I first got seriously into cycling in my mid 20’s, I thought nothing about climbing on, and doing 30, 40 or even 50 mile loops, barely taking a couple of bottles of water with me. Living in the south SF Bay Area, there were abundant great roads (and trails) to explore and enjoy. And enjoy them I did. One day, I rode over highway 9, through Davenport, out to the coast, up highway 1, and back through Bonny Doon to the bay area again. Probably 65 miles or so. Never thought twice about it.

To be fair, I had some mishaps. One day, I had a major tire failure (sidewall blew out) at the top of Pierce road in Saratoga.  I had to hike about 6 miles back to civilization to make a phone call for a pick up. Or the time that I had a spill in Los Altos.  Ran straight into a block post. Bent my crank arm, and had to ride 12 miles home on a wobbling crank (that really messed up my ankle).

Today, I think twice about going out, particularly when my wife isn’t around to rescue me. Granted, I am approaching 50, and have had some cardiac troubles, but the caution that I think about is really insane. I have my phone, I carry a first aid kit, I carry a lot more water (partly because I live in a desert and it is triple digits in heat), and I carry more emergency repair tools and parts than I ever did.

Back in the late 1980’s, when I rode a heavy, low tech Specialized Allez, did all my own maintenance, I just rode. Suited up and away I went, 6 days a week (I worked the 1-9 shift, so I had ample time in the AM to ride). Now I do a lot more planning, I have my cell phone (which doubles as my heart rate monitor, and my exercise tracking), CO2 cartridges for fixing flats, and a fair assortment of tools to fix what ails me on the ride.

Ah well, progress.

Why I didn’t pursue Computer Science in University

I entered SJSU in fall 1983, with a declared major of B.A. Physics. But I assumed that I would probably go into computer science. I had spent much of my high school time with my nose glued to either one of the Apple II+’s in the computer lab, or the Atari 800 system (that I was able to afford on my paper route money) learning programming, computer technology, and lastly 6502 machine language.

So, when I began school, I took the basic physics and physics prep (Calculus, Differential Equations, Vector Calculus) and mixed into that introductory programming classes.  I started with Basic (and it was a lot different than the Basic on my Atari), then Fortran, and then I moved to Assembly language. It should be noted that at this time, there weren’t microcomputers on the campus, and all our coursework was done on the time share mainframes in the various CSU schools.

I actually did well until I hit assembly language. We learned it on a PDP-11/70, and the language was called Macro 11. I took it at the same time as I took Ordinary Differential Equations, and the second semester of the introductory series of physics, so it was a pretty heavy load.

I thought that my experience with 6502 assembly language would pave the way, but I was mistaken. Up until this point, I truly thought that my calling to computers would guide me to change to computer science as a degree, but that started the doubt.

The other thing that caused doubt was that a pretty foundational course was learning to program in Lisp. I took it upon myself to try to learn it myself, but it was pretty intractable. I just couldn’t get a grasp of the structure, or the logic of Lisp (List Processing). That was the final nail in the coffin of my aspirations of a career in computer science, and I meekly continued down the path of Physics.

Lately, I have again picked up Lisp, and am working my way through the MIT text, “Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs”, and I am finding that Lisp (as part of the Scheme environment) is not as intractable as when I first tried to self teach myself. I don’t hope to become a software engineer or a computer scientist, but it does keep me occupied.

In my career, I have done a fair amount of programming, mostly in Matlab, but some C as well, so my computer interest wasn’t entirely extinguished.

My first Android Device – Nexus 7

About 7 months ago, I splurged and bought a Nexus 7.  Ostensibly, I bought it to test the websites I work on in an intermediate resolution (I already use an iphone and an iPad to test different mobile sizes).  I figured that I would give Android a fair shake, but alas, I have used it sporadically.

Nexus 7 - Google's 7" tablet with ANdroid
Nexus 7 – Google’s 7″ tablet with ANdroid

Naturally, I used my gmail account to set it up, and I have done my best to set it up, and keep it up to date. It is still stock, I haven’t rooted it or sideloaded any apps or changed the rom’s.  I wanted to get a good feel for Android, and I thought that using a stock Google branded device would give me the best of the experience. (I hear that for those who want to keep Google at arm’s length, you can set it up without a Google account, but I am already in for a pound)

The Nexus 7 isn’t a bad piece of kit. It has a rubberized plastic back, and 16G of flash memory (32G was an option).  It was one of the first devices shipping with “Jelly Bean”, and it has had several updates.  I must admit that Google does a good job distributing updates, and keeping it current.

The Apps.  The Gmail application and integration is pretty tight.  Really easy to use, and I will admit that it is a hair better than on my iPhone.  It just “fits”. It comes with gtalk (now Hangouts), Google Earth, among other Google standards. Of note is the Music application. I liked the fact that it picked up on my collections that I sync’d with Google, so I had access to all my tunes (more on this later).

I did add some applications, a solitaire game (I tend to piss away hours playing solitaire, a weakness), an eBook reader (Aldiko) and applications for 1Password, Dropbox, some other games (angry birds space, monopoly etc), hootsuite for my Twitter use, and Facebook.  They all work OK, and I can’t complain too much for the integration and interface. However, one thing that was somewhat annoying is that at times, the UI gets balky.  What I mean by that is that it just becomes unresponsive. It can take 2 or three “taps” with the finger to get the application to respond. There are some threads out in the world on this, it is just different how Android prioritizes UI actions than iOS.  (Naturally, I am an Apple fan, and I have both an iPhone and an iPad, so there is definitely some bias here.)

The past week, I have endeavored to use my Nexus more. It does have a better display than my iPad, and it is a convenient form factor (my iPad is a second generation, non-retina display version). Of course, I could use it to be a little bigger. My eyes are not young anymore, so I would appreciate Google using their resolution to make larger text a joy to read, but that is hardly a fault of the device.

Unlike many Android devices, it lacks a SD card slot to increase memory. However, I haven’t found a reason to need more memory.

Google Play.

The music player, and media player are based on the Google Play service. It comes with a full length movie (Transformers 2, not really my type of movie) and it streams well (WiFi to a Cable modem with a business class bandwidth package).  I haven’t felt the need to rent or buy any more videos, and I haven’t bothered to figure out how to play a media file from my extensive collection on it (I am sure it is possible, but I usually don’t watch videos on my devices).

The music player is nice. I find that the navigation and creating/managing of playlists is a bit cumbersome, but that is likely because I have become immersed in the iOS (and iTunes) way of managing my music, so I won’t hold it against Google.

However, there is a wart. I have mentioned in other posts that one of my reasons why I don’t rely on Google Play to stream music to my work PC (since it is limited in storage, I prefer to keep it media file free) is that it stutters, stalls, and in general is a poor (and distant) second to my go to streaming service, Spotify premium. I gave it one more whirl this weekend with the launch of Google’s “All Access” streaming service that is similar to Spotify’s service. However, I am sorry to report that on WiFi, on a great cable connection (plenty of bandwidth and low latency) it still stalls, hiccups, and stutters.  It can go 2 – 3 songs perfectly, then it will be really crappy for a minute or two.

As a book reader.

The Aldiko application, combined with DropBox, and I have all my (DRM Free) ePub books on hand. I like that, no need to sync like I do with iTunes.  I have bought several books from the Google Play book store.  find their selection excellent, and the price fair. It uses the standard Adobe Adept DRM, so it is easy to strip (I use Calibre) and then I load them with Aldiko.  I also use the Google book reader application, and it is quite good (and it is just like the Google book reader on my iPad.)

Lastly, I was an early Sony Reader adopter, and I have probably 40 – 50 books I have bought from the Sony store. There is a Sony application that makes it trivial to access my library.

The hardware does quite well as a book reader. It is a good size and form factor, the text is crisp, and the applications let me scale the text to be friendly with my gradually declining eyes.

Observations.

The hardware is pretty solid. It is light, and easy to hold and carry. When you plug it into a PC (or my Mac) it is mounted like a file system so you can poke around. It does have a front camera, but I haven’t used it. With the new Google Hangout application, I suspect I will have some occasion to use it. Even with moderate use, I still have plenty of flash storage remaining. I am not missing the SD card slot.

Gaining root access is trivial. It is in the setup, and easy to find. I haven’t felt the need to allow applications loaded from stores/repositories other than the official Google store. I am at a point in my life where I can afford to buy my software, and I prefer to not have to worry about malware.

The battery life is so-so. On my iPad (now more than 2 years old), I get 4-5 days on a charge, using it a couple hours a day. Even light use of the Nexus 7 seems to drain the battery much quicker.  I haven’t timed it, but I figure that if/when I start to use it more I will be charging it every other day or so.

I hoped that using the Google app on a google device, with a good connection would make the music streaming much more robust, but alas, it is not to be.  I will probably not be replacing Spotify with All Access.

My iPad has the cellular option, so I can get data when I am traveling (it is disables now, but I can turn it back on), and I probably would have bought this with a cellular radio for that same access.

Summary

I have dabbled with the Nexus 7, now that I have spent some serious time with it, I can say that I like it. But I am probably not going to be giving up my iPad or iPhone anytime soon. I am probably not ever going to be an Android fanboy, but I now have a better appreciation of the ecosystem, and the charm.