And; smile

2014-09-08 21.01.50

(sorry no idea who owns the copyright on this – I got it from Cheezburger – happy to credit if it’s yours)

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100 Healthy Days – days 6,7, & 8

Hmm – setbacks so early?

Weekends were always going to be a challenge – eating out, having some drinks, blowing off the gym.

Suffice to say all those things happened along with unhappiness, because this fucking apartment sale is driving me crazy.  Which makes me sad, and then …

I did walk through the EV on Saturday after brunch, and I did have healthy breakfasts every day.  I walked in BK in the heat on Sunday and got very dehydrated and very pissed off. I slept poorly every night. I ate cheese on Sunday which exacerbated my chest congestion.

Reset button pushed and we are on day nine, and how to deal with challenges and stress is part of growing and improving. Start simply: sleep (reasonably) well. Have a healthy breakfast. Sidetrack – get annoyed and angry at Microsoft tech support. Do some pushups. Clean the kitchen. Heat up some healthy chilli for lunch.

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100 Healthy Days – days 4 & 5

Decent progress continues – stuck to regular diet and rode the bike for 50 minutes at the gym yesterday.  I think the key for me is the little changes making this commitment forces.  On Wednesday night, after a four mile walk around the EV, I stopped at Maoz to grab a falafel sandwich for dinner.  Most times I would have had the fries with it too, but this time it was just the sandwich.  I think (hope?) that it will be these small changes that add up.

Today I also set about cooking more of multi-bean high-protein chili to refill the freezer and keep me going for lunches and dinners through the next couple of weeks.  I soaked the beans last night and ended up putting WAY too many in the pot.  So now I have literally gallons of chili cooking on the stove. (One great advantage of working from home is that you can cook long-simmering things during the day).  I’m completely happy eating the same thing for days on end, but I’m not sure I’ll have freezer space or containers for all of it.

Recipe (in case anyone is interested):

  • Beans – black, red, pinto, navy, mung, adzuki, green lentil, brown lentil, chick pea
  • Crushed tomatoes
  • Garlic, onions, leeks – organic from farmers market
  • Quorn crumbles – I usually don’t bother but I had them in my freezer and they were getting old
  • Red, orange, and purple peppers – also organic from Union square market
  • Zucchini – also organic from market
  • Carrots – none at the market today, so these are from Whole Foods
  • Jalapeño peppers – from Farmers Market
  • Paprika, cayenne, cumin

 

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100 Healthy days – day 3

Three good consecutive days with a little more attention paid to what I eat and when.

Back to the regular 50 minute cardio workouts at the gym – although at a slightly lighter level due to the lingering effects of a cold and being away from the gym for three plus weeks.

Slept horribly last night – which is usually not an issue for me. Not really sure why.  Hope to make up for it tonight.

If you want to stalk my workouts – here they are: http://runkeeper.com/user/RaoulMiller/profile

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100 Healthy Days

As of September 15 I decided to step up my commitment to health and fitness with the 100 healthy days challenge.  I’m generally pretty active and eat reasonably well, but my gut indicates I could do better at both.  I first became aware of this effort through @caro on twitter and I like the accountability and awareness of tracking progress and staying on track.

I chose monday to start as the 100 days will then take me right up to Christmas – although I’m hoping that the good habits embedded in this process will then last for the next 12,000 plus healthy days.

So – day one, decent start.  Regular breakfast, healthier than usual lunch, regular dinner. 50 minutes on the bike at the gym – and even though it was at an easier setting then usual, I could feel the fact that I’ve been away from the gym for three weeks or so.  Also made more effort than normal to drink water.

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Should I stay or should I go?

The apartment sale has not been going as quickly as I had hoped (listing here if you are interested in an NYC pied-à-terre) and the whole experience has been absurdly stressful.  Seems like it’s a sellers market in Brooklyn , where we want to buy, but a buyers’ market 5 miles away in Manhattan.  Seems hard to believe, but out of my control.

It had all been getting to me (and to Kim) to the point that we had started to say “fuck it, we just aren’t rich enough to live in the city”.  I then started to try and list all the cities we might consider to move to.  My requirements are far more spartan than Kim’s, so I focussed on places that wouldn’t be too much of a jump for her (not too wild, too hot, too cold, too hippy, too isolated, etc.) Portland, Maine has always been a pretty high contender on that list and so we are going to look up there in July.  A nice 2 bed / 2 bath condo right on the water is the same price as a studio here (although we would need a car).

But as soon as I say “I’m outta here” NYC fights back – and Kim manages to get tickets for Debbie Harry and Chris Stein talking at the 92nd St Y.  For all its merits, I would imagine Portland doesn’t get events like that on a regular week night.  It was a great event – hard to believe that there was Ms Harry – still looking great – and Mr Stein talking about CBGBs and how everyone spent all their time back in the “good old days” complaining about how hard life was in the city and how they were all going to leave. Plus ça change…

So there we are; after having literally dozens of pics of Blondie (ok, I admit it, mostly Debbie Harry) on my bedroom wall back in Nelson I get to hear her talk and reminisce about those days 35 years later – circle of life, I suppose.

As for whether we’ll move to BK or somewhere else, stay tuned.  Gotta sell this place first.

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Apple launches three-factor security, incorrectly calls it two-factor

In 2008, when MobileMe was first launched, Steve Jobs was apoplectic at its flaky, poor functionality – he told the team that they “should hate each other for having let each other down” (source).

iCloud replaced MobileMe, and in some cases its functionality is better than the unlamented predecessor, but the ghosts of stupid design and implementation are still there.

Apple introduced two-factor authentication for the iTunes store (using AppleID) about a year ago (source) and generally it’s a good idea because of the financial information that Apple forces you to store in your account.  There had been exploits in previous years where miscreants had created iTunes gift cards using purloined credentials.

Unfortunately, though, as I found out today, the implementation of 2-factor security has been laughably poor.  Two factor security requires that you have two of the three items:

  • iTunes password
  • Access to device on which to receive a code
  • A recovery key

As of right now I have two of those three items but I’m locked out of my account with very little possibility of access. Why?  Because Apple arbitrarily reset my password due to some kind of activity.  Great – I would hope that vendors would do that when they see suspicious activity (Chase have been outstanding for me in the past in that regard).  BUT – now I can’t reset my password because I don’t have both of the remaining items.  So Apple’s two factor security is in fact three factor security, with two separate passwords (one called a recovery key) and device access.

I’m sure I have that recovery key somewhere in a file in a box in a storage unit in Brooklyn because I am in the process of moving.  But I shouldn’t need it because I have two factors – it’s just that Apple arbitrarily changed one and now demands the third which I guarantee most people will not have.

I’m going to the “genius” bar this evening to see if they can help me – which I am fairly sure they cannot.  So learn from my mistakes and remember that Apple’s two-factor security is really three-factor and you will need access to all three at all times in order to continue to use iCloud.

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Van Morrison – at the Beacon Theatre 11/26/13

2013-11-26 20.53.50 HDR

As good a show as I have ever seen Van perform.  I am very glad I didn’t waste my money on tickets for the awful Madison Square Garden – the Beacon Theatre (where I saw him do Astral Weeks live) is a great venue.  Sound was fantastic, the band was great, and he appeared to have a good time – although in Chuck Berry fashion he was off stage by 9:59 with no encore.

Set List:

  • Celtic Swing (with Van playing sax) (Inarticulate Speech of the Heart)
  • Ballerina (Astral Weeks)
  • The Way Young Lovers do (Astral Weeks)
  • Moondance (Moondance)
  • Tupelo Honey (Tupelo Honey)
  • Why Must I Always Explain? (Hymns to the Silence)
  • Centrepiece (How Long has this Been Going on?) (with Jon Hendricks, Aria Hendricks & Kevin Burke)
  • Whenever God Shines his light (Avalon Sunset)
  • That Old Black Magic (Days Like This)
  • Sometimes We Cry (The Healing Game)
  • (Come See Me) Early in the Morning (80 – BB King and Friends)
  • In the Midnight (Back on Top)
  • I Can’t Stop Loving You (Hymns to the Silence)
  • Glad Tiding (Moondance)
  • Sack O’ Woe (with Jon Hendricks, Aria Hendricks & Kevin Burke)
  • In the Garden (No Guru, No Method, No Teacher)
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What I learned traveling to all 50 states

Actually, before I get to that – let me tell you what I learned on my trip to Mississippi and Alabama – the final two states I had to visit

 

  • Mobile has some wonderful architecture and a very nice main street (when you get away from the overbuilt convention center and stuff)

P1000512

 

  • I thought I had experienced heat and humidity before – but nothing compares to 92 F at 830 in the morning with close to 100% humidity.  No wonder people move slowly around here.  And this was in September – not July or August

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  • Montgomery AL is also a pretty city downtown – until you start to remember who built all those buildings and where the money for that came from.  Still, I was impressed that they had preserved things and improved the small area around the station.

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  • The Pettus bridge in Selma, AL looks *exactly* the same as it does in the photos of white cops beating civil rights marchers 50 years ago.

P1000613

 

  • Natchez MI is very pretty and well worth a visit – just don’t think about who built those houses. Great architecture, also hot and humid

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Funny thing was that all my friends in NYC and Europe thought an opinionated Brit who lives in NY and talks weird would end up beaten in a ditch – but in fact people couldn’t have been nicer.  Only person who was weird was a middle aged white guy who thought I was a rival college football fan because I was wearing a red baseball cap.

I’ll finish the broader theme of what I learned in all 50 states next post.

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The Raoulinator (surfboard)

I took a class at 3rd Ward last summer to shape a surfboard – taught by the phenomenal Mr. David Murphy.  He’s a master of surf shaping and I can’t praise his knowledge, teaching skill, and craft enough.  If you haven’t seen his work, go to that first tumblr link or here.

As a total newbie / aspiring surfer I didn’t really know what I wanted or needed, so we came up with this – which Dave christened the Raoulinator.  It’s a 7’3″ beefy, high volume board for a big, slow guy (me).  It has the swallow tail because that’s just an aesthetic I like.  I wanted to be as old-school as possible in the colours and I’m extremely happy with the way it turned out.  Of course, it hasn’t been in the water yet – I’ve been learning with Elliot at Surf2Live since before Memorial Day, and I still suck.  The popup eludes me and then even when I do get up on a super long, super wide board my balance is terrible.

But I never leave without a huge smile and aching muscles and the desire to go back and do better next time.

Finished Raoulinator with tri-fin setup – although I expect to use either single fin or duals (probably the former):

IMG_0609

 

Details of tail

IMG_0610

 

 

Alternate view (which makes it look shorter and wider than it should due to weird perspective)

IMG_0611

 

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Managing Contacts in OS X

This appears to be needlessly complex – at the moment I now have 4 or 5 different versions of each contact on the Mac Mini.  Thankfully the iPad and iPhone only appear to have a single version each.

I think the issue on the mac is that (stupidly) the Address Book has one locally stored version and one iCloud version – I had meant to figure out how to fix that and then let it drop.  I also had the issue that because I was using Entourage any updates to Exchange did not get passed back to local contacts, so the two stores got more and more out of synch.  Now I upgraded to Outlook 2011 (or I’m in the process of) and Outlook downloads the contacts from Exchange and then Address Book shows them as well.

I need to figure this out because it’s absurd that in 2013 I have various versions of contacts flying around and I have to even consider downloading all 1500+ to a CSV and clean them up in Excel like I did 18 months ago.

I’ll update this post as I try different approaches to clean up.

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Humbled by Surfing

I’ve always wanted to be able to surf – not in the Kelly Slater athletic way or Laird Hamilton giant, scary, deadly waves way (although those are both great), but in the mellow get in the ocean, enjoy the swell, ride a wave or two on a longboard kind of way.

But I come to this late. I’m getting older. Even though I’m a decent swimmer, apparently I have a laughably weak paddle and tire easily. I’m not particularly frightened of the water, but being out in the waves does worry me – as does getting in the way of surfers who are better than me.

And the pop-up. How frustrating! I’ve been working with Elliot from Surf2Live and he’s a superstar. Very patient and encouraging and I know I’ll get there eventually. In fact, I feel frustrated as much for him as I do for myself.

Meanwhile, I’ll be back out there – getting tired, sore, sun burned, and happy. I’ll get it, eventually, and then I’ll learn to get better.

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Some pics from my San Diego trip

Pacific Beach on a Wednesday night.  Wish I’d taken my wetsuit.

Pacific Beach - San Diego 1

 

Pacific Beach - San Diego 2

 

Pacific Beach - San Diego 3

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Don’t buy a Seagate Momentus XT drive if you have a Mac

I bought this hybrid 500GB drive for my old MacBook Pro and had endless issues with it.  If it wasn’t for the actual laptop beginning to die, I think I would have been able to ascribe more of the issues to the faulty firmware on the HD.

Seagate has acknowledged that the firmware on these drives is deficient because it has random power management issues that are independent of the OS – in practice, this means that the drive powers down randomly and basically freezes the system on a whim.  When it is powered up correctly, it’s a decent fast drive and fulfills its promise of providing some SSD functionality at a slightly elevated standard HD price.

Here’s where things get weird, though.  I put the drive in an external drive housing to try and get some value from it – but it’s unusable because of the random power changes – none of which are addressable or configurable through any kind of UI.  The only answer is to flash the drive’s firmware – OK, fair enough.  Except there is apparently no way to flash the drive’s firmware unless it is mounted as the primary drive on a computer.  Which of course is untenable because the damn thing is crappy and unreliable.

So that’s a $100+ coaster, I guess.  Lesson learned. Not happy with Seagate at all.

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Mac Mini is here

So, I’ve been using a beater 2006 core Duo MBP since I joined TEAM. I’d actually made the move to OS X before then on a hackintoshed Dell Mini 10, but I’ve been fully migrated for a while now. As you might expect, a 7 year old laptop that had been beaten on before I ever got it and that maxes out at 3 GB of RAM has had a hard time keeping up with my use and the ever more bloated demands of software. I put in a hybrid 500GB HD a year or so ago and that was a stopgap but the writing has been on the wall for a while now.
For complicated reasons my company isn’t giving me a replacement OS X laptop so I was on my own and when it came to my own money, $2000-2500 for a 13″ Air or 15″ MBP seems like a lot. So I thought I would try the idea of a mac mini plus iPad to replace a laptop and I’ll be writing about my experiences as I go. I also have a Dell laptop running Win 7 as a backup, but it’s shit, so the less I use that the better.
The saga starts today – my refurbished mini arrived with a 1 TB drive. I added the 16GB of RAM I ordered from Crucial (at less than the cost for 8GB from Apple) and all the cables from Monoprice arrived earlier in the week. I’ll be using my Mac k/b, twin 19″ monitors (1 DVI to HDMI port, another to minidisplay/thunderbolt port). It’s all ready to go, but I don’t have time to set it all up as I’m super busy with work and we are going away for the weekend. Probably start importing content during the evenings next week, so realistically it will take most of week to fully migrate. Then I have to figure the best way to have 20-50 GB of content available to my iPad while travelling with limited to zero connectivity – thinking one of the external HDs with local wifi connection is the way to go for that, but I also have a 50GB Box account and 20 GB dropbox account as well.

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Politics

My friend Jen told me last night that I’m the most politically-charged non voter she has ever met.  Well, I’m not a non voter by choice, but she has a point.

I believe in righting wrongs and fighting injustice and getting shit done, and the political system in the US and UK is failing miserably on both counts.  If I had a vote in the US, I would have voted for Obama, but he’s very weak sauce as far as progressive ideals go.  The fact that some people really genuinely think he’s a socialist or communist confirms that they have absolutely zero idea what those terms even mean.

What fascinates me, though, is trying to understand people I know who are ideologically different to me.  It’s easy to assume everyone who disagrees with me politically is an idiot (and there’s ample evidence that many people are – on both sides of the spectrum); but I’m trying to understand those people that I like and respect who come to the opposite conclusions that I do.  I’m concerned about wasteful government spending (and after working in Public Sector accounts for Oracle I saw plenty of it) but I’m suspicious of people who became deficit hawks the moment they lost the Presidency (after creating a deficit of historic size) and refuse to entertain one of only 2 ways to address it which is raising taxes.

What’s fascinating to me is that these smart, informed, passionate people look at the same facts and circumstances I do and come to completely opposite conclusions. Some are debatable (like the best way to deliver healthcare, although I’ll note that most of these people have never experienced the alternatives), some are ethical / moral (abortion, gay marriage), and some just don’t seem to make sense – like attacking Obama because he hasn’t passed a jobs bill; which GOP have hindered and blocked every step of the way.

What I hope may come out of this is that all the people who were lied to and misinformed by the right wing echo chamber (basically abused as rubes by very cynical grifters) may look at just how wrong those pundits and “experts” were and now start to think that they may well be wrong about other stuff too.  But I’m not going to hold my breath – apparently there’s a lot of money to be made out of lying and misinformation.

It’s sad – this country could be so much better with a functional political system and a government actually concerned with improving the lot of the electorate.

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Vegetable Stew

I’m very lucky in that I live a couple of blocks from the best Farmers’ Market in New York City – the one that most of the chefs in town send their staff to buy the freshest in-season produce (a few hours before I ever get there). As it starts to get cooler, I often cook all kinds of good vegetables to make soups and stews to freeze.  Here are some pics of the first effort this year.

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Street Art in Bushwick

I was over at Third Ward last month (dropping my surfboard off for glassing with Dave Murphy) and had a conference call which meant I had to walk around the neighbourhood rather than jump onto the L train.  Found a group of great street paintings a couple of blocks from the subway – lucky find. Enjoy!

 

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Updating my apartment

I have big plans for my very small apartment – but, of course, they are limited by funds, skill, and time available.  Still, I’m starting small and making some progress as I go – I upgraded my work desk and started the process of updating the kitchen counters.

Here’s the before picture of my desk

And here’s the after – with butcherblock counter that matches the Kitchen counters.

 

The difference is probably more obvious in the kitchen

Before:

And after:

 

Next step is to replace all the kitchen counter tops with the same wood.

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All I want to do is watch Region 2 DVDs

I’m from England, I also travel a lot to other parts of the world – South America, Australia and New Zealand, Europe, and Asia.  Sometimes I buy DVDs in those places that are not available in the USA.

Currently those DVDs are coasters because of the abject stupidity and closed-mindedness of the various DVD hardware and software companies in the US.  The rest of the world gave up on this region malarky quite some time ago – if I go to buy a DVD player in the areas listed above chances are it will be region free.  But here in the USA (“home of the free?”) I am unable to buy one of those through normal channels, or change my DVD player to read and play them, or use any one of my multiple computers to play them.  I almost resorted to changing the DVD drive region on my laptop to Region 2 (even though that would now exclude region 3 and 6 content), but apparently I can’t even do that, although I am supposed to have 4 of my 5 changes available.

Let me be very clear – these are bought and paid for DVDs from airport and high street retailers in foreign countries.  They are content that is UNAVAILABLE in the US or Canada (and, FYI, they are travel, music, comedy, and TV shows; nothing else).  I truly don’t understand why my choices to play legally obtained content are:

1. Purchase grey-market “region-free” DVD player from dodgy online retailer at huge markup.

2. Download multiple different software packages and attempt to extract, rip, convert, and burn DVDs that may or may not then work in my DVD player.

3. Download dodgy “firmware flash” programs to modify the firmware on my laptop DVD player – invalidating the warranty and causing who knows what other issues.

4. Attempt to obtain illegally torrented versions of this content online.

None of these options are attractive to me. I really wish the MPAA or whomever is responsible for these asinine restrictions could explain what someone whose interests lie beyond the shit shoveled through network TV in the US can do legally to play overseas DVDs in the US.

I’ll keep digging on this and when I find a reasonable option, I’ll be very happy to share it.

 

 

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