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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Back after a Hiatus

It’s been quite a while since I posted here – I embraced twitter, but that’s a very different forum for ideas

So – I’ll be making a conscious effort to post more regularly here and post some pics, some achievements, some thoughts on tech, etc.

What triggered this return?  I don’t know; just a threshold being crossed, a decision to take back some control over my life and take some new steps. I’m going to articulate some goals for the coming year in the next few days – get them out there and it will keep me accountable – even if the only person who sees them is me.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone – especially to Kim who has been a wonderful, important part of my life for the past 2.5 years and I hope for many more.

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Winter in the UK

As a Brit, a Geographer, and someone has lived many places and traveled to many more; I am fascinated and puzzled by the British attitude to the weather.

I could fill dozens if not hundreds of pages about various UK responses to too much rain (any time), some snow or ice in the winter, some heat or sun in the summer, or some falling leaves in the autumn / fall.  Right now the news is that after a few mild winters, a normal winter weather pattern leaves the country in ruins.

Let’s recap – the United Kingdom is a NORTHERN European country.  London lies at 51ºN, Manchester at 53º30′, Edinburgh at 55ºN.  Compare these to Calgary (51ºN), Edmonton (53º30’N) and Moscow (55º45’N).  Equivalents for my friends in the Southern hemisphere are tougher, but Ushuaia in Argentina (when I was there last summer/winter, people were skiing at close to sea level and it snowed every day) is at 54º48′ S, closest thing for my Kiwi friends is Invercargill at 46º24’S.  Question – do you think people in that latter (non-UK) list put snow tyres on in winter?  Do their city and county councils have snow ploughs and gritters?

Yes, I understand the difference between a Maritime and Continental climate, and the influence of the Gulf Stream on UK weather, but I also know about the jet stream and persistent Northern Hemisphere highs in the winter and the fact that a country this far north is going to get hit by winter storms a few times each year.  Anthropogenic climate change is likely to increase the frequency of extreme events as temperature gradients N to S get out of equilibrium due to localized responses to increased CO2 and other greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.  I’m pretty sure that I’m also not the only person who has studied this and knows these facts.

So, why?

Travel networks paralyzed

Gatwick Airport closed for second day

6500 schools closed

And, yes, the usual suspects will be out saying that snow in winter disproves “global warming” when it does no such thing and all serious scientists have known for 25+ years that effects of anthropogenic climate change will be unevenly distributed.  The Lake District / southern Scotland is at the same latitude as James Bay in central Canada or Ketchikan in southern Alaska.  Will you buy some snow tyres, some winter boots, and a warm coat, please?

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NYC Marathon 2011

Well, the application is in for the NYC marathon next year and (unless I manage to screw something up), I should be in automatically with the 9+1 program through NY Road Runners.  I have run 6 races so far this year and and I have three more to go – a 4 mile on Nov 21, a 10k on december 5, and a 15k on December 19.  I even managed to register twice for the Kleinermann 10k!  Maybe I’ll get two shirts.

I also registered for the NYC half in March, which I ran last year, but that’s a lottery and no guarantees.

Who would ever have thought I’d be able to even think of running those distances?  But almost 400 training and race miles this year so far (and another hundred or so left in the year) and a couple of setbacks with a hip injury in the summer and a nasty chest infection in the fall, I guess I’m getting to be somewhat serious about this.

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Embracing my feminine side?

According to urlai.com:

Text analysis

raoulmiller.com is probably written by a female somewhere between 36-50 years old. The writing style is personal and happy most of the time.”
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Norway Run

And to make a change from the bitching about people like AT&T and AmEX – something positive.

I finished the Norway Run last weekend in 16:07 which is a 9:28 / mile pace.  Granted that’s a short race, but I’m getting back to the pace I ran in the spring in Brooklyn, so I think I just do much better with cooler weather.

I have three more races still scheduled for the year –

  • Poland Springs 5 mile in the park on 10/31,
  • Race to Deliver 4 mile on 11/21
  • Joe Kleinerman 10k on 12/5

I’ll probably throw a couple of extras in there too to make doubly sure I hit the 9+1 requirement for the 2011 marathon and then it’s right into training for that.  So even with three weeks off for this blasted bronchitis and sinus infection (which still isn’t cleared) I’m feeling like I’m on the right path.

So here are some more Goals:

  • Get pace close to or under 9 min/mile for 4 miles before end of year
  • Finish another three races (at least) and qualify for the marathon next year
  • Improve my diet along with the training and figure out how to get more protein
  • Add some spin classes to the mix
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American Express are thieves

In common with most of the rest of the parasitic “financial services” industry they don’t deserve to remain in business.

Their latest bullshit is to inform me that the “membership rewards” I earned by charging over $100,000 in business travel are now worth less than half what they were when I accrued them.  They’ve created some kind of second tier “rewards” program which requires more than twice the number of points to actually be able to redeem them for travel.  And they’ve also taken away the ability to transfer points from this program to airline miles.  I’m sure they informed me of this on one of this 3 point type newsprint mailers with 75 pages they love to send out, but I notice that they don’t have this anywhere on their web sites.  They are ashamed of this ripoff as they should be.

This is on top of what they did to me and tens of thousands of other people last year when they halved my credit line, then raised my interest rates to usurious levels because of the hit to my credit score that their unilateral actions caused.  Of course, when I paid my account off in full and my credit score went right back where it had been, the enormous interest rates stayed where they were.

Why do companies seem to think that screwing their loyal and bill-paying customers is a good and sustainable business plan?  I often charge thousands of dollars a month to my credit cards for business travel and I’ll be damned if any of that business goes to AmEx.  Our company even started a new program for company AmEx cards and I told them I wasn’t interested – I’d rather stick with my United Airlines visa.  Chase are crooks too, but not quite as outrageous as AmEx.  If I could buy air tickets, rent cars, and reserve hotels without a credit card I would.

And can someone explain why credit card interest rates are still at 20-30% when savings interest rates are <1%?  Could it have anything to do with the fact that they gave credit cards to college students with no income, dogs and dead people, and now they expect the rest of us to bail them out from their stupidity and greed?

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Sick while traveling

Always a pain.  Heading back to the US tomorrow and very much looking forward to getting home, rested and back to my usual diet, sleep habits and workouts.  I’ve been in Townsville, Cairns, back to Townsville, Melbourne, and now Sydney.  Hasn’t helped that it’s been cold and rainy here in Sydney and I’m coming down with a bad cold right before my flights home.  Oh well….

Townsville is a nice-ish quiet town with a great seafront called the Strand.  5km out and back which added up to 4 miles with the distance to and from the hotel (Holiday Inn salt shaker building if you’ve ever been to Townsville).  Then up to Cairns to visit my cousin Robert and his family up there.  Quite a bit further to drive than I thought but I had a great time – they made me feel very welcome and shared their wonderful house with me.  They really are living the Aussie dream up there although the sun and humidity kicked my ass!

Melbourne was cold and damp, but I finally got to run the Tan Track and really enjoyed that, although I was starting to feel rundown even then, so the hill halfway round was a bear.  Track itself is just short of 4km, but distance to and from my hotel at the far end of Flinders Lane in docklands meant that it added up to 5 miles total.  I was out there early Saturday morning after some joker rang my room at 5am and woke me up; and then flew to Sydney that morning – that’s probably where the downward spiral began because a hard run in the cold and damp  followed by a packed flight is a great recipe for respiratory infections.

One thing, though, in both places was the high number of walkers and runners out there which made me feel really good about being a part of that.  It’s probably why I should be heading to the east or west sides to run along the river rather than just stay on the treadmill at the gym next door.

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How much does AT&T suck? Let me count the ways

My original iPhone is finally dying and I decided it was time for the iPhone 4 upgrade.  In fact, I tried to get on board that train the first day of release, but AT&T’s crappy website left me without a reservation (just as well, it turns out, because I was told even people with reservations waited in line for 5 hours plus at the soho store).

Anyway, I finally ordered the phone a couple of weeks ago and, after some glitches on the order site (AT&T’s not Apple), it went through and my lovely device arrived Friday.  I was able to synch it immediately to iTunes as a clone of my existing phone which is great – everything came over, even including my alarm clock settings.  But as it had to resize 3000+ photos for the new screen it took a while so I left it to process while we went out Friday night.

Saturday morning, I’m excited to activate the new phone and call AT&T – but what’s this?  I can only activate my phone Monday to Friday?  What the fuck? Head online – fill out all the information (isn’t this the phone you sent to me?  Why do I need to type in two 15 digit strings and the order number that matches my account?  I’ve already authenticated with you.)  And…. nothing.  The page tells me it may take 15 mins to 4 hours to activate my phone, but 36 hours later there’s still no signal.  The phone itself works just fine – connects to wireless, uploads apps and gets iTunes, just no phone activation.

OK, well;  I’m waiting patiently till Monday morning and as of now (1020am), I’ve called AT&T three fucking times and have yet to get through to a person – I keep being put on hold for ten minutes or more then get a message saying they are experiencing “technical difficulties” and then disconnected.  “Difficulties?”  No shit!  You have difficulties running a business and not alienating your best customers who spend $3-700 / month with you.

Do I really like the iPhone enough to put up with this? (not even getting into the 6-10 dropped calls a day, while sitting still, in Manhattan!)  I’m starting to wonder; and every additional hour my $200 paperweight sits here I reassess some more.

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Die Antwoord in Brooklyn

If you don’t know who Die Antwoord are, go here to see the Ninja video and then come back.

Kim bought me tickets to see them last Sunday and we trekked into darkest Williamsburg to the Music Hall for the gig.  It was everything I expected and more – strange, loud, fun, compelling.

I still don’t know whether these guys are real or fake, but they put on a great a show and we all had fun (and they are better than 99% of music on the radio right now.

And anyone who was there for the warm-up DJ set will not forget that in a hurry – who were those guys?

Update: They have an EP available on iTunes – search for “Die Antwoord”

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Lemmy!

It was my birthday yesterday; Kim threw me a lovely party on the roof which was very touching and appreciated.  I’m not very good at letting myself be at the center of attention like that, but it was small group of friends and a lot of fun.

And then I got this as a gift – how awesome is it (and I mean awesome in the literal sense of actually inspiring awe, not the devalued sense so often used)?

I also got tickets to Die Antwoord show next weekend – if you don’t know who they are, you should. (Start here).

<< I’m guessing I may be the first person to link Lemmy and Ninja in a post >>

P.S. When is Lemmy: The Movie opening?

Posted in Friends, Life, Music | 1 Comment

Hot and cold

OK it’s weather rather than climate – but as we are in record-breaking heat in NYC, it’s record cold in Alice Springs.

But Michael Mann used the word “trick” in a private email that was stolen and published, so clearly all the science to date is junk and there’s no issue with climate change.

Climate change will cause more extreme weather events around the world and we will tend to see evidence for these before we see overall systemic change.  No individual extreme event can be attributed solely to anthropogenic climate change, but a pattern of them certainly bolsters all the other observational data and models.

How many more of these events do we need to have before people take notice? And how many people around the world will die so people in the US can continue to live in 6,000 square foot homes?

Oh, I forgot, Al Gore is fat and lives in a big house – never mind.

<sigh>

If you are interested in learning about climate, climatology, palaeoclimatology, and anthropogenic climate change – here’s a good start: realclimate.org.  In particular, look at this section.

Stay cool or warm – wherever you are.

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Take a moment to reflect on luckiness

I just picked up 5 rolls of film I had developed and printed at my favourite lab (Yeah, I know, I’m old school).  In that collection were some pics from Buenos Aires last year (great buildings in San Telmo), wonderful snow covered Lake District in the UK (from New Year), and four rolls from Australia on my last trip – Great Ocean Road, Bells Beach, Mornington Peninsula.

You know, sometimes all my traveling sucks really badly, but the upside is that I’ve had the chance to visit some absolutely wonderful places in the world.  Remind me of that next time you hear me complain about flying, jet lag, and hotels 🙂

Ill scan and upload some pics soon – actually look for links to a whole new photography site in the autumn / fall (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere – opposite for my antipodean friends)

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Helpful sizing advice from Nike

“If your body measurement is on the borderline between two sizes, order the smaller size for a tighter fit or the larger size for a looser fit.”

Wow.  Add this to the list of things that really should never need to be articulated.

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I have a new work blog

Just in case anyone is interested, I started a new blog on Enterprise Architecture, Content management and Technology.  There’s a link over on the right, or just click here.

Recently I’ve just been bitching about AT&T and Apple, but that will pass.

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