Travel Log, early 2020

I am on the road, and naturally, I have an observation to make about the Hotel I am staying in. I am in Barcelona, Spain and attending Cisco Live (actually, I am doing a whole lotta booth duty). But this isn’t about the show, the city or anything else.

It is about the Hotel.

Nothing wrong with the Renaissance Fira. It is funky architecture, and some oddities of the layout, but the bed is comfortable, the room is quiet, and I have pillows that “work” (n.b.: As I get older, the firmness and ‘give’ of the pillow is crucial to my ability to sleep.)

But what bothers me is their policies around environmental concerns. For at least 15 years now, it is common for hotels world-wide to have a hander in the bathroom asking guests to help them conserve water by not having to wash their towels daily. Since I regularly use the same towel at home for a week before it becomes ‘funky’ this is a no brainer. The tag hangar just says to hang the towel up to indicate that you will use it again.

Of course, many hotels don’t have good places to hang towels, but I can get creative.

None of this bothers me. What does though is that when I go through the effort to hang the towel, and then housekeeping takes it and replaces it ANYWAY with new towels.

Is that environmental policy hanger just for looks? Does it make the hotel feel ‘woke’?

Ok, I am off my soap box.

Plex Server Migration

A couple of years ago, I took the plunge, bought an Intel NUC, a ton of external storage, and built a Plex server for all my media (literally hundreds of DVD’s and Bluray discs). It has been chugging along well, dishing up what I want, when I want it.

But, I took the easy route when I set it up originally. I installed Ubuntu desktop on my then new NUC, as that made the configuration trivial. Setting up Wifi? Easy peasy. All the published tutorials on getting Plex up and running. Boffo.

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Hobbies

I have had many hobbies over the years, from video gaming (I was an arcade junky in my formative years in the early 1980’s), music (guitars and guitar playing), shooting, off road motorcycling, and bicycling.

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Bernie Sanders

I try to avoid politics on my blog. That isn’t the same as avoiding politics in general, as I have fairly strong opinions and thoughts. However, I can’t keep silent.

Last night as I was in bed working on the Sunday NY Times Crossword (don’t laugh, it helps me nod off), I heard the beep of a text message hit my phone.

It was a Bernie volunteer, a chipper woman named Emily, who was spewing a line of how Sanders was fighting greed and corruption.

I promptly texted back that she should just fuck right off.

I am not a Sanders fan. I never “felt the bern”. I voted against him in the last round of primaries in 2016 (that he LOST decisively), and I will vote against him in 2020.

In my opinion, he is a large part of the reason that we have the orange turd sitting in the oval office right now.

Bernie Sanders is not a democrat, he just campaigns as one because without a nationwide major party at his back, he would be just what his record in congress is, a footnote to obscurity.

Fuck Bernie Sanders.

Exciting Weekend

It is an exciting weekend, as my kid sister is moving into the first house she has ever bought. We recently got an inheritance, and she decided that it was time to buy a house.

So, after a little retreat in late September where we had a mini-family reunion, they began looking in earnest. Surprisingly, they have a pretty solid income, and could afford a lot more than I thought (good for them), and they had ample selections to choose from, as the market is a little soft at the moment.

They bought a great older house with good bones, but in need of some TLC. It was owned by a single woman, a retiree who spent her life working at IBM in the south San Jose area. It was an estate sale, and the price was very fair for the area. But the trustee/executor of the estate didn’t have any money to tart it up, so it was largely as-is. Not as bad as that sounds, it means:

  1. It doesn’t pop, so a lot of buyers will go meh. It had been on the market for a while without attracting a lot of interest or offers.
  2. You don’t have the superficial “tarting” that is common. A coat of cheap paint, replace the carpet with some cheap rental grade carpet. And a deep cleaning. Sure, those things add to ‘curb-appeal’ but they are not where YOU would have spent the money.

After a month of getting things ready, they are moving in.

And on Sunday, I will go and lend my shoulder to help get them sorted. It will be a good day.

The Decade Challenge

There’s been a lot of side by side comparison of people from the beginning of the 2010’s, and the now start of the 2020’s. I don’t have pictures, but, I do have a story.

The story begins the week before. I was getting started on a diet and a renewed vigor. Daily exercise, caloric intake reduction, etc.

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White trash neighbors

Living in South San Jose is pretty great, for the most part. Great house, mostly great neighbors, and amazing weather are all positives.

But the negatives come out twice a year. There are several rental properties in our neighborhood, and they are often rented by giant wads of fuck.

Case in point: Last night, New Year’s Eve, we knew there would be fireworks. There are always fireworks here, even though they are banned, especially on NYE and the Fourth of July.

It sucks for our dogs. They freak out, and no amount of sedation or other home remedies help. And that is with “normal” fireworks.

But last night, at 10:30, there was a very loud explosion. Apparently, our dirtbag neighbors have a source for professional fireworks. You know, the ones that are used by professional pyrotechnicians to put on the larger displays.

We often have fireworks, including the smaller mortars (the ones that lead to star bursts) that you can buy if you go to states that have loose fireworks policies.

The one last night was not one of these. It was the real deal. Its lifter charge (typically a black powder charge to boost it out of the launch tube until the main charge explodes and the visible star burst happens. This one was so powerful that it caused every car alarm on the block go off.

Joy, two freaked out dogs (Cerberus is usually unflappable, but even he came to hide with me in the dark.) What a great way to ring in the new year…

I have to admit that I was saying a prayer that the morons would blow their hands off.

I hope these assholes move out soon.

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Looking back on 2019

As this year winds down, I take this moment to glance in the rearview mirror to see what transpired in this year.

I did look at my posts from the start of 2019, and alas, I failed to live up to many of my goals. I did exercise more, and even bought a new bicycle that helped motivate me. But the big drag was my role as trustee/executor of my stepfather’s estate. That consumed hundreds of hours of my time, and amped up my stress into the stratosphere.

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Ditching the Gas – Going to Charcoal

Ever since I bought my first “place,” a condo in south San José, I have been using a gas fired Webber for my grilling needs. First a small Spirit I bought in 1999, and later a Genesis Series (model 310) that I bought in 2009. Both served me well, and made multiple moves.

However, even after several attempts, they have one major shortcoming. They suck for smoking food. I tries all the tricks, mostly in the era of the Spirit, but all the attempts were sorry failures.

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Tivo – getting to the end of the line

I first bought a Tivo when we moved to Tucson 16 years ago. Prior to that, I used a Dish network DVR that was OK, but nothing spectacular. I knew the Tivo was a better user experience, as I had a friend who did UI/UX work for the company way back when they were in their infancy.

That original Tivo graduated to a Series 3 HD when we brought home a plasma TV, and a few years ago, when Comcast (correction: Xfinity) stopped supporting the MPEG2 format for broadcast, it was time to upgrade. Fortunately, Tivo had an offer for an all in subscription to a refurbished Tivo Romio for a reasonable price.

That had been working well for a number of years, but had become flakey recently. Sporadic, spontaneous reboots were driving me nuts. Finally, last Saturday, it died. Caught in a reboot cycle, it seemed dead.

Fortunately, some internet sleuthing identified that the problem was most likely caused by a bad disk, so off to Weaknees, and to order up a replacement HD.

But…

The reality is that I do not watch much live TV anymore. Sure, I enjoy recording Full Frontal, new episodes of Rick and Morty, and the occasional The Daily Show featuring Trevor Noah, but since Comcast stopped carrying BEin Sports, I can’t tune in to MotoGP races anymore.

Almost all my viewing is streaming. Netflix (decreasing), Amazon Prime (cautiously, as it sucks bandwidth), and Hulu are my go to’s with my Plex server for my home library of movies, I am pretty much good.

If it were up to me, I would cut the cord, buy an Apple TV to stream, and be done with it.

However, my wife is a sports nut. She needs her college football fix. She craves women’s collegiate volleyball. And when the olympics are on, well, I don’t get to watch TV for 2 weeks solid.

Summary

The Tivo lives on, probably for a few more years, but the reality is that we are not too far from being able to cut the cord. Sling and Hulu both have live sports, and if I can convince the boss of that, then perhaps we can go from an Xfinity triple play for a stupid amount of money each month to just their fattest internet connection will be sufficient, and save money to boot!