Sunday, September 18, 2016

Updating Apple Products

I started out as a Windows user and was actually a Windows programmer (using MS Access) for quite a long time. I resisted the siren call of Apple products and stuck with Windows for years and years, for work and for personal use.

Finally I gave in and bought a MacBook Pro in 2011 which turned out to be a great purchase (and got rid of my Windows Desktop PC). I always have used iPhones for personal use, and when I turned in my work Blackberry (a sad day at the time) for an iPhone, that meant that I had two iPhones. For a while I also used a Mac at work, although I ended up switching back to a Windows laptop because password resets, system upgrades and a lack of compatibility for applications built for Windows made it too much of a pain in the rear.

Then over the years I of course bought an iPad and then upgraded that iPad, and an Apple Watch, which I really like (although the jury is mixed on that one). Here is an Apple Watch article and review that I wrote.

Thus I now have five (5) Apple products - a MacBook Pro, an iPad, an Apple Watch, and two iPhones. And now it is time for all the updates... iOS 10 is out now which means I need to update my iPad and both iPhones. Apple Watch OS 3 is also out and I am downloading that right now (downloading the operating system into the watch, from the iPhone, seems to take a long time). My MacBook Pro will get updated to the new Sierra OS when it comes out on Tuesday, September 20th.

Here are some initial thoughts so far. For the iPhones, I don't think iOS 10 is that big of a deal. It does seem faster, and the fonts / icons look a little better, but I don't see much that is significantly different. I do like the easy ability to "unsubscribe" from email lists with a simple swipe. I guess most of the enthusiasm in this area is for the new iPhone 7 launch, but I won't be getting an iPhone 7 for a while due to my current phone contract.

I do like the iPad upgrade to iOS 10, because you can set the widgets on the front page and see items like the weather, travel times to work, emails from your VIP list, my Netatmo for localized weather, etc... at a glance. This is a nice feature because you should get all the main updates immediately and not have to go through different apps to see them. This is sort of like the old "Portal"-type functionality I used to have on my main web page way back in the day.

I will do a thorough review of the Apple Watch OS 3 update. I think that will have many powerful features and it will be much faster and easier to use. I think that Apple is still trying to "figure out" the Apple Watch which means that upgrades tend to have a lot of changes, hopefully for the better. At some point I will probably get a new Apple Watch (the new version has GPS built in) and then my existing watch will be a hand-me-down to someone else in my family who wants it.

Apple has really done a great job of keeping older hardware relevant. I have a MacBook Pro from 2011 which my friend Brian helped upgrade with an SSD hard drive and additional memory (I wrote about that here). My Mac should be able to run the new OS Sierra, and I will review that as well after the upgrade.

I particularly like the integration across Apple devices that you can do today through iCloud. For instance, my contacts, photos, and notes all synch across my Mac, iPhone and iPad (the Apple Watch is linked to the iPhone). You can also use Messenger (basically text messaging) from your Mac, iPad or phone - this is great when you want to type longer or faster texts because you can use your Mac to create them quickly or your iPad if you have an attached (third party) keyboard.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Oh No. We Don't Need Anymore! Stay Home.

More Illinois residents are moving to Indiana.

Please go to Wisco instead. All they do is bring those bad voting habits with them. We'll soon be in debt too, I fear.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Monitoring Air Quality - Speck Sensor

Due to the fact that computing power continues to increase exponentially, devices that once were out of reach for the general population are now becoming mainstream. I wrote about Netatmo, a device that measures temperature, humidity and sound (indoor and outdoor) here. Due to the internet, these devices can also be connected together in order to see a real-time version of the country, without having to look at a weather forecast.

Recently I saw an article in an MIT journal about indoor air quality which described how cooking eggs aggravated the authors' asthma and they were able to take specific actions because they were able to pinpoint the source of the spike in unclear air. The name of the company that created the monitor is called Speck and it was sold for approximately $200 so I thought that was a decent price point for me to join the air quality monitoring revolution. I am specifically most interested in INDOOR air quality but I will explain the broader context and then come back to the specific items I am reviewing (basically you can get official measurements of air quality in the US from public sources).


For this specific purpose we are focusing on PM 2.5 particles, which are particles that are too fine to be screened out by your nose and throat and as a result they accumulate in your lungs. There are other measures of air quality but these are the specific ones I am focused on (it is a complex topic).

An interesting "Wired" story about air quality is how the release of measurements of the 2.5 particles in China led the government there to acknowledge their air quality problems and start a serious program for monitoring and also to take significant actions (like pulling cars off the road and telling people to stay indoors) when the measurements reach crisis levels.

Measurements for major cities around the world can be found here - this is a site called AQCIN.ORG that picks up only official, calibrated measurement stations (there are many other private stations) and lets you see them for around the world. This site is run out of China which made me suspicious that they were "cooking the books" to make themselves look better but from checking it out a bit it looks legit and also the US numbers seem to be roughly in line with the same numbers I can get from US EPA sources.

The measurement is how much particulate would accumulate in your lungs if you had 24 hours of outdoor exposure; numbers below 50 are good (most of the US falls under this level, with the exception of some areas in a heat wave or where there is a forest fire). In China and India they routinely have numbers above the 300 level where the EPA considers it to be hazardous and the US scale stops measuring at 500 - but China has had 500+ days where they take drastic actions in major cities (such as here where it hit 608).


If the issue was just how to measure outdoor air quality, this is already done for us in the USA through a network of monitoring stations which can be reached through a variety of websites (such as This information is readily available.

However, the (potential) issue is that indoor air quality is highly variable, and can be impacted by many variables. On the one hand, if you live somewhere like China, being indoors gives you a significant benefit since outdoor air is so terrible. One of the complaints about the pollution score is that it overstates the negative impact on people in individuals with terrible air if they spend much of their day indoors with air conditioning and filtration systems.

In my experience, when you close the windows and use air conditioning, the indoor air quality improves significantly. We also saw major benefits when we turned on the kitchen fan while cooking. I took the air quality monitor to work, expecting to see poor results because we have a lot of construction occurring, but in fact the work measurements were even better than they are at home. I intend to try again because you get different ratings depending on where you site the monitor and depending on the exact conditions of what is going on.

My Speck experience has been very good. I finally figured out that you "push" the screen with your finger to switch between the "current" air quality (the higher number, a "good" rating would be 500 for instance) rather than the 24 hour number (where "good" is 20 or something like that). You can connect your Speck to the web to see results online or you can hold several days were of data in the onboard memory and then hook it up directly to your computer to download the data.

I highly recommend buying a Speck if you have people in your family with trouble breathing, live in a polluted area, are undergoing construction, or are just interested in gadgets. At $200 this is definitely worth buying.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Vitamin R

Since I've moved out to the Pacific Northwest I need a new cornwater. Miller Lite hardly has a presence out here and I'm not falling down the Coors Light chasm. Dan said his local friends out here drink Rainier Beer, which they call "Vitamin R".

Well just a couple of days later I found this guy wearing a "Vitamin R" t shirt. I asked him if I could take a photo and he said yes and he said I was like the 5th person who asked him that since he walked into the store.

So I decided to try one at dinner. Usually I get an expensive drink and then end on a cheaper note... Rainier was like $3 for a 16 oz can. It's not too bad. Certainly better than Coors Light.

Monday, July 18, 2016

That Guy From Indiana

Let me say up front my opinion of Congressman then Governor Mike Pence has been lukewarm. As an Indiana resident here's my perspective.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels was a hard act for Pence to follow. And Mitch wasn't exactly Mr. Excitement. Contrary to the coastal lust for political grandstanding here in the flyover state of Indiana residents seem to prefer low-key constitutional conservatives who roll up the sleeves and quietly get the people's work done. And that describes Governor Pence perfectly since few outside of Indiana know who he is and how well he has done for Indiana. His top accomplishment has been holding onto and building on what Daniels accomplished. If it ain't broke why fix it?

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Portland Life

My nephew recently came into town for a visit and wanted to get the "full Portland hipster experience". We weren't quite sure what he was looking for but figured we would find it on Mississippi Avenue, a street laden with new restaurants and bars. Here is a NY Times article on the scene there with this great quote:
North Mississippi Avenue in Portland delivers a hipster experience as reliably as the rain.
We walked up and down the blocks and sat outside and had a few beers then had dinner at The Rambler. You know that you are in Portland when you see a sign like this.

Another sign is drinking the local Montucky Beer. This is their equivalent of PBR - cheap and light. Bizarrely, they don't even call it beer, it is a "cold snack", which in a way is true. After doing 2 seconds of Internet research this beer came out of Montana but I see lots of folks here drinking it all the time.

Tattoos are everywhere. I was wondering about a "Portland Index" that would be calculated as follows:

Total cost of tattoos on your body / your net worth

I think for the average Portland person working in the service industry the index would be less than one - you can easily spend thousands on intricate, colored tattoos and not too many younger folks have a net worth (after including all debt and liabilities including student debt) that is positive.

Other signs of Portland:
- Strange man bun hair
- Smoking American Spirit cigarettes
- Generally every restaurant has excellent food (you'd simply be out of business almost immediately because so many other places are good)
- Dogs of every size everywhere
- People are mostly very healthy and plan active events. In Chicago 50% of the people I encountered would likely be categorized as "morbidly obese"

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Amtrak and Train Travel

Over many years I've commuted on trains for work - the light rail Metra in Chicago in the suburbs and the "L" tracks in the CTA in Chicago. However, I've never taken the Amtrak trains so I was excited to take the opportunity to travel between Portland and Seattle and avoid the horrendous traffic that I've heard plagues Seattle. Plus, you can have a drink along the way, which is frowned upon nowadays while driving (good for a Friday evening).

You can buy your train ticket online, but you don't get seats for coach class. When you get to the train station, there is a line that forms before the train departs and you physically stand in the line to get your ticket. At that point they assign you a seat on the train, and if you buy two tickets in the same online purchase, they will plan to seat you together. This is the ticket that they manually wrote out for us coming back from Seattle to Portland on Sunday.

Not very high tech, I'd say. But the experience on the train was fine. You get all kinds of folks on the train, from families with kids to people who look like they can't afford a plane. The Amtrak personnel were all very friendly and seemed to know what they were doing.

Since I've flown for years and years on business and rarely taken a train long distance, I kept thinking I was in an airplane, for instance when I was in the restroom and holding on to the handle in case of turbulence (the train does rock from side to side, especially when you are up top on a two floor passenger car). It also seemed odd not to have your seat belt on. I finally decided that the train was a 2-D airplane.

One thing that you realize immediately on the train is how big the USA is. The train from Seattle to Los Angeles is scheduled to go for over 33 hours (and probably takes longer, since delays are inevitable with all the stops). That would be a long, long time on the train.

Security is also very light on the train - they don't search you when you board the train and thus boarding is very quick. I assume that this is because there haven't been terror attacks in the USA yet on the train, so after one inevitably occurs, this will change. I don't really know how they can police all of these tiny stations in small towns across the country. We will cross that bridge when we come to it, I guess. For now, however, the lack of security and subsequent lines and limitations on what you can carry (you can carry booze / wine for example) is a decent plus for train travel.

I had a good time on the train and was glad that I took it rather than driving to Seattle. However, the stations in Portland and Seattle are unusually nice overall for the Amtrak system (in terms of remodeling as well as location near the city center) I believe and the traffic in Seattle is horrendous, making train travel and driving a relative toss-up in terms of travel time. I also think i would start to go stir crazy on the train after more than 4 hours and thus a longer or overnight trip isn't too appealing.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Well Said

Hello from Seattle

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Northwoods Notes 2016

In rating the past 30+ years of fishing in Ontario I give the 2016 trip a 4 for fishing and a 2 for weather on a scale of 1-5. We experienced a daily east wind of 10-15+mph and it rained every other day. This limited our time on the water and comfortable locations to fish.

To keep this short I will forgo publishing photos of the usual beautiful scenery, wildlife and side attractions/points of interest. Except this one.

Yep, that's The Big Dick bait shop in Kelliher Minnesota and I could not resist sharing it. I am sure the small town council and local pastor were pleased when that Big Dick sign was first erected.

Steady east winds each day (10-15+ mph) and rain every other day limited our time on the water and spots we could fish comfortably but we managed to pillage the Canadian natural resources just fine. Many large fish were taken and most were released. We ate lotsa deep fried fish (burp).

Caught a large northern pike 38" and 14 lbs, a rare size for the latitude. Ontario rules allow no pike over 29" to be kept so it was released.

The bro managed to land this Walleye that went 7.5 lbs. These are quite rare as well. Ontario rules state that only one walleye over 19.5" be in possession per license. He kept this as one his oversize walleye and gave me one of the filets. In a side by side comparison I intend to debunk the myth that smaller walleye taste better.

Past Ontario big fish tales can be found here.

There is one more story coming about our 2016 Ontario trip. Too long for one post.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Shortage Over…For Now

For the past four years .22LR ammunition has been in huge demand and became very hard to find at retail. Conspiracies ranged from the government buying it all to a corrupt supply chain. "Where is it, what happened to it all, what gives"? customers asked.
Two years ago customers looking for the little .22 cartridge reminded me of drug users. How embarrassing it seemed to me for an individual to drop by the store every other day whining and pining for their .22 as well as listening to them relating to me their own Obama government conspiracy theories.

Quite honestly I was damned sick listening and opining with my own facts. Soon I gave up discussing it and instead suffered through the customer whining and complaining.

Well the humble .22LR cartridge is back. Surprisingly it now sits on most retail shelves and I will tell you why. First some background.

Here's what I saw.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Dinner on the deck

Recently we had a great dinner on a nice evening on the deck.

And the dessert course...

Monday, May 30, 2016

Portland Gin and Tonic

I was recently out for Happy Hour at a bar called Barlow which is an artisinal bar and I ordered a gin and tonic and this was their happy hour special - quite interesting compared to the boring tonic + gin + lime combo I've received the last 100,000 times I've gotten that drink. When I sent a picture to Dan he provided the classic reply "That's B*llshit".

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Keeping Portland Weird

Portland definitely has a lot of characters. One of the more annoying ones to me, at least, is this "musician" who plays an amplified didgeridoo near my apartment, accompanied by a drummer and he sings a bit. The low buzz of the didgeridoo conducts through the neighborhood as an annoyance and he goes for hours and hours, powered by tips and the occasional toke (in this photo he was passing the smoke to his drummer). I have to admit I first found him to be funny out on the Portland Saturday Market but that was only a few minutes before I moved on and it isn't the same as having him parked outside busking for an entire set.