April 17, 2014

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I have my Xbox set to remain in standby mode at all times. The mode does use power but it means system and game updates are applied when you’re not using the console and the system boots faster as it’s in a sleep mode and not completely turned off. Cold boot takes almost 3 minutes on my Internet connection. About the kinect camera? Well, I use a mount for my Kinect so it goes on top of my TV and that came with a slider that blocks the camera. I’d say it sounds paranoid to worry about your console watching you but really it’s not given all of the spying going on these days.

Despite my best efforts, the Xbox one standby mode works as in it instantly powers on but it is not downloading game updates.

The result? My twice a month sit down to race with some friends or join a group battlefield tournament always means updates. They come out often almost once every 10 days so I go to play and I’m hit with an update warning.

Xbox One Update Frustration

See that? 433 megabytes. And at my Internet connection, that’s a 2 hour download. Translated to, that’s my bed time as in I’ll start the update and go to sleep. The update always finishes but by the time it finishes, I’m not interested in playing anymore. This is my Xbox screen a few nights ago after not playing for 2 weeks:

Xbox One Update Frustration

There were 3 updates available almost 2 gigabytes worth of downloading. Oh and I wanted to mention, see the 43.8% used? I don’t do anything on my Xbox One except play video games. I only own 3 games. and as you’ll see, that’s already half of my storage used. I hope I don’t one day own a 7th game…if I do, I’ll have to go out and buy a 2nd Xbox.

I’m pretty disappointed in how this was implemented. Lots of research on automatic updates, standby mode and being able to play without updating don’t help. Basically I bought an Xbox so I could run updates every 2 weeks. I haven’t played any games since November. 

Sure I could turn the console on when I get home, run updates and then play it later but can you honestly tell me that this is our future? 2 gigabytes of updates before I can hit the start button? Ridiculous.

April 14, 2014

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IMG 6531

Used this in San Francisco a lot. The cards worked great! Never an issue and it was very convenient. I’d love to find more ways to use Passbook.

April 11, 2014

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With the new Olympus camera, I’ve been trying to get out a bit more and take photos. It was a fun week around San Francisco and I’ve picked a few photos to share. Thanks!

Up in the Air

Up in the Air

Golden Gate - Twilight

Golden Gate - Twilight

Union Square

Union Square

Downtown SF

Breathe

Giants

Slanted Door - San Francisco

Ferry Building - San Francisco

Ferry Building - San Francisco

Embarcadero - SF

Castro San Francisco

Reveille Cafe - SF

Haight District - SF

Noe Valley Architecture

SF Giants versus AZ Diamondbacks - April 2014 MLB

SF Giants versus AZ Diamondbacks - April 2014 MLB

SF Giants versus AZ Diamondbacks - April 2014 MLB

SF Giants versus AZ Diamondbacks - April 2014 MLB

SF Giants versus AZ Diamondbacks - April 2014 MLB

SF Giants versus AZ Diamondbacks - April 2014 MLB

SF Giants versus AZ Diamondbacks - April 2014 MLB

SF Giants versus AZ Diamondbacks - April 2014 MLB

Golden Gate - Twilight

April 10, 2014

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Blue Bottle sent out a blast today to their customers. They have a lot of great news to share. Here’s an online version

Highlights Include:

  • More Funding (equals more retail, quality control, expansion)
  • Two new coffee bars (Oakland & Brooklyn aka two very huge hipster spots)
  • New Orleans Coffee in milk cartons? I haven’t heard of these but apparently they’re at Whole Foods in Nor-Cal
  • Expansion to Tokyo
  • They bought Handsome Coffee Roasters in LA
  • They bought online coffee subscription joint, Tonx

Then they close with this:

What does all this stuff mean for you? Well, despite such a rapid growth spurt, we’re still committed to the same things that motivated us back on those rainy Saturdays in Berkeley. We will continue to bring you the most delicious coffee available, through the most hospitable (and, in collaboration with our brandy-new web team, the most high tech) channels possible. We will still treat all of our guests – both in stores and online – with the utmost respect and care. And finally, we’ll continue to place a large emphasis on sustainability: sourcing responsibly, looking for opportunities to limit our environmental footprint, and creating growth opportunities for our staff.

I don’t hate Blue Bottle. In fact, I love their coffee and drink it almost every day. It’s the one roaster that has consistently provided beans that, when brewed properly, deliver the best flavor. Their prices are quite high but not as high as SightGlass or FourBarrel and I find their beans not as picky to brew either. intelligentsia beans are very picky for example. I live in New Hampshire and drink Blue Bottle coffee economic impact of air-shipping coffee across the country be damned!

The email makes me think that there must be some sort of back-lash or maybe Blue Bottle knows deep down in their anti-establishment hipster roots of being the underdog that they are embarking on a shift that will have people perceiving that they’ve changed and jumping to small roasters.

 The thing is, most of those die-hard hipsters have already switched to other places. In SF, SightGlass is where it’s at. I can’t speak for other places. 

I think Blue Bottle should take a step back and enjoy their current place in the world. No story is identical to Starbucks but, in ten years the Blue Bottle team will look back and see just how much this growth cost them, not financially but in the world of coffee. I’ll keep drinking their coffee as long as the price stays lower than others and the roast remains really well done. 

April 8, 2014

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This is an amazing improvement to the photo page which has slowly been seeing enhancements lately. See this photo. I’m attaching a screen shot of the side-bar below:

Screen Shot 2014 04 08 at 3 18 37 PM

I love that the EXIF data that has always been there (buried) is now really at the forefront of each photo. Some photographers strip their EXIF data out before uploading but I keep mine in and it just makes the photos look much nicer from the geek angle of things.

Lots of new photos are going up lately. Check them out - https://www.flickr.com/photos/adamjackson/

April 8, 2014

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Slanted Door - San Francisco

I was walking around SF on Sunday and decided to drop in to a place that has always been on my list but the wait for a table was absurd, like over 2 hours. It was 11AM on a Sunday and I walked in and grabbed a seat at the bar. It was quite an experience:

Slanted Door - San Francisco

Sparkling Wine

Slanted Door - San Francisco

crispy vegetarian imperial rolls, taro root, cabbage, vermicelli noodle, roasted peanut

Slanted Door - San Francisco

crispy vegetarian imperial rolls, taro root, cabbage, vermicelli noodle, roasted peanut

Slanted Door - San Francisco

california yellowtail, crispy shallot, lime, thai basil

Slanted Door - San Francisco

grapefruit and jicama, red cabbage, pickled carrot, candied pecan

Slanted Door - San Francisco

wild california uni, black tobiko, avocado, cucumber

Slanted Door - San Francisco

barbecued willis ranch pork spareribs, scallion, cilantro, honey-hoisin sauce

Slanted Door - San Francisco

half dozen oysters: barrons pt. (wa), marin atlantic (ca), island creek (ma)

Slanted Door - San Francisco

Slanted Door - San Francisco

 

Overall, I had a great time dining here. The prices weren’t outrageous and the total bill came to $63. I do highly recommend it but try to make it about the food, meaning don’t hold a business dinner here. The delicacy of the food and the care in preparation was amazing. Certainly worth dropping in if you have some time. A full dinner for two will probably come to $100 without wine.

April 4, 2014

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“Well shit.”

That’s what came from my mouth when I finished reading this post from Marco Arment. He’s right in so many ways.

He links to this post from Mother Jones about the problems with K-Cups from Green Mountain Coffee I quoted an excerpt below:

Journalist Murray Carpenter estimates in his new book, Caffeinated, that a row of all the K-Cups produced in 2011 would circle the globe more than six times. To update that analogy: In 2013, Green Mountain produced 8.3 billion K-Cups, enough to wrap around the equator 10.5 times. If Green Mountain aims to have “a Keurig System on every counter,” as the company states in its latest annual report, that’s a hell of a lot of little cups.

Green Mountain only makes 5 percent of its current cups out of recyclable plastic. The rest of them are made up of a #7 composite plastic, which is nonrecyclable in most places. And for the small few that are recyclable, the aluminum lid must be separated from the cup, which also must be emptied of its wet grounds, for the materials to make it through the recycling process. Even then, chances are the pod won’t be recycled because it’s too small, says Darby Hoover, senior resource specialist at the National Resources Defense Council.

This is a typical MJ article though. They highlight something we were already aware of such as, “printers are manufactured with non recyclable parts, use overpriced ink per ounce and print paper which most of it ends up in land-fills” Duh.

I actually don’t criticize K-cup users. In fact, Elizabeth owned a Keurig when I met her and used it even when we lived together. I’d make my coffee with a Hario kettle, Burr Grinder and Chemex while she would walk past me, stick in a plastic pod and push a button. Actually, my only complaint about her Keurig was that she’d leave it on at night and the blue LEDs would light up our dining room.

While I don’t like how Keurig coffee tastes and am well aware of its shortcomings and would never use one myself, my God, Marco is right!

Not to separate myself from the subjects in his piece but I don’t waste when I brew. I use Glass & Metal to brew my coffee and my filters + coffee grounds go in a compost bin. I use a 20 ounce coffee cup that I wash and re-use each day. My water heating method is via a gas oven. My digital scale is powered by a battery that I’ve replaced once. When I’m in California for work, I recycle my cup from Philz Coffee at the office. I don’t know what they do with their grounds though.

So I really can’t relate to his claim of waste but his overall point on snobby coffee people is so true. I like this part:

We certainly pay for it. Not only is our fancy coffee much more expensive than regular automatic drip at retail, but we also pay massively in our time, and we ask the public to do the same. That’s why specialty coffee shops often have a huge line: it takes much longer to make an individual pour-over cup than almost any other well-known method of making hot coffee except a siphon brew.

and this

Our obsession with gear and “rituals” is only distracting them — and us — from the real problem: old, mediocre, or badly roasted beans.

We’ll only fix the real problem and get more people back to our side if we drop the pretention, ritualization, and gear obsession and recognize why so many people opt out of our fancy coffee methods and into Keurig’s.

 How can I expect anyone to give a shit enough to actually buy $100 in equipment and spend 5-7 minutes every morning making a cup of coffee? 

A realtor that’s selling the house I’m renting was over yesterday. I was making coffee while she did an inspection and in a proper British accent she said, “that coffee smells amazing and almost has me wanting to dump out my tea” I made her a 12oz serving of my Blue Bottle single origin Ethiopia via Chemex pour-over. She was intrigued by the process, noted how low the acidity was and how easy it was to drink and she even noted the woody blackberry notes and we both sort of appreciated our coffee for a few moments, something that I do almost every day. 

…and that’s what brings me happiness in life. 

I adore ingesting something that opens my eyes and makes me realize how great life is. Whether it be a pastry, cheese, chocolate or an old-growth French wine. I love that excitement and I can honestly say she had need had coffee like this before. 

Here’s how I see the coffee war from a big picture. It’s just like Mac versus PC in the early 2000s. 1-3% of America uses Macintosh and the rest use Windows. Macs are more expensive (still are) and they’re more fun to use. There was a time when you couldn’t get an IT person to help you with your Mac, there was little software or games and you couldn’t just hit Circuit City and get replacement parts but the Mac brought you happiness. It was superior. I see something as simple as a French Press or Chemex as superior to Drip / Keurig. You spend more time and money but the joy you get out of it far exceeds the taste of a push button.

One thing psychologically wrong with most of us though is that we believe that there’s no way push-button can be better. If there was a magic machine that recreated my Chemex process electronically, I probably wouldn’t buy it. Just like I seek out rare beer or special cheeses. IF it’s on a grocery store shelf, there’s no way it’s any good. I need to fix my attitude toward that. You should as well.

But right now, push-button coffee isn’t as good as pour-over. So the solution I see is one Marco mentions but doesn’t expand on. I think our solution is to stop being assholes. 

I’m an asshole about quite a few things and it probably annoys people. I get along by myself though so it’s usually not too bad. If I see a compression artifact on an HD video, I won’t watch that movie or if my car’s turbo doesn’t pick up when I expect it to, I curse it or if traction control doesn’t hang on to my reckless driving, that’s annoying as well. It’s snobby pretentious and extends to pretty much every hobby or past time in my life. So it’s no surprise that I choose this method to make coffee. 

I’m going to keep drinking my great coffee and everyone else can keep drinking Keurig cups. I don’t give people smack for how they drink their coffee but if someone is interested, I will show them how I do it. Just like how I was as a Macintosh user. I won’t tell people they should own a Mac or convince them to switch away from Windows. You use what you and I’ll use what I do. IT’s not worth my time to get you to switch.

but I know that the way I’m doing it is better and that’s good enough for me. 

So Marco is right on a lot of points and I should work to change how I approach things and live life just a bit more simpler.

April 3, 2014

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Lake Mascoma

Before everyone goes crazy about me moving back to California, I’m staying in New Hampshire. I realize the last few posts about the west coast would leave some of you to think I’m going back to California or maybe even home to Florida. My sister is graduating from high school next month and my dad just opened a new gym. It would be nice to be close to them again but let’s all take a deep breath when I say that I love it up here near the Canadian border away from civilization and among the trees.

Unfortunately though, the move is a necessary one as there comes a point n your life when things have to get real. I’m at that point and it’s pretty unclear how I’m going to handle it or if I’m going to squander it away just like my previous years. Maybe squander is the wrong word? I write a lot about sustainability on this blog. What’s sustainable about the way things are? What’s sustainable about my diet, the money and time I spend on beer and hobbies of “fancy food” and the people I hang out with and the travel I’m making and my sleep schedule. Is it sustainable to watch as much TV as I do or video games I play or alcohol I drink? Nope.

Very little about my activities today are sustainable from the angle of financial freedom, health, sanity and balance.

I’m not going to make too many drastic changes though because drastic alterations of a lifestyle don’t become habits. We all know this. I’m not just talking about diet here, I’m talking about a fundamental shift in how I approach things asking myself, “am I going to regret this in 12 months?” That is coming down to relationships, what I consume and how I spend my time. 

Beer Haul

The first step in changing my attitude is a change in scenery. It’s worked for me before. I hope over time this feeling recedes but it just seems like the past year was this weird blur of sitting still. I developed some bad habits, explored some new sides of myself that were not for the better and I focused a lot on work and a lot on beer and it wasn’t sustainable. The 2013 year wasn’t a waste but I wasted some of it on really stupid activities and when I say 2013 I really mean the last 12 months leading up to today. 

I’m moving in a week…well tomorrow I go to San Francisco for work then I come back and move then I go to Europe for 2 weeks and come back in May to unpack everything and start a new life. 

I’m renting a house on a lake with a boat dock that costs half what I’m paying now in rent (from $1600 to $800). I’ll have less privacy, less space, no yard at all and no spot for a BBQ or meat smoker. I won’t have room to home-brew or have my full size kegerator. The house and kitchen are too small to host parties and the setup is being tailored for a small handful of activities.

  • Sleeping & working
  • Running (smooth pave road right outside of the house that goes for miles)
  • Bicycling
  • Swimming
  • Kayaking (ordered a kayak today)
  • Fishing
  • Reading on my porch overlooking the lake
  • Making simple meals
  • Making coffee
  • Having 1-2 friends over at max at any given time on my sleeper sofa

That’s it. No farm animals, pets, parties and beer tastings. I barely have enough room for the beer I have in my cellar. I’ll have a small bit of room for a kegerator to hold two kegs on tap. The fridge I have can barely hold food much less beer. It’s small, not full-size. 

Home after a Snow

The new place is just a few miles from my gym and the Co-Op. I’m going to go back to making vegetable juice every morning. I’m going to spend more time at the office and the gym. It’s a total consolidation of the space I have in order to force me to drop hobbies that cost way too much money and pick up good hobbies that make me go outside and do things with other people.

The goal is that in 2-years, I buy a log cabin with land to have a farm and live off of that land. I’ll give you an example of the effort and time required in that dream though. Yes money will be important to have but when you think about surviving off your land that means your farm animals will be living a few feet above the well where your water comes from. Things like this are a concern. This means a lot of my time will be spent reading more about homesteading and how to make a life where my spending budget beyond a car and trips to Tractor Supply store are just the taxes that I owe on the land. It’s a dream I’ve held on to for a while and one I’d like to realize one day.

Living a healthy life with a solid savings account and working an Internet job are what’s needed to achieve that dream. The rest is book knowledge that I’ll apply when the time comes. 

Step one is moving to this new place. It might be lonely sometimes and it will be hard work to not have the amenities and budget for spending I did in 2013 but I think the result will be very positive. I’m looking forward to paying off my Golf R this year and saving for a new one next year while still saving for my future. Things like this are important and riding my bike and hiking are free activities that I plan on doing more of. 

Thanks for reading. 

Home after a Snow

March 31, 2014

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I’m not a professional photographer or reviewer of gear. I’m an amateur so if you’re looking for an end to end review of the Olympus OM-D E-M1, hit up DPReview

Self-Shot OM-D E-M1

After a month of research and reading reviews, I decided to upgrade my aging Olympus E-PL2 that I bought in January of 2011. The three year old camera was functioning just fine. I used it extensively every few days and never had to replace a part, the 2 batteries I had worked great and every button is in great shape. Well, the On/Off button is slightly recessed and the turn knob sometimes gets stuck but it does the job. I’m not selling that camera and with the 17mm f/1.7 pancake lens will stick on that body and remain my ‘pocket camera’ for the foreseeable future.

Around Hanover New Hampshire

It’s actually no surprise when you compare the camera I bought and the E-PL2 that they are not even in the same league anymore. The differences are staggering. 

For this review, it’s not fair to compare the two so I won’t. It is challenging not to compare them as I’ve only owned 2 M43 cameras and they were both manufactured 3 years apart.

The E-M1 from Olympus is intended to be the flagship semi-pro camera of Micro Four Thirds systems. Think of it like the Canon 1D and the E-M5 as the 5D. Both are great cameras but the E-M1 is the granddaddy. It’s priced at $1299 for the body only and it has that $179 battery grip which is way overpriced (just like the one from Canon). You can use the viewfinder or live-view, it has WiFi built in, a tilting OLED display and is weather sealed. In fact, it’s the only weather sealed camera from Olympus. Keep in mind weather sealing bodies are only as good as their lenses. If you’re not using a weather sealed lens, then that benefit is moot.

Parker Pie - West Glover Vermont

Until just yesterday, the E-M1 was the only camera in its class that had a 5-axis image stabilization feature and sensor cleaning at startup.It truly is a professional camera for four-thirds owners except for that pesky small APS-C sensor that in no way compares to what the 5D and 1D have. That is its only shortcoming. For carrying, it’s actually great. Very light, lenses are smaller and the 2x crop means my 200mm lens is 400mm equivalent. Which means, the f/1.4 Leica 25mm I bought is a fantastic 50mm equivalent lens that takes amazing photos.

Home after a Snow

The best thing about the OM-D line of cameras is the body size allows for more buttons and they have the added benefit of a built-in viewfinder. I have really missed that a lot. I can now look into the view finder and setup ISO, shutter speed and aperture or even shooting modes without going through many menus. It was rare for me to shoot in manual mode on my PL2 because of the constant digging through menus. The viewfinder allows me to really concentrate on the subject and frame in ways that a screen on the back of a camera can’t do. The E-M1 has the same SLR features such as using the screen as a view of all of the photo settings and then you use the viewfinder to shoot. It’s a touch screen so raising your eye to the sensor disables the screen.

A Day at Hill Farmstead

WiFi was a nice concept but I really haven’t been happy with its application. The iPhone app has worked once at collecting GPS bread crumbs all day and then applying them to my camera’s photo SD storage with lat,long information. So that’s nice because the RAW,JPEG files will have geo-data on them and that carries into Aperture and Flickr. The extra feature of WiFi is saving photos on my Olympus SD card to my iPhone camera roll but I haven’t gotten that to work. WiFi and Geo-Data collection runs the battery on both my iPhone and Camera. 

The tilting display is a nice thing and the camera feels very well built. The battery grip is very much a requirement and so was the move from an 8GB SDHC card to a 64GB SDXC (Class 10) card. First, the camera only gets 350 shots per charge (400 in my tests). If I’m going on a weekend trip, I’ll run the battery down fast so the battery grip is nice to double up the charge. Second, shooting in RAW at 16 megapixels is a lot of storage and the shutter speed is limited by the card speed. If you don’t have a Class 10 high capacity SDXC card, you’re going to want to get one. Unfortunately, the camera does not have two SD slots. I’d love to have Compact Flash + SDXC but the body is just too small for that.

Around Hanover New Hampshire

One final thing about the battery grip. I want to plug the camera in to the wall and charge both cards. Unfortunately, I have to use the battery charger which means I have to disconnect the battery grip to get to the 2nd battery and then charge them separately since the included charger only does one battery. A minor annoyance but if both batteries are dead, it’s going to be a lot of charging before I’m back up and running.

The photos I’ve taken so far have been impressive. Sometimes, the auto-focus doesn’t work. This is the case on the 14-40mm and 25mm lens. I’m shooting rapidly, go to a different subject, press the shutter half way down and nothing happens. It’s on S-AF (single autofocus) but switching to continuous AF doesn’t fix the problem either. I’m still troubleshooting this one.

New Camera OM-D E-M1

I think the E-M1 is a very capable camera. It does need improvements but nothing that would get me to upgrade to the next model. I’m good for a few years. I just ordered a new photo bag that will allow me to store this and all of the new lenses and a new sling strap so I can easily carry this camera on my hip versus around the neck. It’s larger but not 5D or even 70D large yet the photos are on par with the 70D in my opinion. Finally, I stuck with this platform mostly because of the lenses I already had. Yet, when I grab a 70D and a 140mm lens, it’s very clear just how much smaller the 4/3 system is to Canon or Nikon. The body and lenses are much smaller and I like that. My days of looking like a tourist when doing street photography are over though. This body looks VERY professional. No more getting away with taking shots of strangers without looking creepy.

Around Hanover New Hampshire

March 23, 2014

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I’m going to spend some time with this camera before really weighing in but overall, this is a gigantic upgrade from my PEN E-PL2 that was really showing its age. I’m doubling down on the M43 system in a big way.more lenses, new body. I’m excited to use this especially in the upcoming Euro-Trip

New Camera OM-D E-M1

New Camera OM-D E-M1

Self-Shot OM-D E-M1

A Day at Hill Farmstead Brewery

A Day at Hill Farmstead Brewery

A Day at Hill Farmstead Brewery