Thursday, March 26, 2015

Some more late spring photos.

Okay, maybe I exaggerated and it's not late spring, but it was 70°F today, and it sure felt like late spring. I switched out the 85mm lens + extension tubes for the 55mm macro + extension tubes and got some great photos and a lot of throw aways -- as always, patience is lacking. The monopod works decently when I take the time to use it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Late spring photos.

I know, it's not even April, but it's already late spring in Portland...the petals of most flowering trees have disappeared with the rains.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Aurora alert for March 17, 2015!


The Kp level is extremely high (+8) as of this moment, so if you're in Europe or on the eastern half of North America, get outside and look up in the sky.
The University of Alaska's GI Aurora prediction center's 1-hr short-term forecast is crazy! If it were dark right now, the aurora would be visible as far down as the California border!

By the time it reaches the west coast, it'll probably dissipate considerably, but when night rolls around, check NOAA's website and the GI's Aurora Prediction Center to see how strong the storm is!

Dear US Postal Service. (Updated 3x)

I'm in Portland, Oregon, not 150 miles north in Federal Way, Washington.

I just thought you'd want to know, seeing as my package has been sitting idle in Federal Way since last week Friday, gathering dust, and you've officially missed the delivery window.

Update 3/18:

Still stuck in Federal Way, WA, but I have really bad news to report. I Googled the USPS sort facility in Federal Way, and all 21 people who left a rating in Google+, has given it a 1-star, saying that this facility has either lost or significantly delayed packages. I have never seen any place with just 1-star ratings.

I sent an email to the USPS and to the Amazon seller. According to USPS's site, they may take up to 3 days to respond, which is lame.

Update 3/19:
Got a quick reply from both USPS and the Amazon seller. First, USPS. According to their own entry tracking (which is more complete than the tracking the public normally sees), the cargo container's manifest was what was scanned in Federal Way, WA, not the piece. A look up of their codes shows that in fact, this is correct.
The logical conclusion, therefore, is that there are two points at which the package could have been lost. The first -- and presumed most likely -- is that the package was dropped off at FedEx / UPS, and while in their care, they lost it or it was stolen when it was loaded into the container and sent to the USPS. The second is when it was offloaded and was either lost or stolen, thereby bypassing the package scan.

The Amazon seller offered to send a new one, but I'm trying to figure out what happened to the first one.

Update 3/20:
Last night the seller offered again to resend the item, and I agreed. This morning, I just thought to check the USPS system, and lo and behold the first package appeared to arrive in Federal Way.

Not seeing the codes for the scans, I emailed USPS to get confirmation of the package scan, and I got a response back in minutes that it was in fact actually in Federal Way, and now on to my place next Monday.

I immediately emailed the seller to not resend the item.

And now I wait.

5 Thoughts for March 17, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

  1. Technology: I got my refurbished Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2" tablet yesterday. It was weird to see old GUI artifacts from Samsung's Touch Wiz, after being well acquainted with Lollipop on my other devices. I changed out the loader to Google Now, but Samsung thought it desirable to prevent key widgets from installing in their tablets, including Google Keep, Evernote. The large tablet screen, as I suspected, was exactly the sort of screen size needed, in order to enjoy reading digital magazines and flipping through images as one would do it a presentation. With a 12" screen, the device definitely feels vulnerable, which is not what I feel about my smart phone or my 7" tablet. I'm most certainly getting a tablet case for this one. I admit that I have a device fetish though, with a desktop, a laptop, two tablets and a smart phone. Nonetheless I will never buy a smart watch, because it just seems dumb.
  2. Home Improvement: I restarted my interior painting. I figured I had dragged my feet long enough, so I got off the sofa and moved the furniture around to make just enough room to paint the walls. Through the process, I tossed out most of the magazines that were older than 2010, that, though were great eye candy whenever opened, were too darn heavy and took up too much space. With the warmer temperatures, I can open up the window and let the paint dry without the fumes accumulating -- even though it qualifies under low-VOC rating, it contains glycol and it still smells.
  3. Geopolitics: Israelis are going to the polls today to vote. Regardless of the outcome, we've learned one thing: Bibi is a liar and cannot be trusted. Two days ago, he admitted as much, when he announced that there would never be a two-state solution in Israel, so long as he was the PM. That's exactly the opposite he'd said years ago, before he started dragging his feet on the two-state solution, including allowing settlement expansion. Perpetual wars is a weird state of existence.
  4. Real Estate / Finance: No, you don't "own your own home", if you've got a mortgage. I often see young people boast about this, but it just shows how naive most people are about finance and real estate. It only hits them in the face when they're about to face foreclosure, that they realize that they really don't own their homes. I bring this up because I'm listening to an ebook from 2012, Pound Foolish, on "loan" from the library, and author Helaine Olen covered people who bought into the myth of housing prices that would continue to go up, and saw real estate as pie-in-the-sky investment vehicles.
  5. Common Core: I have no idea what's inside Common Core's testing questions, but I found it laughable that politicians are complaining that the questions are too hard, such that parents are finding them too difficult to help out their children. The answer, inevitably, is to go back to lower standards. As I recall, the bar was so low in high school, I could have graduated a year early if I wanted to. The only reason why I didn't: I really wanted to enjoy being a senior, including prom(s), dances, and socializing.

Friday, March 13, 2015

5 Thoughts for March 13, 2015

  1. Trivial Day: Trivially speaking, today is Friday the 13th, and tomorrow is Pi Day, 3.14.15. If you didn't notice, at Safeway they have mini pies for $3.14 in this week's circular. Bought one last night, but the price's relevance somehow escaped my notice until today.
  2. Energy: Surely much to the chagrin of the Gulf Coast and Alberta (and parts in-between), it seems that oil storage capacity is filling up fast in the US, with the east coast at 85% capacity. According to EIA's monthly data, last December, at oil's price trough, US production was a mere 8% below a historical high from 1970 -- what this also tells me is that, contrary to what some pundits have said, US producers are not quitting their fields in significant numbers. Combine low prices, increased production and increased storage, and we may be heading to a big price crash just before summer. Oil prices may in fact drop to $30 a barrel...plan accordingly.
  3. Geopolitics: Russia is in the middle of Stagflation, with GDP already negative (and still dropping) while inflation is at 16.7% for February. The Russian Central Bank just slashed interest rates by 100 basis points, to 14%, which is an interesting move considering that inflation has not yet peaked, even according to Russia's own projections -- they may have jumped the gun. Given the expected drop in oil prices, this will be a very difficult summer for some.
  4. Space: Isn't it amusing that, for decades the human race was focused on the possibility of life on other planets (Martians! Venusians!), when it turns out that we might find life on the moons of planets in our solar system?
  5. Architecture: Michael Graves passed away yesterday. Maybe it's just coincidence that one of his best-known structures, the Portland Building, had been granted a reprieve just a few months ago, from being demolished in the face of $100M in repairs. The vast majority of buildings Graves is remembered for, was built in his 50s and 60s. As I get older, I begin to understand why it takes so long for most designers to mature and develop their style: Age brings the patience and discipline to focus and refine your design language that had been inside of your soul for decades. I can see my inherent design language peeking out every so often, and when I sketch I see more of it innately appearing.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

5 Thoughts for March 12, 2015

  • Football: George Farmer ran a 4.35 40-yard dash at the USC pro day. Just saying, Pete, that's faster than Farmer's former high school mate, Paul Richardson (4.40). He also out-benchpressed all but three wide receivers in the 2015 combine in Indianapolis. You're missing out on a speedster who blocks well.
  • Technology: Living in the US, we are spoiled. Despite all the hype, Google Wallet and Apple Pay are not available outside of the US. With Google, the time between devices, apps and programs made available in the US and the rest of the world is lengthy. It took 3 years for Google Play Music to spread to Canada.
  • Technology: A few days after Apple's introduction of the new Mac Book sporting a single USB-C, Google showed off the updated Chromebook Pixel, sporting multiple USB-C ports and a price tag lowered from $1299 to $999. Even though the hardware inside, supports the price tag, the lack of high-powered apps built upon web technologies means that the price is too high.
  • Net Neutrality: The FCC released its rules on Net Neutrality, which they had voted to pass, a few weeks ago. It's just about what you'd expect from Net Neutrality, specifically, clear rules against blocking throttling and paid prioritization. Then there's the wiggle room provision that blocks "unreasonable" interference or disadvantage to users and edge providers. This probably means that while Comcast can't allow its interconnection with Netflix to downgrade, such that its own OnDemand services receive an advantage over Netflix, Netflix probably can't demand Comcast to upgrade its side of the interconnection to meet peak traffic.
  • Shopping: Last week I bought a refurbished Samsung Galaxy Pro 12.2 tablet from Groupon, and now I'm tracking it as it travels across the country. From years of observing their methods, if the truck does not get here by Friday evening, it won't make its Monday delivery window. You can view its progress, here: