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Hue.

So last night while we were at Destiny USA we stopped at the Apple store. I spent a few moments lusting over my next computer, which is a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. Earl outlined the budgetary concerns with such a purchase and told me when I will be able to buy it. I can at least say, “at least there’s hope.”

But I digress from my original intent of this post.

During our last couple of visits to the Apple store we have looked at the Philips Hue Lighting “system” (for lack of a better word).


The Philips Hue Personal Wireless Lighting starter kit consists of a puck-sized controller that connects to your home network. This puck can control up to 50 LED light bulbs that have the ability to communicate with the puck. The puck communicates with your home network via an iPhone, iPad or Android app. You can also communicate with the light bulbs via the Hue webpage.

So what’s the deal? Well, these LED bulbs can be programmed to throw off any color you can imagine. The apps let you program “scenes”; press a button and it looks like sunset in your room. Press another button and it looks like you’re sitting in the beach. There’s millions of combinations and some that are suppose to give you a “therapeutic” light, such as lighting to urge better concentration or destress you before hitting the hay for the night. You can set an alarm and wake up to a simulated sunrise. It’s all quite nifty.

The starter kit comes with the aforementioned puck and three light bulbs. And it costs $200. Additional lightbulbs are $59.99.

Pricey!

However, remember that these are LED lightbulbs and they’re allegedly going to last a very, very long time. Regular LED lightbulbs at Lowe’s or Home Depot are in the $35-$45 range, so this isn’t completely out of whack but it’s definitely an expensive toy.

The system took less than three minutes to install. I have installed apps on my iPhone and iPad and on Earl’s iPhone. You don’t have to use your smartphone or whatnot to control the lights, turning the lights off and on with the switch make them behavior as expected, however, they “dim up” and “dim down” instead of just snapping on and off, which I think is wicked cool. If we want to use the simulated sunrise approach in the morning we have to leave the light switch on and turn them off via the app. I can handle that since I sleep with my phone anyway.

All in all it’s a nifty gadget albeit and expensive one. But I like it a lot and it was actually Earl’s suggestion that we get the lights.

If you’re in the neighborhood you’ll have to see our simulated disco in the bedroom. It’s a hoot!

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Upgrade.

We have lived in our house for nearly 10 years. Our kitchen has twice the amount of cupboard space as what we had in the old house. Still, we managed to find the need for just a little more space. There was a section of wall in the kitchen that was just begging for a baker’s rack or a small cabinet.

Thursday night we finally found what we were looking for. We found a 36-inch cabinet at the local Target, which could only mean one thing.

Some assembly required.

Earl and I spent our Easter morning assembling our new cabinet and getting it into place. Having been together for nearly 17 years, we’re pretty good at doing this sort of thing without killing each other, though I did ask Earl once if we were ever going to be rich enough to have a houseboy do this sort of thing for us. He said “yes, now get back to work.”

In the meanwhile, we are enjoying the new cabinet. We used all the parts and everything!

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Ride.

So yesterday morning Earl and I woke up at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Buffalo. We had driven to Buffalo the afternoon before for Jamie’s big photo book and gallery debut, which was a great success. It is always good to be amongst friends and family.

Normally the drive from Buffalo to home is a little over three hours.  Yesterday it took us around 11 hours to get home. And it was wonderful.

Our first stop was at the Buffalo haunt of Anderson’s for Beef on Weck. A western New York staple, it is one of my favorite sandwiches.  A pretzel type roll with some pretzel salt.  Delish.

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From Anderson’s we should have headed east on the Thruway but instead we headed south on US Route 219? Why? Because they extended the US 219 freeway by a mile or two a couple of years ago and I hadn’t seen the completed work yet. Eventually the freeway will make it all the way to the Pennsylvania state line but the progress is slow.

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When we got down to Ellicotville, the quaint little town that is home to the Holiday Valley Ski Resort, we finally turned east and started heading in a general direction towards home. The ride took us through the little town where, in 1990, I narrowly missed a cow, went into a ditch and was rescued by a guy that kind of changed my life, even though I only saw him only one more time after that encounter. Here’s the sign that standards where I went off the ditch. The man didn’t remember my name the second time I saw him, so he just called me Machias. 

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North of Machias we ended up in Arcade and drove on my second favorite stretch of road in the Empire State, NY Route 39 from Arcade to the little hamlet of Pike.  It is much like my favorite road, NY Route 177, in that it passes through nothing but farmland, has an “open” feeling to it and it even goes through a wind farm!  Look close and you’ll see two farms in this photo.

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We then stopped in the college town of Geneseo, where we had a little snack at Tim Hortons and we washed the car. It is spring, after all!

We continued our trek through the Finger Lakes, driving through the small cities of Canandaigua, Geneva and Auburn, where we finally ended up at Destiny USA in Syracuse. Syracuse had just made it into the Final Four, so the mood was celebratory at the Gordon Biersch at Destiny USA. To celebrate, I tried their Golden Export while Earl tried a sampler flight of each of their beers.

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We then walked all three floors of all of Destiny USA, making an obligatory stop at the Apple Store, where we bought a new toy. (That will be highlighted in a separate post).  Sam the Apple store genius was very helpful. I really like the folks at the Destiny USA Apple Store. They are always courteous, always helpful and the facial hair on the guys is quite impressive. Unfortunately I didn’t feel assertive enough to take a photo of some of the impressive beards, so instead you get to look at my smiling face.

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After touring the mall until its closing, we decided we should head home, but not without a stop at Turning Stone Casino to meet our step count for the day and perhaps have a little dessert. Surprisingly, we didn’t gamble at all!

We finally made it home around midnight. We were exhausted but happy. Earl called it our “date day” and quite frankly, it was relaxing and very enjoyable.

We both feel recharged.

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Minimize.

One of the cool theories behind excessive use of technology is that it should reduce the amount of paper we use. Hasn’t that always been a mantra, to try to go as paperless as possible?

I just stood in line at the post office awaiting my turn. The customer in front of me had a parcel waiting. The clerk scanned it and the parcel came up COD. Theoretically, there was money due. The customer should not have been given the parcel until he paid for the contents.

The concept of COD still being around is quite humorous to me. I haven’t bought anything COD in a couple of decades. The last time we had any sort of postage due was when an overzealous couple didn’t put enough postage on their wedding invitations and we had to pay for the privilege to RSVP, but even that was eons ago.

The clerk scanned the package numerous times and the computer insisted that it was COD. There was some drama about trying to get out of the proper screens and the like but the clerk didn’t believe the computer because there was no COD paperwork attached to the package. So she just gave the guy the package.

This is the same postal service that just eliminated the priority mail confirmation form to go as paper free as possible.

So after the guy got the free COD package it was my turn. I had one envelope to send with confirmation. The clerk put a little sticker on my envelope. I paid in cash and then the same postal service that is trying to go paper free spewed this monstrosity of a receipt at me.

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This is your government efficiency at its best.

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Thoughts.

I have not been able to get fully into the groove of work after returning from a most excellent vacation. Part of my brain is still in “Mickey Mode”, which is actually a good thing because it helps make each day a zippity-doo-dah day. In that respect, I’ve been smiling a lot. But the biggest obstacle to getting back into the work mindset has been the fact that I have been in training since Monday morning. I didn’t get to go anywhere exotic for this round of training; for seven hours a day this week I’ve had my headset on and I’ve been staring at a computer screen as the trainer goes through another assault of information. Luckily, this is the last bit of training for a while.

When you’re sitting in an office, staring at a screen, listening to someone talk and then doing the occasional exercise, your mind can wander, especially since there’s nothing to make you go “SQUIRREL” every once in a while. The squirrels hide behind the corporate firewall. So this makes my brain just go into daydream mode and the like and I start thinking about a whole range of topics. This isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it’s a good way to get things sorted out in my head. Luckily, the training wrapped up early and I will be able to get work sorted out this afternoon and hopefully get some things done. Incomplete items on my to-do list distracts me.

So what have I been thinking about? Lots of things: politics, better ways to use my blog, my growing disappointment with tech journalists, the simplification of my life, the reassessment of who is important to me and who is not, all sorts of stuff. Deep stuff. I tend to think deep when I get into a pondering mode.

I was happy to see all of the red avatars in support of Marriage Equality on Facebook on Tuesday and Wednesday. I was also happy to see quite a few people wearing red. Marriage equality is obviously a topic that is near and dear to my heart, so it’s always encouraging to see the support. There might be hope for the populace after all. For the life of me I can’t figure out why some segments of the population feel the need to spend millions and millions of dollars to try to force their personal beliefs on the entire country through a constitutional amendment that would be contrary in spirit to every other piece of the Constitution. Many equate this behavior to the GOP, but that’s only because the whack-jobs have hijacked the GOP because the Republicans have become such a mess. It’s not the Republicans per se as much as it is a segment of the Republicans, much like it’s not all Democrats that go on television spewing that they voted for President Obama because they got a free phone. There is a tendency to divide everything into two distinct camps. It’s black or it’s white. It’s negative or it’s positive. People need to realize there’s lots of gray.

I’ve decided that as I get older I must be getting a touch more cranky because my patience of basic asshattery is quickly dwindling. When I see two cars nearly smashing into each other because both drivers are jockeying for the closest parking spot to the door, putting nearby pedestrians in danger whilst doing so, I want to pull them both out of their vehicles and smack them upside the head. Especially since they’re parking at the gym. But then I realize that they’re not going to the gym to workout, they’re going to use the tanning services the gym provides, which is stupid in itself. Get outside and get some sun. I don’t even know why I go to the gym. Well, I know why I go to the gym, it’s because I sit in front of a computer all day and I need exercise. I’m counting the moments until I can get on my bike and ride on a lonely country road, enjoying the smell of “fresh country air”.

I’ve pretty much divested myself of any interest in what most tech journalists have to say about anything. The latest trend is to just bash Apple to death and make broad proclamations as to why said journalists are switching to whatever platform is the soup du jour. I’m happy with my Apple gear and I have no intention of switching to something else just because it’s the hip thing to do. The closest thing I’m getting to being hip is the handlebar mustache, and that’s still a few months down the road. My “tech reading” has been focused on productivity stuff lately. I’m becoming a productivity geek and for me, what I have on my Macs and my iDevices is what works best. I’m in the process of building my own “cloud” anyways and trying to get off of as many ad-supported services as possible. This helps me keep my brain exercised.

I have o many thoughts going through my head. This blog entry has probably been very rambly and all over the place, but that’s the kind of week I’ve had. Not bad, not good, just rambly.

I’m looking forward to the weekend.

Retro Dance.

I remember dancing to this song at a club in Erie, Pa. and about losing my mind. Ah, my college days.

Here’s Agnetha Faltskog with “I Won’t Let You Go”.

Hobbies.

I like roads. I like driving on roads, I like designing roads, I like following roads to see where they go and I like seeing what signs say on roads.

I’m a road geek. I always have been and I always will be.

I have a whole website devoted to the roads of Upstate New York. Some people don’t understand why I have such an obsession with all things roadly, but I do. I have been known to drive two hours out of my way to see what the new exit signs on an interstate look like.

I haven’t been as engaged with my road hobby over the past year or so as I would like to be. Work has crept into my personal life a bit and I have been busying myself doing hobby things on tech with tech. I’ve been futzing around with Linux, tweaking config files and the like. While these little tech adventures occupy my mind and keep me busy, they don’t invoke a passion like being a road geek does. Tweaking tech feels like a job and when it doesn’t work right I start to get cranky. I don’t want to feel cranky, I want to enjoy the passion I have for a hobby.

I like it when I feel passionate.

This morning I dug out my little pocket video camera and mounted it on the dash of the Jeep. Earl had bought me a nifty camera mount specifically for this purpose and I hadn’t used it before. It’s nifty! I took some video of a stretch of road that I thought other road geeks, well, actually road scholars, might find interesting. I’m going to be adding it to my road website in the next week or so.

Taking that video made me realize my passion for this geeky little hobby of mine and it got my day started off on the right foot.

And starting the day off on the right foot is always a good thing.

Earl and I have a lot of travel planned over the next several months and much of it involves driving.

I’m going to be one happy man.

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Careful.

So yesterday we drove the final leg home from our trip in Florida. Saturday night was spent with our friends Jeff and Mark north of Durham, N.C. We were on the road by 10:30 yesterday morning.

As we drove up Interstate 85 and crossed into Virginia, I noticed that the outside temperature was dropping and that it was hovering just around freezing. This didn’t really worry me because after all, we live in Upstate New York where we deal with this type of weather well into April. So I just kept moving along and everything was fine. It was raining and the road didn’t seem to have ice on it.

There were cars going off the road all over the place.

As we got closer to Blackstone, Va., I noticed that there was a little bit of slush in each of the lanes on the Interstate. If you stayed out of the slush, the road was wet. I slowed down a bit, just for safety’s sake. But then I had a brief moment of panic. What if the reason that I am able to drive in winter conditions in Upstate New York is because the folks up here take good care of the roads in the winter? There were no signs of salt or sand or brine on the roads; just a little bit of slush and a lot of wet.

More cars off the road all over the place, but not us.

I had a hard time trying to figure out why these cars were going off the road. Were they texting? Did they hit the slush and not know what to do? There must have been a dozen cars off the road within a 15 mile stretch and judging by the conditions of these vehicles, they must have hit the guiderails going pretty fast.

When the roads are wet with a little bit of slush, there’s no reason to panic. Just ease up on the accelerator a little bit and take your time getting to where you’re trying to go. And put down the phone and pay attention to what you’re doing!

All it takes is a little bit of common sense to be careful. Happy motoring!

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Lesson.

So yesterday the three of us went to Epcot to tour around the front half of the park, otherwise known as “Future World”. Epcot is my favorite of the parks here at Walt Disney World.

Upon embarking on our trip for the day I noticed that Jamie was wearing one of his Hostage Calm shirts. He’s friends with Hostage Calm and has done a lot of the photography of the band. The particular shirt has large letters on the back “I support same-sex marriage”. The message is wonderful.

The worrier in me was concerned that the shirt might be a little too “politically charged” for Disney and I voiced my concern with this. My concern was vetoed and Cub held his ground. I sulked about it for a while and was overly sensitive for the first hour or so at Epcot.

I know, I’m an idiot. Plenty of people have told me that over the years but I am who I am and I’m always trying to be better. I’m certainly not ashamed of being gay, I’m certainly not ashamed of being married to a man and I have officially been out of the closet since my first day of college way back in 1986. I say “officially” because everyone always tells me there was really no reason for me to come out of the closet because people already knew. Humor me.

Here’s the thing. I grew up in a household where we didn’t talk about politics, we didn’t talk about religion and we certainly didn’t talk about sexuality. That’s all ok, and I wouldn’t change my childhood for any other, and I know that it was decades ago but some things take root and are hard to change. Add that to my firm belief that change will only come when people come to their own beliefs on their own. I don’t believe in forcing religion on another, I don’t believe in forcing political beliefs on another and I don’t believe we should do the same with one’s views on same sex marriage. Being true to ourselves and demonstrating who we are should be a big enough billboard. I have faith in people and believe that they will find that same-sex marriage is really no different than any other marriage. Each marriage is unique unto itself; it’s not the gender of the participants that make it unique. Now, add all of this to the words of a co-worker way back in 1990, “If I met you outside somewhere I’d shoot you between the eyes, you fag”, and you might understand why I’m sensitive to this sort of thing.

I know, I need to calm down.

So I’m sulking and a little bit sensitive about it all when we first arrived at Epcot. We rode the Nemo ride and then stopped for lunch. A woman came up to Jamie and vocalized her strong support of same-sex marriage (later I noticed that she was from Earl’s hometown). She was a Disney cast member and she was looking after the tables in the “Seasons” food court. Later, an older gentleman came up and voiced his support as well; his son had just married his husband in Maryland. A third person supported the message on Jamie’s shirt as well.

So I stopped sulking after the first encounter. I calmed down. No one was cranky about the shirt, I was the only one that was worried about it.

I learned a lot at Epcot yesterday.