September 2013

30 Days Later.

So earlier this month I wrote that I was going to do a 30-day challenge, as inspired by Matt Cutts from Google in his TED talk from a while back. My personal challenge was to be a little more outgoing: I would try to steer clear of my shyness and, as the opportunity presented itself, I would talk to someone I wouldn’t normally talk to. I desired to be a little more outgoing.

Here it is 30 days later and I have to say that this first 30-day challenge was mostly a success. This month I struck up a conversation with a bartender at a bar, complimented a woman in an elevator on her lovely dress, smiled at strangers more and pulled myself up by my pant strings and openly participated in a seminar full of strangers, a scenario where I would normally be content sitting in the corner and just drinking it all in.

You know what? I feel good about these little things I did under the guise of this challenge and I think I’m just a little bit better for reevaluating my life in this way and addressing this. This is something that I’m going to continue in my everyday life. So if I come up to you and start chatting, even though we’ve never met in person or something, don’t be surprised.

Tomorrow starts another month and I’m going to try another 30 day challenge. My focus is going to be focus. I need to focus on some key areas in my life: my career and work responsibilities, my healthy living goals and on some extracurricular projects I have going on. One of the ways that I’m thinking I’m going to tackle this is by ramping way back from Facebook.

I am active in primarily three social networks, in descending order of usage levels: Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Twitter keeps me in touch with what’s going on in the world. I get a lot of my political information via Twitter and while I might not tweet a lot on some days, I do read quite a bit on Twitter and I try to keep on top of my timeline.

Google+ is where I gather information and debate the tech world. Google+ can be hostile towards Apple folks at times, but aside from that annoying aspect there are a lot of interesting people over there.

Facebook consumes a lot of my online time but I can’t tell you what I really get from it. It’s a great place for me to share witty events and photos and the like with those I call friends and family, but other than that, I don’t feel engaged. Don’t get me wrong, I like everyone on my Facebook feed, I just feel like there’s a lot of “stuff” without a lot of “important stuff”.

So taking the lead from the handsome lad Phil in D.C., I think I’m going to ramp way back from Facebook for 30 days. Inversely, I’ll concentrate on contributing more to my own blog right here. Everything connected to my Facebook account will still be connected; I’m not shutting anything down. I just think for the next 30 days I’m going to refrain from checking my news feed several times a day. I’ll live in the physical moment instead of the virtual one.

I’m interested to see how I feel after 30 days. I’m hoping I feel more focused.

Photo on 9-30-13 at 12.56 PM #2

More Colors.

This is my favorite time of the year. The colors, the crispness of the air, the magic of the wind… it all reminds me as to why I am proudly a boy from Upstate New York.

I just took a quick stroll in our back lawn.

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I will need to refer back to this post come January so I am reminded as to why I love Upstate New York.




Please feel free to click on each photo to see in full sized technicolor.


So yesterday Earl and I decided that we would enjoy a day of relaxation. And to accomplish this very simple task, we would take a “leaf peeping” ride in the nearby Adirondacks. So after a stop at our local diner for a little lunch, we embarked on a nice ride through some very scenic territory.


It was a gorgeous day with just few puffy clouds in the otherwise crystal clear sky. The temperature was a comfortable 70ºF.





Mother Nature is doing wonders with her paintbrush this season.

We zigged and zagged our way across the lower Adirondacks and up into the High Peaks, where we found lots of tourists in the famous village of Lake Placid. This old car was parked out in front of the restaurant that we ate at.


We mugged a little for the camera. That’s what people do with their smartphones these days.


Angles do amazing things with perception.


Though we didn’t eat here on this trip, Lake Placid has one of the last two remaining Howard Johnson’s restaurants.


We stopped at a popcorn shop where I picked up two varieties of popcorn: Red (with smaller hulls) and Rainbow Mix.


I tested both this morning and they were quite tasty. Earl tasted the “Halloween Mix” of popcorn that was featured at the shop. It was orange and black popcorn and featured the flavors of orange and black cherry. It turned Earl’s tongue a funny color.


It was approaching sunset by the time we left Lake Placid, and we made our way across the upper Adirondacks through Saranac Lake, Cranberry Lake, Tupper Lake and finally found ourselves in Watertown, where we stopped for a little snack for supper. And a beer, but just one since I was driving.


After giving the beer plenty of time to wear off, we headed home and got home around 12:30. When all was said and done, we traveled about 400 miles in 12 hours.

iTip: Find My Friends.


Earl and I use Find My Friends on our iPhones quite frequently, including when I’m out on a long distance cycling adventure, he uses the app to find my whereabouts when I’m ready to be picked up. Since upgrading our iPhones to iOS7, Find My Friends’ functionality has been spotty at best.

This irritates me.

I think I have found a solution to the problem via the Apple Forums. I know that others are having issues with Find My Friends (Erik, Mark), perhaps they will find this helpful as well.

The suggestions in the forum post I have quoted below worked for me, but I needed to have the Find My Friends app running in order to make these things work. Once I got everything set the way it’s described below, it stayed that way.

(or at least something that some people may have overlooked)

In iOS 7, if Find My Friends is working for you WHEN THE APP IS RUNNING, i.e. you can see the Locations of family members and they can see you as long as everyone has the App running, BUT it doesn’t work once the App is closed (or wasn’t launched since the last restart,) then check the following:

Make sure the app is listed in Background App Refresh under Settings > General … In my case the FMF App was NOT listed there. I chatted at length with an Apple Support Rep trying various things (reboots, Airplane Mode on and off, etc.) She was unable to explain to me how Apps qualify to show up in that list, or how to get an App onto the list. What finally worked for me was DELETING the Find My Friends App and then reinstalling it from the App Store (Purchases.) It then showed up in the Background App Refresh List, I confirmed it was turned On, and FMF instantly started working as expected! I was afraid I would have to re-enter Follower information or re-send Invitations to Friends after reinstalling, but those settings were retained.

Note: I also happened to update to iOS 7.0.2 earlier today, so I’m not sure if that mattered or not.

Find My Friends also MUST be listed under Settings > Privacy > Location Services, and must be turned On, obviously.

When upgrading an iPhone there are lots of things to do, so it’s easy to answer a screen prompt about Location Services or Background App Refresh the “incorrect” way (at least incorrect with respect to Find My Friends working properly.) Sometimes it’s not easy to go back and find the specific Setting where that function is adjusted…

I hope this information helps other families get FMF working for their devices. Ours are all now working reliably.


I don’t know why this video is making the rounds today, as it’s date stamped over a year ago, but here’s a grown woman at a ballpark ripping a discarded baseball out of the hands of a youngster and then high-fiving her fans for her courageous act.

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I had a paragraph here that totally attributed the woman’s behavior to stereotypical behavior, but that type of language would have been a wild generalization that probably was unfair on my behalf. I’ll share three keywords though: Hummer, sunglasses, McMansion.

It’d be a hoot of someone really identified the selfish woman.


The Pasterasti, or whatever the head of Barilla Pasta is called, made some unkind remarks about gays and how they would never be featured in marketing of Barilla Pasta, because they don’t fit the Barilla sense of family and a woman’s central role. Reuters has a news article here, Huffington Post has an article here. There has been a call by some LGBT groups to boycott Barilla and I fully support this boycott. (I believe my husband will support it as well, I just can’t speak on his behalf at the moment). I just checked the cupboards and we have no Barilla products at The Manor, nor will we in the future. Since the Pasterasti urged gays to get their pasta elsewhere, we’ll do just that. Thanks for the heads up, asshat!


Since Earl and I worked late tonight, we decided that tonight would be our night out on the town. Knowing this all day long, my mouth was watering for a steak and blue cheese salad wedge entree at a local restaurant, Carmella’s in neighboring New Hartford. I believe there are a couple of Carmella’s in Central New York. The other one close to us is called Babe’s.

Earl and I were seated in the farthest corner in a booth near the waitress congregation area. Menus were placed on our designated table and a non-committal hostess flung some fingers in the general direction of the corner. I sat facing the corner, Earl faced the dining room.

After about three minutes we set our menus down and were ready for someone to stop by the table to welcome us to Carmella’s and to take our order.

A few more minutes passed.

Earl observed servers coming and going from the Church of the Poison Mind server congregating area, and while they appeared to be quite engaged with one another, they didn’t seem like they wanted to really mingle with the customers.

As Earl observed this, I listened to the woman in the booth behind me bellow out something about boxed wine and asking her mother how she got home from her 17th birthday party years ago because she was so wasted she didn’t remember. Ah, the good ol’ days.

At T+12 minutes Earl looked at as I gazed back at him and we both said it at the same time: “Do you want to get out of here”? Now, years ago when we said that, we bee-lined back to a hotel room and did the nasty, but it’s been several years and we’ve been married a long time so instead we went to another restaurant.

We settled on the local Olive Garden, which had its grand opening last month. As we walked through the front doors, all expectations of Olive Garden familiarity dissipated as we realized this wasn’t your grandma’s Olive Garden. The “curvy” feel of the room layouts and the bar and passageways to the dining areas that flank the breezeway were absent, our local restaurant has four square dining rooms chocked full of tables and booths. Not only could you barely move in the place, it was loud. Very loud. Like, high school lunch room table in the far corner loud.

A very nice server named Amanda greeted us, and despite her creepy inclinations of coming up behind Earl and asking him questions over his shoulder, she was pleasant and knew what she was doing.

To our side was a table of eight that were celebrating someone’s birthday with all you can eat salad. They must have had four bowls of salad and breadsticks, bring more breadsticks. It went on and on. The four sitting along the wall (next to me) all smoked; they exited and reappeared frequently and at random intervals. At first I thought the birthday celebration might involve a game of duck-duck-goose, but no, they were just going out front to smoke.

Off of Earl’s left shoulder was a young couple with four boys that appeared to be ages 0, 1 and 2. They had a couple of strollers and a car seat flung about. Mom was breast feeding one of her children. I believe it was the youngest one.

Earl and I focused on each other with concentrated eyes and ears to weed out the sights and sounds surrounding us. Again, years ago, this would have invoked the nasty, but we were hungry.

Earl’s entree came out, I believe it was a steak gorgonzola over fettuccine. The gorgonzola was plopped into the center of the fettuccine and apparently had qualms about being over the steak. I ordered a gumbo thing that was on their healthy menu which was fairly good except it was wicked salty to the point that if someone licked me right now they would find me Satisfrying.

When Earl was asked about his meal by the pleasant Amanda, he let her know his disappointment with the gorgonzola plop. She was taken aback and spoke to the manager about it. Apparently the proof is in the plop and it’s actually suppose to come that way, but since he was disappointed the manager took it off the bill and offered us free dessert.

When my pumpkin cheesecake arrived, one of the smokey eight asked me what I was eating and then the smokey mother next to him started proclaiming loudly, “Oh my god, it’s so big! That’s a huge piece of cheesecake! It’s a meal in itself! My god, he’s going to eat it all! All of it! He’s eating it!”

It’s a good thing I’m not a shrinking wallflower.

After we ate the whole thing and left Amanda a generous tip for “handling our disappointment gracefully” (she should kiss us, should we see her again), we headed over to the mall to do laps.


Now Jamie’s iPhone 4S is in rough shape. It has had a good run, but honestly, one of the buttons is broke, it won’t hold a charge and he’s constantly running out of storage space since it’s the 16GB model. He’s due for an upgrade, so after some debating, we ordered him a new iPhone 5c, which we will take with us to Chicago when we visit him next month.

I fondled the HTC One and Moto X, both Android phones. Mike at this Verizon Wireless1 was very friendly and it turns out that he’s the nephew of a friend of ours and he remembered us as “J.P. and Earl that drive the Jeep” (told you we were famous) so he let me play around with the Android phones.

I was going to buy it.

I’ll do another lap around the mall.

I’m thinking about it.

Let me do another lap.

“What phone do you use”? He carries a Nokia 720 something Windows phone. It’s OK.

Let me do another lap.

“I’ll take the Moto X.”

He says, “here, play around with this while I get you set up in the computer.”

I play around with the phone. I like it. I can’t test some of the cooler features because it has to be programmed with my voice and only my voice. Something just doesn’t feel right. It’s smooth but it doesn’t feel premium. It’s good. It’s great. But it doesn’t knock my socks off.

Swipe. Swipe. I flick my wrist to activate the camera. Swipe some more. Something is not right. I feel like a disturbance is brewing in the force, or worse yet, the transporter beam is orange instead of white.

All of a sudden I start sweating. I yell “Stop!!!!!”

He looks at me.

“I’m not ready to make the switch.”

He packs up his toys and continues to smile, giving us his phone number. If we have any questions we can text him.

Earl is visibly relieved.

Still shaken, I caress my familiar iPhone 5. “I still love you, baby.” I’m talking to the phone, not Earl.

Jamie’s new phone arrives next week and I’ve decided to keep my iPhone 5. To celebrate, we stop at Burger King for a diet pop and nothing more. Feeling outgoing, I ask the counter person about the Satisfries. She says they’re delicious. She didn’t offer a sample and I didn’t ask.

I’ll pass until another time.

1 Mike at Verizon Wireless in Sangertown Square is a really good guy and will work with you to get the best bang for your buck. If you see him, tell him “J.P. and Earl in the Jeep” sent you.



Last night I was watching the evening news when Brian Williams announced a “major fast-food industry break through, after the break.” I was intrigued enough to sit through commercials and see what was involved with this major breakthrough.

Yesterday, Burger King restaurants across the United States began selling “Satisfries”. As a new addition to their menu, Satisfries are touted as a healthier alternative to the traditional french fries that remain on Burger King’s menu.

Burger King won’t divulge what changes they made to the recipe that makes these fries, but the did tell that they use the same potatoes, cut to the same size as the traditional offerings and that they use the same oil to fry the Satisfries. There’s something different about the batter, apparently they’ve shifted ratio of ingredients around a bit, and the result is the batter is thinner and it doesn’t hold as much oil.

The result? 30% less fat and 20% less calories than BK’s regular fries.

While I am trying really hard to avoid fast food and, for that matter, fried food, I must admit that I am probably intrigued enough to give these Satisfries a try this weekend. At first I was going to avoid these things at all cost, as I was certain that there were secret ingredients like O-Lean (Olestra) involved and I certainly don’t want to relive the experimental no-fat Lays incident of 1995.

Burger King has been at this new recipe for a decade. I figure if I don’t feel satisfied with Satisfries, I can feed them to the seagulls that seem to be always hanging around at BK.

Source information from USA Today.


So on Saturday I went for my third “long” bike ride of the season. Having already ridden west and southwest on my previous rides this season, I decided to head to the southeast towards the relatively famous village of Cooperstown and then onto the nearby city of Oneonta. I knew the ride was going to be a challenge because that’s hilly country down there. While I know that hills are a part of the whole cycling experience, if I were to be completely honest I’d have to admit that I’d rather ride on the Great Plains or the Salt Flats.

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The weather forecast mentioned thunderstorms and showers on Saturday and I was lucky to remain dry for the entire duration of the ride. What I didn’t factor in, however, was that the approaching front was kicking up some winds. After getting to the top of a particular challenging climb (where a bunch of Amish kids stopped their chores and smiled and waved at me, helping me feel better), I found myself pedaling as hard as I could and barely moving forward. I was struggling to keep the bike upright. It turns out I was riding in 30 MPH gusts.

Good times.

I burned through my snack packs and found myself craving calories as I continued to defy the wind and ended up stopping at a quaint little place called the Fly Creek General Store. As I slurped down a Muscle Milk and chowed down on a Clif Bar, I noticed that I had an unread text message on my iPhone.

Due to the iOS 7 upgrades to our phones, Earl could no longer find me on “Find My Friends”. Yay for progress!

I sent him a text message telling him to start driving on Route 28 south of Cooperstown and he’d find me down there. I told him that I was ready to call it a day whenever he found me.

A while later, my Knight in Shining Armor (well, a black Jeep) arrived.

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When all was said and done, I rode 52.26 miles in 4 hours and 50 minutes. My average speed was 10.8 MPH, well below the 13-14 MPH average I usually clock in at.

While I enjoyed my ride (I always enjoy time on my bike), I told Earl that Saturday’s ride was the least favorite of my long distance rides this season. He understood that but reminded me that I still rode a pretty good distance in the wind. Apparently while trying to find me he had ridden through some windy weather in the Jeep.

I’m looking forward to one more long ride before the snow flies.

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So a few months ago I thought I would take the extra step to reduce our carbon footprint here at The Manor. We have recessed lighting throughout most of the house and our old incandescent indoor flood lights were starting to burn out in a curiously methodical fashion. When it came to return the bulbs, I “thought green”, did the research online and went with natural daylight CFL bulbs from Lowe’s. The bulbs in question are made by Utilitech.

I talked about this project right here on this blog back in June.

One of the reasons I went with the Utilitech brand was because they were touted to be at nearly full brightness when powered on. Many CFL bulbs require a warm up period and I have to tell you, this drives me insane. Since CFL bulbs are allegedly a forward step in technology AND in saving the environment, I believe that the forward step should include being able to do what their predecessors did, namely, provide light to a room when switched on.

After a few months these Utilitech bulbs are no longer living up to the “instant on” hype. It seems that as each day passes the bulbs give off less and less light when first turned on. They take longer to warm up to their proper temperature.

It’s a small wonder that these guys are projected to last twice as long as their predecessors. They’re not doing anything!

Now, I’m all for saving the environment. I believe that we should leave the world in better shape than when we found it, but the poor performance of these Utilitech bulbs, coupled with the fact that they have to be handled like a hazardous material when disposing them due to the amount of mercury they contain, makes me wonder why we have this insane push to get everyone to buy these bulbs.

I don’t think our relatively new bulbs are going to make it through the end of the year. And I’m definitely not going to replace them with CFLs again. I think we are going to end up switching over to LED lightbulbs. This is not the optimal solution, after all, LED bulbs are fairly expensive, but they light up instantly when required to do so and then even work on dimmer switches.

On the other hand, I could go crazy and just stock up on incandescents while I still have the chance.