March 17, 2014

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Yesterday was great. I’m trying not to make this one of those blog posts where I ramble on and on until I lose 80% of my readership. That happens far too often.

I was with an old friend yesterday. Someone I’ve known since 2004 / 2005 era back when I was skinnier, less intelligent, far less money in the bank and a lot more free time. We were best friends and sort of fell apart but we didn’t really change, it was such a situational sort of thing like the stuff happening to us drove us apart. I can see now how close we always will be. 

It’s hard to deal with that internally. Like, I can go about my life working hard, exploring new parts of the world and trying new hobbies. I can date, make friends and interact with others. I just don’t think I’ll ever stop being their friend. How could I? How could someone I get along with so well sort of fall apart…it’s been 10 years. Wow.

We met up and talked on the train ride into downtown SF, had Dim Sum at a highly reviewed yelp place, laughed and told stories and talked about our relationship failures. There’s a disconnect between our day-to-day hobbies and activities. Trying to explain how much I love my car or beer collecting well it’s hard because there’s so much to catch up on. 

After Dim sum, we went to their place and grabbed my rental car and drove to Blue Bottle in Oakland. I bought some beans to make coffee at home, we then went to an orchestra concert in Oakland right by the lake and listened to a friend play violin alongside a lot of talented people and the music was just wonderful. You could close your eyes and be taken to another world. Really well done. 

Afterward, we went to Berkeley and played pool over a few beers and it really felt great. I don’t have any friends that I can connect with so closely and I guess that’s the hard part to live 2,500 miles away from someone who was once your best friend and could be that again if only you were a little closer. 

For now i’m really enjoying this time in San Francisco. Coming here once a month, seeing my best friend and maybe we do reconnect and it’s good. I admit that it feels a bit forced until like in a pool game, we sort of lose ourselves and it does feel like old times.

Maybe I’m a little late to the game to feel things like this at 27 but better late than never.

In other news, California is gorgeous. Sunny, warm, full of great food and lots of traffic. I’m having an awesome time but I still miss the cold New England snow and can’t wait to get back. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. 

March 17, 2014

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Starbucks Pour-Over

The pour-over method is a technique normally employed by much higher-end coffee shops, and it yields you a custom cup of coffee that isn’t scalded from hours of overbrewing.

It takes longer (approximately five minutes), but the result is a remarkably good cup of coffee from Starbucks. As a bonus, doing this also allows you to try beans other than whatever they have brewed at the time, and it doesn’t even cost more than a regular pour.

I rarely go to Starbucks anymore as I drink Blue Bottle beans at home via my Chemex. If I’m traveling, I try to find a local roaster that offers pour-over. If that’s not available, I find a Starbucks with Clover machines as they grind and brew the coffee fresh. If that’s not available, well I’m going to a Starbucks and asking for pour-over.

Their coffee is brewed every 30 minutes via the old-fashioned drip method. They charge nothing more for pour-over even though they should. The process means a barista is tied up for 5 minutes making a single cup of coffee and every one on the staff hates you.

I’ve had baristas plead with me to not make them do it, “We have coffee brewed already” they tell me or “We won’t do that during busy times” in fact, they have to if you ask for it sort of like asking a barista to remake your latte 5 times because it tastes bad. They hate you for it but they’ll do it.

Don’t make me feel like a criminal for asking you to do what every other coffee shop in America is doing now which is grinding and brewing the coffee fresh. The difference is huge and I’m tired of the attitude.

Keep in mind me going to Starbucks was my last choice. Don’t make our forced relationship of me needing caffeine and you being the McDonalds of coffee any worse. By the way, the coffee you made me this morning was pretty good. Pour-over is indeed the way to go.

March 15, 2014

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Wednesday afternoon, I bought a camera. It’s Friday night and tomorrow I leave for a work trip. I ordered a camera from Amazon that was free shipping via their Prime service but when I selected to have it sent overnight, the fee went to $45. I paid it because I wanted the camera before this trip due to an event going on.

Twelve hours after ordering, my Amazon status on the order changes to “Preparing Shipment” I became hopeful but emailed them anyway asking if I could get a status on the order and to ensure the camera was shipping that day (Thursday) so it would arrive in time.

In fact, I sent a message that day and another today. 

For reference, here is the camera + lens I ordered. I paid $2020.37 w/ the $45 shipping. The reason I bought it from a seller that wasn’t Amazon is because the combination of the camera + lens separately would cost $2164 before shipping. On top of that, the camera I wanted wasn’t available for sale directly from Amazon anyway. I checked the reviews of DavisMAX on their Amazon page and they have a 96% approval percentage with 13,000 total feedbacks logged. They’re doing a lot of business so I trusted them.

The story with Amazon is once you log an order during business hours, it gets thrown onto a conveyer belt, is packed on an assembly line and is out the door within an hour or two. If you order by noon EST, it’s at your door the next morning with $3.99 one-day Prime shipping. 

External Sellers using Amazon don’t offer that price or service speed and it shows.

Still, I figured such a huge operation would have my camera out the next day and it would arrive Friday or first thing Saturday. Sadly, that was not the case. Here are the messages I sent:

8AM the day after my order (Thursday)

Hi team. I'm leaving Saturday evening for a 1 week trip. I was hoping this camera could arrive before then. If you can, please get it out today and sent overnight. I am happy to paypal additional funds to cover extra shipping fees. Thanks.

No Response.

Friday (today) at 11AM:

Hi guys. I spend $45 for overnight shipping and it has been 40 hours since I placed my order and the item hasn't shipped yet. Can you please update me on a status? Since I'm leaving tomorrow for my trip, at this point you can just send it standard mail because it won't be here in time anyway. Please refund the overnight shipping fee. Thanks.

No Response.

Friday at 6PM:

Hello again. It has not been over 2 days since I ordered the camera with overnight shipping and nothing has happened. Please advise me on the status of the order. I'm leaving tomorrow for california. If you can instead ship to my hotel there, I'd really appreciate it. I'm so disappointed that the $45 I spent on overnight shipping has basically been made useless.

They responded: (Customer Care, Molly @ DavisMAX)

Thank you for your email. I'm sorry there is a delay on the item you ordered. We anticipate it will be available soon and would be glad to contact you when they come in. If you prefer to cancel your order, please let me know and I will process your request and apply a full refund right away. We apologize for the inconvenience.

My Response shortly after:

“When they come in”? Are you guys selling cameras you don’t have in stock? This is against Amazon TOS for a seller.

Obviously I haven’t heard back yet on this question but my point is valid in that they are not allowed to sell cameras that are not currently in stock. eBay and Amazon don’t allow this. The product must be in-hand / in-stock to be listed. If not, it causes issues like this. 

Something I’ll add is that on Thursday morning at 8AM, My credit card was charged for the full amount of the camera. I was billed for a product that is not in stock. 

This is an extremely frustrating and shitty experience but it looks like I’m not alone. A google search for DavisMAX comes up with a lot of similar stories of delays in shipments or cancellation of orders. These guys are high-volume and they need to act like it. Avoid buying from them.

UPDATE: I heard back from them today

Thank you for your email. I'm sorry there is a delay on the item you ordered. We anticipate it will be available in to ship in 1-2 business days, and would be glad to contact you when they come in. Once the item ships we will credit you for the overnight shipping charges. If you prefer to cancel your order, please let me know and I will process your request and apply a full refund right away. We apologize for the inconvenience. Thank you Jay

Still not acceptable  and why do they keep pushing me to cancel my order? and I”m going to guess that by refunding me the money I spent on overnight shipping, this means they’re going to send it UPS Ground? Ridiculous. The fact that this place is selling equipment they don’t have in stock is really upsetting. 

The saga continues:

Today (19th of March), Me:

Okay guys, I keep hearing 1-2 days on shipment. It's now been a full week since I've ordered and my camera hasn't shipped yet. Can you update me on a specific ship date?

Their Response:

Thank you for your email. I have checked your order details and your item is preparing for shipment. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help. Thank you, Molly

This is crazy because yes the item has been preparing for shipment for a full week: Me - 

Hi Molly. I was charged the full amount and the order was "Preparing for Shipment" 6 days ago. It has been preparing for shipment since the 13th. Please advise.

Finally, the latest response:

Thank you for your email. We do apologize for the delay. Tracking information will be made available in shortly. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help. Thank you, Molly

So, we’ll see what happens next.

 

March 12, 2014

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I’ve never ordered a CTO Macintosh before and have it arrive within 3 business days. Amazing timing as I’m going out of town soon for another work trip. It’s gorgeous and noticeably a different machine than the MacBook Air that its replacing. Weight, size and height. I can no longer see the TV easily over the top of the display but everything else is great. Going to set it up once my power comes back from the winter snow-storm we’re having.

MacBook Pro 15

MacBook Pro 15

MacBook Pro 15

MacBook Pro 15

MacBook Pro 15

MacBook Pro 15

MacBook Pro 15

MacBook Pro 15

MacBook Pro 15

March 7, 2014

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Screen-Shot-2014-03-07-at-10_55_31-AM

It has been a very long time since I had a MacBook Pro. Writing this feels so 2009 because there was a time when I had a regular MacBook then a MacBook Pro then the MacBook Air came out and I had a MacBook Air + 17” Pro w/ SSD and then I sold the 17” and got an iMac + MacBook Air and that was in 2010 and I never looked back.

If you want to follow the long path of my MacBook switching up, it was pretty intense with switches every 6 months from 2007 – 2011 - http://adam-jackson.net/blog/page/2/?s=macbook

In August of 2011, I bought the Core i7 MacBook Air 13” and have done most commuting with the iMac Core i7 w/ Fusion Drive and it’s perfect. No complaints at all. A few things happened over the last few months that has caused me to go Pro again:

  • The MacBook Air warranty has lapsed and I’ve had some issues that required Apple Store visits like
    • Mavericks not detecting the SSD and charging issues.
    • It takes a few tries with MagSafe to get a charge going even with the brand new adapter I bought.
    • At 400 battery cycles, it’s not holding a charge as effectively as before and  the battery lasts just 90 minutes
    • It lacks modern features like Thunderbolt 2, USB 3, HD FaceTime camera, the ability to play games like Sim City / Civilization
    • The keyboard is actually pretty worn down with some keys missing the the structure of the laptop bends a bit when I pick it up.
    • Overall, I’ve used the MBA daily for almost 2.5 years and I can feel an inevitable end.
  • My work has me in California a lot which means 50% of the time, the laptop is my primary machine. When it comes to number crunching and screen real estate, the iMac is fantastic and the MacBook Air with its size and age is night & day. I planned on using the MBA for a word processing / mobile photo machine and it’s become a primary computer. So the day to day use has shifted.
  • The need to have a laptop for plane rides is moot with the iPad Air. The 11” MacBook I bought in January of 2011 was amazing then the iPad 2 came out in March and effectively nullified the reason I bought the air (airline typing / entertainment). So I bought a 13” MBA. Now I never use my laptop on planes and use the iPad Air exclusively therefore I can afford a larger screen size for the 3.5 weeks a month that I’m not in a cramped airplane seat.

There are many aspects of the Air I’m going to miss. It is the greatest notebook ever made. I stand by that sentiment that I first made way back in 2009 with the 2nd generation Air. The reason I didn’t go latest Gen MacBook Air are pretty clear. I wanted a pro laptop with a larger screen. I think Apple has that with their base 15 inch Macbook Pro but I opted for the one with dedicated graphics for future-proof gaming. I hope the extra money is worth it in the long run. No one has ever regretted spending more on a computer though. Future-Proofing is never a bad idea.

When you look at the 3rd party GeekBench stats comparing the top end MBP vs MBA, the multi-core points are pretty amazing. 14,600 points versus 5,600. The single core is not as much of a difference with 3,700 versus 2,969 but the top end MBP with 4 cores and hyper threading will make a nice difference in number crunching and mobile RAW photo editing.  You can see additional CPU comparisons here between both top-end model chips.

I’m really excited to have a brand new notebook with 10 hour battery life and a gorgeous retina display. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing with all of that power though :)

Maybe I’ll throw up a few photos when this arrives next week. It’s worth mentioning that my employer has a partnership with the manufacturer of this notebook. I received no discounts, compensation or influence in writing this thought process and my opinions are my own and do not reflect my employer or their partners.

PS: My MacBook Air is for sale if someone is looking for a notebook.

March 6, 2014

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This is 30 days back and 30 days forward in travel. 3 cross country flights and one european trip. It’s been a busy Spring

Image

March 5, 2014

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I watch a lot of films, maybe 10 movies a week on average. Throughout 2013, there wasn’t a single film that really hit home but this one did. I felt very close to Virgil while also identifying very much with Claire. Both characters had some things I could relate to but ultimately the ending rips it all and I myself was conned into thinking things were as they seemed.

Incredible movie, you should watch it. 

February 27, 2014

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Last week, I went to my local VW dealership, gave them $500 and pre-ordered a 2015 Golf R that should hit the USA market in March of 2015, possibly December. My 2013 Golf R is the greatest car I’ve ever had the privilege of driving and still be able to afford. It’s an all-wheel drive hatchback with a gorgeous interior, lots of tech, leather seating and a turbocharged engine with all-wheel drive. 

I love this car.

My blog lately has had a lot of Golf R talk and I spent since August to today reading about the next generation MK7 platform and hearing all about the new Golf R. It’s on sale in Europe now and reviews have started coming in. Two reviews I loved the most are below:

My favorite line from one of the reviews:

The main takeaway isn’t just that the Golf R is good on the slick stuff. The hatch demonstrated itself to be a willing performer, raising the bar over what you’d expect out of a normal GTI. The performance delta over a GTI is huge – far wider than the gap between, say, a Subaru WRX and STI (currently, anyway – the 2015 STI has not been driven yet). Having all-wheel drive is really a benefit here, and handbrake or not, the R slid with ease and poise, never feeling too powerful or acting like a complete handful.

Wintertime driving, to enthusiasts, is far more exciting than you’d think. And tossing the Golf R around the frozen lake north of Arvidsjaur proved its all-season prowess is top-notch. Considering just how good this thing was on the ice, I can only imagine it’ll be a total hoot on dry pavement – and I’m eagerly awaiting the chance to experience that when the northern US finally thaws. But as long as I have snow, this hottest Volkswagen will easily earn a place as one of my favorite cold-weather rides.

What’s happening with the next Golf is a hot topic among enthusiasts and lovers of the original VW Rabbit / R33. They’re taking then Golf, making it more powerful than the GTI and then selling it at a high price. That was the 2012 / 2013 R. In 2015, they’ve taken all of the tech comforts from Audi and thrown them in and people think sporty is now becoming luxury and they’re against that. I disagree. The only downside to the current R is the lack of technology. The touch screen is small, MDI in-dash computer is black & white, there’s no lane-detection or guidance, there’s no adaptive cruise control, back up camera, driving modes or other comforts. The new Golf R is faster than mine, lighter than mine, has better base mileage and more amenities plus a new generation of all wheel drive that’s more Audi Quatro like in every regard…and the price isn’t going up.

My deposit toward a new Golf and slowly growing savings account to afford the next one aren’t guarantees that I’ll get one. The next Golf is just as limited as previous versions with some 5,000 total being made globally and maybe 3,000 of those for American markets. I think Canada only got 500 of the 2013 model. So the probability is low but I’m going to try anyway.

February 27, 2014

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When people know me through this blog, there’s a lot of daily moments that are lost and I am terrible at documenting those. I’ve also matured over the years where everything isn’t shared with the Internet. The infrequent posts here are all I have.

Tomorrow on February 28th, Elizabeth is moving to Denver. There has been a sort of slow deterioration of our relationship but she’s departing for reasons that are bigger than us and you can read into that any way that seems appropriate. We met in October of 2010, became a couple in December and moved in together 2 years later in January of 2013. It’s not healthy to analyze what went wrong today and I’m sure over time, I’ll be able to step back and realize the mistakes that were made to lead to this but right now, I see both of us at fault in various ways. There were emotional to mental disconnects and as we both approach 30 years old, life goals that were also not aligned.

As of October of 2013, things changed and in December, she started looking elsewhere for employment, anywhere it seemed that was in her industry. I don’t think she was escaping but so long in Vermont had some effects that I couldn’t counteract and I admit that I also didn’t really put up a fight when she told me it was time to move somewhere new. I’ve moved before in the midst of relationships, I’ve sold it all and chased a job opportunity so I understand and can relate to her decision. In a week, she’ll start a new job at a new company in a brand new city higher up in the mountains in the industry she loves and she’s so happy. 

I haven’t actually realized she’s leaving yet at the emotional level. I’m traveling a lot from work, typing this from a cafe in Sunnyvale California while she packs up her entire life and loads it on to a moving truck 2,700 miles away with her Dad. I set my own travel dates but this wasn’t an intentional band-aid moment for me it just happened to work out like this. I’m emotionally and physically unavailable while she embarks on a move that will separate us as a couple and geographically. Maybe it’s better this way? Again, I really have no idea at this time. I left for this trip a week ago and we grabbed burgers at one of our favorite local restaurants (an hour away sadly) and said goodbye. I played with Goomba and gave her a hug and that was it. It’s weird that she’s leaving and I left first like it was not planned but just worked out that way.

The thing is, I have always done things this way. Take a literal and planned approach, strip away the emotion and carry out the task and usually it’s 6-12 months after my actions do I feel a bit of happiness or sadness about them. Fight or Flight is maybe the best way to describe it but it’s in everything I do. I’ve been working on amazing projects at work and haven’t had a celebratory champagne yet and when people ask about Elizabeth’s move, I just sort of shrug. There’s no point in getting upset but it’s important to realize my life is different now. My house rent went up, my bills are doubling and my house will be empty. Messes are mine to clean up 100%, if something breaks or is missing, I’m to blame. I’m back to being self-sufficient which I enjoy a lot. 

I have asked around on getting a roommate to help cover my bills. I travel 3 weeks a month, work from home other days and spend my evenings tasting beers with strangers at festivals, breweries and homes. I have some friends in the area now and I run my Beer Meetup Group so I’m busy and a roommate won’t see much of me. It’s something I’m seriously considering but can’t say for sure if I’m excited about the notion at this time. Having more of my paycheck is the only driving factor.

As for what’s next in my dating life, I don’t really have any plans. I’ve actually spent the last year on even deeper introspection of who I am and the term “graysexual” comes up a lot. Or that I’m asexual except for with people I greatly love or that I’m asexual but with the desire to nest with someone of the opposite sex and that’s it. I don’t have many male friends, all of my friends are girls who I love but nothing more. I don’t really date, I don’t think about girls or romanticize about any marriage, dating or kids. So I think it’ll be healthy to sort of spend the next year analyzing these feelings deeper and of course focusing on work even more. Run more, eat more salads and go on non work related trips.

I’ll be going to Europe for a vacation in April with a friend. I’d like to get a dog but my travel schedule is too insane so my house is now dog-less which does suck cause dogs are awesome. Maybe I’ll get back into volunteering at Big Brothers again. That was fun. 

I don’t really have a concrete plan but, for the 3rd time in my life I’m single, once at 18, again at 23 and now at 27. I usually stay single for a year or two before dating again and that’s just how it’ll go. There’s no big epiphany at this time other than living expenses going up. Maybe this writing is just me rambling but it’s nice to put things out there for you all. Thanks for reading this blog. I really appreciate it.

I think Elizabeth is going to do really great things. She’s so smart and so driven to really shine at her job and in life. I’m proud of her for this move and the last 3.5 years has been a great time in my life. I’m happy we shared a path for a short time and, as with all of my ex GFs, I look forward to having coffee with her in Denver next time I’m there.

February 14, 2014

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We’ve had a lot of these lately. Today I woke up with over a foot on my car and had to clean it off and pull out of the drive for the plow guy to come. It’s still flurries just a bit. A perfect day to go snowboarding.

February 14th Snow

February 14th Snow

February 14th Snow