Worst work travel day EVER!

I’ve been doing this consulting thing for quite a while and yesterday was hands down the worst travel day. I currently go to Michigan for work. That alone is a pain in the ass but the way home is worse.

My travel home is supposed to be:

  • Drive 2 hours from client site to airport
  • Take flight from Detroit to Charlotte
  • Wait in Charlotte for an hour to catch connecting flight
  • Drive 30 minutes home

This week was a little different:

  • Drove 2 hours from client site to airport
  • Flight delayed 30 minutes, ate dinner at airport (a personal travel sin, I try not to eat before I fly)
  • Get upgrade on flight to Charlotte (it’s a CRJ 900 so the plane is tiny)
  • Start flying to Charlotte as usual, but on approach to land we encountered a rain storm
  • Plane has wheels down and is on final approach (I swear we are under 500 feet), suddenly plane starts to ascend again and head north (wtf moment)
  • Captain says there is a ground stop in Charlotte and we need to pick up fuel in Wilmington DE (shit that sucks)
  • Refuel twice because the tower tells the captain we have to approach Charlotte from the west which delays us about an hour
  • Check the connecting flight and it’s delayed half an hour but will leave without me
  • Call American and ask for rebooking but I’m told I have to do it at the airport (another wtf moment)
  • Finally make it to Charlotte but my Miami flight is gone, rebooked myself on a Fort Lauderdale flight (I didn’t want to fly home at 2PM)
  • Call some hotels but everything is booked so for the first time in my life I’m sleeping in an airport terminal (I didn’t really sleep, more like cat naps over a 5 hour period)
  • Fly to FLL (2 hours) and Uber it to my appointment that I couldn’t miss (30 minutes)
  • Take a second Uber all the way to Miami to get my car (30 minutes)
  • Drive all the way home while listening to a conference call (30 minutes)

And that’s how my Thursday and Friday has gone so far. I’m kind of a zombie but I can function to a certain degree. I’ll definitely go to bed early to catch up. I’ll be trying the Chicago route next week, let’s see if that’s better than flying to Charlotte. What I really need is for them to bring back the direct flight on Thursday evenings. I refuse to stay an extra night and fly home Friday morning.

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Flying the DJI Spark

I received a DJI Spark for my birthday this summer and it’s so fun to fly. It’s really small and it works with my iPhone but my wife got me the controller that makes it so much easier to fly. The Spark matches the color of my motorcycle which is pretty awesome.

I’ve only been flying the Spark near my house but there is enough open space that I won’t hit anyone. The pictures in this post were taken with the Spark while I was flying at around 200 feet up. I haven’t gone all crazy with it, the battery only lasts 10 minutes but it’s a pretty satisfying flight. The feature that I haven’t tried using is the hand gestures. Apparently you can have the Spark follow you, take pictures, and take off from your hand. There isn’t enough room behind my house to try it but when I get to a big park I’ll give it a go there.

The most useful accessory has been the cable that links my iPhone to the remote. It lets me fly the Spark farther than trying to use just the WiFi and makes connecting to the drone way faster. The biggest gripe I have is trying to connect to the Spark via WiFi. It doesn’t seem to work and I can’t get the navigation updates which I need to fly it safely. I’ve used Sport mode a couple of times but it really drains the battery quickly and cuts down on my flight time. I’ve also tried to make sure I can always see the drone while flying. I can go pretty far with it but it’s more for safety and I don’t want to lose it.

I want to take the drone with me to Colorado this spring and take some mountain pictures and some video. I think a factor that will make it a little risky is the wind since I’ll be in the mountains. I’ve flown the drone in decently gusty wind in FL but I was nervous about hitting a tree but the Spark is really stable and compensates well. I need to get a good carrying case and some extra batteries so I can fly it for a bit longer and to practice but this is definitely an awesome gift.

Rediscovering Firefox

Back in the days of yore, I used a web browser called Netscape. Netscape eventually died off but out of its ashes came a browser called Firefox. For a long time this was the only alternative to Internet Explorer and before Chrome was even a thing. I recently saw on my news feed that Firefox had come out with a new browser that was faster and more secure than Chrome for iOS. Of course I had to try it out.

I’ve installed it on the iPad Pro and my personal iPhone and I can definitely say that I like it better than Chrome. I’m almost to the point where I want to delete Chrome from all my devices except for my MacBook Pro and my Windows computers. The speed of Firefox is definitely a plus for me and their private mode is also better. I also like the menu layout better in Firefox compared to Chrome. Where I think Chrome could have defeated Firefox was being able to use all the extensions that I have installed on the desktop version. Thats the only reason I keep them on my computers but frankly I still use Safari more on my MacBook Pro and only revert to Chrome when I have to.

What’s cool is that Firefox is its still free. It’s definitely a distant 3rd in terms of desktop browsers but it will become my #2 for my mobile devices. I think I’ll decide later this weekend if I’m going to delete Chrome from my mobile devices or not and install them elsewhere. Truth be told, I also installed Firefox on my work computer and unpinned Chrome from the tool bar. Since I can’t use the Chrome extensions that I have for home, the browser just became worthless to me. Most of my work stuff still needs Internet Explorer (no I can’t use Edge either) and without the extensions its just another browser.

There aren’t as many desktop extensions for Firefox but that’s not why I want to use the browser. I’m looking for speed and using less memory on my devices. That’s one of the complaints that I have about using Chrome on my older desktop, it just slows everything down by sucking up the memory. That machine might be a good candidate to install Firefox. I’ll keep checking up on the extensions offered by Firefox, who knows they might come out with the extensions that I like to use on a day to day basis and totally supplant Chrome. Now if they could only come out with a better email client than Outlook, then they could rule my windows desktop experience.

Drawing with Procreate

I’ve been trying to indulge in my creativity by using my iPad Pro to practice drawing. I’m also using it for note taking at work using OneNote but off hours I’m trying to experiment with Procreate. I have used programs like Photoshop in the past but trying to draw using a mouse and keyboard is kind of difficult. Using a pen and tablet makes drawing much easier. When I was using my iPad Air 2 I used a pen by Paper by 53. It was pretty good but the thing I didn’t like was the squishy point. The Apple Pencil has a more firm point so its easier to draw.

I decided to draw Sharka, which is a character by Crazy Shirts that I saw a long time ago on a visit to Hawaii. I have a lot of shirts with his likeness on it and it was relatively simple to draw.

I added a pineapple and a palm tree too just for fun. I definitely liked using all the layers to refine the picture. I just need to start coloring it in and then it will be complete. I’m just trying to think of what sort of background I should draw in. Definitely something that’s Hawaiian but I haven’t decided what. I’m experimenting with some other drawings at the moment but this one is the most complete. The one feature that I do wish they had was a way to draw perfect shapes like circles and the like. There is a way to draw straight lines but I need circles and things with soft edges for some of my drawings that I’m attempting.

I think my 5th grade level drawings aren’t so bad. I think I’ll start drawing Pokémon for my daughter so that I can get better. Maybe my next one that I post online will be Pikachu or some other character that I remember from season 1 (can’t believe they’re on Season 21 now). I subbed drawing for creative blogging tonight, if there is time I’ll draw some tomorrow or start coloring in my Sharka.

iPad Pro for me!

I upgraded from my iPad Air 2 to a new iPad Pro 10.5. I know that its really late in the cycle to upgrade but given the rumors that the new iPad Pro is going to use FaceID, I decided to get the 10.5. The real reason I wanted it was to use the Apple Pencil. I could have gotten the cheaper iPad but I wanted a ton of storage and I wanted the four speakers too since I use this to watch a lot of movies while on the road.

Of course I have the pencil and it works great. I’ve been using it at work to take some notes in Notability which I then port over to OneNote. I also sprung for the keyboard which I’m enjoying. I don’t have to pair it with Bluetooth and it works really fast too for typing. I like to also use it as a more secure stand than the regular flip cover. I try and do a lot of my typing work for personal stuff on the road on the iPad Pro now rather than risk using my work laptop. It just seems safer that way.

I’ve been making good use of Paper by 53 but I think its time to step up my game and graduate to Procreate. I’ve been watching some videos on how to use the app and I especially like the layers feature. I created 2 hand drawn cards using the iPad Pro using Paper by 53. The palm rejection is awesome and so is the way that you can draw with the pencil. Truthfully, the last iPad that I bought was the iPad Mini 2, that iPad now belongs to my daughter. The iPad Air is too useful to sell so that’s my upstairs iPad. The MacBook Pro still has a purpose, there are still too many things that are better on a computer than on an iPad. But stuff like typing up this blog post, the iPad is actually a better medium than the computer.

One of the things I did add to this iPad Pro was something that I have on my original iPad and my iPad 2 which is a matte screen protector. I’ve watched a few videos on YouTube and apparently the writing experience is better since its more ‘paper like’. I haven’t really noticed a difference in my writing or drawing but the one thing that is awesome is how much less finger prints I have to wipe away from the screen. Also it seems easier to swipe and do multi touch gestures with the screen protector on. I had my wife put the screen protector on because she’s much better at it than me, but they need to make this similar to the glass screen protectors for easier application.

I’d write more with the iPad Pro, but there isn’t enough time to make a lot of blog entries. I like this new iPad Pro a lot though, it was definitely money well spent and with the extra storage, I might even get into a little video editing with my Go Pro and DJI Spark videos.

Where are all the baseball fans?

I recently had the opportunity to attend 2 baseball games, one in Miami and another in Dallas.  Both games were pretty good and both were blow outs (although the Rangers didn’t win theirs whereas Miami did).  What was readily apparent was the lack of fans in the stands.  There were huge swaths of the upper deck empty and if you crammed all the box seat people together you might be able to fill up maybe 3/4 of the lower deck.  Thats a ton of money being lost and I attribute it to a few things but the biggest one is cost.

The baseball tickets that I got were relatively cheap at $25 but for a family of 4 thats already $100.  Next expense would be food.  I don’t drink beer or anything like that but I did eat regular food and that stuff is more expensive than eating at an airport so add another $50-$100.  There’s also parking that will run you another $10 and then the kids will want a hat or something so add $25 per child.  You’re over $300 and thats just for a single game.  While that sounds great and all the average person can’t bring their family to cheer on their home team due to the large expense.

One of the largest areas that is lacking is PARKING!  OMG there was no place to park really at either location.  There are 3rd party lots around the ball parks but the management should analyze how much money they could make by creating massive parking garages to house the cars of their fans!  They could be creative and have the garages away from the ball park and give them to take buses or a street car to the game.  That would increase the fan experience right there.  The Marlins were one of the dumbest teams in existence by building a huge stadium in the middle of a residential area so they had no room to put parking.  As I was exiting the game, I noticed that most of the workers are taking up the garage spaces that should be for fans.  If your fans can’t get to the stadium due to distance of parking, you need to re-evaluate your plans.  Something similar is happening now with soccer in Miami.  They thankfully axed the Overtown idea and they will create the new stadium closer to the airport so there is sufficient parking for a mixed use area that includes shopping and offices so it can be used 365 a year for not just soccer but also corporate events too.  Now thats smarter planning.  I’ve found that if you’ve planned for a certain number of parking spaces, you should at least double the number to make sure there is enough parking not only for fans but for the people that work at the stadium which is often missed.  (My new office for work is a prime example, not enough parking spaces for tenants so we’ll have to find our own options to park just to go to the office).

I get it, running a baseball team is expensive but if your team sucks and you’re not putting butts in seats, start lowering prices so people can come to the game.  Stop paying for top players because the sports talking heads say you need it, the farm teams are supposed to feed the majors and having a good farm system to give you future awesome players should be a priority (NY Yankees??).   Baseball salaries are probably one of the biggest drivers of moving ticket prices north, thats probably why seeing minor league teams is more fun.  The cost is low, you can bring the entire family for a reasonable price, and the seats aren’t so far away that you can see your favorite player most of the time.

Alexa Life with the Echo Dot and UE Blast

Alexa has started to infest my home through the Echo Dot and now the UE Blast. I received the Echo Dot as a present for Christmas so that I could start experimenting with a voice assistant. A little while later, I received a UE Blast which has Alexa voice control while also being a really sweet speaker in its own right. My dog likes wires for some reason (that’s very cat like of her) so I got a nice mount for my Echo Dot so it can live in the living room without fear of being dropped (its been dropped twice already by the dog). The UE Blast lives in the office but its rarely on since my wife has no use for voice assistants and I don’t want Alexa listening to me upstairs.

My use cases for Alexa are pretty limited so far, its probably due to my not having a “smart home”. I don’t have the doorbell, thermostat, lights, or garage door opener that could be controlled by Alexa using my Echo Dot or my UE Blast. I definitely don’t shop with it, I’m still old school and I like to see what I’m buying first on the web and then maybe in a store before plunking down hard money. I think the main things that I use my Echo and UE Blast for is music and the weather. The weather is used to find out if I can go motorcycle riding on a given day, music is just for fun and to see if Alexa or Amazon can play the music we ask of it.

The far field mic’s are pretty good, they can hear me from across the room. Obviously the UE Blast has the better sound for music since its also technically a UE Boom with just WiFi and Alexa built in. To make the Echo Dot a little bit better, I paired it with my UE Boom so I can have good music from the Echo Dot, it just requires an extra step of actually turning the UE Boom on and pairing it but that’s a cinch to do. I just yell “Alexa, pair my Bluetooth speaker” and its done in seconds. The UE Blast I just tell it to play music. I used it at my father in laws place while everyone was asleep and it worked really well. I was able to play with the dog and ask Alexa stuff since I was able to connect to the WiFi. The Blast will be my “go to” speaker to bring on vacations if we want to have music wherever we are. It’s got some long battery life and with Alexa built in, it will be quite useful in hotel rooms and other spots like that.

I’ve generally discouraged my daughter from using Alexa too much, unlike Google I can’t really control who Alexa listens to for commands. I can’t count the number of times my daughter has over ridden my music by playing Frosty the Snowman just to mess with me. She has it down so that Alexa just has to hear “Alexa, play frosty!” And it automatically plays the song for her. I’m thinking that when she gets older, maybe I’ll get an Echo Dot for her room or something so that it can wake her up in the morning. I definitely won’t be having one of them in my bed room, I have enough iPhones and other Apple devices that have alarms to wake me up.

What’s becoming difficult is managing all the different devices I have now. For phones and tablets I’m all in on Apple, even my main computer for home is my MacBook Pro. I have Chromecasts and Apple TV’s that are attached to various TV’s. I keep Apple TV 3’s to do streaming from my Apple devices and the Chromecast for my NAS. I now have voice assistants from Amazon but they can’t do anything really since I don’t have a smart home but the music at least is pretty good. I don’t think I’m going to get a Home Pod, I’ve already started down this Alexa path so I might as well keep on going with it regarding voice assistance. With some IFTTT recipes I can technically integrate some things from Alexa to my iPhones and iPads. I was really tempted a few days ago with a sale on Google Home Mini’s but that would have complicated things even more at my home. I’m hoping that Alexa can start recognizing voices, then I can get a few more (maybe without the wife knowing)…….. but I still use Siri when I’m away from home because you know, she right there on my wrist and phone.