Tuesday, September 27, 2016


This last weekend I used a 40% discount coupon from my local (Seattle-based) Metropolitan Market which they give regular customers (freebies or discounts for each week for a month 2-3 times a year) to buy a 6-cup Chemex drip coffee maker.

I've always wondered about the Chemex claim their filters reduce the bitterness in coffee over other drip filter brands. I've long used Melitta filters since buying a Melitta Vintage coffee maker in the mid-1980's (two repairs to date), along with using their standard 1, 2 and 6 cup drip coffee system.

So, twice (separate days) I made pots with the Chemex system and a comparable Melitta system. I use a Braun coffee grinder (burr type with a 1-16 scale set for 3) with Starbucks Kopelani coffee.  I use espresso grind because it reduces the amount of coffee you need per cup and still not clog filters.

And the very subjective taste test results for the two type two times were the same. The Chemex-made coffee had just a slightly less bitter taste than the Melitta-made coffee. Slight enough for me to barely taste the difference, maybe more for some and less for others depending on your taste sensitivity.

So my initial conclusion is that it does make a difference which changes the taste just a bit, but it is worth for the price of the Chemex and filters (about $9-10 per box of 100)? Maybe, if you want to have one, but not if you don't need one unless it's on sale or for a discount.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


Everyone has a list of photographers who have made them learn and think. They start with those that got them started, those whose work they admired, and those whose work makes them think. I prefer that last group, photographers who make me look at their images and ask myself what makes it good and what can I do with my photography, not to emulate them, but make mine different.

Every photographer has their innate strengths in their photographic eye and the weakness, those things they just don't see or have to think to see. We're all in this camp. It may reflect some aspects of their personality and perspective or the opposite. For example, I tend to look and see whole scenes and struggle looking at the small things, or even the asymetrical images. So I like to see the work of photographers who do see differently than me along with those who are far better than me at what I like to do.

And so, like everyone, I have my list. And who are they?

Galen Rowell.

Sam Abell.

Pat O'Hara.

Walker Evans.

Henri Cartier Breeson.

1890's photographers, especially those working around Mt. Rainier.

Ansel Adams, but for one image, View of the Sierras at Sunrise from Lone Pine, California.

I have a poster print of this image by Adams because I've been in the area of where it was taken, but more so admire the whole scene to capture a moment. I don't know if this was an instant see and capture photograph, like the one, Moonrise of Hernadez, New Mexico, or a planned one, often his method working in the Sierras.

These are photographers I keep going back to and looking at the body of their work and their books, and also at their character and work as a photographer, clearly far more than I have done or will ever do, but still something to admire and inspire.

Mac OS Sierra

I suspect by now if you're intested in Apple's new operating system, MacOS Sierra, aka OS-X 10.12, then you've already read a lot about it, and likely downloaded and installed it. Good luck there, and I'll just add my comments from yesterday's day-long affair with it.

First, the whole download, install, reboot, review, change, update apps, reboot again, like 4 times, for changes or recovering memory took just over 6 hours, with the rest of the day working on the problems, some of which weren't resolved until this morning.

Anyway, some thought on MacOS Sierra.

First, the console window looks and works differently, and it sucks. I like the old one, but more so this one for another reason, the endless stupid chatter that didn't clog the console in OS-X 10.11. It's mostly geek shit literate users don't need to understand problems with applications the console window was useful to have.

It's clear programmers forgot to code out comments in the applications before releasing them because they're all just repetititive technical chatter about what the computer is doing than anything useful to help see what the app is doing or not doing.

A good example is that the Time Machine (or what HD you use) doesn't have the same basic information it wrote to the console window under OS-X 10.11 about starting, working, memory, HD's, files, etc. Now it's geek talk you have to be a programmer to know but nothing useful about the actual backup.

On the backup, the widget for it no longer works because it's written for the El Capitan version, and the management of the widgets (plus/minus signs in circles) doesn't work anymore, or continues to not work as it didn't work under OS-X 10.11.

This is because they completely rewrote the backup application, something they didn't really need to do after they fixed and refined it over the life of OS-X 10.11. It's back to square one again. Apple keeps reinventing the wheel and breaking it, instead of just refining it.

Onward. This has to be the slowest version of OS-X in its history. Even when working normally, the spinning rainbow wheel is a common response from the computer. That and it keeps having problems with bluetooth to the mouse, taking 2-3 clicks before it responds to switching apps.

Another thing I noticed is the softwareupdated daemon. It's used by the Apple App and iTunes stores when you install or update apps (iTunes moved to this daemon from it's own daemon). The daemon eats memory, using ~1.5 GB's for almost any update, smaller updates are 500 MB's to 1 GB.

The problem is the memory isn't released and can't be recovered, even by the daily maintenance, which moves it to inactive memory, the price Apple says makes reusing apps faster. I'm ok with that but not at 1.% GB's worth for one daemon. It's more than the kernal task uses.

If you don't want to keep it there, you can only update apps weekly or so and them reboot to recover the memory. Hopefully Apple will fix this, but then I'm not holding my breath with Apple updates anymore.

In additon, like many before me have noted, I can't get the debug menu option in the Apple App store (I have the preference set to show it) to clear the cookies, which can be done manually by deleting the files before opening the app, and reset the application.

And typical with Apple with the war with Adobe, it's installs more controls with Safari over Flash in browsers, one asking the user if they want to use flash on a Web page, but you can click, "Always use" to get on with the browser.

And at least Apple didn't remove Oracle's Javascript it did with some upgrades, forcing you to get and install it again. They didn't remove Safari Technology Preview (STP) browser, which was the precuser to Safari 10.

And Apple kept the great, simple bookmarks editor with just a cosmetic change (from STP) which is ok. It's easier to read, but a little harder to move bookmarks without scrolling. This editor is the best of all of the browser bookmark editor, especially Google's Chrome and Chromium.

I have tested all the apps yet, some were removed when the installation flagged them for incompatibility with Sierra. I use App Delete which is a cool little app for removing all traces of most apps, but you have to ensure you don't remove files common with later versions you may have.

I like to keep 2-3 versions of apps, more with Adobe since they last longer with upgrades, and because I prefer them over newer versions, eg. Cookies and Mail Satellite. Some older versions still may not open or work, but the installation didn't flag them as obvious.

I did find Bartender 2.1.6, supposedly Sierra compatible, doesn't completely work with Sierra, so they have some work to do, and hopefully soon as it's the best I've seen for managing menu bar icons (apps).

Anyway, that's the personal notes to date, and I'll add more as I find them.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Buying On-line

I have some fairly straight-forward rules when buying on-line, although I've broken them more than a few times because there were no other options, but I also got lucky most of the time. So here's what I've learned and "generally" practice.

First, I try not to use Amazon if I can. I don't like the company, and especially their founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, but I have purchased products not available elsewhere, such is the power of Amazon to control the marketplace.

I don't use their marketplace stores anymore because despite a few successes, I've had more problems with them than successes. They don't vet their on-line stores as I think they should. I had one do a bait and switch because they didn't have the product they advertised, and then refuse to acknowledge it for a refund.

I've had decent luck with E-Bay over the years, but I restrict buying to those with excellent reputations, a long history and perceived honesty in communications. I have been burnt a few times but that's few compared to the many good sellers,

I don't buy from E-Bay of late for anything other than photography equipment, much of which I buy from KEH now and only E-Bay when they don't have it, because I've been burnt more often with the wrong product than advertised.

Ok, onward, to the rules. First I tend to stay with reputable, established businesses if possible, with one exception besides the two companies above, Walmart. They don't get my businesses. Their history of their source of products (China), bad treatment of American companies, and worse treatment of employees can't be denied.

I've only bought one product from their stores, a CD by the Eagles who sole-sourced them to release it. Not a fan of the Eagles for that or any band who does that. True it's business and their right, but it's my right as a customer too.

Anyway, often there are products that aren't available from local stores, established business, reputable on-line stores, so buying becomes something of a risk, and the best you can do is minimize it and don't buy from bad ones again.

The first rule is their Website has to have either a brick and board store or a warehouse you can verify. I don't buy from on-line stores who don't have a physical address on their Website, and a P.O. box isn't enough for me.

I also check their domain name to see who owns it and its history. That tells you if the seller is smart enough to own and manage their domain name (mine is owned and managed by me). Often the domain name is another company who operates hundreds, even thousands of them for other and often short-term businesses.

The second rule is that it must be based in the United States or Canada. It can be a foreign or international company but it must have a US or Canadian address. The only exception to this and the Amazon rule is Amazon Japan for CD's not available in the US.

This is because Apple hasn't made many inroads into Japan against Sony Music which domainates the CD and download music business, meaning buying from Japanese on-line stores, and Amazon generally has what I've needed so far. And it's been fun watching the DHL tracking from Japan.

That said, there's not much beyond these rules. It's a judgement call to decide if the on-line store doesn't have the information and is the only or few stores. It's the old adage, buyer beware and be smart, as best you can.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

IOS 10

Well, I updated my iPhone 5s, which I'm looking to replace in near future for the iPhone SE, not the 6-series or new 7-series because I don't like or want the larger size as I have an iPad Air, and I updated the iPad Air (1st version) to IOS 10.

I suspect IOS 10 is the last version for these devices, as Apple seems to drop the oldest models with new IOS upgrades. My original iPad (still working, but mostly a file backup) has long been obsolete with IOS versions (last IOS 5).

Onward with the story. This was probably the most frustrating upgrade I've had, not because upgrades often change user settings forcing you to walk through all the settings and reset them, if you remember what those were, but because of user functionality.

The first thing you notice is the new way to unlock the device, not through just a swipe but touching the Home button twice (once to wake it up and another to get the login screen). This takes time to remember, because a swipe right now brings the widgets.

And those widgets, something set for you by default and you can edit them. I removed all of them since I don't use that screen. I also don't use the pull down (from top) or up (from bottom) of screen for access to those features.

In short, I'm a curmudgeon who uses the apps. I don't need the shortcuts or summary screens, I just open the app I want. I still haven't gotten the 5s to recognize my fingerprint. It worked the first time for a few times and then never again, even removing and adding the same fingerprint back.

This measn I use the passcode. Anyway, after that there was the new icon (Home) for stuff Apple or somebody wants to sell, but I moved to the last page where I put all the used Apple icons in two folders. The good news is that you can now remove the former Apple apps, so I removed over half of them.

That done, all the apps worked as they have except Apple Music which is Apple's long-standing practice to screw it up everytime with the first version of any new IOS version, and true to form they did a masterful job in many ways.

First, it didn't display the picture for 21 of the 35 artists in the artist list, but it did show all the album artwork. In addition the user interface and functionality also sucks. I'm not sure what they're thinking how people use Music, but this design isn't it for me.

But that's not the worst of it. It's what Apple did with the library that really sucks. I had IOS 9 set for displaying only the music in the device, not any in the iCloud (none there anyway since I don't share my iTunes with Apple) and not any in iTunes.

The upgrade adds all the albums you've purchased from the iTunes store and adds them to catalog with the button to download them if you want. Why? I have them in iTunes, but that's another problem they have between iTunes and IOS Music.

To remove unwanted albums you have to do them individually, and yes, it took an hour to go through and remove all the albums not actually on the device, and get it back to the catalog I had with IOS 9. This really sucks on their part to assume what users want than asking or add a setting.

They did this by removing the control to restrict albums to just those on the device. Now it's all through the iCloud, which is the other problem. I don't use iCloud for backups or music, it's all done through iTunes.

But they broke that connection, and adding or removing songs in iTunes catalog for a device doesn't coordinate with IOS Music in the device. When I removed all the music (the sync button in iTunes), it didn't work. I had to remove all the music in Music on the device and reload through iTunes.

This is a problem Apple has to solve as many users still rely on iTunes to manage the content and music on their device(s). This may have been an initial problem which resolves itself, something I'm still testing adding or removing individual albums.

The good side of this was that I don't keep any music, or didn't, until the upgrade on my iPad. For some really stupid reason the upgrade to IOS 10 on the iPad duplicated the music catalog on the iPhone, so I had to manually remove all the albums from the iPad catalog.

I learned the music isn't really there on the iPad Air, it's only about 100 MB (it's 6 GB's on the iPhone) of just images and probably links to something, but not acutal music files. I have the setting in iTunes to not sync music with the iPad Air, but apparently Apple ignores that now.

It seems Apple wants you to do everything through the iCloud so they can see and control it, for you of course (great selling point about the accessing it anywhere), but it takes control away from you. Now I have add to the test adding and/or removing albums on iPhone to see if it's duplicated on the iPad Air.

Anyway, all the rest of IOS 10 seems innocuous to me, or doesn't interfer with anything I do with either device, so far anyway, but I'm sure I'll learn more and get just as angry with Apple as with the initial upgrade.

And yes, I'll keep ya'll posted.

Friday, September 9, 2016


Some recent stuff I've observed as computers are taking over our lives. Nothing earth-shaking, and known to many already, but just stuff I'm running into more of it now as it seems required to pay bills. So what's the new stuff I've seen?

First, my Primay Care Physician's (PCP's) clinic has contracted out their billing and collection services to a third-party company in Maine (I live near Seattle, Washington). I was curious about this after seeing a bill from specialty medical lab in the Northeast using the same company.

What's even more interesting is the statements from this company offer on-line payment, but through another third-party company. This means you PCP shares your medical billing and financial information (provider) with one other company and two if you pay on-line.

This is not new as larger medical non-profit and for profit medical companies have a separate financial company for billing and collection (had bad dealings with one I refuse to use anymore), but it's moved into the small clinics and doctors so they're absolved of those in-house costs.

Second, is how many companies now allow on-line, even automatic, payment through their Website. But you have to check if that is their Website or a third-party Website under contract. It's important because you're sharing you bank information with these companies.

True, many companies now scan checks and submit electronic copies or digital infomation to your bank. But these companies don't have access to withdraw funds, only submit requests to transfer funds.

On-line banking through these companies requires you give them rights to withdraw funds directly. I get three types of withdrawls now in my banks statements, regular checks submitted by companies, electronic checks, and direct withdrawl requests.

The first two require the banks to process the withdrawls as normal checks. The last, however, is processed as approved by you without further processing. Automatic withdrawls allows them to make withdrawls without approving them individually.

And while automatic withdrawls sound efficient for the consumer to avoid late payments, it's removes the consumer from oversight except after the fact of the withdrawl. So if the company makes a mistake, it's already out of your account before you've had a chance to say, "Hey, this isn't right!"

And now many of those third-party billing and payment companies offer it, you're giving the same information to a company you don't know and worse if you use automatic payment with them. There one example I've seen recently.

I rent an apartment where the tenants pay the pro-rated per tenant cost for landscaping services, water, electricity used for common areas (office, outdoor lights, etc.) for the complex, trash and recycling collection. Those services are provided through the management company from the various service companies through a third-party bill collection company.

This means the individual service provider bills the complex management who then consolidates the bills through the billing and collection company to the tenants with their rent. That company then pays the service companies for the total bill for the complex.

Now that billing and collection company wants me to sign up for on-line payment, even automatic payment. This company provides this services to many apartment complexes in the Pacific Northwest. And this is where I start having issues with it.

The old way was the service provider billed the complex which billed the tenants and then pays the service companies. Now there's a third-party company in between the services companies and the complex, and the tenant, meaning more layers to the whole system.

Right now I just pay the complex management and they pay the third-party billing company which pays the service companies. The billing and payment company doesn't see my account information, only the complex management.

I only have a few companies through on-line payment, companies I've used for decades and trust their computer security is good enough to trust with my banking information to withdraw finds from my accounts.

All the rest I require them to submit paper (only small companies do this anymore) or electonic checks to the bank. This keeps the bank in the loop to review the withdrawl, and whatever level it is, it's better than just granting direct withdrawls.

Anyway, that's the observations. Be careful with on-line banking and payment companies. Check them before you just sign up and share you banking information. It's the way the world works now, but you can be in control to some degree.

BOA Sucks

Everyone, ok, most everyone, knows Bank Of America (BOA). I first ran into them in the 1970's in Californai and learned just how bad they are, and vowed never to bank with them. But now, all these years later, I run into them now and then, and they're still proving how bad they still are.

I've had a line of credit with US Bank and their predecessor banks (the banks they took over) for over 25 years and I've never had a check be rejected or bounce. Never. I wrote one for bill two weeks ago and the company called to say BOA rejected the account.

I went to the company and the woman said BOA, which goes through their company to their parent company, where the account is with BOA, rejected it. Note, BOA didn't say "insuffiicent funds", but "not valid account", and from now on they would not accept any check from me, only cashier's checks.

This isn't my failure, as I asked them to call US Bank to verify the account and the funds, which they said they won't because the decision has already been made and they can't change it. They said the local manager can reset the account to accept my checks, but she wouldn't know until Monday.

So I went to US Bank, got a cashier's check on the line of credit and took that to the company, making it clear where the funds came from to verify it's a valid account with sufficient funds. Then she said there will be a $75 late fee, which isn't my fault since they recieved the check by the deadline, and a $50 bank fee, which also isn't my fault but the bank's.

I said I won't pay it because neither was created by me but by BOA. She said that's the manager's decision to waive the fees, the former the manager can when the account is reset to accept my checks again, and the latter the manager has to inform BOA not to charge being their fault and not mine.

Yeah, you get the picture. Someone at BOA mis-coded the check. I'm not sure if it was submitted, but US Bank said they haven't seen it to reject it. So why do I have to pay for the company and BOA who made the mistakes?

And why are the fees to f**king high? Oh, I forgot, for profit by BOA and companies. Never mind they created the situation which the computers automatically charges late fees. And why do I get stuck now with a company not accepting my checks on other accounts?

I'm sure many people have run into these problems, but this is the first time with this company in almost 30 years and with BOA. I'm expecting I'll have to pay one or both fees to keep the company and/or BOA from filing against my credit rating.

And fighting it would cost more than the fees. They know this and why they set their computers to automatically do it. The banks offer all these services but then can't manage them correctly, and then charge the consumer fees to cover their own mistakes.

Anyway, just one of those days in the era of computer banking. It's not the computers, it's the people setting the rules the computer uses.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

A Fork

Sadly, after losing 5 of 7 games against the Chicago White Sox, being swept in a 3 game series against Texas and this weekend losing 2 of 3 against the Los Angeles Angeles, going 3 and 11 in all, they're now only 2 games above .500 and 5 games out of the 2nd spot in the wildcard race behing 5 other teams.

You can stick a fork in their season, it's done and toast. Twice they were 10 games above .500 and in the chase for the wildcard game, needing to be at least 12 games above .500, and twice the team went on losing streaks to drop out, and this time it's too close to the end to catch up.

The reality is that they're good team, but not consistently good enough to compete with the best. The best pitchers have failed too often, their defense has stumbled at times and their offense has become anemic at times.

In short, they lost games they should have won or blew them with errors, bad relief pitching, or not scoring when they had great chances. They did themselves in and now they're just playing to end the season and for next year's team.

But even that won't be enough because their minor leagues teams are lacking in depth of players to play at the major league level as we've seen throughout the year. They just don't have the team, better than previous years, and they don't have the future team.

That's why they have a new GM and a new manager, but that's not enough when you can't field a consistently competitive winning team for 162 games, as we've seen this year. They were there, but overachieved to get there and then underachieved to drop back.

So much for another season. Add another fork for is year, and hope for next year, but that's been management's tale to fans, "We'll be better.", but they're not and won't without management doing more to field a better team.