Huge Methane Leak You’ve Probably Don’t Know About

Big problems in Los Angeles after an underground containment system failed and started spewing Methane at an incredible 110,000 pounds an HOUR!  Even worse, containment efforts have failed and it’s estimated the leak won’t be stopped for months.

More info here and here.

What We’re Reading/Watching/Buying in December

It’s been a busy month and Christmas is less than a week away (so is a much-needed week off work for yours truly).  As I get older the years just keep speeding up & I don’t know of any way to slow them down!  It’s just the opposite feeling from when I was a kid where the years dripped slower than that bear bottle full of honey.

The Great Cord Cutting Project of 2015 is going better than I could have ever expected & there’s no going back.  I’m spending some of that old evening TV time trying to keep up on the articles I’m always collecting via Pocket.  Some items recently clipped include:

pcq8qzR9iThe Kindle is getting a workout too with several books being read in parallel.  Just depends on what I’m in the mood for.  Stephen King’s 11/22/63 and Andy Weir’s The Martian are both fighting for my attention.
I’ve also taken the opportunity to really dig into what’s available on the streaming services I subscribe to, particularly Netflix and Amazon:

  • The Man in the High Castle (Amazon) is an alternate history story that has the Germans and Japanese wining WWII and taking control of the USA.  It’s a pretty dramatic series that’s full of twists and turns.
  • Narcos (Netflix) depicts the story of Pablo Escobar and the DEA agents assigned with bringing him to justice.  I’m not going to lie, you have to pay attention to this show.  Mainly because it’s 90% Spanish with subtitles.  And a Gringo like me needs them.  No Sprecken la Espanola

belkin-be-F5L171tt-1I’ve been helping keep USPS, FedEx and UPS in business with lots of holiday purchases for friends and family.  Along with those items I picked up a new Keyboard/Case for myself and my iPad Air 2.  The Belkin Qode Ultimate Pro is a great replacement to the Logitech keyboard cover I was using with the last iPad.  It’s a little pricy $150 but It’s currently on sale now for $130.  I’m working on a review but let’s just say that after a few days using it I’m a fan.

25475-inset13After a glowing review from a co-worker I also ordered the Hamilton Beach Breakfast Electric Sandwich Maker.  Seriously, I did!  I’ve see this gadget before but didn’t think it would be any good, especially costing under $30.  Well I’m told this thing really works so I had to see for myself.  When I happen to eat breakfast the egg and cheese (with various meats) is my regular go to.  Delivery is scheduled for Monday so we’ll see how it goes Tuesday morning when I fire that baby up and make my first sausage, egg and cheese muffin.

No matter your religious preference (or not) I hope everyone is gearing up for a fun holiday season with friends and family.  If you get any good tech gadgets or kitchen toys let me know!  I’m always looking for ways to give Amazon more money.

The TSA’s Response to Its Master Key Scandal Is Priceless

us-tsa-master-lock-keys-leak-online-have-already-been-3d-printed-491580-2“Scandal” might be too strong a word. But you’d think the TSA would have been ashamed when hackers released 3D-printer files for its master keys, which can open any any TSA-recommended luggage lock. Does the TSA feel ashamed? Not even close. – Source: Gizmodo

SO, Mr. Traveler, that fancy TSA Approved lock you picked up at the luggage store is just giving you a false sense of security.  It didn’t help that the Washing Post ran an article with a clear picture of every type of key.  All it took was someone with the right 3D Printer software to mock-up a sample & release the templates to the world.

Another thing to add to the list of why flying sucks…

Submarine Cable Map

I love maps, especially old paper maps.  But when I came across this on the Internet I wanted to give it a good look.  The Submarine Cable Map website is a comprehensive and regularly updated interactive map of the world’s major submarine cable systems and landing stations.

Submarine-cable-map-625x405

Why do I find this interesting?  This is how the majority of the worlds communications systems are connected and the Internet would not be what it is today without this kind of infrastructure.  What amazes me is the sheer number of undersea cables throughout the world.  There used to be copper cables under the Atlantic from North America to Europe but those have all been replaced by fiber optic cables which can carry more information over greater distances.

Here is a short video from the “How It’s Made” series that shows how fiber optic cables are made.  It’s a pretty interesting process and you can imagine how much effort it takes to make a cable with hundreds of fiber strands that stretches thousands of miles in a hostile underwater environment.

At one time there were issues with Sharks and other marine creatures damaging the cables.  Changes in manufacturing and installation has helped resolve much of this.  Outages still occur as a result of commercial fishing and the occasional anchor.

So next time you’re watching an NFL game in London or playing an online game with someone in Spain remember how that signal is probably getting to you and the effort it took to make it happen.

Local Starbucks Fights the Ghetto Latte

Now that it’s getting cold outside hot coffee is starting to sound good to me again.  I usually only drink hot drinks in the winter while preferring cold any other time.  I’ve enjoyed iced coffee all summer since its easy to make using a concentrate I get at the local store.

meh_coffeeRemembering I had some money on my Starbucks account I stopped at the location near my office.  It’s been a while since I’ve been in here because the service is well below average.  They seem to dedicate all of their staff activity to the drive-thru and, even today, they were serving 3-4 people in the drive-thru to every one person in the store.

After I ordered my plain coffee & walked over to the condiment bar for a splash of half-and-half.  Wait a minute, the stainless steel thermos is missing!  The guy standing next to me saw what I was looking for and said “you have to ask them for it”.

So back to the pickup counter I go and I waited to get someone’s attention.  The employees were too busy tripping over each other to get the orders out the little window to notice me standing there.  After a few moments I got one of the worker bees attention.  “Cream?” I asked.  She was already reading my mind and grabbed a little paper cup and proceeded to pour out a couple of ounces of the heavy moo juice.   I asked, “do you have one you’d like me to put out on the station”, thinking I would be a nice guy and do them a favor.  “No” she said.  “We keep it back here now so it doesn’t run out as fast”.

Then it hit me.  The Ghetto Latte has gotten so bad they have to ration out the dairy to keep people from cheating the system.  I assure you this is a real thing.  I’ve seen it time and time again where people turn a couple of shots of espresso over ice into one (or in some cases when they ask for an extra cup) two Lattes saving themselves a few dollars in the process.

cheap_coffeeWay to stick it to the man cheap skate.  I’d be willing to bet that’s your idling car parked crooked in the handicapped spot too.  Bonus points if you’re talking on your speaker phone while oblivious to everyones personal space the entire time you’re in the store.

So once again, those who take advantage of things make it inconvenient for others who go with the flow.  Say what you want about Starbucks.  I know it’s over priced and there are better options out there.  In this case it was a choice between office coffee (usually empty), a small Keurig we have in our area (meh, I don’t get the pod thing), or something slightly better.

I’m curious if this practice of keeping the half-and-half behind the counter is a isolated thing at this particular Starbucks or if this is a common practice at other coffee shops too.  Anyone else witness a Ghetto Latte in the making?  I’d love to hear your stories!

What We’re Reading This Week (Nov. 22, 2015)

reading20It’s about an hour before kickoff of the Colts vs. Atlanta game and time for another installment of what we’re reading this week.

  • Yesterday TV Chef Mario Batali came to town for a book signing at the recently opened Market District in Carmel. Liz Biro at the Indy Star had the chance to speak with him and ask a series of great questions from her readers.
  • A NY Times journalist made the trip to Cuba to try and snag a box of hand-rolled smokes from the source and wrote an interesting piece on what it’s like to visit.  Cuba is on my bucket list & I want to make it there before it gets commercialized.
  • The anti-encryption debate heats up in the days after the Paris attacks.  It doesn’t help that ISIS claims to be using Apple’s iMessage for communication.  Wired has a piece on the state of Operational Security (OPSEC) and what the recently released guide being used by ISIS could mean for all of our privacy going forward.
  • And finally this week Medium has a Long Form article about a depressed photographer and his 40,000km trip around the world that took an amazing 4 years to complete…  On a bicycle!  Great images in this one.

That’s it for now.  Fingers crossed that Matt Hasselbeck can pull off a win this week!

The New (and Improved?) Apple TV

apple-tv-remoteApple has finally released the first new AppleTV model in several years.  What was once considered a “hobby” by Steve Jobs has finally matured into an impressive multimedia device!

The 4th version of the AppleTV has a familiar shape and footprint but it’s at least twice the height (and heavier too).  The remote has undergone a major upgraded to include a touch screen and Siri integration as well as an internal, rechargeable, battery that is reported to last up to three months of regular use (charged by the now Apple-standard lightning cable).

I ordered the 64GB unit for $199 on the first day it was available for pre-order (Apple also offers a 32GB device for $50 less).  Being impatient I opted for the next day shipping option in the hopes of receiving a new toy in time for the weekend.

Well it didn’t happen.  My package was stuck on a loading dock in Tennessee and didn’t leave until sometime on Sunday.  Apple refunded my overnight shipping cost which was appreciated (I had to call them to get this done though).  I love the ability to get detailed tracking of packages but this had the reverse impact as the shipment didn’t get updated for days.

While reviewing the Apple forums full of other people waiting for their shipments I learned about a carrier in Europe that not only tells you the status of your package but you can see the progression on a real-time map.  If that wasn’t cool enough you also know the name of the delivery driver along with a 30-minute delivery window (also updated in real time).  Talk about stalking the delivery Guy!

AppleTV 4 Ports
Being an early adopter can be fun but it has its frustrations as well.  Physical setup of the new Apple TV was relatively smooth once I figured out a work around for the missing “optical audio-out” (S/PDIF) I was using with the last model.  The App Store, which is one of the big selling factors of this new model, was not very exciting the first couple of days.  Not a lot of “must have” apps and nothing was categorized so finding apps to download and try out was not as easy as it should have been.

Now that things have been up and running for a few weeks the store is getting better and more useful apps are starting to become available.  The Siri remote is the real star here.  With it you can basically ask for a particular movie, actor, or genre and a list of options magically show up on the screen complete with a list of where you can view the content and pricing (if any).  Right now this search is limited to Netflix, Hulu and the Apple Store but it’s supposed to be opening up to other services soon.  This is a similar feature that Roku has had for a while but dictating with your voice is the new (and better) input method.

App StoreI’ve written two posts about my Cord Cutting project and how it’s been going.  The new AppleTV has made the transition from Cable to Over The Air (OTA) content and streaming media a lot easier and the App Store keeps getting better every day.  I think as this platform matures there could be some interesting capabilities surface that will make the 4th generation AppleTV an integral part of the entertainment stack.

It’s time to start thinking about the next electronic purchase and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a TV upgrade. My 38″ Plasma has served me well for many years but 55-60″ of UHD (or 4k) video sounds very appealing.  And the prices keep coming down to the sub-thousand level which makes it a more attractive buy.

I’m wanting to get a bigger screen and possibly install it over the fireplace.  I’ve heard good and bad things about this mounting location but after seeing an articulating wall mount that allows you to pull the TV down in front of the (unlit) fireplace for a better viewing angle I think that’s the way I’m going to go.

I’d love to hear from any of you who have feedback on the over-the-fireplace mounting option.  Is it that bad?  I’m going to be 15+ feet away from the screen so that makes the viewing angle relatively flat (that was the main complaint from people who chose the higher mounting position).

Thoughts?  Please leave them in the comments section below.