Month: April 2021

Give Me A Call

  • The year was 2017. The number one song on the Billboard 100 was Slide by Calvin Harris. The best picture that year was Moonlight. The bad orange man was sworn in to office. And Google (don’t be evil) released the Pixel 2. That was a different decade and I was determined not to get sucked into the iPhone cult, so I switched from my crank operated flip phone to the Pixel. Actually, my only reason for going with the Google phone was the camera. I’m all about the Instagram selfies. I’ve been pretty happy with it (the phone, not the selfies). I’ve had zero issues other than a loose USB-C port that’s been the source of some charging and connectivity problems. But, technology marches on and it’s time to upgrade. Well, I don’t want to upgrade but I have to solve the navigation problems with the ginormous motorcycle and this is step one. So which phone? I pulled up a comparison list of specs for the top sellers and after 30 seconds my eyes glazed over. I don’t care about specs. I’m not in the corporate world any more, so I’m not trying to do Zoom meetings on my mobile. I only do a few things with my phone. I send text messages so I don’t have to actually speak to humans. I take pictures. I attempt to use navigation/maps. I look up random facts on the internet while waiting for the coffee to brew. Oh, and once every month or so I actually make a phone call. That’s it. I don’t need a 1.21 Jiggawatt processor to send text messages. So, which phone to buy? Between the latest Samsung, Pixel, and iPhone models the cameras seem roughly equal. I’m not taking pics for museum quality prints… I don’t need an f 1.7, wide angle, super view, dark mode, lidar enhanced, espresso capable, quad lens. I take pictures of the dog for Instagram (he’s very popular). Mrs Troutdog is a faithful citizen of the Apple ecosystem and has been putting out some heavy pressure to switch over. I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed, but I’m a Microsoft guy and I’m just not ready to switch to iCloud to try and get cross-device syncing to work. So it’s between the Samsung s21 and the Pixel 5. Samsung’s camera is probably a touch better, but I’m not a fan of how they over sharpen their images. I’d rather ruin images by over saturating them myself. Besides, I’d have to sell off some Bitcoin to afford the latest Samsung. Looks like I’m staying with team Pixel. I’m heading to the store this afternoon so stay tuned. I’m extremely gullible and susceptible to salespeople, so who knows what I’ll actually come home with. I might be sporting a fancy new Xiaomi Redmi, featuring background data sync with China’s office of state telecom security cloud service. Free cloud storage!
  • If you haven’t been following along, the Chauvin trial doesn’t appear to be going well for the state. The possibility of a finding other than murder is looking more likely. And as I’ve said before, Minneapolis will burn if that happens. I wouldn’t schedule a vacation trip to catch a Minnesota Twins game anytime soon.
  • 60 Minutes was once the pillar of investigative journalism. After their hit piece on Florida gov DeSantis, it’ll be hard to trust anything they publish moving forward. If you haven’t seen it, here’s what 60 Minutes aired vs what his full answer to the question was. I don’t care if you like the governor or not, you can’t watch that and still say it was unbiased reporting.
  • A baby elephant trying to be fierce. Because who doesn’t like baby elephants?
  • Today is the official end of winter. Well, for me. I had fully intended to get a couple of last days of skiing in this week before the resort and ski trails close this weekend. Life got in the way and I’m not able to go. So that’s it. Done. Winter 20/21 is over. Now starts the countdown to full snow melt and summer activities. Around these parts it’s known as “mud season”. I’m not a fan. Guess I’ll just have to ride the motorcycle for the next month.

Song of the day: Bush – Swallowed – 7/23/1999 – Woodstock 99 East Stage

I Got Lost

It was supposed to be a simple, short, day trip (Gilligan’s Island, a three hour tour plays in the background). If you haven’t been following along, I’ve declared this year as my “summer of George”. The plan is to travel, mostly by motorcycle, and visit as many off the beaten track sights as I can. Phase one was changing my work hours to make this possible, and purchasing the right motorcycle. With that done, it’s now time to start the actual adventures. I have a handful of rides on the new bike under my belt, so I felt ready to do a mini-adventure to test things out before I hit the road on a multi-day trip.

The plan was to ride to a quirky museum I’d found on-line called Cleo’s Ferry Museum on the banks of the Snake river. It was about an hour and a half away, traveling entirely on backcountry farm roads – no interstate travel. I also wanted to experiment with how to document the trip (and future adventures). Do I want to make YouTube videos or just photography? I’ve seen plenty of YouTube motorcycle travel videos and it looks pretty simple. A couple of GoPro cameras, chat about the scenery as you cruise through the countryside, then give insightful commentary once you arrive at your destination. I got the GoPro’s all set up and loaded up my tank bag with extra batteries, memory cards, various accessories, and my regular camera. Time to ride!

The ride out to farmland went great. I was busy chatting away to the camera and enjoying the first real warm day of spring. Discovery number one was that turning on/off cameras one handed while riding a motorcycle and wearing leather gloves is challenging. It’s impossible to see if they’re recording or not. I had multiple instances where I was babbling away like an idiot only to realize the cameras never started recording because I didn’t fully push the button. Or that I’d thought I’d turned them off and ended up recording another 15 minutes of nothing, draining the batteries. You think texting and driving is bad? I can easily see myself riding into a ditch as I stare intently at the GoPro and fumble with the on/off button with gloved fingers.

Discovery number two was a known issue that I thought I was prepared for, but failed miserably. As I’ve chronicled previously, I’ve had an issue with the USB connection on my phone, Android Auto, and the navigation display on the motorcycle. It’s been randomly shutting off leaving me without a map. I’m 90% certain the USB C connection on my phone is the problem as it connects/disconnects if I wiggle the cable around. No biggie, I’d looked at my route on the computer pretty carefully and felt like even if it cut out a few times I still had a good sense of where I was going. Almost on cue, as soon as I hit the winding backcountry roads the navigation display started cutting out. In person these roads looked nothing like they did on the computer. Remote, no signs or landmarks, and all kinds of random unmarked side roads everywhere. Pretty soon I’d made multiple turns and had zero idea where I was.

Not an issue except that every time the navigation cut out I’d have to stop the motorcycle, dig out my phone from the tank bag and wiggle the cord until the display came back. Stopping on a motorcycle is not the same as a car. You need a reasonably flat surface and many of these country roads have no shoulder, just a steep ditch on either side. By the time I’d stopped a half dozen times I was getting frustrated. I’d pull out the phone, try and memorize the next few turns, wiggle the cord, put everything back in the tank bag, put my gloves back on, then take off. Two minutes later the navigation would cut out, I’d forget the name of the next road and have stop and start the process all over. Multiple times I’d find myself on a dead end road and have to backtrack. My carefree ride was quickly losing the enjoyment factor.

After several hours of this I finally found my destination. I pulled into the gravel parking lot, found a shady spot and shut the bike down. I was tired and dripping with sweat. Fully armored riding gear is great when there’s airflow. The last several hours of stopping/starting in the increasing spring heat left me soaking wet. No matter, I was here and it was time to capture some fun video and pictures of my destination! Discovery number three – a motorcycle is not like a car. You can’t just take off your jacket and lock it in the vehicle. I have an expensive helmet and jacket I can’t just leave sitting on the bike. So even though it was getting ridiculously hot I kept the jacket on and lugged the helmet, a GoPro camera and my regular camera with me as I set off to explore the museum.

Turns out, the museum wasn’t really a museum and there weren’t any ferries to see. It was a mile and a half “nature” walk with some old buildings and an eclectic and bizarre collection of hundreds of lawn gnomes, sculptures, and wandering peacocks. I’m sure someone like Mike Rowe could have made an interesting video segment about this place, but I was hot and tired. I was fumbling with the GoPro, the heavy helmet, and my regular camera was hanging on its strap around my neck and bouncing around. Somehow in that jostling a button got pushed and the camera’s display turned off. Standing in the hot sun in a heavy motorcycle jacket, sweat running down my back, I couldn’t figure out how to get the camera display back on so I had to abandon taking any pictures. At this point I’d had enough of Cleo’s Ferry Museum and trudged back to the bike.

The batteries on the GoPro were all dead, so at this point I was ready to just get back home. I packed everything up, mounted the bike and headed out on the most direct route back. I hadn’t eaten anything since early morning and had no water. The prudent thing to do would have been to find a café or something and grab a bite to eat and some water. I didn’t want to deal with the navigation again and rationalized it was only an hour ride going the direct route home. I am not the sharpest crayon in the box sometimes and should have known that this trip was destined to not go well.

I hit construction zones that detoured me in circles. I got stuck in traffic that had the bike nearly overheating. I got briefly lost again navigating a downtown I’d only been in once before. I pulled into my garage just before dinner, tired, hot, hungry, and with an aching back and dull headache from dehydration. My several hour adventure turned had turned into an all day affair without food or water. Virtually nothing had gone as planned.

Clearly my path to YouTube stardom will be harder than I thought. On the bright side, I know what I need to address before my next adventure. Better to find out now I suppose. All in all, I still love the idea of what I’m doing. And I have to laugh at my level of ineptness sometimes. I’m sure this won’t be my last epic failure. But I’m looking forward to whatever ridiculousness comes my way on these future travels. Life is too short not to have these experiences.

A Technological Disaster

Why can’t things just be easy? When it comes to technology, things have a way of becoming unnecessarily complicated for me. Which is slightly ironic since I was a tech guy back in the stone age. The issue isn’t that I can’t figure out how to fix things, it’s why do they happen to me in the first place? I had a planned motorcycle ride yesterday (the fifth or sixth on the new ginormous bike) and wanted to make a video and practice some navigation stuff. I shall now entertain you with a list of my technological failures:

  • I couldn’t get the audio on the helmet to GoPro working. It worked before, now it wasn’t. I ended up pulling out all the wires and reconnecting everything which didn’t fix it. After some internet search time I found a GoPro setting that somehow got changed. Audio now working. Time spent, 45 minutes.
  • Camera mount on the handlebars suddenly won’t hold up the camera in the wind. It worked on the previous bike, but not now.
  • I managed to yank out the audio cable for the camera while opening up my visor at the gas station. In a fit of frustration I decided to abandon filming the ride and stuck the camera gear in the tank bag. I decided to focus on learning to use Android Auto with the bikes built in display unit.
  • Ten minutes down the road, Android Auto disconnects. I pull over and wiggle the connection to the phone and it reconnects. My phone is old and the USB C connection is loose. It’s a known issue, but I’ve been reluctant to get a new phone since I’ve spent a truckload of money already this year. I came prepared for this and used some rubber bands to keep the connection tight.
  • Twenty minutes later, Android Auto disconnects again. Pull over and this time my Bluetooth headset powered off for some unknown reason. Turn it back on and reconnect.
  • Another disconnect. Pull over and the rubber bands both broke. Wiggle the connection and back in business.
  • Another disconnect. This time the phone overheated and powered off. Turns out the tank bag has a clear plastic top where the phone sits. That clear plastic acts like a magnifying glass and the phone was burning hot.

At this point I gave up. Fortunately I knew where I was going, so just concentrated on enjoying the ride. But why does everything have to be so difficult? Is it just me or does everyone face these challenges? On top of these things, it turns out that neither Android Auto or Apple Carplay are able to utilize a custom route. This is important since they navigate based upon the fastest route. Great for commuting, but I don’t want to take the fastest route, I want to enjoy the backroads and roads less traveled. Otherwise, how am I going to find the worlds largest ball of string? Very frustrating since I don’t want to have to buy a separate GPS. I suppose that’s the purpose of these shakedown rides – to get everything dialed in before I go somewhere unknown to me. But would it be too much to ask for something to just work, first time?

  • Yosemite National Park to Install Auto Belay System on El Capitan. Bravo Climbing.com. For a minute you had me. First day of April and all.
  • We started re-watching the Sopranos from season 1. We watched in real time when it originally came out and I hadn’t seen it since. What a fantastic series. I honestly don’t think you could make that series today. Someone would get all butt-hurt about something and protest.
  • Facebook and Instagram have taken down Trump’s interview with daughter-in-law Lara. FB told Lara Trump that “content posted in the voice of President Trump is not currently allowed on our platforms (including new posts with President Trump speaking) and will be removed”. Think about that for a minute. One of the largest media platforms on the planet decided they will censor a former sitting president. If you had told me that a few years ago I would have laughed. What’s frightening is how many people get most of their news from FB. No bias there. I suppose it’s ok. Words are scary. He might incite the bugaloo bois to jump out of the bushes and, you know, do some insurrection or something.
  • Ya’ll have a great weekend. I’m off for a three day work stent, so I’ll be tired and grumpy. Fingers crossed for warm weather and no wind next week.

Song of the day: Alabama 3 Woke up This Morning (The Sopranos Mix)