Hopped Up Hoppin’ John

Dreading the thought of another New Year’s Day meal of bland black eyed peas and boiled beyond recognition collards. Fear not, there is hope with Whole Foods Luke’s Hopped Up Hoppin’ John and Dave’s Yankee Greens from last winter.

Ingredients

I’ve listed the ingredients in the order of addition. The evening before preparation, measure out the black eyed peas, check them for foreign matter, and put them on to soak.

Serrano pepper’s are hotter than Charlotte in August so handle them with gloves and wash up the cutting board and tools in hot soapy water.

  1. bacon, diced , 6-8 slices
  2. chorizo sausage, 1
  3. yellow onion, 1 cup diced small
  4. celery, 1 cup diced small
  5. red bell pepper, 1 cup diced small
  6. Serrano pepper deseeded and minced, 1/2
  7. garlic, 3 cloves minced
  8. cayenne pepper, 1/4 tsp
  9. bay leaf, 1
  10. fresh thyme, 4 spring pulled 
  11. chili power, 1 tsp
  12. black eyed peas, 1 1/2 cups
  13. rice, 1 cup
  14. beef stock, 6 cups

Method

I like to do my bacon in a 350 oven so I’ll dice it up and get it going while I dice the vegetables.

Luke’s method follows.

  1. Dice the veggies up, Serrano pepper last and queue up at the stove
  2. Peel the chorizo sausage and mash it flat with a potato masher or similar tool (board knife, big cleaver, etc).
  3. Dice up the bacon
  4. Fry bacon in dutch oven
  5. Remove bacon and set aside
  6. Gently brown the chorizo in the bacon fat.
  7. Add vegetables and spices and cook through — onions translucent. Additional oil is not indicated. If roasting bacon and sausage, move to the stove top at this point.
  8. Drain soaking black eyed peas
  9. Add stock, black eyed peas, bacon and simmer for 20 minutes
  10. Add rice and simmer 25 minutes until rice and beans are tender

2013, Year of Changes

winter_wonderland_by_porbital-d5qx9lp

Winter Wonderland — http://porbital.deviantart.com

About the image

This photograph is an Internet image by the artist Pete at the link. Unfortunately, Pete didn’t give contact information or license information. I’ve used this image without permission on a non-commercial share with attribution basis.

cc-license

I’m 65 and I Like It

With apologies to Alice Cooper! But this October I celebrated my 65th name day. (Well 66th if you are a C programmer) One of the good things about becoming 65 is that you are Medicare eligible and Congress encourages you to sign up in a timely manner. Well, I did. And I also signed up for an AARP Medicare Supplement policy that picks up much of what Medicare does not, like the 20 percent copay. Medicare sets you free from the swamp of the individual policy market and from employer group insurance. This latter item was the last check in the box for retirement for me. I have a pre-existing condition and the CABG scars to show for it. Entering the personal market as it was before the ACA (Obamacare) would have been ugly. I’ve yet to make a Medicare claim but that will change in January as my 6 month well baby checks become due again.

One Day and a Wake-up

Tomorrow, December 20, is my last work day, ever. Tomorrow my Facebook occupation becomes None. I’ve been considering something snarky like 90th percentile wealth unit, or petite bourgeoisie to describe my new status. I’ve been fortunate to spend 4 years in the Navy followed by 38 years in profession as a software engineer. Many of my cohort were not so lucky with class mates forced out during each recession, unable to find new work in their field of practice. For me, it took a couple of strategic changes from Fortune 500 boiler maker to small software service companies and then to a veteran owned small business in the modeling and simulation space and 3 moves.

I’ve been lucky to have some gigs that quietly changed part of the world. The first two were at Combustion Engineering which bravely moved from analog to digital reactor monitoring and protection systems in the 1970’s, the first reactor vendor to make the change. The second was also with Combustion, when a team adapted nuclear plant design models for use in operator training simulators. The design models moved from very basic first order models to detailed second order models that represented many fine details of the fission reaction, heat transfer, and mass transport processes in the reactor from start-up conditions to post-accident conditions. This model set was capable of reproducing plant transients and replicated the loss of coolant tests conducted at the National Reactor Test Facility in Idaho.

The third time was with the Navy where my work group changed the way the Navy trains for surface warfare encounters in preparation for deployment. Before, ships went to sea and took turns pretending to be the bad guy. After, embedded training equipment on the ship stimulated the ship’s sensors in response to the behavior of simulated warships and aircraft. The stimulated system training was much more accurate because the OPFOR entities looked to the ship’s sensors as they would in the world rather than as a squadron mate. And it could be done inexpensively in port. So I’ve been fortunate to contribute to some significant projects in my career.

Retirement Lunch

Retiring is a bit bitter-sweet. I met with my work mates for lunch today and was surprised by the turn out. A number of the BMH old hands and the younger folks I had worked closely with at Dam Neck and Norfolk, came to see me off today. Tomorrow is check out with the command and with the company. I’ll miss my work mates and the neat things I was able to do with them.

The thing I’m proudest of is the ballistic missile tracking filter that our tame physicist and I (tame systems engineer) developed. We needed to produce Link tracks of missiles and our effects simulation attempts had failed horribly. I went noodling for useful documents and found a paper describing a tracker that was fairly complete. Giving that and several articles on Kalman filtering to Boris, he derived a tracking filter from our missile ballistics model and coded it up. Once Boris had completed the coding, I tuned it and we premiered it in a missile shoot simulation. The complaints about kinky tracks stopped. I’ve always been a believer that a simple first order model was the thing to do. Effects simulation works for a small set of design basis cases but not for free play and sometimes not at all.

Boris is an experimental physicist and computer scientist by training and was quite brave to dive into non-linear optimal estimation without having seen the subject matter before. He quickly picked up state variable notation and enough random process theory that the two of us could pull it off together. Because the problem was non-linear, we had to linearize it and we had to estimate one of the model parameters. Not hard but more than a homework exercise. Although it was our first effort, it has worked well enough that it has not been challenged and if it were, it is on a sound theoretical basis and we can defend it unlike our attempts at effects simulation. This was a fruitful collaboration because I could round up the theory and read the math but I wouldn’t have gotten the coordinate transformations right. We had to tag team this problem into submission.

Like my other valued work moments, this one is not a personal accomplishment but a team accomplishment where each of us brought valuable knowledge and skills to a problem and solved it together. That’s what engineering is all about.

Life After Work

I’m not planning to sit around watching Fox News and getting angry. That way lies an early grave. For too many years, I’ve lived with a pile of boxes and accumulated cruft in the house. On each of my recent moves, the carrier elected to deliver me last and ate my travel time up. I’d unpack enough to manage and leave the rest boxed. It’s time to sort it all out to fit into an 1100 square foot hip roof ranch. That’s plenty of space for me and a couple of greyhounds but only if disciplined about accumulation.

I also would like to rediscover my waist. Like many of my cohort, I’ve let a few pounds come to stay in several of my 65 years and need to part with them. As I’ve aged, it has become harder and harder to exercise in the evening after work. Dog care has to happen and by the time they can be left, it is late to go exercise. I’ve also found it less pleasant to work out after dark. So I’m looking to start biking around town and to resume lifting at the community center. Norfolk has a nice city fitness center over by the Elizabeth River and a new community center going up on Princess Anne. City fees are $75 a year which is a deal for a nice gym.

We also have a lot of photo opportunities around town and near by including urban life in Ghent, on the Virginia Beach boardwalk, and the various town parks. I’ve been noodling around with digital photography for 10 years but have never taken the time to learn more than the basics. First, digital cameras are more complex than a Nikon F from the old days. The F was completely manual but could be had with an optional match needle through the lens meter. Today’s digital cameras have auto exposure, multiple scene modes that compensate for subject characteristics and ambient light characteristics, and can bracket. They also have auto focus that can be fooled or focused on the subject and locked. And they shoot full motion video at 30 or 60 FPS (25 or 50 in the land of 50 Hz power).

And no more dark room developer tanks, enlarger, and trays or drum processor. We work in light rooms now in front of a computer display using a program that renders the image by doing mathematical transformations of it to correct exposure, dodge shadows, burn in highlights, apply blurs and lens aberration effects or model the classic films and printing papers.

Anyway, there is a lot to learn and practice and no shortage of subject matter at the beach and parks.

The Greyhounds

Rhea is aging gracefully. She’s a dear dog approaching her 14th birthday in good health. Oswald Cobblepot sired her and a well-known stud, Kiowa Sweet Trey. Trey, in turn, sired Lord Nick. So this pair is my most closely related. Usually, the common ancestor is 3 or more generations back. With them, it is 2 for Nick and 1 for Rhea. Kind of neat. And Auntie is sweet on the young whipper-snapper. Nick’s a young 7, not uncommon for Kiowa Sweet Trey dogs. They have a reputation for prolonged adolescence and juvenile delinquency.

Rhea tires quickly so she’s not an outing dog but Nick is always raring to go looking for adventure. He loves to go shopping and on park outings. I’ve been taking Nick to the Shore Drive trail and to the residential beach.  I expect that I’ll get them both out more.

When not to call the Bath Fitter

This is a picture of the head wall of the hall bath tub surround. When I bought the house, the 50’s blue tile was cracked with what appeared to be grout or caulk in the cracks. The original owner (I’m the second) tried to make a voyage repair. Given that everything was 50’s ugly and tired, the plan was to renovate in 2007. My employer had other ideas and shipped me off to Newport Rhode Island. While up there, the house was on the rental market and the mold kept eating.
Image

I returned in June 2010 and started planning for retirement including a resumption of the restoration of 3444 Fletcher. Last fall (October 2012) I attended the home show to see what had happened and hoping to meet a contractor interested in my project. Bath Fitter was there for show and tell and would happily put new acrylic surfaces over my tired tub and tile. But doing a little reading and knowing there was trouble with the original 1950’s work, a traditional renovation was indicated.

The original construction used drywall for most of the bath surfaces but the wet areas were  a scratch coat of plaster on wire lath with tile on top. The scratch coat is porous and a bit crumbly. The working of the walls with time apparently had caused some failures in the plaster which wedged between the tile and plaster causing linear cracks just above the spout and around the corner. Water’s surface tension dragged it into the cracks and the wood became just a little wet. Just wet enough for those black pets to grow. Bath Fitter was willing to cover all of that up with faux tile.

The proper repair is to remove the original interior finish materials, remove the eaten wood, sister up new studs along side the originals and flush with the originals (they are 2×4 for real, not 1.5 by 3.5 or so). They are also dense hard old growth, not farmed stuff. Once studs are repaired, new Durarock or Wonder Board (cement wall board) goes up, acrylic sealer is applied, and tile over the Durarock. That’s the right way to do it. While we’re at it, we’ll also replace the galvanized waste piping with PVC, upgrade the electrical, and insulate the exterior wall.

At the home show, I met Ron Blount, owner of Blount Custom Homes. He’s a Tidewater Home Builder’s guild member and occasional participant in the home show build. He does larger custom homes and a lot of kitchen and bath work. I happened by while the market was still slumbering so he came out for a consultation, worked up a design, and made a proposal which I accepted. The project has gone very well with the first results in use as seen below.

When we finish the hall bath, the look will be similar to the master bath below. This is about a $13 K project including the custom vanity and mirror made by a local cabinet shop. The fittings are Kohler Tubi. The cabinet depth is matched to the wall set back. These photos were taken with available light hand held. The shower recessed light is on. The lamp is a CREE LED warm white recessed trim rated for wet areas. EcoSmart (Home Depot house brand) assembled the lamp from CREE LEDS and powered electronics made in the Triangle. Home Depot also has Edison base CREE lamps in warm and daylight. These are nice!

Blount Custom Homes has a crew of good subs but does most of their own carpentry, similar to Tommy Silva’s model but perhaps not quite as much high end. A Mexican American crew did the dry wall. Norfolk country boys did the plumbing and wiring. and Troy of Straight Line Tile did the tile work. Troy is an unflappable perfectionist. His work in the shower amazes me every day. He did a super job working in the alcove and the change from 12×12 tile to 6×6 tile at the top. Evan and Ron helped me pick appropriate materials and design elements appropriate to a ’50s mid-Century rambler. The nice cabinets, mirror, and shower door just appeared after some discussion of my preferences. This project took a good bit of faith on my part but it has gone well so far.

Mirror and trim up

Pogoplug Cloud and Disk Backup

Introduction

This article is about disk backup as much as it is about Pogoplug and Pogoplug Cloud. Disk backup is the computing system operations practices that protect a computer system’s file system from hardware, software, and user failures like dos> format c:. So disk backup is a combination of things

  • A saved image of the file system state
  • The media that stores that image
  • The device and programs that read and write that media
  • The user practices needed to create the backup save sets

Backups come in two varieties, local backups and off-site backups. Local backups are complete copies of the file system that permit complete restoration of the file system to the last saved state. These protect primarily against disk failures or other hardware failures that cause the disk to become corrupt. This can include a dropped, lost, or stolen laptop computer. Off-site backups permit recovery of essential records when one’s home is damaged by fire, flooding, windstorms, or theft of a machine or the local backups were destroyed, stolen, or unusable.

In days of yore, off-site backups were local backups that were carried to a safe off-site storage location such as your safety deposit box. Today, they are transmitted over the Internet to a cold storage provider such as Google Drive or Amazon Glacier. Some people use Google Drive or Amazon Glacier directly while most mere mortals use a service such as Carbonite, Pogoplug Cloud, etc to create and restore off-site backups. This article describes Pogoplug Cloud and the things used with it.

Some Definitions

I’ll try to use the terms defined below in this article. These may not exactly match Pogoplug’s usage of them but I can match them up to things on my Mac.

Cloud Engines: Makers of Pogoplug and providers of Pogoplug Cloud services

Local backup: A locally kept copy of a group of files made for the purpose of restoring lost or damaged files.

Off-site backup: A remotely kept copy of a group of files made for the purpose of restoring important files when recovering from loss or damage to the local site.

Pogoplug: A local server running the pogoplug service. This can be a PC running pogoplug pc or a purpose built Pogoplug device.

Pogoplug Cloud: A remote server running the pogoplug service.

Pogoplug Backup: The local pogoplug service client that conducts backups and restores backups.

Pogoplug Companion: The Android/IOS application that allows a phone or tablet to use files served by the user’s pogoplug service.

PogoplugPC: A Windows/Mac OS X application providing the pogoplug service from user space.

Time Machine: The Mac OS X system backup and system recovery application.

Web interface: http://my.pogoplug.com

Introducing Pogo plug

Pogoplug is the trademark of Cloud Engines, an international software company headquartered in Israel with offices in Silicon Valley. Cloud Engines got its start making a gadget called Pogoplug, a computer built into a wall wart (hence plug) that provided a small amount of Internet accessible shared storage using a user provided USB disk drive. Over the years, the product has changed form and new services have evolved around the original USB media server. This page tries to coherently describe the benefits of the Cloud Engines product and the associated services, something Cloud Engines has trouble doing, probably for want of a good technical writer.

Pogoplug branded products and services support a number of use cases so I’ll try to present the products in terms of these uses cases.

  • Local backup of one or more computers
  • Off-site backup of one or more computers
  • Local and Internet file sharing (a personal cloud service).
  • Remote file access

A bit about me

I’m a scientific software professional who has worked for 40 years on nuclear power plant application software, nuclear power plant simulator software, and wargaming software. My career spans the period from the introduction of disk drives to embedded systems to pocket sized “super computers”. Back in my simulator days, I’d stayed ’til one AM doing an integration build. I was tired and cranky so I blew off the backup. The head crash occurred as I was driving to work the next morning. This was back in the days of CDC storage module drives and dinner plated sized multi-platter removable media disk packs. A head crash was a big deal. The repairs were $10,000, a new pack was $1000 or so not to mention the lost data and the day that it would take to do the repair and a second day putting humpty dumpty back together.

My professional background is in several extinct minicomputer operating systems, SunOS 4, and Linux. My hobby background is a mix of early Windows ’95, OS-2, and Mac OS X, mostly the latter. I’m an amateur system administrator these days looking after RedHat workstation and plain old Mac OS X.

I’m not at all familiar with Windows backup and recovery procedures and my recollections of them are over a decade old. I’ve done one OS X system recovery using Time Machine and it is a joy. I’ve done several SunOS 4 system recoveries that were a pain courtesy of all of the media handling of 8 mm video tapes.

Windows Local Backup

To this day, Microsoft continues to leave disk backup to third parties. Microsoft does include a backup product but nobody uses it. Most 3rd party backup products are designed for use by corporate high priests in corporate settings where tape drives or tape library robots are available. Tape drives, tape handling, and automated tape libraries are too complex for most home users so something different is needed at home. Pogoplug attempts to fill the Windows user data backup gap. Pogoplug Windows local user data backup requires the following kit.

  • A USB disk large enough to hold the files to be protected
  • A Pogoplug server, either a Pogoplug kit machine or a local host running PogoplugPC software.
  • Pogoplug Backup installed on each machine to be protected

Pogoplug Backup is a free companion program available at http://my.pogoplug.com/downloads. This link provides both Mac OS X and MS Windows versions.

A Pogoplug server turns a USB disk drive into a local backup server. A companion software product, Pogoplug Backup backs up selected parts of its host file system to the Pogoplug connected disk. Typically, each user’s home directory is backed up plus any public directories such as those used by photo libraries, music libraries, and video libraries. Pogoplug Backup allows selection of the directories to be backed up. The directories and files to be backed up must be readable by the logged in user running Pogoplug Backup. Once the user has nominated files and directories for backup, Pogoplug Backup transfers the files to Pogoplug which maintains an image of the most recent version of the file. The machine must remain running and logged in until the transfer completes.

This process is sufficiently fast that it should be possible to save the entire file system. In my initial exploration of Pogoplug Backup, I did not attempt to set up a full disk save because I’m using Pogoplug Backup with Pogoplug Cloud for off-site backup.

Pogoplug Backup runs as a user program rather than as a service. This means that the user account must be logged in and active while the program is running. I’m not familiar with Windows but I suspect some care is needed to tell the machine to skip hibernation while the backup completes.

I’ve skipped over little issues like restoring applications and the Windows registry. These make Windows recovery a royal pain, about as bad as buying a new machine. Everything has to be reinstalled from media to recreate the registry which is difficult to back up while the machine is running. I’m not a Windows guy so I don’t know the details or of any tools that would make this easier.

Pogoplug Backup Limitations

Pogoplug backup runs as a logged in user process so it has the following limitations.

  • Files must be readable by the user
  • Pogoplug cannot back up complex data structures like a MySql database or an Aperture photo library. The UI will not let you choose things that Pogoplug backup does not recognize.
  • Pogoplug backup will not let you select directory Applications or Program Files content for backup.

Pogoplug’s limitations make it suitable for backup of user data. It is not designed to support system recovery. In this way, Pogoplug and Carbonite are similar. They will save user directories that reside on the system disk. Pogoplug appears to give more user control of what is to be saved.

Mac OS X Local Backup

Pogo Backup and Pogoplug can support Mac OS X backup and the procedures and prerequisites are the same as for the Windows use case. But, most OS X users continue to use OS X Time Machine for disk backup. Time Machine maintains the current state of the file system on an external drive, either directly connected or network storage provided by an Airport Time Capsule, Airport Extreme, or a network storage array such as a Droboshare. Time Machine differs from Pogoplug Backup by maintaining back versions of a file in the archive and permitting recovery of any back version that remains available.

Time Machine also differs in that it was designed to save the entire file system including directly connected external disks. This is easily configured and you can tell Time Machine to skip directories whose contents are transient.

I use a USB Drobostore with Time Machine that currently has 4TB of raw disk storage configured as a 2 TB virtual disk. I have a second 1 TB Drobostore that holds music and photos and the system’s internal 320 mB disk. Time Machine maintains the current state of the complete file system except the part dedicated to Time Machine itself. Time Machine allows user configuration to specify the storage device to be used and those parts of the file system to be included or excluded from protection. The 2 TB storage array is adequate to backup both if I have Time Machine skip the EyeTV spool directory and the iTunes spool directory. There’s no need to back up transient TV shows and movies. Eventually, I’ll have to put a 4th disk in the Time Machine Drobostore.

Time Machine uses hard links to maintain a current virtual image of the protected file system tree while retaining back versions of files. The hard links point to the current versions with the back versions on disk. The Time Machine user interface allows you to retrieve the current version of a file or any earlier version still in the archive. When Time Machine needs space, it starts shedding oldest versions of files.

I’ve needed Time Machine once when a system disk failed. The recovery procedure was dead simple, install OS X from external media, open Time Machine, and restore the volume. The next morning, Oswald was ready for use. I’ve used Time Machine a second time when my Aperture photo library fell victim to a disk malfunction. A Drobostore, then connected by FireWire became befuddled and my Aperture Library went missing. Time Machine came to the rescue. I had to rummage back a week or two but I found one that was usable.

Pogoplug Off Site Backup

The offsite backup process is identical for Windows and OS X. The material tha follows applies to both.

I’ve tried two solutions for offsite backup, Carbonite and now Pogoplug Cloud. Pogoplug Cloud is a $60/year service that uses Amazon Glacier to store the portion of the file system that you wish to protect. To use Pogoplug Cloud, you need the following

  • A robust Internet connection such as Cox Preferred
  • A Pogoplug Cloud subscription
  • Pogoplug Backup installed on the machine to be protected

Once these conditions are satisfied, you use Pogoplug Backup to nominate directories and files for backup. Pogoplug Backup transfers these to Pogoplug Cloud in much the same way that it transfers files to a local Pogoplug server but the process is limited by Internet speed rather than local Ethernet speed and disk drive write performance. My initial Carbonite backup took a good week and I had to pause it while watching Netflix or iTunes content. I expect that Pogoplug Cloud will be the same.

Pogoplug Local and Off-site Backup

If you have both a Pogoplug Server and a Pogoplug Cloud service subscription, your Pogoplug server will transfer backed up files to both its local disk and the Pogoplug Cloud subscription. Once properly setup, the off-site backup process is an extension of the local process and no additional user actions are needed.

Local and Off Site File Access

This is how Carbonite and Pogoplug differ. Carbonite permits backup and recovery only. Pogoplug permits on the go file access by web service at http://my.pogoplug.com. From here, you can retrieve any media saved in a home Pogoplug server or in the Pogoplug Cloud.

The Recovery Process

The recovery process is similar using OS X Time Machine or Pogoplug. For this purpose, we’ll assume a failed disk drive replacement. The work flow is

  • Repair the hardware by replacing the bad system disk
  • Reinstall the operating system and applications
  • Install Pogoplug Backup
  • Restore the user data system

With OS X Time Machine, recovery is relatively easy. Newer Macs include an Internet boot loader that will start OS X from the Internet for the purpose of recovering the system If you have an old machine like mine, initial startup requires an OS X installation disk for older versions of OS X or an installation thumb drive for Lion, Mountain Lion, and Mavericks.

  • Start the machine from a recovery disk or thumb drive image
  • Format the new disk using Disk Utility
  • Install OS X from the boot media
  • Connect the external Time Machine volume and allow it to mount
  • Restore the complete file system from Time Machine

With Pogoplug Backup and Pogoplug, the work flow is

  • Start the machine from a recovery disk or thumb drive
  • Format the new disk using Disk Utility
  • Install OS X from the boot media
  • Reinstall applications
  • Install Pogoplug Backup from the Pogoplug.com website.
  • Sign in using to your Pogoplug your Pogoplug credentials, usually your primary E-mail address and password
  • Restore the user directories and files saved

I can’t really comment on Windows recovery because I’ve not needed to do it. In OS X land, things are not so bad. There is no registry. Applications are saved as application packages (basically a directory) in /Applications which may be backed up. A Time Machine restoration brings everything back. I’ve been there, done that, and have a working system to prove it. Time Machine rocks.

I’ve not needed to do a network recovery and hopefully I never will. But I live in hurricane country and a Cat 2 will damage my home and a Cat 3 will blow it down and probably wash it away. So I’m careful. I rely on my Mac for all of my tax and financial record keeping. And my photos and home movies reside there. So I back up off site and it is money well spent because little of this can be replaced even if I knew what it all was. The choice of a Mac Mini was deliberate. I can throw the mini and Drobostores in a bugout bag should we need to evacuate.

Ooma Gumma, One Number to Rule them All

With apologies to Pink Floyd!

What is Ooma?

Ooma is yet another VOiP telephone service but one with a twist, Astersik running on the subscriber equipment and Google Voice integration. It was Google Voice integration that hooked me.

Ordering

I purchased my subscriber equipment directly from Ooma.com. The web store was a bit colicky when I purchased, probably as a result of unfortunate use of the back button on my part during the order entry. The site told me that the credit transaction failed so I tried again. Same symptoms. I placed an order with Amazon.

After running errands, I was surprised to find 3 order acknowledgments in my E-mail so I canceled the Amazon order and called Ooma operations support. They couldn’t head off the orders but told me to decline the duplicate. The next day during lunch, I receive a phone call from Palo Alto, CA, unusual. I answer it and find myself speaking to an Ooma programmer who questioned me about what I did and what I intended and cleaned up the mess saving me the trouble of an RMA and trip to UPS to post the returned duplicate.

Ooma has a daily sanity check the orders job that looks for duplicates and other common errors before shipping the accumulated orders. The QA process caught my goof and several like it so development tracked every order down to verify it and do what the customer intended! Having had a nameless pet sales company send a package to Portsmouth, Rhode Island, Afghanistan, this was a welcome surprise that puts Ooma ahead of the web sales pack.

Unboxing and Installation

My subscriber equipment arrived properly packed for UPS in Apple pretty packaging. I ordered both an Ooma Telo subscriber interface and an HD-2 handset. The setup instructions for both were clear and initial setup went smoothly. The combination has several advantages.

  • The HD-2 handset uses DECT 6 wireless protocol in a band away from WIFI, baby monitors, microwave ovens, and other sources of trouble.
  • The traffic between base and handset is session encrypted.
  • The handset uses a codec designed for low data rates and high immunity to dropped packets. This encoding carries end to end when talking to an Ooma HD-2 or similar handset that supports this codec. Otherwise, the call is transcoded to coding that both parties can support.
  • The HD-2 handset can import your contacts in VCF format.
  • The product includes life of the product US calling. You pay the taxes and 911 service fee.
  • Home phone service with basic Ooma features costs $4 per month vs $35 for my Vonage bill.

The Ooma handset works well with a few minor quirks, possibly knowledge gaps on my part rather than product issues.

  • I’ve yet to learn how to change the handset and speaker volume during a call. The menu set to do this is preempted by the call menu set.
  • The navigation buttons are a bit small but serviceable.

Ooma Premier and Google Voice

Ooma Premier is an $10 per month option that unlocks a number of features, some of which are unique to Ooma. The one that attracted me was Google Voice. Without Premier, Ooma Telo can be one of your Google Voice forwarding phones. With Ooma Premier, two things important to me become available.

  • Outbound calls show my GV virtual phone number
  • Google voice and Ooma voice mail are merged.

Ooma Premier adds another much appreciated feature, community and personal blacklists. These work so well that one Florida subscriber received exactly two political telemarketing calls during the 2012 presidential campaign. Politicos are exempted from the do not call list. Should somebody leak through, it is a simple matter to go to my.ooma.com and add them to your personal blacklist, much as I do with unwanted callers to my Google Voice number.

When an inbound call occurs on my GV number, my mobile and the Telo HD-2 ring. Since the Telo telephone output is connected to the house wiring, the old cordless to be retired also rings. Telo does distinctive ringing so GV rings ring-ring and calls to my home number ring-ring-ring. I can tell them apart. By using my GV number, I can take inbound calls on my home phone as with any GV forwarding. When I make an outbound call via Ooma, my Google Voice number appears for my callers, something Vonage could not do.

Porting of my Vonage number to Ooma took about a week with no pestering from Vonage. I guess they have figured out that they have been one-upped. Consumer Reports ranks Ooma at the top of the heap for US domestic telephone service based on service quality, value, and unique features.

Before Ooma with Google Voice integration I had been making all of my home calls on my mobile. With the HD-2 handset and GV, it is as easy to do this calling by land and the call quality is much better for the recipient. They sound fine to me courtesy of that tall tower and beefy base station transmitter but my mobile is scratchy or worse at the other end courtesy of a small antenna and a few milliwatts of power. So my friends, family, and vet are much happier.

Voice Mail

Ooma Telo keeps voice mail locally. You can play it at the base station, with HD-2, or from my.ooma.com, or call your Telo number and play it remotely. Voice mail transcription is optional, an option I forgo using Google Voice transcription instead. Google does well enough that messages, though somewhat silly at times, are usable. I still have to check my mobile’s native voice mail separately but the message is to call my unstated GV number and leave a message there. If you don’t know it, we don’t have a relationship. Tough.

Outage Forwarding

Ooma will forward calls to an outage number. I have my outage forwarding set to my mobile’s native number. I expect this feature will see limited use but Thursday’s storm put the power out for 1.5 hours.

 

You know you are getting old when

  1. You start paying attention to mail from Social Security
  2. Medicare Supplement adverts begin to flood your mailbox

Both of those have happened. Will you still love me when I’m 64? And Medicare sets  you free from your employer’s health care plan! When that happens, my employer has nothing to offer that I want!

Some Modeling

That’s what I do so naturally, this winter I sat down and made some financial planning models. I’d done that exercise a year or so ago but was not satisfied with it. I began to look around for something more robust than my shaky advanced mathematics and found http://www.esplanner.com. Economic Security Planner is a sophisticated planning product developed by a Lawrence Kotlikoff, Boston University professor of economics, and his graduate students. It originally began as research with a spin-off company started to provide Windows software and web service. Professor Kotlikoff is a regular contributor to NPR’s Marketplace and to PBS News Hour.

Introducing ESPlanner

ESplanner is available as a web service and as a MS Windows program. The program version comes in 3 levels, basic, andvanced, and professional. The advanced and professional versions provide the same model but the professional version has client data management capabilities of interest to professional financial planners. The web service is layered with tiers similar to those of the program product. For most people, especially, those like me who keep a Microsoft Free Household (TM), the web service is the way to go. One program does not justify the hassle of Parallels and MS Windows administration when there is a viable alternative.

You can try the basic planner as a web service. The free test drive lets you enter model parameters, make runs, and retrieve reports but you cannot save your model for future updating. ESPlanner offers several levels of subscription that make saving model configuration, support, and advanced features available. The advanced versions of the model offer a couple of additional features.

  1. Monte Carlo evaluation for susceptibility to economic and market variability
  2. Pessimistic planning assuming that you loose all of your stock assets.

My first impressions of both of these features is that they are of limited use for assessing the basic adequacy of your retirement planning. What they do is offer some additional assurance that your standard of living is reasonably immune to market and economic events.

How ESPlanner Differs

Most free planners let you assume a yearly draw and determine the amount of assets needed to provision that draw at retirement. ESPlanner has a second mode of operation that answers the question “Given the assets I have, how much can I draw yearly?” Being in the position where wealth accumulation is drawing to a close, I used ESPlanner in this mode to determine what level of income my estimated assets at retirement would support. To my knowledge, this capability is unique and the results were reassuring. I was able to confirm that I held sufficient retirement assets to maintain my current standard of living.

What’s In the Model?

The ESPlanner model includes the following processes

  • Asset holdings
  • Investment performance
  • Proper treatment tax-favored (IRA and 401K) and regular brokerage accounts
  • Proper treatment of defined benefits pensions
  • Social Security and Medicare
  • US and State income taxes
  • Longevity assumptions (they recommend planning to 100)
  • Recurring obligated payments like mortgage, insurance contracts, etc
  • Planned expenses like cars, home renovation, college tuition, offspring’s weddings, etc
  • Periodic income from work or other continuing periodic sources
  • Lump sum income from estates, asset sales, etc.

The model calculates the yearly discretionary spending that your assets can support. In ESPlanner’s terminology, discretionary spending is any spending that is not obligated by law or by contract. For example, your taxes, mortgage payment, and loan payments are obligated. ESPlanner estimates your Federal and State income taxes from your total taxable income.

Monte Carlo Modeling

With the optional Monte Carlo feature enabled (at added cost) the model includes Monte Carlo analysis of sensitivity to historical stock market variability. This feature is useful for confirming that your holdings are adequate to survive stock market swoons and recoveries and inflation variability.

The Upside Investing Bit

The “Upside Investing” bit models the conversion of stocks to “safe” assets like bonds. Typically, you do this as you harvest growth assets to produce income. The process is a bit of a bucket brigade from stocks to intermediate bonds to short term bonds or cash. This is a rolling process because a good bit of the portfolio (50 to 65 percent) must remain growth invested to produce asset growth that keeps pace with inflation. The model does Monte Carlo analysis to confirm the adequacy of the asset migration plan in the presence of stock market swoons and recoveries. I found this feature less useful, possibly because I misused it.

Inflation and Investment Performance

Mean inflation rate and mean investment performance for each investment account are model input parameters. ESPlanner recommends 3% inflation and 5% investment growth. I used these values. The 5% value may seem conservative but this value is picked to reflect your mix of stocks and bonds. This is an assumption that I need to verify from time to time. During 2013, the S&P 500, NASDAC, and Dow are all up handsomely with soft bond performance. Bonds are returning coupon.

ESPlanner considers inflation and asset growth/shrinkage as part of the model but this does not appear explicitly in the reports. Rather, ESPlanner shows the reports in constant dollars. I find this easier to interpret than use of future dollars for future years. Future dollars make the inflation effects apparent but could mask declining real standard of living.

Social Security?

In the spending model, Social Security is an input obtained from the Social Secuirty web site or the yearly mailng. For a single person, that works well. If you have a spouse, you and your spouse have different ages and different earnings histories, and you have dependents, Social Security strategy becomes a complex problem with about one million permutations. The purpose of the Social Security optimizer is to evaluate you and your spouse as a unit to determine the optimum Social Security utilization strategy. Who should be the primary, who should be the survivors. Should one of you start and then suspend benefits? If you are single, the result is obvious as explained below. If not, then you need to use this model.

ESPlanner, Inc offers a Social Security optimizer. I gave it a try also and was surprised! The Social Security Optimizer told me I should delay collecting Social Security until age 70. Being a single male, this is a pretty simple decision. Delaying to age 70 to begin drawing Social Security increases your yearly draw by 1/3 from a defined benefits inflation protected source. By doing so and putting this result into the ESPlanner spending model, I was able to show that my yearly spending could increase relative to starting Social Security at age 66. The increase was significant.

This result seems counter intuitive so some explanation is in order. In the age 66 scenario, you must conserve assets early in retirement to maintain late in retirement standard of living. By delaying until age 70, those sequestered assets are freed to pay income during the shorter 100% out of pocket period. Basically, you are betting that you will live longer than the median life expectancy which Social Security uses to determine the payout rates. The Social Security early and late start adjustments are actuarially neutral. If your family history suggests, as mine does, that you will outlive median life expectancy for your cohort, it is a reasonable risk to take. My aunts and uncles not claimed by lung cancer or early colon cancer lived into their late 80’s and both paternal grandparents lived past 90. Given that I don’t have the risk factors (smoking, agricultural chemicals) of the early mortality uncles, It is a good gamble.

The other thing that surprise me was that Social Security would be a significant fraction of my after-seventy spending. For me, about half, maybe a bit more. A big surprise since I’m about a 92 to 93 percentile wealth unit. I’d assumed that Social Security would be providing Starbucks Money. Suddenly, I’m very much more interested in the shenanigans of the Republican House of Representatives now that I know Social Security will be doing more than buttering my bread.

New Music

It’s been a busy winter music wise. After watching Arron Embry, Ryan Keen, and some others, You Tube pitched Shaun Kirk and Kim Churchill who popped up in My Playing for Change subscription. I found Arron Embry at work listening to the clip linked above. Ryan Keen is courtesy of the London iTunes festival app. Apple produces this gig each summer and offers each set for streaming. Often, the opening acts are rising stars getting their first big event exposure. iTunes Festival is the UK equivalent of the Newport Folk Festival but it is not restricted to folk. Every genre of small ensemble music, jazz, classical, pop, singer songwriter, is there is some measure.

And over on the Jazz side, another serendipitous You Tube find, young Beka Gochiashvili, a Georgian teenager who has attracted the attention of the likes of Chick Corea, Bryan Blade, Lenny White and others. Beka is a force of nature. At 16 he picks up a lick by ear and makes it his own, playing in paragraphs. He’s quick but, more important, he can think on his feet taking a musical idea and making it his own. He’s studying at Juliard to get his theory, composition, and business skills. If you poke around on the Tube, you can find his recital videos from his trio lab. He’s one of those rare people who have the technique, something to say, and the arranging and leader skills to pull it together an make music that is more than the sum of its parts.

One of the miracles of the digital age is that folk’s formative years are being recorded and published. All of these guys are great and they’re all self produced. Well Lenny White produced Beka’s record (iTunes). Wonderful things are happening, none of them at a major label.  Beka’s Trio Recital is something else. Here are these three teenagers playing their hearts out trying to keep a properly professional face for their professors. Don’t let ’em steal your groove face, Beka.

DIY DVR

Background

I became a TiVO early adopter in 2002 buying a Sony TiVO for use with Cox Cable. Having a couple of greyhounds who needed walked during the evening, I quickly became hooked by the ability to record shows for later viewing and to pause what I was watching when the dogs demanded attention or to use the loo. As digital TV approached, I traded the Sony for a TiVO HD and went digital with cable cards. The writers strike drove me to take a look at BBC America. I discovered Doctor Who, Torchwood, and Top Gear.

With the passage of 5 years or so, the TiVO HD’s disk is getting tired, I tired of commercial cable, and TiVO’s $20/month is no longer a good value. After all, how many episodes of Ice Road Truckers can one person watch before going batty? What to do next?

Elgato

Enter the cat. Elgato makes media center software and video capture hardware for Apple Macintosh computers selling under the EyeTV name for about a decade. In the Apple community, Elgato is the company to go to for this capability. The current version of EyeTV supports the current Elgato video capture devices plus selected video tuner hardware made by others.

EyeTV 3 can record programs by channel and title. No need to do the VHS thing and set channel and time. Just open up the program guide and select record or record all. Record will create a one-time schedule entry to record the selected program. Record all creates a smart schedule to record all unrecorded broadcasts of that program on that channel. This capability mimics a TiVO Season Pass but goes it one better. You can add additional conditions that an episode must satisfy in order to be recorded.

Some Silicon Dust

I wasn’t keen on the Elgato USB tuner. This device is laptop oriented and can work with off the air and cable tv but I was not keen on connecting a lightening rod directly to my computer. It would be nice to have at least a little isolation. Silicon Dust HDHomeRun Dual came to the rescue. This is the current version of HDHomeRun which has been around for 5 or so years. The device has a dual cable/air turner, a bit of computing, and an Ethernet connection. Application protocols allow EyeTV or Windows Media Center to tune channels and start data streaming. The new digital TV is already digitized so no finicky analog to digital converters are needed. Just recover the MPEG-2 stream and tunnel it over IP to the host.

Silicon Dust makes multiple versions of HDHomeRun for use in Europe with DVB and in North America with ATSC. The current Dual version has 2 tuners and can stream 2 streams at a time. The HDHomeRun Prime version has a cable card slot and can stream both “clear QAM” and copy protected QAM. The Prime version also has a USB port for controlling a cable company switched digital video interface.

Putting it All Together

Setup is simple. Move the antenna cable to the HDHomeRun, plug up Ethernet, plug up the power adapter (small switching supply, not a hulk). Install EyeTV 3 from a disk image, start it, and add the license key. EyeTV 3 wakes up a start up wizard that guides you through the process of setting up the HDHomeRun, creating a TV Guide account ($20/year not $20/month), and loading the channel guide. Once this process is done, your DIY DVR is ready to use. The first year of the program guide is included in the EyeTV 3 price. All of this took about an hour with a little wrestling needed with TV Guide. It didn’t load at first. Elgato support forums had the fix, clear the guide and reload. This worked well.

EyeTV Remote App

For the princely sum of $5, Elgato has an EyeTV remote app which shows the program guide, lets you schedule recordings, review your completed recordings, and view recorded programs on your iThing. EyeTV App is AirPlay capable so output can be redirected to an Apple TV. Once the program is running on Apple TV, the iThing is free for other use like making phone calls, playing Angry Birds, or reading while PBS talking heads drone on.

EyeTV and Live TV

EyeTV 3 has the ability to pause and rewind, and resume live TV in a manner similar to TiVO. Unfortunately, with my older Mac Mini, this feature is usable on the main display but not on iThings or Apple TV. The Mac OS X Quick TIme libraries support MPEG-2 rendering allowing proper play back locally. Air Play to iThings is another story. iThings require conversion of the video stream from MPEG-2 to H.264. This is a compute intensive process that my older Mac Mini cannot do at 30 frames per second. It kept falling behind and trying to catch up Keystone Cops style.

The Apple Quick Time Codecs can use the video hardware for this process. This capability was in development and was one of the reasons Apple moved from Intel on board video to nVidia GeForce 9400 chips in that particular Mac Mini. But the older parts just don’t have the horses needed to do video conversion tasks at broadcast resolution in real time. A check of the Elgato forums did not have a clear answer t this question. Elgato’s specification is for the processor. They’re not thinking that the trans-coding process is actually occurring on the video hardware.

The solution was simple, keep the TiVO HD alive for live TV viewing. It has no trouble with that task. It occasionally snow crashes when retrieving the program guide or the recording catalog but I’ve moved these tasks to EyeTV. I can keep this guy going. Cost for this solution, $20 for a new high quality splitter. My older NTSC splitter is not up to splitting DTV.

Money

Here’s what this project cost.

  • $90, EyeTV 3
  • $5, EyeTV App
  • $80, HDHomeRun Dual tuner
  • $20, Digital splitter 1 to 2

Operating costs

  • $20/year, TV Guide
  • $240/year savings, TiVO program guide 

This project has about a 1 year pay back. As I approach retirement, I’m all about getting Corporate America’s hands out of my pockets. Sorry TiVO, you’ve been disrupted.

Google Voice Don’t Talk Southern

Hey Daddy this. Aunt Nancy, I was just returning your call, had a rental exactly when you called earlier in the couldn’t talk, but get back with me when you get a minute. Okay. That.

Just What is Google Voice

Google Voice is a new twist on plain old telephone service that integrates land and mobile services for you. A single number to ring them all (with apologies to J. R. R. Tolkin).

How Dave Got Google Voice

My iPhone 4 had been off contract for several months but was in good condition (Nick hadn’t taken a taste of this one) so I was free to do something without giving AT&T my first born male child (joke’s on them, I don’t have one to give). I considered purchasing a new iPhone but what to do with the old one that is still going strong? And buying a new one just forges new chains to AT&T or Verizon, pick your lesser of two evils.

Then I stumbled across the Straight Talk iPhone 5 announcement. “Hummm, what is Straight Talk?” Straight Talk is the largest carrier in the Americas with service from the Arctic Circle to Terra Del Fuego. They are a Mobile Virtual Network Operator. They lease capacity wholesale from AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon. My iPhone is an AT&T phone. It has a SIM slot and is built for GSM frequencies so it can function on AT&T Straight Talk with HSPA+ 3g++ data service.

The folks at Cult of Mac have instructions for setting up an iPhone on Straight Talk So I ordered a SIM (by mistake, two of them) and decided to give Straight Talk a try. Activation and setup went smoothly following the instructions in the booklet. The only hard part was popping my AT&T SIM out using a paper clip.

Once I had confirmed Voice, SMS, and data, I put the AT&T SIM back in to file for divorce from AT&T by transferring the number to Google. A day later, the transfer was complete and I configured Google Voice to ring my new mobile number and my home number when anyone calls my old Sprint, then AT&T, now Google number.

Google Voice Features

Google Voice offers incoming telephone service and, using the Google Voice App, outgoing telephone service from your Android or iPhone mobile. The application offers visual voice mail at the web site and on your Android or iPhone mobile. Google visual voice mail is similar to the iPhone service. It shows each waiting message, no calling to listen to a list of messages. You select the message to play it. But Google upstaged Apple by transcribing the messages to text. It shows them in Google Voice, forwards them by SMS, and forwards them by E-mail.

Google Voice also provides the slickest voice mail on the planet. If you pick up, you answer normally. If the call rolls to voice mail, you can pick up, optionally record the call, or forward it to voice mail.

One More Thing

Google Voice can be configured to black list callers, including telemarketers. And it collects everything you need to file a complaint. Great for the 2016 elections!

The Bill

Straight Talk offers “unlimited” voice, text, and data for $50 per month, $30 less than AT&T for exactly the same service. You join Jack Bauer in the land of “burner” prepaid cell phones. Each month you have to visit Straight Talk to add another month, 3 months, year, or enable auto-refill. If you subscribe for longer than a month, you get a discount. Since you brought your own phone, Straight Talk is not financing your phone for you.

Why I Left AT&T

When you go off contract, they keep billing you the $25/month they were sending to Apple to pay for your phone. As long as you stay on your original service level, they keep collecting that extra money. Enough of it that you can buy an unlocked iPhone and come out several hundred dollars ahead. If you’re an impoverished student, carrier financing of your phone is helpful. If you’re a retiree, you want people’s hands out of your pockets so I sacked AT&T even though I had not experienced horrid service from them. The value wasn’t there, especially with them taking $25 a month to keep unlimited data for my next phone.

When It’s Time for a New Phone

Buy a new AT&T compatible phone unlocked from Apple. Put the Straight Talk SIM in it. Begin talking. You can get older refurbished phones at a nice discount at the Apple Online Store. If you’re willing to wait until world wide rollout is complete, you can get a new unlocked version of the current phone.

What, No Verizon

Currently (2013), this trick only works for AT&T phones that use a SIM. You may be able to do the same with a Verizon phone but the technique relies on all of a phone’s carrier identity being on a SIM. Verizon iPhone has a SIM slot but it works on a subset of frequencies supporting voice in Europe.

Convergence

All US carriers are moving to Long Term Evolution data (LTE). And there’s a voice variant. As this happens, all US phones and eventually all phones world wide will use a common set of protocols. There will still be differences in spectrum from country to country but the goal is to have a common pool of frequencies supported world wide plus additional channels in the larger countries. When this happens, Verizon and Sprint folk can join the fold.

The Opening Quote

Earlier Sunday, I’d called Aunt Nancy. She had house guests and asked to call back. When she did, I was slow answering when 2 cordless, the cordless base, and my iPhone all began ringing at once. Chaos. I missed picking up so the call went to voice mail. Google’s Elbonian slave labor transcribed the call producing the result above. Hilarious but enough of it right to fix it up from context. If the text is a hopeless garble, the speech is still available for playback. Oh, and Google can archive messages for a good long time. Be careful what you say on my voice mail. It will be in the Google way back machine long after we both are buried.

How Lance was Named

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I adopted my first greyhound during the 1995 Tour de France. With Greg Lemond recently retired and a new American star, Lance Armstrong, beginning his career, I was following the race as best one could from Connecticut. Needless to say, I needed a name for a dog not knowing whether my luck of the draw would be a male or a female (bitch is the term of art). Application approved, I drive out to western Connecticut to pick up my new hound. The adoption coordinator brings out the two year old black boy pictured above, Boligee Pistola, called Pistol around the kennel. And Pistol had no idea he had a name. Needless to say, he really needed a name.

A few days before, there was a mishap on the Tour. An Italian rider on Motorola (Lance Armstrong’s team of the day) had gone off the road and over a mountain cliff to his death. With the Tour drawing to a close, young Lance decided to do something to commemorate his fallen comrade. On the last day of road racing, about 30 kilometers out (20 miles) Lance Armstrong attacked from the front of the pack opening a 2 minute lead. Out front by himself, he held his lead until the finish through the final climb up to a ski lodge. Breathless, he comes to a stop, dismounts, seeks out the Italian TV interviewer, and says in rough Italian, “Today, I rode with the strength of two men.” Lance showed serious courage on the final climb and some serious class with this act. I believe this win was the first stage win of his career. Up to this point, he had been learning the art and riding in support of the team stars.

I was so impressed with Lance Armstrong’s gesture that Pistol became Lance. Lance Armstrong, like Michael Phelps, has that unique combination of body structure, physiology, and competitiveness that it takes to be a world champion. Lance Armstrong is driven to excel while his namesake was content to sit in the back during his 1 month racing career. Lance Fourlegs quickly petted out. Lance Armstrong, gaining experience, learned the art of the Tour, and began to rise to the top of his sport to have his career interrupted by testicular cancer.

I can understand the temptation to use performance enhancing techniques in the Tour de France. What those riders do is amazing and if you’ve not tried to race bicycles or completed a 100 mile ride, it is hard to appreciate the challenges they are facing. The peloton races 200 kilometers (120 miles or so) and, tomorrow, they get up and do it again. The Tour is probably the toughest sporting competition on the planet. At the pace they are riding, the athletes deplete the body’s glycogen stores and must efficiently burn fat to complete the race. By the end of the Tour, each rider is ripped, probably 4 to 5 percent body fat even though they are eating 9000 or so calories per day. This is an event that places great demands on the body’s ability to recover to race again tomorrow.

The longest I’ve ridden is 108 miles on my first century ride. I love to ride and to bike trek but I don’t have the physiology for it. The next day, I was a dehydrated zombie walking around in a fog. It took a couple of days to recover. And no, I didn’t get up and do it again tomorrow; I was useless. Having this experience, I can understand the desire to have a technical edge to be ready to race next morning. European cycling started an arms race to make it possible to ride today’s times on today’s courses day after day with a rest day every four stages or so. Lance Armstrong joined that arms race and competed with the same drive and pursuit of excellence that he showed us on the road. I can understand why he did so and that he did does not lessen the courage and class he showed in that first stage win in his learning years.

The trials and tribulations of the retired moocher lifestyle