Thanksgiving 2017

I began the day being one of 11,000 people to ride the Turkey Burn Ride on Peloton helping them to set a Guinness World Record.

The Carders (Justin, Kristin, Bowie and Iris) and Kristin’s mom came over for Thanksgiving dinner. They brought pheasant, sweet potatoes, yams, cranberry sauce, rolls, pumpkin pie and Mezcal 😬. Gay made the turkey, stuffing, gravy and pecan pie. I made nothing. 😲

Vikings won, Cowboys lost, Redskins won. Good football outcomes!

Bowie spent the night with us and Eva went to their house for a sleepover with Iris.

iPhone X

My iPhone X arrived tonight. In classic Apple fashion, it copied all my info from my current iPhone, switched the cellular phone service over and I was up and running in a few minutes with more or less the same experience.

It’s been 2 years since getting a new iPhone as I’ve been on an every-other-year schedule on iPhone upgrades. I was skeptical about the X but it’s a very nice phone. It even charges wirelessly in our new Mini!

Port Angeles

For our last Basecamp trip of the year we went to Port Angeles. We camped at the KOA there which is 15 minutes from Port Angeles.

For the first time all 5 of us plus Barley slept inside the Basecamp. Gay thought it was cramped but I slept fine. And the heater is amazing, it really keeps the thing warm.

We had dinner both nights at Next Door Gastropub where we caught the Eagles/Cowboys (yay) game the first night and the Seahawks/Falcons (boo) the next. Good food and good beer selection.

We drove to Lake Crescent and flew the drone:

On the way home we stopped for coffee and a bathroom break (not just for Barley) in the adorable tiny town of Port Gamble before riding the Bainbridge Island ferry, for $60!, back to Seattle.

Hudson’s bike lost & found

We were heading off to school last Thursday, Hudson went out the front door to get his bike off the porch, where he should not leave it, and I went downstairs to get my bike. He came downstairs and said his bike isn’t on the porch. Sure enough, it wasn’t. Must’ve been stolen.

Today, we took the drone to Miller Field and met Justin there with his drone. He said he had just seen a bike that looked just like Hudson’s while he was walking there. Sure enough, it was his bike!

It was found just a couple blocks away from the house on a street we’d never had gone down if we hadn’t decided to go fly the drone that day. Amazing luck.

Poor Justin, Hudson was not offering a reward. I hope Hudson has learned to appreciate his stuff more and takes better care of it.

2018 Mini Countryman SE

We got a new car, a 2018 Mini Cooper Countryman SE All4 (the E is for electric) to replace our 2013 Mini Cooper Countryman S All4 (no E). This is Mini’s first hybrid and the only 4-wheel drive hybrid on the market.

We’ve had our 2013 Countryman for 4.5 years and it’s been a great car and super practical for our lifestyle: small enough to be easy to park in the city yet big enough for all 5 of us to fit comfortably and still have room in the trunk (err, “boot”).

Using BMW’s ReachNow service I’ve driven a lot of Minis (and the BMW i3, which I love!) and really liked the interiors of the newer models. I was very interested in a new Countryman when I learned that Mini would have a hybrid for 2018. They are just starting to come to the US now but it takes 3-4 months for them to arrive. We configured one on the Mini web site to send to our local dealer to order one. They were going to look into it but I never heard anything and was just too busy so I never bothered to pursue it.

When I woke up today I had no idea I’d have a new car by the end of the day. This morning I got email out of the blue from the dealer telling me that one was just delivered today that was ordered for someone who backed out of the deal because their house remodel went over their budget. He sent me the specs and some photos and it had exactly the options we wanted and it is all black — our current Countryman is the only non-black car we’ve had since the early 1990s. So we left work a little early to go to the dealer and  we bought it!

GoPro Karma sucks

Summary: Do not buy a GoPro Karma.

I made the poor choice to buy a GoPro Karma drone, even after all the bad reviews. They first released it a year ago and had to recall it months later because drones would just fall from the sky. They supposedly fixed that bug and updated the software and re-released it.

The Karma seems attractive because you can attach your GoPro camera to it, you don’t have to use a camera that is built into the drone. I figured a GoPro camera would be best, I already have one, so I wanted to use it. The Karma is also thinner, the camera mounts on the front rather than underneath so it can look upwards as well as downwards, is supposedly quieter, the controller looks much better than the competition and has its own screen rather than require you to use your iPhone and includes the Grip. It originally did not have a “follow me” feature but they added it a few months ago in a software update. It seems like a decent product, but the devil is in the details…

The first thing you want to do is put a GoPro camera in the drone’s harness. The instructions simply show a pictograph of the camera sliding into the harness. But if you try you can’t do it because the door covering the ports won’t let you plug the camera into the harness. I found a YouTube video explaining how to do it – you have to remove the door!

Once you turn on the drone, it tells you that you must update the software. The Karma remote is the only way to update the software on the drone and you simply connect to your WiFi network, download the updates and update the devices. I couldn’t get it to connect to my home WiFi — it silently fails to connect, no error messages. I spent 30 minutes with their tech support and they had no idea why it didn’t work. They insisted that I was mistyping the password, but I was sure it was correct.

Also, there’s no way to see the WiFi password you entered so you can’t check for typos after you enter it. Worse, there’s no way to re-enter a WiFi password so if a WiFi network you’re using ever changes the password, you have to restore the Karma remote to factory firmware, go through setup again, enter the new password for the WiFi network, then download and update the software on it again. It’s unbelievably bad software design.

I eventually found someone on YouTube with the same problem and the commenters figured out that it is because they all were using Google WiFi. I tried taking Google WiFi out of the equation and created a hotspot WiFi network from my Mac. But the remote doesn’t even see the WiFi network. I contacted GoPro tech support and here’s their answer from “Ericka A”:

Hotspot and Mesh network will not handle the update of the Karma drone that is the reason we advise customer to connect it with a stable connection.

That’s a ridiculous explanation, Google WiFi is stable enough for me to update the OS on my iPhone, iPad, desktops, all software I use, even Google WiFi’s firmware itself. Plus, the GoPro camera can be updated over Google WiFi just fine. But not the drone. And note that they don’t “advise” customers to not use it, they don’t say that anywhere, it just silently fails. Bad design.

I had to bring all the hardware to a cafe and use their WiFi network to download the software and update all the devices.

Unfortunately, the drone comes with one device that can’t be updated by the Karma controller: The Grip. And the Grip does not work with their newest camera, the Hero 6. You must update the software on it before you can even turn it on. The only way to do that is to use their Quik app on a desktop computer, but the Quik app doesn’t work — as soon as I log in, the screen goes black and you can’t do anything. They’ve known (or should know) about this since June 2017 and they still seem to be clueless about it and have no fix.

To be clear, you update the drone itself, the stabilizer and the drone controller over WiFi using the drone controller. There’s no other way to do it and, again, it only works with some WiFi networks. You update the GoPro camera with the iPhone app (which works fine over any WiFi network). And you update the Grip with the desktop app only. It’s dizzying how many different ways you are required to update your GoPro equipment.

Once I got everything updated, I tried to fly the drone. This takes you through a compass calibration step. It took me 20+ attempts to calibrate it, which takes a minute of you holding it and turning around slowly. Step 1 always worked, Step 2 always failed. Eventually it worked. So I started the propellers and lifted off. It started flying north all by itself and it was out of my control. I was on top of our building and it was heading off the roof so I frantically tried to get it to land. I got it to descend enough to run into a tarp on the wall, the propellers cut gashes into the tarp and broke 3 of the propellers.

I’d had enough at this point and contacted GoPro to get a refund. They told me they don’t take refunds because I broke the (replaceable) propellers. So I bought replacement propellers, put them on, recalibrated the compass, recalibrated the joysticks (!) and tried again.

After several complaints that it could not connect to GPS, it finally worked. 8 days after getting the Karma, I had my first successful flight. I’d be happy but after all the hell I’ve been through and after spending $1,000 for this thing, I just can’t like it. But I’m stuck with it.

Note that I still cannot get the Grip updated. As I write this, I have been talking to GoPro’s tech support for 95 minutes and they have no clue what the problem is with their Quik software. Again, it’s been an unresolved issue on their own forums for 5 months but they don’t know anything about it.

I’ve been using tech products since the 1980s and I’ve had my share of frustrations with them. Maybe there’s been worse back in the early days of computers, but not by much. DO NOT BUY A GOPRO KARMA DRONE! Get the DJI Phantom instead.

The good news is that I imagine it’s only a matter of time before the drone falls from the sky and is destroyed and I no longer feel compelled to keep using it.

Gates Foundation + Optimism

The Gates Foundation, who refers to themselves as “impatient optimists”, was planning a launch party for their renovated Discovery Center when an employee saw someone at their gym wearing an Optimism t-shirt. She asked about it and learned about our existence and wanted to have our beer at their event. Tonight, Gay and I joined our events person, Colin, to serve our beer.

Coincidentally, it was designed by our favorite architect, Tom Kundig, who also did our brewery and our home.

Coincidence #2: the woman who was in charge of the renovation got up to speak and Gay recognized her as someone she worked with at Aldus back in the 1990s. She remembered Gay and they quickly got caught up on their lives. Small world.

My 48th Birthday

I’m 48. Time sure flies by faster every year!

I got the day off from work, our tradition. I had coffee and enjoyed the quiet empty house. I rode my Peloton bike (1000 kJ exactly, only 2nd time hitting 4 digits). I spent the rest of the day reading, watching YouTube, and browsing the web in my home office that I spend very little time in these days.

Gay (with Eva’s help) made me a steak dinner with horseradish sauce, a baked potato and salad. And another tradition, a German Chocolate cake for dessert.

Bye Lexus

I sold my beloved Lexus LS460 today. 😢 I bought it in 2008. Not having a commute, we never had a need to drive much so, except for road trips, we didn’t put many miles on it. After almost 10 years, it only has 28,675 miles, less than 3,000 miles per year! We don’t have a need for 3 cars so I’ve had it on my To Do list for years to sell it. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it, it was so much fun to drive. So it mostly sat in the garage, depreciating in value, waiting for a long road trip.

The good news is that I sold it to my friend Charles who drives for Peninsula Truck Lines and delivers grain to us at the brewery. He’s an affable guy that I’d see almost every week or so for the last couple years and we always chatted about the Seahawks. He saw the Lexus at the brewery one day and I mentioned that I was going to sell it. I was planning to auction it on eBay but never got around to taking photos and posting it. He was interested and kept asking about it and eventually offered a reasonable number so I accepted it.