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December 31, 2016

A trip back in time… and missing RSS.

Filed under: Apple,Technology,Thoughts,Writing — chuck goolsbee @ 4:10 am

I took a trip back to 2012 yesterday morning. It was a very vivid and immediate vision because how I went there was via the resurrection of an old laptop that was last used in late summer 2012. How I got there was mundane: I had purchased a bit of older technology, an Apple Airport Express base station (I use a technology called AirPlay to direct music from my laptop/iPhone/iPad to various speaker systems all around my property, and needed another one to fill in an audio gap in the basement) but this “new” old tech which I had grabbed from eBay for literally the price of two hot cocoas from a fancy coffee shop had been reset to factory defaults and could not be managed from current software. For most folks this would be a technological Kobayashi Maru scenario. But not for me, I knew I had the ability to technologically time travel, and likely could connect to the device, manage it, apply firmware updates, etc, and get it running on my home network. My old laptop, a MacBook Pro from around 2009, was sitting in a box in my garage. A couple of days ago I brought it in the house, set it on the table, plugged it in, tapped the keyboard, and watched it come back to life.

It still had the strange screen defect that caused me to replace it in 2012. But it also came back exactly how I had last used it. Applications were still there with windows open and documents still in the state they were when I last used it in the summer of 2012. I wasn’t there to reminisce however, I was there to do a job. Sure enough the ancient version of Airport Utility recognized the Airport Express and let me configure it. Job done, I closed the laptop and went on with my day.

But yesterday morning I sat down for breakfast at the table next to that laptop and casually opened it to have a look. I opened the web browser Safari, and to my surprise I noted the RSS feed ticker in my bookmark bar updating itself. I started with digits around 30-something, but rapidly escalated to 600-something before my eyes. I had forgotten how critical RSS was to my web browsing lifestyle. It was something very close to that old “Knowledge Navigator” thing from the infamous John Sculley-era video, but FAR LESS INTRUSIVE. It was’t some over-arching in-my-face annoyingly friendly technology… it was just a tiny little robot that collected things from the Internet I liked to read and presented them in a very unobtrusive way, right in my web browser. I had my RSS feeds arranged by subjects; cars, friends, photography, ideas, Chile (from when Christopher was an exchange student there), etc.

I spent a morning I had planned to go skiing instead catching up with some “old friends” namely some websites I used to visit almost daily, and writers I like to read. I found out that Tomas Dinges had taken a voyage and was back in Chile, that Wayne Bernhardsen’s Malamute Malbec is still alive, though now old and slow, and the stuff at Curbside Classics is still great.

My old laptop
My old laptop

I eventually closed the lid after I had browsed through the entirety of my unread RSS feeds, and took off for Mt. Bachelor. As I was resting between runs on the Northwest Express Lift I thought about how Facebook had largely replaced RSS, but what had won out wasn’t quality, it was quantity. Instead of a trickle of great content it was a torrent of crap. Instead of thoughtful analysis of an old car parked on a roadside in Eugene, it was several hundred bad-quality “potato” shots of cars in V.I.S.I.T. Time is the most valuable commodity we have, and I’m starting to ponder how well I’ve been spending it…

I have no idea why Apple pulled RSS support out of Safari (ironically around the same time Google killed its RSS Reader) but it is certainly a feature I miss. Yes, I tried a dozen stand-alone RSS apps, but none of them were very good, and none of them made good browsers. Since that moment in time when that old laptop was retired my web browser has morphed from my window into the Internet, to a Facebook screen and where I pay my bills. I’m going to try to change that habit in the new year. Seek out quality content again.

Feel free to share how you find it in the comments.

November 5, 2016

BAT Success Story: Part 2, M6 from Wisconsin to Oregon

Filed under: Cars,Creative Work,Review & Criticism,Writing — chuck goolsbee @ 11:45 pm

This is part two of a two-part series. Part one is here.

Another M6 shows up on BAT
Another M6 shows up on BAT

Just about every E24 M6 that appears on BAT over the past year has drawn my attention. I’ve actively bid on several, including a few that I lost in the final minutes to a higher bidder. Most of my attention went to M6s that are not either Black or Red. I’ve owned a black car before and never liked how it shows every flaw. I’ve just never liked red cars. Sorry for all you red car lovers, but to me they look flat, completely lacking in depth. In my opinion the metallic blues are the best colors, as they have amazing depth and change in different lighting conditions. The week before this auction there was another M6 on BAT, upon which I was the high bidder, but it failed to meet reserve. I was having a few offline conversations with the seller, when this one appeared. Soon regular BAT commentators are calling me out by name:

You guys have my back. Love it!
You guys have my back. Love it!

I happen to be in Maui with my girlfriend (she has taken me there for my birthday) as the auction is coming to a close, so I set an alarm to get me off the beach and back to my laptop in time to make some bids. As with every BAT auction, the finale seems to end up like that final showdown scene in “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”, with two or three bidders virtually staring at each other, and finding the courage to up their bid as the timer counts down again, and again… and again.

Turns out I am the last man standing.

(more…)

October 29, 2016

Proposed BAT “Success Story” post

Filed under: Cars,Review & Criticism,Writing — chuck goolsbee @ 8:39 pm

Working on some stories for the website Bring A Trailer. Feel free to comment/correct in the comments.

BAT Success Stories: Two almost flawless Arrive & Drives.

I’ve never owned a BMW until a few years ago, now I have a shop half-full of them; two of those are thanks to BAT. I’d never even driven a BMW until 2011 when I joined a 24 Hours of Lemons team who campaign a beater 1990 325i (E30). A few laps into my first race I fall in love with the little lightweight coupe and its perfect balance between power and handling. Thus begins an addiction.

I bought a used 2007 M Roadster (E85/S54) as my daily driver a year later, which is a pure joy to drive. Then, last summer while visiting Portland, Oregon for a week of business I tack on an SCCA Track Night and Portland International Raceway, and a BMW Club tour through the Oregon Wine Country. At PIR the only car in my advanced run group that out-runs the M Roadster is a race-prepped Mustang with 2X my horsepower, and I still managed to stick to his tail through the corners. Then the next day on the tour I find myself behind a late 80s E24 M6. The big coupe never fails to pull away from me on every straight. I’m dumfounded. How could this old car do that? I’d seen E24s for years but never really noticed them… even a good car-guy friend in Bellingham, WA has two “Sharks”… but I always look right past them at his E-type Jaguar.

But here this elegant and clearly luxurious machine is also now making me work to catch up to it in my, lightweight, fairly minimal roadster. And the sounds that it makes… GLORIOUS! At every rest stop I linger over the M6, looking at every angle. I decide I had to have one. Thus begins my hunt…

(more…)

February 21, 2010

The 7 Rules for Writing World Class Technical Documentation | SCALE 8x – 2010 Southern California Linux Expo

Filed under: Technology,Writing — chuck goolsbee @ 9:47 am

The 7 Rules for Writing World Class Technical Documentation | SCALE 8x – 2010 Southern California Linux Expo.

Saw these seven nuggets of wisdom from Bob Reselman via Twitter and my friend (and fellow speaker @ Macworld Expo) Dan O’Donnell.

Writing a technical document is hard. Reading a poorly written technical document is harder, and probably more painful than writing one. It takes a lot of work to create a clear, accurate, engaging piece of technical writing. Thus, in order to make life a little easier for all parties involved, I am going to share with you the 7 Rules that I follow when creating a piece of technical documentation.

The 7 Rules are:

1. Dry sucks
2. Before you start, be clear about what you want your reader to do after you end
3. Write to a well formed outline, always
4. Avoid ambiguous pronouns
5. clarity = illustrations + words
6. When dealing with concepts… logical illustration and example
7. Embrace revision

Wish I could attend the session in question.

January 6, 2010

Product Review: Harbor Freight Hydraulic Scissor Lift

Filed under: Cars,Review & Criticism,Writing — chuck goolsbee @ 12:28 pm

Note this is an article I’m developing for another website. Feel free to comment with suggestions, observations, or corrections.


Having lead a life of high adventure in my youth, scaling pinnacles of rocks and ice, I never imagined that I’d meet my end, flat on my back crushed beneath a falling car. My life was flashing before my eyes as I set a new land-speed record for butt-shoulder-shuffling my way out from under the creaking, swaying mass of steel in the form of a 1999 Volkswagen New Beetle suspended above my body on my tried, and until-that-moment trusted ramps and jack-stands. There I was, staring death in the face in the form of my wife’s “cute bug” looking like Damocles’ Sword, or Poe’s Pendulum, my garage floor playing the Pit. The tremor ceased as my head cleared the oil pan, and the Beetle had stopped making the horrific creaking noises as the jack-stands stopped wobbling. I cleared the bumper and leapt to my feet in a single motion, and relief swept over me like the expected post-quake tidal wave should. “Damn, I’m still alive!… in fact I’m completely unharmed!” Running into the house I yelled at the family: ‘Did you guys feel that?!” … only to be met with a non-chalant: “feel what?”

In retrospect the tremor which scared me out from under the car was only a barely-rattle-the-china 3.2 on the Richter Scale, but it drove home an indelible lesson to this DIY mechanic living in a region where three tectonic plates meet: I gotta get a lift!

The scene of my near-death experience almost a decade ago.
The scene of my near-death experience almost a decade ago.

With kids heading for college in a few years, the budget was tight, but the family’s financial committee agreed that my life and future earning power were worth an investment of about a thousand bucks or so. Armed with that vote of confidence I perused the web for advice and good deals on a better platform for the home mechanic to raise his car off the ground. Most of the work I do on my family’s cars involves basic maintenance: Fluid Changes. Tire Rotations. Brake Jobs. Occasionally tasks are a tad more involved, especially with my hobby car, a vintage British sports car, which always seems to have some little thing, and occasionally a big thing wrong with it. Major engine overhauls and complete restorations however are out of my league, so in reality the lift I required could be a light-duty model. Sure, I’d love a deluxe two- or four-post lift, but at the time I was shopping I really had no place to put one, and they were all priced out of my budget. Scissor lifts however seemed to be a good compromise: small, semi-portable, usable in a small garage, and far safer than ramps & jack-stands, while being reasonably priced.

The solution.
The solution.

At the suggestion of more than one like-minded cheapskate wrench-turner I settled upon the “US General” 6000lb Scissor Lift from Harbor Freight. (Item #46604) It is likely the lowest-price lift on the market. Using a Triple-Word-Score combination of coupons, online specials, and shipping discounts the total price came to about $850 in 2003. I live in the boonies 60-some miles out of Seattle and due to the size and weight (~750lbs) of the lift Harbor Freight would only use a freight forwarder for shipping. This meant I had to pick it up at a loading dock in Seattle in my battered old farm pickup. It arrived in two pieces: a large wooden crate, with a cardboard box containing the hydraulic control unit strapped to the top of it, which fit right into the short bed of the old Dodge. I borrowed a neighbor’s tractor with a backhoe to unload the bulky unit from the truck’s bed and set it on the concrete floor of my garage. A few months later I relocated it to our barn, which became my workshop after the last of the domestic livestock were moved to better accommodations elsewhere. Moving the whole unit around is unwieldy, yet once upon a concrete slab it is very easy for a single person to maneuver the lift around an open space due to the magic of leverage and physics. The Control unit is essentially designed as a wheeled lever, and the lift is equipped with sturdy rollers at one end, and a lever-eye at the other end.

The lift fully retracted.
The lift fully retracted.
The lift fully raised.
The lift fully raised.

First, the bad news: Two minor parts failed almost immediately. The original plastic wheels of the control unit are just not up to the task of holding the weight of the lift when used as a lever. They literally crumbled after a few tries moving the lift around. I replaced them with sturdier units from my local hardware store with actual bearings in them. Secondly the control unit is very top-heavy and with the broken wheels it tipped over, falling right onto the fitting for the hydraulic pipe, breaking it. At first I tried calling Harbor Freight’s customer service department to have the pipe replaced. Eventually I gave up that fruitless exercise and had a new pipe fabricated at my local NAPA store. Both repairs have held up for almost six years.

The lift's simple safety lock mechanism.
The lift's simple safety lock mechanism.
The hydraulic control unit, being used as a lever to move the entire unit around. Steel wheels are at the other end of the lift itself to facilitate movement. One person can pull or push the flat lift around on a concrete slab for repositioning or storage.
The hydraulic control unit, being used as a lever to move the entire unit around. Steel wheels are at the other end of the lift itself to facilitate movement. One person can pull or push the flat lift around on a concrete slab for repositioning or storage.

The good news: It is simple to operate, safe, and makes common automotive maintenance work a breeze. Low clearance cars such as my vintage Jaguar require help getting over the folded lift, so I have collected some long 4×4 & 4×6 lumber to arrange around the lift for that purpose. Vehicles with more ground clearance can just drive over it. Moveable arms with adjustable rubber-topped pads provide the lifting surfaces under the car. The pads are scored with right-angled grooves to mate up to the body work of cars like VW, who use flanges as lifting points. The lift has several pre-set ratcheting safety latch points as it goes up, providing safe, stable levels to perform work. To raise the car you operate the hydraulic pump, which runs from a standard household electrical outlet, with a push-button. To lower the car you must hold two levers, one retracting the safety-catch, the other slowly releasing the hydraulic fluid.

Works for all manner of vehicles, provided they are under 6000 pounds.
Works for all manner of vehicles, provided they are under 6000 pounds.

Oil changes, tire rotations, and brake work are now super-easy, and so much safer and faster when performed on the lift. Instead of spending lots of time raising, lowering and fiddling with jacks and stands, you can now get right to work. However, since the lift itself is positioned directly under the car working on things like transmissions or exhaust can be problematic depending upon the car. For these applications a traditional lift would be much better, but for the home mechanic on a budget this small lift is a wonderful luxury. I’ve used it countless times for oil and filter changes, and when it came time to sell the New Beetle I was able to do it right with numerous photos of every nook and cranny to put it on eBay Motors.

Had that tremor in 2003 bloomed into a genuine 6.0 or larger quake I might not be here today to enjoy life. Even if you don’t live in a “geological entertainment zone” like I do the peace of mind provided by such a simple and safe working platform is well worth the cost.

December 2, 2009

Published: Five fallacies of cloud computing

Filed under: Datacenter,rants,Review & Criticism,Technology,Thoughts,Writing — chuck goolsbee @ 8:17 pm

Five fallacies of cloud computing.

My article about cloud computing fallacies was recently published over at Tech Target. The cool part for me has been seeing people reference it in Twitter posts. Big thanks to my college buddy Richard Puig for asking me the question that set me off on this rant. 😉

Unlike past articles I’ve had published there this one does not have a comments sections, so I can’t see the feedback. I’ll have to ping my editor and see what sort of cranky emails he’s been receiving .

November 17, 2009

A Father & Son(s) Road Trip: Seattle to LA, and Back. (Part Two.)

Filed under: Cars,father-son roadtrip,Writing — chuck goolsbee @ 12:19 am

Note: The following is a re-write of my father-son road trip story for the JagMag.


On the southbound leg of the trip I am accompanied by my eldest son, Christopher. He is 19, and had just finished his Freshman year of college a few weeks before our departure. I eagerly anticipated this chance to travel with him as other than a few brief visits, I had not had much of a chance to spend time with Chris since he left for college the previous autumn. Unfortunately after many weeks of brilliant sunshine and mild weather, the weekend chosen for starting our father-son road trip brings thunderstorms to the Pacific Northwest. Rain we’re used to, but lighting and thunder are rare occurrences. We have to wait for the storm to blow over which delays our departure by two and a half frustrating days. Thankfully our plans are very flexible, and the delay doesn’t really upset anything other than my desire to be on the road. When the weatherman says that the skies will clear by the end of the day, we depart our home and head south on Monday, July 13th. Our original route plans would have taken us out to the coast and around the Olympic Peninsula, but now we’re just blasting south on I-5 through scattered showers as we’ve given up on Washington’s sights and want to get to places further afield. At Longview we leave the freeway and cross over into Oregon.

Christopher Goolsbee over the Columbia River.
Christopher Goolsbee over the Columbia River.

Our immediate goal is to find Oregon Highway 47, a thin ribbon of asphalt through the Coast Range that winds south from Clatskanie through the Yamhill wine country, to McMinnville, Oregon. The rain has stopped, and this route proves to be a proper antidote to a few hours of freeway monotony; tight turns, no traffic, plenty of elevation gain and loss, hairpins, sweepers, and finally opening up into the rolling Yamhill country bathed in golden twilight. If you’ve never driven this road in your Jaguar add “Drive Oregon Highway 47” to your list of things to do. (Note: A video search on Google turns up many wobbly motocycle videos shot on this road, so perhaps it is best avoided on weekends. We drove it on a Monday and it was completely empty.)

Chris is a real history buff, so our aim is going to McMinnville is to visit the Evergreen Aviation Museum, home to the “Spruce Goose” and many other historic aircraft. We arrive too late in the day to get into the museum, but there are many exhibits outside and we park the Jaguar next to Medal of Honor recipient Major Leo ThorsnessF-105g “Wild Weasel” and then spend about two hours walking around the exterior of the museum and soaking in the outdoor exhibits in the long summer twilight.

A Jet and a Jag
A Jet and a Jag

That night I posted an update on our trip on my website with a picture of the F105 and received this email from a fellow Jaguar enthusiast:

“I probably wrenched on that bird at one time or another. They were very limited modified 105s that flew out in front of B66 chafe slingers and B52s in Southeast Asia. The ECM emulated the B52s and the SAMS would lock on and shoot at the 105s. In return, the 105s would lock on the SAM pads and fire back with AGM 78s(air to ground missiles). They had about three seconds to dodge the telephone pole sized SAM or they didn’t come back. I lost two planes and crews during my service there.
We were called ”Wild Weasels”. The pilots were the bravest people I have ever met.”
–Jeff Cecil, 69 E-type FHC, North Carolina

Small world.

Chris & I return to the museum the following morning, and spend almost all day touring the exhibits inside. The highlight of the day is a tour of a B-17 by a former pilot. His name is Barney, and our tour is only supposed to be about 8 minutes long. He begins by showing us the outside of the plane, and describes both the design goals and the realistic limitations of the aircraft.

Barney gives us the walk-around of the B-17, starting with the tail gun. The massive tail of the Spruce Goose looms in the background.
Barney gives us the walk-around of the B-17, starting with the tail gun. The massive tail of the Spruce Goose looms in the background.

When we approach the waist hatchway of the B-17 something happens that will always be one of my fondest memories of this trip. Barney tells us that the B-17 now has a set of steps installed so that visitors can easily climb in, including him as he’s now in his eighties, but when he was flying they had to vault themselves into the plane. Christopher immediately vaults himself into the plane without touching the steps, bringing a huge smile to Barney’s face and changing his demeanor noticeably. Our eight minute tour stretches well beyond thirty minutes as Barney provides detailed background, stories, and observations concerning every bit of this remarkable aircraft’s interior and his experiences in WW2. Christopher’s simple youthful act obviously connects with Barney at a very emotional level, as he was Chris’ age when he served our country. Chris being a history buff is soaking it all up. It is a wonderful moment to observe, as a parent, as an American, and as a human being.

The moment captured: Chris properly vaulting into the B-17.
The moment captured: Chris properly vaulting into the B-17.

From McMinnville we drive south to Eugene and enjoy a late lunch with a friend, followed by a drive to, and then down the coast. Along US 101 we see an Alfa Romeo Montreal driving north. I point it out to Chris and say “You don’t see those every day!” Then I followed up by saying, “I bet the guys in the Alfa just said ‘Wow, an E-type Jaguar! You don’t see those every day!'” As the sun goes down we arrive in Bandon, where we camp for the night in one of Oregon’s state parks. The E-type gets all sorts of double-takes from the other campers!

The world's smallest RV on the Oregon Coast
The world's smallest RV on the Oregon Coast

Our next day sees us driving into California. The morning is very cold and foggy, and we are dressed for the arctic as we cruise top-down through the chill. We stop for an early lunch with friends in Eureka, then drive the Avenue of the Giants through the amazing Redwoods. It is blazing hot once away from the coast so Chris and I opt for Highway 1. The coast however, is completely shrouded in fog. Caught between the frying pan and the fog, we head down California Highway 128 towards Booneville in the late afternoon, as it cools off, enjoying dinner in Santa Rosa. We spend the night with a friend in the Bay Area, after a long day on the road. As we ticked off those miles Chris and I spent a lot of time talking, which is always good.

Day four turns out to be action-packed, with visits to three E-type owning friends south of San Francisco, and driving in a pack to a lunch in Carmel. Along the way our caravan of three E-types happened upon another E-type going the opposite direction, not something you expect on a Thursday afternoon! After lunch we part ways with our Jaguar friends and head south along Big Sur with instructions from them about an amazing, little-known road to take halfway down the coast. Along the way we stop for a break and to admire the view when by complete chance we meet another Jaguar friend (though he’s driving a Lotus at that moment) who is driving the other direction. He stops when he sees us and tells us about Elephant Seals hauled up on a beach further south. I let Chris decide which way to go and he picks the seals.

Chris & the 65E in Big Sur
Chris & the 65E in Big Sur
A chance meeting of a friend on the coast
A chance meeting of a friend on the coast
Elephant Seals bicker over sleeping spots on the beach.
Elephant Seals bicker over sleeping spots on the beach.

It is important to let Chris the pace and course of the trip. I’m happy to drive anywhere, so when he decides to see the seals it is OK with me. Neither of us have ever seen them before, and it is a shock to see how big they are. Unlike the Harbor Seals and Sea Lions we’ve seen around Seattle, the Elephant Seals are simply enormous. Though most are just sleeping on the beach, there is always some bellowing and minor confrontations going on. It is fascinating to observe. Chris oddly declines a visit to San Simeon, and I pilot the Jaguar inland as more fog rolls into the coast. We climb the coastal hills and are treated to a a spectacular view.

Looking south along the central California coastal hills at sunset.
Looking south along the central California coastal hills at sunset.

We head over to Paso Robles for the night, with a great pizza dinner enjoyed with a fine local Petite Syrah – tomorrow we’ll arrive in LA!

I have some parts waiting for me at the will call window at XK’s Unlimited in San Luis Obispo; some clips to secure a loose chrome trim strip on the passenger side door sill. I bet the cashier has no idea that I’ve driven four days to pick this three dollars worth of parts… in the very E-type they’ll fix! Parts secured, we venture onwards through Ventura and towards Malibu. A familiar name catches my eye as we’re cruising along the coast highway and I hang a u-turn. I’ve always wanted to travel the length of Mulholland Drive in a cool car, and here’s my chance! The famed road follows the crest of the Santa Monica mountains and according to my map, will take us all the way through the Hollywood Hills. What a cool way to enter Los Angeles and end our journey! While it is better than following the main highways, it turns out my map is wrong, and Mulholland Drive is broken by an unpaved, closed to motor vehicles section in the middle. Oh well.

Chris and I wait for a light on Mulholland Drive as we enter LA.
Chris and I wait for a light on Mulholland Drive as we enter LA.

We meet up with a friend of mine who works for RAND for dinner in Santa Monica, then complete the rest of Mulholland Drive in the Hollywood Hills after dark. Our final destination is the house of a friend and fellow E-type owner in La Canada, Larry Wade. Larry is the person who originally inspired this trip, taking a similar one in 2006 with his two kids (same ages as mine), using my home as the apogee of his journey. He was now returning the favor, allowing us to use his home as our turn-around spot. We have a rest day in LA, which involves going to a local car show with Larry, then a spirited drive in our two E-types up the Angeles Crest Highway followed by a night time visit to the Mt. Wilson Observatory with a spectacular view of the entire Los Angeles basin. The next day Christopher flies home to Seattle while his brother wings his way south. I pass the time awaiting my youngest son Nicholas’ arrival attending the Art Center School of Design’s annual car show.

Next month I’ll share the return trip with my fifteen year old, through the Sierras, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, and the northern coast bathed in sunshine.

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