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A fall 2015 boat trip with friends

Monday, October 5th, 2015

Perry’s Boat Harbor, photo courtesy of

This past weekend we took a trip up to the California Delta to spend the weekend on the boat which is berthed at Perry’s Yacht Harbor. We hadn’t been since the 4th of July weekend, and a minor electrical repair was needed. I just had surgery on my wrist and I knew I couldn’t fix the boat, wash it, or likely dock it without enlisting some help. We made a last minute call to our friends John and Terisa, and they were up for the spontaneous voyage.

We started off with some breakfast burritos from the Scott’s Valley Market and off we went. Following my brother’s past itineraries, we made a pit stop at Safeway in Pleasanton for more affordable provisions, and made our way up Vasco road, and highway 160 up to Brannan Island. The first order of business was the usual boat wash, except the birds figured out the guardian owl was made of plastic, and subsequently the bow of the boat was covered in bird shit in the pattern of the bow rail. Fortunately I has come prepared with a pressure washer to overcome the low pressure at the dock, and it sped up the process of cleaning the exterior.

1993 Bayliner Classic 2850

The Boat

The next order of business was the electrical repair. On the last visit we experienced a complete electrical failure, fortunately we were already docked at the marina and not out in the river. Most modern pleasure boats have a master wiring plug on the engine, and after two attempts I was able to order the correct one from Michigan Motors online, I think it was about $70 with shipping. The big deal here is braiding the wires for a good electrical connection, and staggering the splices so you don’t end up with a fat bundle of solder joints.

9 pin engine harness

The Jesus Connector

It took about 90 minutes and we were ready to go for a cruise to get gas at Korths Pirates’ Lair down the river. I went here because my brother preferred to get gas here and was on a first name basis with the gas guy, a younger fellow named Joe. Unfortunately I didn’t think to call ahead and we missed closing time by an hour. It’s been years since I have been up to the Delta regularly, and my Dad rarely let me dock as a kid, so I needed the practice. Next stop, B&W Resort which is one of the few places on the Delta that has 24hr automated gas service. They don’t offer free septic tank pumping, but the gas was $0.16/gal cheaper at $3.87/gal. Whatever the cost of gas on land, gas on the water is always $1/gal more. The boat was thirsty, we were unable to gas up last time due to the electrical problem and I was worried about the gas gauge being wrong. We put 50 gallons in the boat, and it was time to make our way to the evening festivities at Tower Park, about 20ish minutes by boat.

Loop around Bouldin Island

Loop around Bouldin Island

Things slow down in the Delta in the winter, so the options are more limited. I chose Tower Park because my old friend Bob Donnelly was playing in a band that night called the Mojo Social Club. I hadn’t seen Bob in over 15 years, and we recently connected on FaceBook where he would invite me to his gigs. Bob and I met at West Valley Dodge with the likes of Paul Carlini (RIP) and David Gray whom I attend death metal concerts with once in a while.

It was getting dark and we were able to make it to Tower Park OK, but the thought of going back to the marina at 1am with a handheld spotlight was not appealing. Fortunately in the Delta you can go to a bar, get shitfaced drunk, and fall asleep on your boat without getting hassled. Normally one would pay an overnight docking fee, but being the off season I was told they probably didn’t have anyone patrolling the docks, and he was right.

Tower Park photo courtesy of Rosas' website

Tower Park photo courtesy of Rosas’ website

We headed up to the bar with an hour to spare to get some food and drinks. Since this isn’t Yelp I’m not going to go into the food, but let’s just say the Delta is not a foodie paradise. We did have a long discussion about Gordon Ramsey, but I digress. With a couple of vodka tonics in me, I decided that rather than approach Bob directly, I would ask the waitress to tell Bob a cute girl was asking for him to sign an autograph. Of course I was wearing the pirate hat at the time, and decided it would be more fun if Terisa wore the pirate hat while I turned away so Bob couldn’t see my face. I guess Bob doesn’t know how this FaceBook thing works, otherwise he’d have known I was on the confirmed attendee list.

Terisa playing "the cute girl with the pirate hat"

Terisa playing “the cute girl with the pirate hat”

Photo opportunity

Photo opportunity

So Bob walks up, takes a look at Terisa, and it seems was having trouble knowing just what to say. “Do I know you?” She said “no but do you know this guy?”. Just then a member of the band walks up and says he heard a cute girl was asking to meet Bob and he couldn’t believe it, so he had to see it with his own eyes… We spent 15 minutes talking and took a walk down the dock, the Bob was off to start his set. We hung out for a couple of sets with a break on the boat in between.

That’s another nice thing about the Delta, you can drink on your boat. We weren’t up for hanging in the bar for the duration, so around midnight we went outside to check out the lightning storm that spanned from about Fairfield up to Sacramento.

Yes folks, there was rain in California, just not in the Bay Area. John and I laid on the bow of the boat while the gals hung out in the cockpit. The view was awesome with mixes of visible lightning bolts, and some flashed obscured by clouds (coincidentally a great album by Pink Floyd). It started to sprinkle then came down in buckets. We hung out in the cockpit safely encased in canvas where we could continue to watch the show for over an hour. My only mistake was having opened the hatch in the front berth where one of the blankets was getting drenched. Fortunately Michelle got over it, or at least I woke up the next morning still alive.

We slept in until about 9:30 the next morning, and made a quick dash down Potato Slough, completing a big circle around Bouldin Island. We needed to make it to Korths before 11:15 when they quit service breakfast. We opted to park in the guest dock which is a little less challenging than the gas dock. Despite some tricky conditions and use of only one arm, I managed to do a decent job of docking the boat. I couldn’t have done it without John’s help, who was a quick study at jumping onto the dock, and quickly affixing the lines and tying off on the dock cleats.

Porter kicking it on the dock waiting for us to depart

Porter kicking it on the dock waiting for us to depart

We made our way back to the marina and did a quick cleanup of the interior, and headed back towards home.

Wente Vineyard Courtyard

Wente Vineyard Courtyard

Porter hanging in the shade waiting for the winos

Porter hanging in the shade waiting for the winos

Michelle and I opted to make a stop at Wente Winery in Livermore to do some wine tasting. It was a really chill weekend with good friends and I hope I speak for all of us when I say I really felt relaxed at the end.

So we go to this bar…

Friday, August 30th, 2013

My GF and I go to Carmel to visit friends who recently moved here from Colorado. We get into town, grab some lunch and hit a couple of shops. We saw this little hole in the wall bar, almost out of place for Carmel. It was similar to an English pub with lots of woodgrain, but they didn’t make any fuzzy drinks there, and there were several ashtrays on the bar. The place had about 15 seats around a small square bar.

This bartender was in his 70s, a thin smoker who wore a yellow Polo sweater. Turns out he owned the place, and has lived in Carmel for about 30 years. This guy took no shit off anyone, and he was proactive in dishing it out. Not an asshole, just matter of fact. Cheers this was not…

When we got arrived, there was a small group of friends sitting on the corner of the bar bantering back and forth with the bartender. I wanted an Irish coffee with Bushmills, but this was a Jameson place. “Bushmills is shit” said the bartender. I will say the guy poured an honest drink. Our friend got a run and coke that was all rum with a shot of cola…

While we were engaged in the conversation the phone rang a few times. Both times the person was asking where the bar was located. The bartender was about half in the bag, hard to understand, and a bit hard of hearing. He was visibly frustrated with this line of questioning and quickly dismissed the caller, and proceeded to rant about the issue with all of us.

At one point our friend (affectionately known as “BFF”) thought it would be funny to call the bar and ask for directions. I wish I had my iPhone camera going… He was brazen, sitting at the bar as the phone rang. Everyone at the bar went silent as the bartender had scolded us for being loud during the previous phone calls. “Hello?” “Where is your bar located?” I forget what the guy said, but there was a lot of swearing as he dismissed the caller and hung up the phone. The guy was deaf enough that he didn’t hear our friend 5 feet away placing the call. We all started crying. It was that funny…

We engage in conversation for a while and my GF storms out of the bar, slamming the door on the way out. The bar tender asks me “Did you do something to piss her off?”. I said “Not yet, but the day is young…”. A little while later she comes back and explains that some woman walked by the bar, looked in the window at her and violently displays her middle finger. In response my GF followed her down the street and returned the favor. Apparently this woman was fairly hammered and was caught off guard at the response.

After one round we were contemplating our next move. Do we stay for one more, or head back to the house? The old guy was done with his shift and was on his way out. A new crowd of folks came in to celebrate a couple who had recently gotten married. We decided to get one more round and continued our conversation with the original group who was there when we arrived.

We got about halfway through our drinks when a new guy showed up. He asked how long we had been there, and we replied jokingly “we’ve been here all day”… He asks if we saw a woman walk by and flip off the bartender. I jumped in quickly to avert disaster and said “No we must have missed it.”. So he elaborates that this woman had called the bar asking for directions and the bartender had been rude to her, so she had walked by and gave him the bird. Apparently some woman had chased her down the street and furiously presented her with dualing middle fingers. I replied “Does that really happen here in Carmel?”

At this point it’s clear, we need to leave. Now. My GF and BFF are anxiously wanting to leave, but my fresh Irish Coffee is too hot to drink. I’m not going to waste a perfectly good drink, and given that I’m not directly involved in any of this, I tell them to go to the car and I’l catch up. A few minutes later I realize I have the key to the car and can sense their nervousness in anticipation of this couple returning and seeing them down the street. I quaff down this drink and head out, only to find them lingering in a closed storefront trying not to attract attention. I unlocked the car and we left the scene unscathed, and with an unforgettable tale to tell.

New Year, Clean Slate

Friday, January 20th, 2012

I finally quit making excuses and went back to the gym this year after a 2+ year break. My legitimate excuse was financial, CrossFit memberships are now $175/mo. What?!?!? Yep, and worth every penny. For those of you not familiar with CrossFit, it’s a pretty brutal workout program conducted on the hour in groups. A personal trainer is involved with each group, so this is nothing like 24hr Fitness and the like.

On that note, my uncle was a long time avid weightlifter. He told me a while back that he was having pain issues due to working out on the Nautilus style machines. The reason is that the machines do not have the same pivot points as your body as they are pretty much one-size-fits-all. He recommended that I stick with free weights. As luck would have it, the only machine in CrossFit is a rowing machine. Everything else is weights, racks (pullups, bar dips, etc), ropes, and other misc stuff.

The great part about CrossFit is, all you have to do is show up. You have no idea what the workout is until you get there, and you are done in an hour. The current program I’m in at in Santa Cruz starts with a warmup routine. Usually a 400m run or 500m-750m row, followed by some “turf work” (various random movements up and down a 30 yard strip of Astroturf, marked much like a football field), and then stretching using a piece of PVC Pipe (Air Squats, Shoulder “Dislocates”, and “Good Mornings”).

After the warmup, we do a strength element. It’s usually pretty chill weight lifting, 15-20 minutes of doing one exercise set. Again totally random, usually a number of rounds of a multi rep exercise. Then comes the workout. There are usually three exercises we will do, involving weightlifting, gymnastics, and cardio. For example we recently did 5 rounds of exercises with a decending number of reps for each round for time.

  • 15-12-9-6-3 reps of Hang Power Clean
  • 15-12-9-6-3 reps of Bar Dips
  • 20-20-20-20-20 reps of Air Squats

It is intense, but it’s over quickly. Well it took me 16:07 to complete this one, and I’m usually last to finish, being new and all. But this raises a very important point. It’s not a competition. The only person I am challenging is myself. The trainers don’t yell at you all Drill Sargent like, but they do watch everyone and commend them on movements that are done correctly, and they are there to correct you when you are doing them wrong. It’s quite easy to gain respect for these trainers, these mentors, and it makes you want to push yourself.

Another important point is that no one is pushing you to lift too much. I think everyone agrees that it’s more important to do these movements correctly, and most important safely, than to try to lift as much as you can. Once you are able to do the movements right, the trainers will encourage you to work your way up to a more challenging weight, but never in a forceful way. They are also quick to point out when you aren’t able to manage the weight you chose.

In a way this is like a boot camp, except you are your own Drill Sargent. I just like the fact that I don’t have to think about what to do, I just show up and it’s all laid out for me. Much better than paying tax to 24hr Fitness, and doing unproductive exercise because you just don’t know what to do. CrossFit is a good value in between a regular gym membership, and paying for private training sessions at $75-$100 each. And CrossFit isn’t just for young people, old people are doing it to. People way older than me…

I started on January 2nd at 292.6 lbs. 13 days of CrossFit later and I’m at 282.0 lbs, right where I was before the holidays. I did quit drinking for the month of January again this year, and I’m sure that’s helping me stay motivated and get up at 6am every morning.

Well, time will tell how I do this year with my return to CrossFit…

I just hacked your AT&T voicemail

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Kidding. But what I discovered on accident last night is that many AT&T voicemail boxes are unprotected by default, even if you have a PIN number.

You can test your voicemail to see if it’s vulnerable by calling yourself from your cell phone. If you are prompted for a password, you are safe.

If you are not prompted for a password, it’s AT&T’s way of making your life easy. After all AT&T knows you are just you calling yourself, so why should they prompt you for your password? Well, because other people can “spoof” your cell phone callerID, and access your voicemail.

Using my telephony superpowers (comes with owning a phone company), I conducted some tests with willing participants and validated this issue. Even called AT&T to let them know there was an issue. As it turns out, this has been a known issue for about a year now.

My thinking is that this largely affects iPhone users rather than those with non-smart-phones. Here’s how this plays out;

You go to the Apple Store and purchase your shiney new iPhone. During the purchase, the sales associate requests a PIN number. The first time you try to access Visual Voicemail, you are prompted for the PIN. If you call your iPhone from another phone, you may have pressed * to access your voicemail box, in which case you are prompted to enter your PIN. So your voicemail is secure, right? Ummm, no.

By default, the PIN is not enabled if you call your voicemail from your own phone. You have to enable your PIN explicitly. Here’s how;

  1. Call your voicemail
  2. Listen to and save/delete and outstanding messages
  3. Press 4 to go to “Personal Options”
  4. Press 2 to go to “Administrative Options”
  5. Press 1 to go to “Password”
  6. Press 2 to turn your password “ON”

Hang-up and call your voicemail again from your iPhone to confirm you are protected.

I haven’t heard back from AT&T yet, but they are aware of this issue. Yep. Uh huh.

Seems like someone should setup a war dialer to call all AT&T customer’s voicemail and enable their passwords for them. Then again, AT&T could just do this for their customers. Or not.



Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Last weekend I participated in a hack-a-thon event called Tech Raising in Santa Cruz. The idea is to make a 90 second pitch on an idea Friday night, and teams form to build a minimally viable demo by Sunday night. In my case, I was lucky enough to form a team from the fall 2010 session of Santa Cruz App Dev. Todd Schafer, a graphic designer who created the Santa Cruz Telecom logo, joined our team at the event. This is an amazing group of people. I knew we would work well together, but we had never had to meet a deadline like this before.

What did we build you ask? OttoBrew, a fully computerized small scale micro brewery. With no knowledge of beer brewing, and little direction, my team build an awesome web 2.0 interface to our brewery. We didn’t actually build a whole brewery, just the web interface, and a mockup fashioned from wood, deck screws, and duct tape. My job was to provide the spec, the background on brewing, and to build out the data acquisition and control system.

While I had no doubt we could build a worth while demo, my team exceeded my expectations. The crowd and the panel seemed to be impressed with what we accomplished.

One of the organizers posted a video of us while we were heavy in development mode.

I’ll post more later.