Friday, January 31, 2020

Rethinking the TV Experience

Traditional "cable TV" may not be a winner for me anymore

Back in September of 2011, I wrote about cord-cutting, the idea that people like us who value flexibility and balk at cable's high prices might move away from standard cable packages. Since then, many of my friends have done it and most have been happy. And the world of video options is only getting more sophisticated (and complicated). In addition to traditional cable TV packages there are Internet streaming services that offer original content, and some that offer popular shows in reruns. Many offer movies. There are even streaming services that provide what traditional cable TV packages do – aggregations of commercial television channels but delivered via the Internet. More services are coming online all the time.

Let me describe the video entertainment service – or combination of services - I want. Then I'd love to hear whether this is the kind of service you want, too.

First, of course I want great content and on this score I’m really happy with the offerings we're seeing lately. There’s quality stuff these days on HBO, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video and other streaming services, with more services coming online often. Services like these probably account for 75% of my passive entertainment time. I don’t watch commercial TV much at all, other than news, sports, and Comedy Central.

Next, I want to watch without interspersed commercials. I can live with a few very short pre-rolls. And to be clear, I don’t just want to skip through commercials I prefer to have no commercials at all, like on HBO and Netflix. I recognize that as commercials are a monetization mechanism that this means I need to pay (more) for the limited set of things I want that are on "commercial" television. Even without commercials, I also want the ability to pause, rewind, and fast forward. 

I want to be able to watch all of this content on my large screen television sets, on my laptop computer, on my tablet, and on my smartphone. And when on my mobile devices I want to watch from anywhere and not just on my “home” network. I also want profiles, so that my wife and I can independently set up favorites and keep track of what episode we’re on if we happen to be watching the same show separately.

Lately, I find myself paying about $300 a month to a major cable television provider. And sure, that includes my Internet service, which really is quite good most of the time, but it’s still way too much and it isn’t quite the service I described above.

Is it time for me to “cut the cord?”

I’m seriously thinking of firing my cable television provider entirely and then getting a good Internet connection from a different service provider. Next, I’ll get a basic television service like YouTube TV, Sling TV, or FuboTV to get my primary news and sports channels. Then I’ll layer on a few streaming services. Netflix and Amazon for sure. Possibly HBO. Others are possible. 

When I do the math, the savings actually seem to be significant. I’d be going from a cable company triple play (including unused phone service) for $300, to a more limited set of channels delivered over a solid Internet connection, and then including Netflix, Amazon and HBO streaming. I’d add services like Britbox -- and in fact I'd add and remove video services as my interests change. For example, maybe I'd add CBS All Access for a while to watch the new Star Trek series and then cancel if and when it wasn't of interest. I can watch all of the content on television sets through my Apple TV boxes, watch on my laptop computer and mobile devices through apps. The total cost of what I want to do looks to be about $100 less per month than what I'm paying today.

Is there any reason not to do this? What's your plan? Leave a comment and let us know!


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Monday, December 30, 2019

Predicting The Future In the Past

10 years ago I was crazy enough to put my predictions down in black and white and share them as a "note" on Facebook. This was before I had a blog, which came along about a year and a half later. With the benefit of hindsight, how did I do? I welcome your critiques, scoring, high-praise, and laughter.

My post from Dec 24, 2009 follows, unedited. 


A Few Tech Predictions for "beyond 2010"
Deke Kassabian
December 24, 2009

At the end of every calendar year, the IT community tends to share predictions for technology for the coming year. It's the subject of many late December trade press articles, and a New Year's tradition. Those who make predictions sometimes review the accuracy of predictions made in the past. But why should tech pundits have all the fun? Let's join in.

My own day-to-day work, and the work of my teams, can often involve the internal details of low layer network communications, security and identity management, communication application interworking, and other areas that are not terribly exciting to most people not also working in those spaces. So, in what follows, I'll talk about my predictions in areas of more general technology interest.

What follows are predictions of mine for technology: not for next year, but for 2011 and beyond. These aren't areas in which I'm an expert, and they aren't things I've carefully researched. This is just for fun and obviously I could be way off base! The predictions that follow are based on some reading of scholarly engineering journals and also popular IT trade press (print and audio), some conversations with colleagues from around the country in multiple disciplines, and a little of my own thinking to synthesize it all.

I predict that the following technology developments will happen during the next decade, some a lot sooner than others. Don’t bet your retirement fund on any of these, but give them a read, tell me what you think, try your hand at a few predictions and share them, and have some fun.

Happy New Year!

(1) Robots among us

I'm picking the most exciting and outlandish of my predictions as my first: That robots get to be way more common place as an element of our technology.

Now, we know that there are many things already in reasonably broad use today that can be called "robots." Roomba floor cleaners, for example, have been around for years. But I think that when most people think of "robots" they think of Sci-fi movie robots or Rosie from the Jetsons -- something that stands and maybe walks and talks and responds to voice commands and looks vaguely humanoid in its size and/or shape. And my prediction is that these cooler robots are coming.

Close to home, in our own Engineering School, The GRASP Lab (see
http://www.grasp.upenn.edu/) does amazing things with robotics, including robot motion that can handle inclines, irregular terrain, and even being pushed or bumped.

Commercially, Honda has the Asimo (see http://asimo.honda.com/). Fuji
Soft Inc and others are following suit. These companies have robots that stand and walk and can be programmed to move in ways we expect "movie robots" to move. Some of this stuff is commercially available now, though still a little expensive.

So, I think that impressive robot motion is clearly well on its way. What about interactivity? The fact that my car’s GPS device and my smart phone are (slowly) becoming better at interactive voice response tells me that the technology is coming along and may not be incredibly expensive. If a $500 (unsubsidized price) smart phone can do it, why not a $5,000 robot? But beyond just interactive voice response, robots may, even in the relatively short term, offer some visual feedback reminiscent of emotion. For robot development that may truly excite you -- or maybe creep you out -- check out Hanson Robotics (http://www.hansonrobotics.com/), developers of technology that bring facial expression and "attitude" to robots.

Allow me to now put a finer point on my prediction: maybe we won't all see a robot in every home and office in just a few years, but encountering a semi-autonomous, mobile, interactive humanoid robot a few times a year will I think be common for people in urban environments relatively soon.

Time frame: 2013-2015

(2) The Kindle and today's iPod fade

It has been really interesting to watch the growth of the e-book reader space. The Kindle became the first big-dog to the market and then the Sony and Barnes and Noble entries expanded that market. Most of us have experienced them, either by becoming owners of the technology or by trying out a friend's shiny new device.

My prediction is that the dedicated single purpose e-book reader will have a short life as a general interest device and will fade to a niche device for a much smaller community of users. My bolder prediction is that dedicated mp3 players like conventional iPods will do the same thing. The reason, in both cases, is that I think capacitive touch devices like today's smartphones (think iPhone and iPod Touch, or Droid), and tomorrows larger-screen tablet devices, will supplant them. Smart phones and future multi-media tablets promised by big players like Apple and Microsoft, and smaller players like Joo Joo (nee Crunchpad) and Notion Ink Tegra, will be able to function as an e-book reader or an mp3 player, but will also do much more. Voice calls, video calls, web browsing, TV and movie watching, organizing and sharing photo libraries, and much more, become natural on these devices. Having separate, dedicated music or book devices will only make sense if their user experience is much, much better, or if none of the tablets are any good or all of them are overpriced. And I don't think that will be the case.

Time frame: 2011

(3) SSD for serious laptops

This one is a little simpler and maybe a little more obvious. As memory continues to get cheaper, and as people continue to gravitate to laptops over desktops, fast boot and fast wake will be differentiators at first (and perhaps we’re already at this point) and expected soon after. So high-end laptops will move to Solid State Disk (SSD) for their primary storage, followed soon after by the mid-range. Prohibitively expensive for many now, it's just a matter of time for this stuff to get cheap. Conventional spinning disk drives for Netbooks and very low-end laptops will still make sense. SSD will be the choice for mid- to high-end laptops.

Time frame: 2012

(4) The “Clouds” are clearing

To borrow terminology from Gartner, and apply it to this year's biggest buzz-phrase, the slide from the "Peak of inflated expectations" into the "Trough of Disillusionment" is about due for Cloud Computing.

Cloud Computing as a service offered by some industry players is a very interesting tool that looks like it can be used strategically. But the assumption that it is the solution to a long list of IT woes, and a transformational technology to be broadly applied comes from, in my opinion, a misunderstanding of what Cloud Computing really is. This seems especially true within Higher-Ed.

Over the next several years there will be some outsourcing of email that will be mis-categorized as cloud computing (when it really is tactical outsourcing). In some cases, the use of ad-supported and otherwise free commodity web-based services will be mis-categorized as Cloud Computing. For other uses, the realization that it isn't free and it can be somewhat brittle will hit some of us over the head.

But then some enterprises will carefully study and understand the Cloud technology that is really available, will consider policy and law as it applies to services and data and will navigate the complexities of the SLAs, will do real ROI analyses for services that are not free, and will deploy services based on Cloud Computing -- some successfully and some not. As that happens, Cloud Computing will "level off" into its rightful place in the Gartner "Plateau of Productivity" and become one of many tools that the best IT shops will be able to use strategically and effectively.

Time frame: 2012

(5) 3D printing comes home (or at least to the small office)

3D printing, already in use at Penn at the School of Design and perhaps elsewhere, is the process of building up 3D objects through the printing of successive layers of plastic or other materials. The printer gets a 3D specification as input and literally prints out a 3D object.

This technology is very valuable for prototyping newly designed objects, but it might also turn out to be a handy way to get small and simple replacement parts in a hurry. Imagine printing a camera lens-cap, a battery cover, small toy parts, and more. Rather than writing to the manufacturer to buy something that costs more to ship than to make, the manufacturer could allow you to replace the parts yourself (and fully at your cost).

3D Printers are available today in the $10K-$20K range (and of course at much higher cost, too), with some new entries showing up at around $5K. If the price gets closer to $1,000 soon and $300 eventually, and if product manufacturers end up liking the idea of making some of their replacement parts available as specifications for home printing, these interesting devices could become a lot more common.

Time frame: 2015

(6) Cars that drive themselves

Really, truly, drive themselves. You sit there and read the newspaper (if newspapers still exist).

Several times over the last decade, teams from around the world competed in the DARPA Urban Challenge in which vehicles navigated and drove entirely on their own with no human driver and no remote control. The results so far are mixed, but that there are any successes at all is really quite impressive.

This one comes with a lot of anxiety. Would YOU get into a car that a machine was driving? Knowing all you know about the rate at which computers and other automation systems fail? Would you get in and trust your life and the lives of your loved ones to a non-human? Not today you wouldn't, and neither would I. But some day I think you will. In fact, you already do something like this all the time. Elements of air travel and even elements of car travel already depend upon technology in ways that have crept in over time. When technology works very reliably for a long period of time, we begin to trust it.

The pieces to make this real already exist in rudimentary form. In fact they are already commercially available. I know I’m oversimplifying, but … (GPS) + (Cruise Control) + (External proximity sensors) lead to self driving cars. Again, I’ll grant that there’s more to it than that. But how much more? Some high-end cars already have on-board systems that allow them to self-park. Others are starting to have crash detection systems that allow them to respond to imminent impact in ways that minimize passenger injury. Isn’t all that the beginning of self-drive?

Time frame: 2020 for the first workable self drive concept car from a major car manufacturer. A while longer before they are driving down your block.

(7) FAX will still be a technology in somewhat common use.

Really.

Time frame: 2020


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Saturday, November 30, 2019

Improbable Tech in Entertainment


Suspending Disbelief

Here’s a topic I’m betting many of my technology-industry friends can relate to. As techies, we have a reasonably strong sense of the state of the art when it comes to tech portrayed in popular culture and entertainment. In my own case, I understand certain online communications, networked multimedia delivery, encryption, and geolocation well enough to know when television and the movies use these technologies in ways that strain credulity.

Photo credit: engadget.com
When it comes to a superhero movie like Iron Man or Aquaman, or a sci-fi space adventure like Star Wars, it’s easy. We all know that we check our sense of reality at the door. These movies are taking place in an alternate reality in which technologies like flying suits, magic tridents, and light-sabers (“a more elegant weapon for a more civilized age”) exist. With Star Wars we accept light-sabers and death stars easily. After all, the stories are taking place in a galaxy far, far away and maybe they have different physics and different tech. But in television dramas like the CSI shows or The Blacklist, which seem to take place in our real world with no aliens or super heroes, some of the use of technologies can be jarring.

In CSI (Crime Scene Investigations), we see some incredible things happen with technology that can strain our sense of what’s actually possible. Characters use their technologies to assemble and correlate data and present it in 3D visual interfaces in seconds, bringing absolute clarity and rock-solid conclusions. In a favorite TV show of mine, The Blacklist, FBI agents work wonders like intercepting communications that use encryption of unknown origin and break that encryption in seconds (while some timer counts down to zero). The communicating endpoints are identified down to the room number when the right supporting character is present in the FBI command center, and that character then brings up a full 3D rendering of the buildings involved to show us where the people involved are standing.

While I recognize that government agencies almost certainly have technologies that I haven’t heard of, to the best of my understanding the things described above are not realistic. The state of the art wouldn’t really allow that, but because I love these high drama shows and movies that provide me with some enjoyment through escapism I’m entirely okay with it. I suspend disbelief and enjoy it, and maybe even appreciate that while these things may not be practical or even possible in 2019, maybe they will seem more realistic in the future. Maybe pop culture tech will continue to be a window into our future, the way Star Trek communicators, tablet computers, and voice commands inspired real technologies for years to come.

Either way, I’m personally happy to take my television and movies with a healthy dose of improbable technology. For me it actually enhances the entertainment value rather than prompting me to complain about a lack of authenticity. How about you? Do you prefer your pop-culture tech to be very real or do you like some alternate reality escapism like I do?

Leave a comment and let us know. 


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Thursday, October 31, 2019

Sportfishing in Cabo


Last weekend I got the chance to go fishing in one of the most amazing spots in the world – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. In this blog post I’ll share a description along with some photos and video clips.
Our charter boat
The opportunity came along because my wife Tacey had business in San Jose Del Cabo, a short distance east of Cabo San Lucas. She and her co-workers were there earlier in the week and while most headed home after business concluded, Tacey and a few others stayed on for a few days along with their partners to enjoy the location. I flew in late in the week as their business was ending. We stayed for a few days in a beautiful beachfront all-inclusive resort, and would fish on Saturday.

Buying live bait on the way out
I’m a planner and if I know I’ll be visiting a place where the fishing can be good, I’ll research the seasonal fishing opportunities and the boats that ply the trade. I’ll call and ask questions, and make specific arrangements, and that’s what I had done here. After some research back in August, I ended up booking with Kingfish Cabo and they did a great job for us. We chartered a 40’ Riviera sportfishing boat with an experienced captain and crew.  

At the Arch
Originally, the plan was for Tacey and I to fish alone, but since two of her coworkers were still in the area and wanted to fish, and since a sportfishing charter like this can handle up to 6, we made it a group. Tacey and I were joined by two other couples – Ric and Lorraine, and Chris and Rachel. Early on Saturday, we all took the 30-minute Uber ride down to Cabo San Lucas to board a fishing boat I had chartered two months earlier.

The boat, Los Compadres, was in great condition and was well equipped, as advertised. It had a full crew including captain Carlos, who had 25 years of local fishing experience, and a crew that included two mates, Juan and Victor, on deck. Having one mate is typical but they explained that when trolling a full pattern of lures and baits, clearing lines after a strike was best handled by two mates. In these situations on other charters, I’ve helped to clear lines but I certainly didn’t object to the extra hands.  
Captain Carlos
    
Chris and Ric




Chef Ventura









A final crew member, Ventura, was our private chef. He had coffee, fruit, and pastry for us as we arrived at 7am, and when lunchtime rolled around he had prepared two kinds of fresh ceviche and three kinds of tacos for us all, and even some sashimi at the end of the trip. The charter also provided a big cooler full of local beers like Tecate, Pacifico, and Corona, as well as plenty of water. Back in the galley, Ventura had Tequila for us so that we could drink Margaritas as we headed back to port in the afternoon.




The main story, though, is about the fishing. This is a great time of year to fish in Cabo as many coveted gamefish are around and close to shore. Throughout the previous week, a major Blue Marlin tournament was underway and as a result all the pros in the area were well informed about what was biting and where either because they fished in the tournament or spoke to those who did. I had originally expressed an interest in fishing for Wahoo (a tasty gamefish I have yet to catch) and our crew said they’d look for them, but also said that we were likely to encounter Striped Marlin. That sounded good to me. I’d caught Sailfish and Pacific Spearfish before, and I’d been on boats where others landed Striped Marlin, but I hadn’t caught one yet. I should mention that while wahoo is a fish kept for food, marlin of all kinds are revived and released after a few photos. 


Fishing begins

The boat got underway just after 7am, and our gang of six decided to ride up in the fly bridge. As we cleared the marina our first stop was at the local bait boats where the mate bought some mackerel for the live-well and some ballyhoo to be rigged. From there we proceeded out to open water and watched a beautiful sunrise as we rounded the famous Cabo Arch area. From there, Los Compadres and several other sport fishing boats throttled up for the run to the fishing grounds. After only about 25 minutes ride to the northwest, never more than a few miles from shore, we were ready to fish. The mates lowered the outriggers and got a pattern of 8 lines out to troll, with a mix of lures and baits.



 

The first strike came after about 40 minutes. The group quickly encouraged me to take it, so I grabbed the rod and hopped into the fighting chair. The mates told us it was a striped marlin as I started the fight. Early on the fish took line faster than I got line back, but after 25 minutes and three runs, the fish was alongside. We hauled it in and got some photos and took a measure, and then let it free to fight another day. The marlin was a beauty, at 92” in length.

Over the next three hours, we landed two more. Ric caught one of similar size and his did some beautiful tail dancing during the fight. Chris fought one that got off the hook, and then later landed one of about 96”. Each fight was 20-30 minutes and featured some great jumps and many exciting photos and video clips. We revived both fish carefully and sent them on their way after some photos. We then dug into the ceviche and tacos, as well as the beer, while the boat trolled some lines on a long run back towards home port. After a while, though, the captain up in the fly bridge saw some serious fish activity in the distance and we pulled all the lines in and ran flat out to get in on it. Once there, the fish hit the lines right away. Tacey decided to get in on the fun and took a rod to the fighting chair, and a moment later a second hookup happened and I took the rod. With the chair occupied, I needed to fight the fish standing up which was extra hard but extra fun. A third fish raced past the stern and picked up one of our baits, but dropped it quickly. For the next half hour, Tacey and I fought the two striped marlin at once. They dove down deep, they peeled off line, the jumped, and we got back line when we could. In the end, she landed a 96” fish and I got the biggest marlin of the day at 104”. Again, photos and measurements and high fives all around, and then release.


Tacey's Marlin
It was finally time to head in, and we drank beers and margaritas and relived our catches. We took pictures with the crew and again saw the Cabo Arch. As we approached the marina we ran up the capture flags. As they went up we were surprised to see sea lions following behind us. The mates weren’t surprised though. The sea lions apparently do this every day. They hopped up one at a time on the boat’s stern swim platform and looking every bit like a friendly dog, begged for fish. We tossed them mackerel, which they ate, and ballyhoo, which they didn’t.

The boat arrived at its slip in the marina and after a few more photos with the crew we said our goodbyes. It was a great day and though we were exhausted, we hiked a few blocks through Cabo … to get a little food and drink at Cabo Wabo, the famous Sammy Haggar cantina.


Pancho the Sea Lion
Carlos











I can only say that it was a magical day fishing. The boat and crew were great, the ride was smooth, the scenery was amazing, and the fish were biting. So many fishing days don’t work out, but we fish knowing that once in a great while, a perfect day like this one comes together. The trick is to know how lucky you are when it does.
 
The Friends

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Thursday, September 19, 2019

Never Too Old to Rock and Roll

A Lifelong Love for Music

http://www.thelavarocks.com
I've been playing piano since I was about 5 years old. My mother was a classically trained pianist, and my father was an operatic tenor who for a time had a small performing opera company. Neither were professional musicians, but both loved and played music late into their lives. They had me take classical piano lessons for about 6 years starting in grade school, but as I discovered rock and roll, I didn't want to play classical music anymore - I wanted to play the songs I heard on the radio. I'm not now and have never been a virtuoso. I've known a great many keyboard players with better skills than mine. But over time I became good at learning to play songs by ear and occasionally found some sheet music. Most of all, I enjoyed playing music that I liked to listen to written by musicians and composers I admired.
Ezra, Don, Nick, Jeff

Over time, I met other musicians and was lucky enough to play in a string of bands in my teens and twenties, many of which performed for the public. As I got into my late twenties, though, my wife and I were raising three boys and building our careers and my music took a back seat. I still had a piano in the house – actually the grand piano that my mother played and that I learned on – but I played it only rarely and almost never with other musicians. In 2011 and 2012 I briefly tried to get one of my old bands back together, but it fizzled quickly and then, very sadly, one of the band members passed away.

A few years ago, with my kids now grown and careers well established, it felt like time to play again. Some neighborhood guys had recently put together a weekly jam at which people would show up, call out a tune, and we'd all try to play it. Often it worked out well, and I was having fun. Over the weeks and months I began to shake off the rust and to play a little better, and slowly I got to know some of the players and found some had similar tastes in music and complimentary styles. 

The Mermaid Inn
Organically, in mid-2018, a few of us began to talk about putting a band together. Originally, this was a guitar player named Nick, a mandolin and lap-steel player named Don, a guitar player named Ezra who hosted the weekly jam, and me on keyboards. Don would sometimes play bass, and at other times my left hand would be the bass. We began to practice weekly, separate from the jam, and to develop a catalog of music that we could all agree upon. We went through a few drummers and eventually landed with a local guy named Jeff. Having met each other at the Sunday jams at Ezra's house in a town named Laverock, I began to call the band The Lava Rocks and the name stuck.

During 2019, the band really came together. We had moved practices to my basement where I had a PA and microphones, and we developed a catalog of 30 or so songs. The music is what most people call "Classic Rock," including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Tom Petty, The Eagles and others. We played a private party at my house to try it all out and it was well-received, and we recorded a few songs at a local recording studio and put them up on our new web site (www.TheLavaRocks.com). Next, we got booked at a local bar called The Mermaid Inn in Chestnut Hill late this summer. We invited friends and family and played a full show. People seemed to have a great time, which is the real measure of success as far as I'm concerned. Some photos from that first show are included here.

The Lava Rocks are having a blast. We range in age from late 40s to mid 60s, and none of us are slowing down. The Mermaid wants us back in the coming year, and we are talking with 3 or 4 other bars where we'd like to play in the coming months. 

The Lava Rocks - Ezra, Nick, Don, Jeff and I - are proof that you're never too old to rock and roll!

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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Fishing Big

Tuna and Striped Bass

Earlier this month, I got to do some serious offshore fishing with my sons Steve (28), Rich (26) and Mike (21) out of Montauk, NY. While we primarily do salt water fishing together on our own boats on the southeast shore of Long Island, once in a while we like to charter a fishing boat to take us places we don’t go, in hopes of a great catch and to teach us new techniques. With that in mind, we chartered a boat out of Montauk, NY, to fish off Block Island and offshore to the south for Striped Bass and Sharks.

We started out our adventure by heading to Montauk the day before our fishing trip to enjoy the town and walk around the marina, and to be ready to make an early start the next day. We had a great family afternoon and a great seafood dinner overlooking the inlet, and got to bed early so that we were able to get to the docks just after 5am with a cooler full of cold drinks and sandwiches. We hoped to fill that cooler with fresh fish by late afternoon!



Fishing as the sun comes up
We met Captain Art and his able deck hand Dylan, who was about the age of my older sons, we confirmed our plans for the day, and then shoved off from the dock on the 39’ Hatteras express “Halfback” before the sun came up. As we left the Montauk inlet on a heading toward Block Island, part way to Martha’s Vineyard, we talked some more about our plans. We’d start with a little Striped Bass fishing and then move onto some shark fishing, possibly stopping back to fish for Striped Bass on the way back to Montauk at the end of the day. The captain was quick to point out that we’d certainly adjust our plans to respond to conditions and what we saw on the fish finder, and we agreed. That was how we typically fish as well – have a plan to start off, and adjust to the situation for the best chance to catch fish.

Steve fights a big bluefish
So off we went, toward block island. Just 20 minutes into the run, the captain saw big bait balls under the boat and signs of predators chasing them. He figured we were seeing big bluefish, so we got some umbrella rigs set up and dropped them in for some fast trolling. In no time we had a few big bluefish hitting the decks, with plans to filet them to create some irresistible shark baits for later in the day. We kept the carcasses too, since they’d also help to bring sharks around. Soon enough we were back on the run out to Block Island.

By 7:30am we were a short distance due west of Block Island and ready to drop some wire-line rigged tube lures that look like eels to try to attract big Striped Bass. Over the next hour, four or five nice striped bass hit the decks, two of which were large enough to be keepers. One was Mike’s first keeper, and perhaps his biggest fish yet. We got these nice fish onto ice, grabbed some cold drinks, and talked about what to do next. We could fish some more for Stripers, but the favorable tide was running out, so we decided to head south, off shore from Block Island, to fish for sharks.  


Mike's first keeper Striped Bass
About an hour later we got to a nice ridge or fall-off to deep water, a place where there’d be an ecosystem that supports sharks. We got the boat into place and figured out our drift, and then we got to work getting a chum slick started, using chum pots full of frozen ground bunker and lots of cut up mackerel chunks tossed into the water a few at a time every few minutes. Slowly, a slick started to develop in our wake as the boat drifted. We tracked the speed and course of our drift and put several lines into the water on heavy rods with big floats and big hooks, each with a juicy fresh bluefish filet from the fish caught early in the trip. With good conditions, good chum, and good baits in place, we waited. Mike and Rich took turns with the captain up on the Tuna Tower looking out for signs of sharks around the boat, while the rest of us stayed in the stern area watching the rods and floats and listening for the click-click-click of the reel that means that a shark has taken one of the baits.

At times like these, the waiting is the hard part. It was a beautiful day, and the seas were calm, and it’s easy to get bored and sleepy (especially given how early we woke up). But we stayed vigilant and hour after hour watched the water around the boat and stood ready to grab a rod when a shark strike happened. We all knew that the boredom could quickly turn into chaos as we responded to a strike by getting other lines out of the way, getting a fighting belt onto an angler, and getting the fight underway.

A few hours into the wait, I saw a fin slicing the surface about 100 yards away and called it out to the others. We all locked in on it and watched it cut the surface for 50 feet, then disappear, then pop up again nearby to do it again – sometimes in the opposite direction. We figured we were seeing 2 or maybe 3 sharks near the boat taking interest in our slick. We shook the chum pot to add to the attraction near the boat, and we put one of the bluefish carcasses into the water. The sharks were around, but not yet taking the bait.

At this point, the mate started noticing some mahi-mahi near the boat. We quickly got some lighter rods out and the mate tried to get one of these colorful and tasty fish onto a hook by casting lures their way. Soon, we saw that quite a few of these colorful fish were around the boat, but like the sharks, none were biting. At that point, something crazy started happening. We saw a shark jump clear out of the water, full body maybe up 4 feet from the surface, and spiraling like a football, it went back into the water. And then we saw it happen again. And again. Over the next half-hour we saw this happen about 20 times. I got a little cell phone video of this happening, but it wasn’t easy. They were a good 50 yards away most times and we never knew where it would happen in the huge expanse of water around us.

We eventually figured that what was happening was that our slick attracted a large amount of mahi-mahi, and that the sharks (which we now believed were Spinner Sharks), were feeding on the fresh live mahi and couldn’t care less about our baits. The day was getting later and the captain and mate and I discussed options. Should we head back to fish for Stripers some more, stay and fish for sharks, or take a chance on trolling for some tuna? That last sounded attractive, but we knew it would be a low probability. I decided to skip the Striper fishing (that’s something we can do on our own), fish a little longer for sharks, and then, at the suggestion of Dylan, our mate, set up a pattern of lures to troll for Tuna on the way home.

In the end, we never did get a shark hookup and I think the captain and mate were feeling badly about that, so they tried extra hard for us by staying out a little late and setting up a serious spread of lures for tuna. It would be Rich’s turn on the rod if we got a hookup and he was up in the tuna tower keeping a lookout. 


Rich lands the prize - a Bluefin Tuna
As our time was running out, I saw a sturdy port-side rod bend over almost double. Hookup! Rich flew down the ladder and the mate and I cleared the extra lines. Steve helped Rich get a fighting belt secured around his waist and the fight began. Rich fought that fish for a good long while. The fish didn’t want to give ground and Rich had to keep the heavy rod angled just right while the boat continued forward and the fish fought. The mate was ready with a gaff (a heavy hook on a long rod used to haul the fish in) and was giving Rich instructions. The rest of us were helping in small ways, adjusting the belt, clearing obstacles, helping to get the line spread evenly on the reel at times. I opened the tuna door at the stern as the fish got close. We saw color and knew it was a tuna! Just as the mate got the leader, the tuna decided he wasn’t yet ready to give up and took another run. The mate dropped the leader and made way, and Rich held on and fought the fish some more. A few minutes later, the fish was alongside at the port side again and the mate landed a clean blow with the gaff and hauled a beautiful bluefin tuna over the side. It was a magic moment. High fives all around as Rich caught his breath. He had landed his first tuna and in that moment the trip went from disappointing to great. Dylan bled the tuna and got it iced down quickly.
With the mate, Dylan



Dylan cleans the fish
We celebrated all the way back to Montauk as the mate cleaned up the boat. Smiles and nods and thoughts of fresh Striped Bass on the grill and fresh Tuna sashimi for all. Back at the dock, Dylan weighed our fish and we got several photos. Dylan got the knives out to turn those fish into filets and steaks, and he helped us with a great tuna tradition – the angler who lands his first tuna eats the heart raw, immediately after it’s cut from the fish. This sounds barbaric, but it’s a tradition, and it’s all about the transfer of energy from a great ocean beast to the angler who caught him. Rich took a great big bite and shared some with the mate and with his brothers.
My sons show off their catches
We drove back to our summer house in East Quogue and I got some of the Striped Bass filets onto the grill for our late dinner while Steve, our resident chef and butcher, processed the tuna loins into steaks and vacuum-packed them for all of us. It was a great trip with a delicious end-product, and a great memory for me to share with my sons.


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