Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Next Thing To Disappear (A RapidGroove Revisit)

Back in July of 2012, I wrote about things that disappeared as progress replaced them or made them less desirable. You can find that post at:

We no longer have corded phones or landline phones, we have mobile phones instead (and we use them as Internet-access devices most of the time). We no longer have CRT televisions (we have flat screen LCD televisions).

My challenge is this. Look around you and consider the items in your life. Which of them will disappear in the next decade. Surely you admit that some of these things will fade away. Which?

I have a new list in my head, but I'm interested in your list. Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

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Monday, October 29, 2018

Key West (Again)

Earlier this month, I extended a business trip in Florida to visit Key West for a long weekend. Key West has long been one of my go-to relaxation destinations. It’s well known that Hemingway loved Key West and lived there for a time, and visitors find lots of evidence of that fact including opportunities to visit Hemingway’s home and the places he frequented. I had a “Hemingway weekend,” filled with fishing, cigars and rum, as well as lots of live music, people-watching, and eating seafood at waterfront spots.

During this visit, I stayed at the historic Cypress House Hotel which dates back to the late 1800s. The location was perfect for my purposes. It’s just a few short blocks away from Duval Street, which meant I could go out for the evening on foot easily and get back home with no trouble. Additionally, the harbor area from which I would go fishing was just a few blocks walk in the opposite direction.

Among the things that I love about Key West are the sunset views from Mallory Square with sailing ships going by and the loud and colorful “cat guy” getting his trained cats to jump through fire rings. You can also see the big cruise ships come in and out of port. Key West has plenty of chances to eat a meal at an outdoor cafĂ© with roosters and hens walking around freely, and there are galleries and live music venues everywhere. As a bonus, the place is filled with old seafaring hippies like me.

My plan was to go fishing on Friday and then out to the bars Friday night. Unfortunately, high winds kept the fishing boats at the docks, so I spent the day walking around town and visiting the Southernmost Point and other tourist spots, then had a late lunch at Conch Republic, and then visited lots of shops and galleries. That night I wandered around Duval Street, stopping at all my favorite live music spots like Sloppy Joe’s, Hogs Breath, Irish Kevins, Willie T’s, Margaritaville, Mangoes and others. The music was great, the people were friendly, and the drinks were good. I stayed out far too late given the planned early morning fishing start but somehow I dragged myself out of bed on Saturday morning in time to make it to the docks for fishing that day.

When I travel, I usually fish on charter boats. They are more expensive but the experience is usually a better one. This time, I chose to fish aboard a lower-cost head boat called the Tortuga IV for a half day from 9am to 1pm, fishing the reefs for yellowtail snapper, mutton snapper, grouper, and whatever else would bite. There were only 10 fishermen aboard, and the captain and mate were easy going and helpful. Things went well and It was a fun day, and while we hooked up often, the fish we brought over the rail were often too short to keep. Still, there were plenty of keepers for all to take home for a fresh fish meal, so we all went away smiling. 

The mate cleaned our fish for tips and when I asked him where to take my fish filets to have them cooked for lunch, he pointed to Dante’s, a poolside bar and restaurant adjacent to the harbor. He said that Dante’s does a great job, so I took my fish a few short steps from the boat and sat down at a table with a view of both the harbor and the pool. When the waitress came over I ordered a rum drink and handed her my bag of fish filets asking for them to be cooked. She advised me on the options and I opted for ½ blackened and ½ fried. I was very happy with both!

After my late lunch, I cleaned up and changed clothes and then I walked down Duval Street for a visit to the Speakeasy Inn, a legit rum bar in Key West. I told the bartender what rums I like and asked her to teach me a new one. She did, pouring me a Ron Abuelo 12-year-old rum that reminded me of a few of my favorites. I’ll get that one again for sure.
I spent the rest of Saturday evening at the bars, meeting friendly people, hearing great live music, and even dancing some. As always, I came away thinking that Key West is a blast. Just ask the locals to tell you where they come from. More often than you might expect, their story is something like “I came down for vacation 8 years ago and never went home.” I have to say, that doesn’t sound entirely crazy.


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Sunday, September 30, 2018

What Do We Expect From a $1000+ Smartphone?

Back on September 12th, Apple announced new iPhones. Legions of the faithful, me included, shrugged off the $1000+ price tags and placed orders two days later, receiving them a week after that. As in recent years past, the new iPhone are the best ever produced. They have beautiful screens, faster processors, better cameras, and more storage than ever before. I’m very happy with my new phone, which is an iPhone Xs Max. Still, I recognize that just as in years past, the prices of new iPhones climbed to new heights.

High-end Android phones from Samsung and other phone-makers are similarly climbing in price every year, and its worth noting that a $1000+ smartphone is clearly not for everyone. There are plenty of people who cannot afford such a phone or who simply choose not to pay that price. There are great phones available at lower prices and there will always be a market for them.

For those who are willing to pay more than $1000 for a smartphone, is there a hard limit - a price so high we wouldn’t pay it? The high-end Samsung and Apple phones go up by a small amount every year and we get used to the ever higher prices, but will the price rise to a level at which sales fall off? And if so, would a company like Apple care? Apple makes and sells luxury products. If their margin increases by enough, maybe they would embrace a situation in which fewer units were sold but revenue doesn't suffer.

What about us as consumers? Is there something we want in return for higher prices?

I'm beginning to wonder whether expected lifetime is that something. What if as the price went up, the expected lifetime went up, too? What if today’s $1000 phone lasted longer than yesterday’s $700 phone, and continued to be reasonably fast with a battery that continued to hold a charge for nearly as long as it did when it was new? Would that be worth the ever-higher price? We should keep in mind that longer-lasting phones not only stretch our investment over a longer time, but also could help us to reduce the rates at which we deplete precious resources, since smartphones typically contain gold, silver, platinum, palladium and other metals. Longer lasting phones also mean reduced pressure on landfills, since we know that not all smartphones get recycled or reused.

If prices continue to go up in years to come, should we expect (should we demand) a longer lasting smartphone? What would be a reasonable price point for a phone that held up well for 3 or 4 years rather than 2 years, which is typical today? Would you pay $2500 for a smartphone that lasted for 4 or even 5 years? Some of us spend that kind of money on a high-end laptop computer and expect it to last about that long, and most of us depend upon our smartphones easily as much as our laptops.

What's your expectation of price and lifetime for smartphones as you think about the future? Please leave a comment and let us know what you are thinking.


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Sunday, August 26, 2018

Summer Vacation With The Family

Enjoying time together on the beach and on our boats

Every August, my busy family tries to line up our schedules so that we can spend 5-7 days together at our beach house on eastern Long Island, NY where we are active in and around the water. The following photo blog chronicles our adventures in August 2018.

The beach
We love to swim in the ocean, to body surf, and to boogie board. It's invigorating!

Together at the beach
boogie boarding

playing paddle ball

Visiting marinas by boat
We have two power boats. One is my brand new 26' Edgewater center console fishing boat, and one is a 19' Boston Whaler used mostly by my sons. In addition to using these boats for fishing, tubing, and for rides with friends, we like to climb on board and visit nearby marinas by water to have lunch at an outdoor table overlooking the passing boats.
At the Canal Cafe', ready for lobster rolls

Oaklands Marina and Restaurant

The Boys at Oaklands

Tacey got the Sea Bass Salad

Never forget the oysters

Ready for the raw bar order!
A soft shell crab sandwich

There's tuna crudoe under all those chips

Fresh ahi tuna ponzu

While we don't sail often, we really do enjoy it. We have a small "Sunfish" sail boat and all of us can manage to sail her.

Mike and Steve ride the sailboat out.

Steve and Mike raise the sail.


Full sails!
Steve trades with Rich to give him a turn
On the way home, Steve secured the sailboat and Mike rides her in.

My family has been fishing the waters of the south shore for generations. My grandfather taught my father, my father taught me, and I taught my sons.
The boys...

... on board their Boston Whaler

Ready to fish, right near Oaklands.

Richie with a Fluke

Sea Robins. We used to throw them back. Lately we've started to eat a few of them.

Mike with a "dogfish" (a little shark). Good for the fryer!

Cooking and eating our fish
We love to go fishing, and we keep the fish we intend to eat, letting the rest go back for another day. Like most fisherman, we are conservation-oriented, and keep the water clean and respect the legal limits on fish. The fish we do keep, we try to eat when very fresh - usually the same day.

It takes several chefs to do it all. Here's one now.

Cleaned and prepped with dry rub

Sea Robin ready to cook

Fluke prepped for the fryer

Fish ready for the grill

Fried Fluke, Blowfish, and Sea Robin

Porgies and bluefish direct from the grill
Fluke sashimi
A seafood feast!
A healthy plate, with 7 kinds of seafood on board

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Competitive Fluke Fishing

Fishing for Fun (and maybe profit?)

In eastern Long Island, NY, on the south shore, there is a little waterfront community where my family does most of our boating and fishing. Every year in July in that community, they hold a small one-day fishing tournament with prizes for the largest Fluke, which is the main target species for many of us at that time of year. We have participated since the first tournament, four years ago. We haven't won yet, but we always have a fish in the top few at weigh-in. 

Fluke can get to be pretty big, but there are lots of small fish around, too. Regulations are adjusted each year, but by NY State regulations in 2018 a “keeper” is a minimum of 19” long. Typical keeper-sized catches are in the 1.5 to 2 lb range, great catches can reach over 5 lbs. Very rarely, a 10 pounder might be caught in our area. Fish that win our little local tournament are most often between 3 and 5 lbs. Most of the fish caught day to day, though, are less than the legal limit and get thrown back.

To prepare for the tournament I did some scouting the previous weekend, fishing a few likely spots in the ocean and in the bay. The Fluke fishing has been very slow this summer with fewer and smaller fish being the story on most trips. On my scouting trip, I learned that some of the usual good spots, including the reef 3 miles offshore, were not producing Fluke. Instead, plenty of bait-stealing Sea Bass and Sea Robins were around.

This year, about 15 captains put up the $50 entry fee to compete on July 21st for the prize. All but $50 of the entry fees go to the fisherman who catches the largest Fluke by weight. $50 was set aside for the largest Sea Robin, a nuisance fish. Sea Robins are everywhere and they steal bait. Most people don't eat them (they are hard to clean), but they do put up a good fight and there are lots of them. Our tournament this year put up a $50 prize (get your entry fee back!) for the biggest Sea Robin, as kind of a joke. We decided we were in for Fluke, in for Sea Robins, and we'll plan to eat what we catch whether we win or not.

As it happens, this year our little community tournament was being held on the same day as a larger Fluke tournament sponsored by Molnar’s Landing, a local marina and tackle shop. Their tournament had about 50 boats competing. How do I know that? As we headed out to fish in the morning with our radio tuned to public channel 68, we heard all the participating boats checking in with the judges on the "Committee Boat" so we knew there would be lots of competition, with lots of people seriously fishing for the biggest Fluke they could find.

We headed out that morning with three of us on board: Myself, my son Rich, and his cousin Bill. As we headed out for some early fishing at the offshore reef, we saw the day was a little windy and rough, with lots of bouncing on the waves and lots of spray. The young men rode up in the bow of my my boat and were good sports about getting wet on the ride out to the fishing grounds about 3 miles offshore. In fact, it seemed like they were purposely not avoiding the spray and getting soaked up in the bow. (Later, on the ride back in, they stayed dry back behind the console!)

As I expected, there was not much of a bite that morning in the ocean. We saw just two short Fluke caught by nearby boats while out there for an hour, and the Sea Bass were stealing our baits. We decided to cut our losses and headed in to fish in the back of the inlet for a while where I knew we’d have a shot at Fluke as well as a shot at a big Sea Robin. We did catch a pretty good sized Sea Robin there and decided to keep it for the tournament and two others as part of dinner for our crowd. 

With a few Sea Robins but no Fluke yet in the box, we headed back to our dock for an early lunch and to pick up another fisherman. My son Mike had just arrived so we regrouped and headed back out at around noon.

Weigh in would be 3pm so we wanted to be back at the dock at 2:40pm at latest with our fish. We fished a few likely spots and tossed one short Fluke back, then fished a reliable spot close to home to end our day. 

At that final spot, late in the day, Mike hooked into something that looked promising. The rod was bent over and the movement looked to my eye like a Fluke rather than a Sea Robin or anything else. He had trouble at first bringing it in as the drag was set a little too loose. Fish get lost when a fisherman hesitates or doesn't keep steady pressure, so I advised him on how to fight it without stopping to change the drag. Lift the rod tip, I told him, and then quickly reel up line while lowering the tip, never letting the line go slack. Mike's a good fisherman, and he fought the fish just as he needed to. Once it got to the surface we saw it was a good fish. I got it into the landing net and onto the boat. High fives all around -- we'd have a fish at the weigh in.

Mike's Fluke measured between 21.25" and 21.5". Not a record breaker, but on a slow day maybe a contender. For the second year in a row Mike caught us a good fish late in the day that we'd take to the weigh-in.

We fished for just a little longer and then on a nearby boat saw some friends who had moved out of the neighborhood a few years ago. We pulled up alongside and they told us that they had a 25” fish in the box (probably over 5 lbs), caught in one of the spots we had fished at earlier that day. As we pulled away, Mike told me he was really glad to see our old friends, and happy that they had landed such a nice fish, but glad they weren’t competing against us this year! 

It was getting late so we headed back to the dock and then quickly got the two fish we planned to take to weigh-in into one of our larger buckets. Mike and a friend drove over, and the rest of us walked or biked over.

As we got there close to 3pm, lots of people were milling around, but not too many had fish to weigh in. At 3:05pm we began to line up to weigh fish. As I said, fishing had been slow and there were maybe only 6 fish in contention. All were good looking fish, and the scales would tell the final story.

Mike with a nice tournament Fluke
The first fish weighed in at 3 lbs and we figured we had been beat. Our fish, and several others were just over 2.5 lb. Then a young fisherman who is always competitive in the tournament weighed in a beauty at about 4 lb. Looked like a winner!

Things seemed to be settled at that point. It was a friendly atmosphere with congratulations for the young winner and people chatting and eating snacks and drinking sodas provided by the tournament. 

To the surprise of all, at about 3:20pm, someone showed up with another fish and asked to be weighed in. It was another 4 lb fish! Many of us, though, pointed out that he hadn’t been there on time and that the young man with the 4 lb fish was the rightful winner. This caused some fireworks and some colorful language on the part of the late-arriving fisherman and his buddy. Tempers flared and lots of us laughed nervously, but cool heads prevailed and we crowned the young winner and then all headed home, saying we'd see each other next year. Some of us were lucky enough to be heading home with some very fresh fish to clean and cook for dinner.

We enjoyed our catch and our story, sharing our Fluke and Sea Robins with the little crowd at our house that weekend. Once again, we were in the hunt if not in the money, and vowed to be back next year for our local fishing tournament.

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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Saying Goodbye to Spunky

Farewell Furry Feline Friend
Spunky was a wonderful cat who lived with my family and me for the last 14 years.  He passed away about two weeks ago. I waited until I felt my memories brought me happiness rather than sadness before posting and sharing the news with friends.
Spunky sleeping at home in 2013
Spunky and his brother Bunky came to live with us at Christmas in 2003, having been born earlier that year in September. My long time cat companion Merlin, who lived to be 18, had passed away that summer and I thought it would be nice to bring more cats into the house and to have our young boys grow up with a connection to them. Merlin had a connection with me. Spunky and Bunky could be connected to us all.
Bunky was shy and calm. He could often be found sleeping in an out of the way spot in the house. Spunky, on the other hand, was always where the actions was, and if there wasn’t any action he’d create it. He’d climb on laps and up onto shoulders and he’d “talk” a lot.
Early in their lives as they got to be outdoor cats, they split the neighborhood with Bunky going up our road and Spunky going down. Bunky’s territory had the busier roads and sadly he was killed by a passing car at just 2 years old. Spunky went on to live a long life with us. He’d often spend 18 hours a day outdoors except for during the coldest parts of winter. While inside he’d eat, sleep, and play with his family. He was very social and very affectionate.
A little over two weeks ago I found him injured and partially paralyzed and took him to the vet. We did x-rays and tests, and tried some obvious therapies, but it wasn’t working out and it was time to accept that the end had come. We said our goodbyes at the vet.
If there’s a cat heaven, I hope Spunky and Bunky are now reunited. Maybe they’ll even get a chance to meet Merlin.
Farewell Spunky, my furry feline friend. I’m still sad that he’s left us but I really do feel able to smile now when I think of him. He was a character and a friend and my life was made better by knowing him.

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