Keeping OmniFocus reviews on Schedule

A key part of staying on top of things is a regular review of all the projects you have. I use omnifocus to keep track of all my various projects. The software is set up for reviews a week after you did your last review. While I’d like to say that I could stick to that schedule, sometimes Sunday morning’s just happen to be when I can review everything. And that would through everything off for the next week.

This script here helps to reset that.

Using Workflow for better Journaling

I saw a recent post on twitter on how to have better prompts for your Day One journal.  The twitter link is here:

In short he uses Workflow to pre-populate the journal with prompts that are specific to the journal.  He has three different journals, which led me to think about the two different types of journals I use.  I have one for personal reflection and the other for Cadet Sail Training Program (CSTP).  After a season of CSTP, and filling out the cadet evealuation reports well after the fact, I realized I didn’t keep records near as well as I should have.  So next summer I will have workflow better filled out with the questions I need to ask myself (and the cadet) to better develop their leadership acumen.  

Family Trip to Japan

(Note: this was drafted, but never published after our 2015 trip to Japan.  Most of the info should still be good, I’ve tried to lightly edit any major changes that I’m aware of since then).

Living in Hawaii, Japan is no further of a flight than heading back to the east coast. With that in mind, the family headed out over fall break to explore. This post is not a travel blog, but more the mechanics & logistics that worked for us. The internet helped us plan immensely, thus this is me paying it forward


Japan Airlines (JAL) – Flight 784/785
We found JAL to be the best option when we booked. We actually looked forward to flying on a non-US carrier to experience a different type of service. We were impressed to say the least. The flight attendants were impeccably dressed, and their attention and concern to every guest was amazing. What put the flights over the top for me was the fact that the children were a discounted fare (75% the adult fare), but they received special kids meals & a token toy each way. Did it really cost them anything? Probably not. Did it leave a favorable impression? Absolutely!

Inter-island travel
Narita Express (N’REX) – Travel to/from Airport
There are a few different companies that over comfortable rail options. This is the one we choose. It cost us 10,000 yen (4,000 per adult & 2,000 for children 6 to 11).

Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) – Traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto, Hiroshima & Mayjima
Based on recommendations, we got a 7 day rail pass for the three of us. Henry was under 6 at the time, so he was free. I didn’t do a full cost analysis, but my rough order of magnitude figures suggested that we came out ahead with this pass with our trip to Kyoto & Hiroshima/Mayjima. If you aren’t traveling much more than Tokyo & Kyoto/Osaka, this may not be the best deal for you. Additionally, this pass did allow free riding of the JR metro, but the catch there is there are two other subway lines in Tokyo.  Thus, the most efficient subway to where we wanted to go may have been a different subway line.  So often we had to get off the train, to buy different tickets. I believe the PASIMO would have prevented this, but I just didn’t do enough research into that ahead of time.

Overall, rail was extremely efficient and timely. However, it can be very confusing as there are at least three different rail/metro/subway companies, so your google route may have you switching (unbeknownst to you) to different companies. Just something to be aware of as it takes a bit more planning. In Tokyo, most of the major lines are laid out in a good pattern which is easy to pick up. Plus inside the cars, they broadcast the stops in Japanese & English.

For moving around the cities Google maps worked really really well. I had not updated to iOS 9, so I can’t vouch for the transit mode on the new Apple Maps. I do suggest though taking a screen shot of your proposed Google “trackline” when you have it plot a course (with train transfers) for you. This way you have a static shot, else the app will update mid-transit and you can get confused (if you are counting the stations till you get off).


We stayed at a mix of Airbnb & the Disney Hilton. All had their pluses and minuses. Overall though, I think we’d do each one again.
Tokyo – Near Shibuya
Tokyo – Hilton Tokyo Bay on Tokyo Disneyland Grounds Highly recommend staying here (although you miss out on the 15 minute early entry to the park). Made it very convenient to go back to the hotel and let the boys rest mid day.
Kyoto – Near Toji Temple This was the most authentic place we stayed. The house was right in a quiet neighborhood, so we got the true experience of what every day life is like in Kyoto. A mix up with the keys to the property ended up with us having very memorable experiences and having some of the best ramen of the trip!
Tokyo – Near the Tokyo Sky Tree This apartment was in a really neat section of Tokyo called Asakusa. We were only there for the night, before catching a flight home, but wish we could have stayed longer.

Other things to book

Rent a wifi hotspot ($50 for the trip) that you can pick up at the Japan Post office in the Narita International Airport Arrivals Terminal. Worked very well for us, we used this vendor: Rental Wifi. Having wifi is truly a game changer for international travel. Between the subtle map on your phone, google translate, and all the other itinerary details on your phone I felt much more confident when we went out exploring.


Here is a sample of what we did. I planned most of our trip out of the Lonely Planet Guide Book for Japan. I even made sure to detour in Kyoto to find where the cover shot was taken. We all agreed after the fact that it was worth the detour (even if someone did have an accident that day).
Day 1
Tokyo – Meji Temple, Japan National Museum, Imperial Palace
Note – the museums were free for the kids, and very low cost for adults.  Meiji Temple is a must see, and a great way to let your body adjust to the time zones.  There isn’t a whole lot to it, but there is plenty of space and a fair amount of walking which helps get the body over the plane ride to Japan.

Day 2 –
Tokyo – Tsukiki Fish Market, Tokyo Tower, transfer to Tokyo Disneyland Resort.  I believe the fish market has since moved, but the crowded area of small shops around it is absolutely still worth the trip.  The amount of colorful fish and other goods being sold is a site to see.

Day 3 –
Tokyo – Tokyo Disneyland.  We really enjoyed it.  The popcorn buckets were a neat local “thing”.

Day 4 –
Transit to Kyoto

Day 5 –
Kyoto – Hirgashama

Day 6 –
Mayijama & Hiroshima
Mayijama is often written up as one of the best places to visit in Japan.  Seeing the giant Tori gate from the water is absolutely exquisite.

Great island to poke around and wander.  Henry was feisty at this point of the trip so we didn’t stay long.  But we did stay long enough to get head butted by deer while eating “deer poop” ice cream!

Day 7 –
Kyoto – Aryshima
Travel back to Tokyo

Day 8 –
Asakusa temple & National Science museum


 Things I’d do different:

Get yen as soon as you land. We ran into a few times where cash was required that we didn’t have yen on hand. This was further exasperated by the fact that not all ATM’s took overseas bank cards. Finally, some that did, required the card to have the embedded chip on them. By the time you read this, the embedded chip thing should be a thing of the past, but…
Also, no cash available for non-Japan issued cards in Disneyland. That’s right, you have to leave the park if you run out of cash to get churros or popcorn buckets.

Spend more time in the country/outside Tokyo. Seriously, we did 8 days and I could easily go back and do another 8 weeks of roaming the small towns and countryside. So much history, culture and nature to explore. Kyoto alone could suck up two weeks of time exploring all the temples. At some point I’m sure it becomes like cathedrals in Europe, but for the 8 days we were there each one continued to be a genuine religious structure, still in use, and with a fascinating history.  I came across the Nakasendo Trail after our trip and have resolved to get back out there at some point to travel it.


How to set up a running list in Drafts

Drafts by agile tortoise is a well regarded, quick capture, text app for iOS.  I use it a bunch to jot down quick notes at a meeting, phone numbers, etc.  What separates Drafts from the rest of the crowd is that you can customize what you do with the text in any number of ways.  Some common workflows are to send the draft as a text message, or in the body of an email.  The list is endless. 

As 2017 approached though, I wanted to keep track of ideas that I thought would be good to tackle in the upcoming year.  I knew I could move it to a list in Dropbox, or a few other places.  However for some reason I really wanted to just add the text to an already running note in Drafts.  For the life of me I couldn’t recall how to do it, but I finally figured it out. 

There were four main steps:

  1. Create a draft with the title of the list “New approaches in the New Year”. 
  2. Run the copy Drafts UUID workflow.  This will tell Drafts what the unique ID is of the Draft you just made is.  
  3. Create a new action.  I called mine “New Year List”.  Add URL to the action.  
  4. Using this x-callback-url scheme from Agile Tortoise, you are able to send your New Year’s resolution back to the main note you just started.  The URL scheme is:

Where you change “UUID-TO-VALID-DRAFT” to the UUID of your main list and “TEXTD-TO-APPEND” to “draft”
Let me know how it works. 

Kalalau – The gear we used

Because I like to keep a record, here is the gear we used or wished we had used:

The Apps:

Sky Guide: The developer’s tag line really says it all “a star app has never been so beautiful or easy to use”.  Why it was great? When you are sitting on the beach watching an epic sunset and you start to try remember the constellations you used to know.  This app always impresses people the first time they see it in action.  Just as interesting for my 6 year old as it is for the over 40 crowd.

Gaia GPS: Since this hike a lot has changed in the world of offline gps apps on the iPhone. This is the app I wish I had. Works great. In airplane mode I was able to track three days of hiking without recharging. A small battery pack would extend this even further. You can read a great review and tip on how to best leverage the app here:  Adventure Alan

Just make sure to sync/download the maps on your route before you depart. And I did use CalTopo to print paper maps before I left. 

REI Flex Lite Chair – I had read that a decent chair was worth the weight to pack in. I had purchased this a while back, and it was as light and as durable as the ad copy implied. In fact, after using it at an event in town, the wife asked that I get one for her. While the REI version of this chair is cheaper than the competitors, I usually wait to get this one during the annual 20% off sales.
Alite Mayfly Chair – This chair was also brought on the trip. We noticed that the bottom pieces had trouble staying in/together. Other than that though, looked nice & a fraction lighter than the REI Flex Lite.

Jetboil – I think most folks going on this trip know what this is. We had good success with it, just need to pick up fuel at the Ace Hardware in town. And hpoe that the airline doesn’t ask any questions about it.
MSR Pocket Rocket – I splurged at bought this, because I figured a back up stove would be nice to have. Also, since I ended up not just adding water to my meals (I made all my own dinners on the trail), I needed something other than just hot water. Was really happy with how well this worked. Had to dig a hole in the sand one night when we cooked dinner on the beach due to the shore breeze, but the stove handled it fine.

SteriPen – One of the triad of water purification devices we used. This worked really well for us, except for the fact that you have to use widemouth Nalgene bottles. Yes, it does say that in the product specs, but may not be something you are thinking about when you pack. That and we found you need to submerge the pen to a certain level every time you put it in. It was deeper than we thought, but the flashing lights told us we were doing it wrong.

GSI Dualist Cook Set – I used this to cook all of my dinners on the trail. It was also what I ate my oatmeal out of in the morning. Worked fine, bigger than I needed for myself on this trip, but I bought it for future use with my sons.

Camp Chairs and Cookware

Fleece blanket: Nothing more than this is needed when we were out there.  Maybe if you were camping without a tent during the middle of December you might have wanted a slightly warmer sleeping bag, but the nights are so comfortable that this was all I needed.  

Another option to would be an army poncho liner. It is lighter and packs down smaller than a fleece blanket. In subsequent camping trips in Hawaii this is all I needed. 

Starbucks VIA – These were awesome on the trail. Sadly, I forgot mine. Luckily I was able to barter a chocolate bar for a morning’s coffee.
Hiking shoes and poles: 

Portions of the trail can get muddy and slick. The trekking pole I took to Kalalau didn’t survive after we got back. I have since switched to the Black Diamond Trail Cork Ergo. I like it because it extends to 140 cm, has strong locks and soft cork handles. 

You need more than running shoes but less than hiking boots. I like something with a good vibram sole because they tend to grip pretty well in the slick mid. I wore these on the trip and for many miles after. Very happy with the purchase. Merril Moab ventilators 

A Short Primer on German Beer

So I recently stumbled across this excellent post from Serious Eats about German Beer.

Let’s get a few terms clear first: Oktoberfest and Märzen are generally used interchangeably to describe one style. I’ll just use Märzen from here on out. Vienna and dunkel lagers are beers that are fairly similar in character, though the history is a little different.

Way back in the 1500s, Bavarian lawmakers forbade the brewing of beer between April and September to ensure quality. In the warmer months, wild yeast and bacteria could thrive, leading to nasty, spoiled beer for the people. Without an understanding of modern fermentation science, the lawmakers were unknowingly establishing a long future for German lager. Fermented and stored in cool caves, the beers produced in the winter and early spring would eventually evolve into the modern dunkel (“dark”) lager.

Märzen (meaning March) takes its name from the frantic brewing that occurred in the month leading up to the summertime ban…

One of the things that I have always loved about German brewing (and hunting) is how steeped in tradition it is.  From here on out, I’ll look at Marzen as the brewers mad dash to stock the shelves.

Oh yea, and I’m totally making myself a lagering cave when I stop moving.

And as a side note, I totally recommend following Serious Eats on Twitter @Seriouseats


Plex, Drobo & Apple TV

I have held off on making/buying a Mac mini media server for many years now, because it always seemed like too much computer for such an isolated purpose. So when Apple announced the new Apple TV with app store, I had a feeling the Plex app would be the right fit for me.

Anyways, I won’t go too much into the whys you should get an Apple TV here, but here, but here are so painful “how to’s” I learned in getting my set up going.

First, on your Drobo:

  • Download from Plex the updated Drobo App, but don’t use Safari. Safari will convert the file from plex.tgz to plex.tar. That will cause you heartache, you need to have plex.tgz.

  • Place this download in your DroboApps folder on your Drobo drive. I only have the stock apps installed, so plea.tgz sat in-between the pearl and python folders.

  • Stop the Plex app on your Drobo.

  • Restart your Drobo

You should be good to go. Head over to your Apple tv, download the app (have fun typing in your Plex password!) and enjoy.

If you weren’t succesfull, and I wasn’t, here is what I ended up doing.

Run these commands in the terminal (h/t ianlunn):

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles YES

Then go back to your DroboApps folder and delete the .servicerc file (I also deleted .plex)

Restart your Drobo, and this should take care of it.



How to pack your backpack

So this is one of those things, I used to know, but didn’t use for a while.  There is a lot of conflicting advice out there, but this video really helps solidify what I had come to accept as best practice anyhow.

I still can’t get over not packing to an external frame with the tent on the bottom and bed roll on the top, but that’s just me!