Staycation


Let me start this post by stating that along with glamping, I despise the word staycation. I understand what it means but it just sounds ridiculously stupid.

Anyway, with money being a bit tight the last few weekends, taking mini staycations (*shudder*) is exactly what we’ve been doing lately. Living in southern California pretty much means there’s always something new and interesting to see and chances are it’s going to be pretty local, and it also gives us an opportunity to take in some of our more historical landmarks as well.

We started a few weekends ago by taking Anthony to the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro, a city near my old stomping grounds of Wilmington. The place is very small and can be walked through in about an hour or less but still has all sorts of interesting things to look at, even a few dorks inside an aquarium:

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A short drive from there is the Korean Bell of Friendship, a gift from Korea to celebrate America’s bicentennial in 1976. It’s huge, beautiful and extremely picturesque:

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That’s Anthony standing in front of it. Here’s another shot taken with my phone:

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The bell sits atop a hill in Angels Gate Park, formerly a part of Fort MacArthur. Adding to the bell’s ambiance is an unbelievable view of the coast that will take up your peripheral vision when you stand just right. This shot was taken just to the west of the bell (on a near-perfect day, I might add):

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It was so clear that Catalina Island looked to be within swimming distance. And if you look closely at the photo above (click to enlarge), you can see some military vehicles on the extreme right and in the parking lot – except they’re not real. They are props for a movie or TV show that was to begin shooting there the following day. Also, the gun range (wood structure) just above my watermark is a prop.

The park on the hill is just an amazing place to spend the day as many locals do. There’s always a good breeze up there so naturally, kite flying is a popular activity:

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To go along with the bell and the sense of peace and tranquility that the park brings are the remnants of Fort MacArthur. It’s a weird combination:

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All in all, it was a great way to spend a day on a budget, which is what we did just last weekend when we spent some time in my hometown of Wilmington. I know, you’re probably thinking that there isn’t a lot to do there and you’re probably right, but Wilmington has quite a few ties to the Civil War and maritime history. In fact, if not for Phineas Banning, the Port of Los Angeles probably wouldn’t be here today. The port was his idea and the city is named after his hometown in Delaware where he moved from in 1851. His home sits in the middle of Banning Park, a place I spent many days as a child, and was used in the movie Primary Colors.

Another historic site in Wilmington is the Drum Barracks, a place I shamefully admit I’d never set foot in until last weekend. Indoor photography is not allowed so I don’t have any shots from within the mansion but I do have this artsy-fartsy one: IMG_20120121_124443 - Agatha,Focal,Sloppy

I learned much from the tour and was glad we took it. I had no idea that the Drum Barracks is the last remaining building of the over 20 that once stood on the surrounding area, nor that it was once a schoolhouse. The things you learn in your own backyard…

Down the street from the Drum Barracks is yet another piece of history – a Civil War powder magazine:

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Yeah, I got a little carried away with Pixlr-o-matic app but it adds a little oomph. Although you can’t see it, the magazine is enclosed in a chain link fence.

Another piece of history in the area is the first Wienerschnitzel, a place that Dad took us to all the time.

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Yep, here’s where it all started. We also took a trip down to the docks where Dad used to work. Even though some may not find it much to look at, It still holds a place in my heart and I have a very strong emotional attachment to the area.

One of the things I remember about being near the docks are these fantastic pedestals which based on their style, appear to have been made during the Art Deco era:

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The end of Avalon Street is lined with them and man, if I could have one of these in replica, I would be eternally grateful. It may be hard to see on this picture but those huge fins actually have images of fish engraved into them but over the years, the weather and sea air have taken their toll. But I was happy to see that some of them have all new fins on top which is probably what they looked like when they were installed:

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They are a little rough around the edges but I applaud whomever is behind the restoration. Dad would have been proud.

Finally, on the way home, we pass Los Angeles County Fire Station 127, also known as Station 51 from the TV show Emergency!

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This station is actually down the street from my hometown in the city of Carson and as you can tell, not much as changed from the time it was used in the show:

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Seems like a lot to see in only a few weekends, no? Believe me, there’s much more.

Hope you like what I posted here. There will be more when we head to our next local destination – wherever that might be.

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Virgin Mobile Is Going to Throttle You


If you are a data-heavy user who signed up for Virgin Mobile’s Beyond Talk with unlimited data, web and e-mail in the hopes of paying $25 (or $35, depending on when you joined) and never having anything to worry about, your dreams are about to be shattered – in some ways.

March 23rd, 2012 is going to be your equivalent to the Mayan’s December 21st, 2012 as that is the day Virgin Mobile plans to end unlimited data at their “normal” speeds and start capping users’ monthly 3G allowance at 2.5GB. If you’re bad at math, that comes out to about 88.33MB per day over the course of a month.

But have no fear. Virgin Mobile is going to be so kind as to send you a text message once you have met your 2.5GB of data. Not before you reach the limit, but when you reach it. How thoughtful of them. You can then choose to restart your month and resume at normal speeds but if you don’t, the remainder of your current month will see your data speeds reduced to 256Kbps or less.

Here’s the official word from Virgin Mobile:

To make sure we can keep offering our Beyond Talk Plans at such great prices, we’re putting a data speed reduction in place for anyone who uses over 2.5GB of data in a month.

Will it affect me?
Based on your activity for your last plan month ending in December, you could be affected by this change.

If you continue to use the same amount of data as you did in your last plan month, you may see your data speeds reduced during a plan month when the data speed reduction is implemented on March 23, 2012. You can still use your phone to do everything you currently do, but you may experience slower page loads and file downloads and lags in streaming media.

This will not affect your ability to text or make calls with your phone.

How will it work?

Starting March 23, 2012, if you use over 2.5GB of data in a month on your Beyond Talk Plan:
• Data speeds may be reduced to 256Kbps or below for the rest of your month.
• If data speeds are reduced, they will return to normal as soon as your next plan month starts.
• If you’d rather not wait for your new month to start, you can restart your plan immediately through My Account.

How will I know if my data speeds have been reduced?
If you reach 2.5GB of data in a month, you will receive a text message letting you know your data speeds will be reduced for the rest of your plan month.

By putting this data speed reduction in place, we’re making sure we can deliver the same quality service you’ve come to expect from Virgin Mobile. We hope you understand.

*Data usage per activity is based on an average. Bandwidth varies by website, video, email and other Internet application

So there you have it. I guess we couldn’t have possibly expected our great deal to last, right? But don’t think that your ol’ buddy Dave is going to leave you in the dark on this one. I’ve already come up with some suggestions that will help you save data and keep track of how much data you are burning through.

Use WiFi: This the most obvious solution if you have a wireless connection at home or wherever you have access to WiFi. You won’t have to worry about using up any data.

Juice Defender app: Juice Defender continues to be one of my most used apps as it gives me the ability to turn off my phone’s data connection. Just place the widget on your Home page and whenever you want to go online, send an MMS, or do anything that requires sending or receiving data, turn on the data connection. When finished, turn it off. Pretty simple.

onavoOnavo app: I’ve only begun to test data usage apps and one of the first ones I came across was Onavo. I picked it based on the customer ratings which all seemed pretty favorable. From what I’ve seen so far, it works great but does drain your battery faster than normal since it constantly monitors data and the apps that are data-heavy. You can also set it to give you alerts when you are approaching your monthly allowance. This is a real user-friendly app that does a great job keeping track of when your data will be throttled. Best of all, it’s free. Check it out.

So exactly how much is 2.5GB? Let this give you an idea.

After I installed the Onavo app I kept an eye on my data usage. Throughout the course of my shift at work and using Juice Defender to turn my data on and off, my total data usage came to a little under 30MB. (The rest of my data was sent and received at home via WiFi.) The 30MB included apps that use data, some Web browsing, no sent MMS messages and downloading one MMS that was sent to me. While the cap might hurt some, it may not have much of an affect on my personal usage except for when I want to use the phone’s GPS or fitness apps that require GPS tracking for my run, ride, etc. And since I’m usually home on weekends, I’m on WiFi most of the time.

A little note on Onavo. You can only set data caps in round numbers and not decimals. In Virgin Mobile’s case, you want to set your cap to 2560MB which is equal to 2.5GB.

Look, we knew this day was coming. You’d better go and enjoy your unlimited data for the next few months before Virgin Mobile pops throttle cap in your…behind.

My Blogs Will Be Dark for 24 Hours Starting Tomorrow


 

On January 18, 2012 from 6 am to 6 pm 6 am the following day, I will be joining sites such as Wikipedia, Google, Reddit and others in showing my opposition to SOPA.

During those 12 24 hours, all of my blogs (listed below) will be set to “private” in order to bring awareness to what SOPA really and truly is: censorship of the Internet. You will not be able to access anything on any of my blogs so that you get an idea of how things may unfold if Congress decides to pass the bill. Additionally, I will refrain from posting on any social media outlet. I will be silent and will also be enforcing the silence. Because I can.

When you try to visit any of my blogs, you will get nothing but a warning page stating that the blog has been set to “private” and cannot be viewed. This means that all of you readers who have come here in search of information regarding Virgin Mobile phones, weight loss, etc. won’t get what you are looking for — by my choice.

Don’t let Congress have that kind of authority on the one thing they need to stay away from and haven’t screwed up yet.

Take action. Stand up to SOPA.

My affected blogs:

Gone Daddy Gone


godaddyFirst, I’d like to say that you’ve got me for yet another year of blogging as I have renewed the holographicmeatloaf.com domain name. And unless I decide to hang them up, simply walk away or am killed in some kind of bizarre gardening accident, I’ll still be here.

Everything will remain the same save for the occasional theme change for when I think things need some refreshing. But the one thing that has changed may not be as obvious.

For years, I had my domain registered with GoDaddy simply because a) they advertised and made it seem easy to do and b) renewing with them was the obvious choice since everything was already done for me. All I had to do is pay.

namecheapBut this year I’ve decided to move away from them and for good. The reason is simple: SOPA. In case you’re not familiar with the acronym, SOPA stands for the Stop Online Piracy Act which Congress intends to pass and in essence, will cripple the Internet for everybody in their efforts to protect the intellectual rights of artists. And much like DRM on MP3 files, all a bill like this will do is harm the little guy.

Basically, if you love your freedom of speech, you should not like SOPA. There are very few arguments for it and plenty against.

And how exactly does any of this have to do with my former domain host?

GoDaddy supported SOPA. I say “supported” because once it was known that they were on the side of this bill, there was a huge outlast against them and hosts such as Namecheap offered discounts to potential clients for domain transfers.

Feeling compelled to do my part against censorship, I used one of the many discount codes Namecheap was advertising and made the switch. And despite GoDaddy’s later rescinding of their SOPA support (after a mass exodus of users leaving them), I stuck to my guns.

The transfer was completed on December 30, just one day short of Namecheap’s “Move Your Domain Day” promotion. Better late then never, it seems.

If you are currently a user of GoDaddy’s services and haven’t made the move to another domain host, then perhaps you should consider another host for the sake of showing GoDaddy what you think of their one-time support of the bill.

Then  you can be like the many (including myself) who have said, “So long, GoDaddy. I’m gone.”

More Handy Android Apps


As you’ve probably already read in a few of my posts, my LG Optimus V has a tendency to have its memory eaten up in to time flat. As a result, I was often left to go into the Applications menu and clear out caches, uninstall updates, etc.

I did all of that until App2SD Pro was offered for free on Amazon’s Appstore, and the app’s widget did do the trick for a little while. The widget would refresh and display the amount of memory the cache was taking up and if you wanted to clear it, you would press the widget – but not before it asked you if you wanted to do that.

Well, of course I want to. It’s killing my space! So annoying message aside, all widgets only work when the app is installed on the phone’s internal memory which sort of defeats the purpose of having it.

So in an effort to avoid having an app kill my phone’s internal memory just for the sake of having a widget, I scoured the Android Market and came across two handy ones that have since become my replacements for App2SD’s cache widget.

cacheSLW Cache Cleaner Widget (free): While it’s pretty obvious what this app does, what isn’t is how small it is. Like all SLW widgets – SLW is an acronym for Simple and LightWeight – it is extremely compact to save you space and still gets the job done. This one in particular is a whopping 17k. What I like about Cache Cleaner is that it efficiently monitors your cache and whenever you feel the need to dump it, one press of the widget will do it and you’re back in business. No frills, no bells or whistles. That’s exactly how it should be.

storageSLW Storage Widget (free): I use this one in conjunction with Cache Cleaner so that I have a constant tab on how much memory remains on both my internal memory and SD card. This takes the guesswork out it as well as waiting for that dreaded “low memory” message, a definite sign of how this phone can drive you nuts at the most inopportune times. And again, we see the benefit of good things coming in small packages: this one weighs in at 20k. Think your phone can handle that?

Best of all, these as well as all of this developer’s apps are free.

Give them a shot and see what you think.