Entertainment, Music, Requiem in Pace

His Name Was Prince


And he was funky.

And rest assured that my Facebook friends are probably…well, most definitely tired of my posts about the man and his music which is why I’m here to expand my thoughts just a little bit more.

First off, I find it hard to believe that he’s gone. I was at work doing my thing when I got this text from Ann:

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No. Seriously. What was the punchline here? There had to be one because this had to be some kind of horrible, horrible joke.

The old joke when we were kids was, “Hey, did you hear Alan Hamel died?”

“Really?”

Yeah. Tell a friend.”

“And u think u got it bad?”

Money Don’t Matter 2 Night

This was Prince. Ain’t no way this was supposed to happen so soon, especially with so many other great musicians passing away in 2016 and late 2015.

But Ann’s not very good at telling jokes and I couldn’t really think of a punchline for this one, so I had to start my own investigating.

I immediately searched for more information on Twitter, my usual news source. Everyone was all reporting the same ongoing “death investigation” with no definite word on what had happened.

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But then the confirmations started. This was the very tweet that crushed my soul.

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Note that I got it via Roku. I don’t give TMZ any more attention than I wish to as they mostly report trash I’m not remotely interested in.

I’m a fan of all kinds of music and I know what I like, and I like Prince. That’s why it was so incredibly shocking to hear he had died. Music is a very important part of my life probably because I can’t play an instrument and appreciate those who can, and admire those who are masters.

Well, I try.

Upon reading this tweet, I sat at my desk and out a huge, disappointing sigh that sounded like more of an annoyed grunt. It could have been. My coworker laughed and asked if I was okay.

Then I showed her the tweet.

“No way,” she exclaimed. As the news spread across almost every person/business I follow on Twitter, it was apparent that there would be no punchline as it was no joke. We were both shocked.

At age 57, Prince Rogers Nelson was gone.

“We could all die any day”

1999

Granted, I’m not his biggest fan in that I don’t have many of his albums nor did I ever witness him live, something I most definitely regret now. But I do enjoy music — all kinds. And you don’t have to be a big Prince fan in order to appreciate his contribution to the music world – at least if you grew up in the time he was at the top of his game.

That year was 1984 when his quasi-biographical Purple Rain hit the theaters. While people were still singing his hits from 1999, the movie propelled him to a level of success and attention that was incredible to witness.

I can recall seeing Purple Rain shirts by the handful in high school with their proud owners bragging about his incredible concert at The Forum. Back then, you couldn’t turn on the radio or MTV without hearing/seeing Prince, most likely “When Doves Cry,” even though all of his singles from 1999 were still popular.

Prince had arrived only a few years after being booed off the stage while opening for the Rolling Stones, and he was still about pushing boundaries.

“Whenever my hopes and dreams
Are aimed in the wrong direction
She’s always there
Tellin’ me how much she cares”

She’s Always in My Hair

Distributing his album Planet Earth via Sunday newspaper in the UK. The Lord’s Prayer in “Controversy.” His name change to an unpronounceable symbol. The buttless chaps he wore on the MTV Music Awards. And, of course, his reluctance to be a part of the Internet by not having an official website, his videos on YouTube (and his threats to sue anyone who posted them), or his albums on streaming services.

Of course in 1999, the eponymous song became the anthem of the year. If you went to a New Year’s Eve party you know it was played allllll night.

But as fans continue to mourn, videos are starting to show up. Here’s one I remember seeing a ton of times on MTV and it’s one of the rate videos where you’ll see Prince sit behind the drums and madly pound out a solo.

While this entire performance is worthy of watching, the solo begins at 7:45.

And let’s not forget that his song “Darling Nikki” and not a rap song was responsible for this sticker:

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I can think of songs on the radio today that are even more explicit than that one but hey, it gives Tipper Gore something to be proud of I guess.

There was never a doubt that he was an incredible musician, songwriter, and performer and like the man himself, his music knew no boundaries. This is perhaps why so many musicians paid tribute to him on the day he passed away, most of them playing his somber “Purple Rain.”

Corey Taylor of metal band Slipknot:

A student choir at the Disney Concert Hall:

Adam Levine of Maroon 5:

The cast of The Color Purple:

Bruce Springsteen:

Jimmy Buffett:

As musicians paid homage to Prince, cities around the world did the same.

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The Eiffel Tower.

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Downtown Los Angeles, who may just win the prize for tributes.

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The Minnesota Twins. Ironically, it was raining the day he passed.

New-Yorker-May

New Yorker Magazine.

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The Forum in Inglewood, where Prince played 21 nights in 2011.

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Long Beach Transit.

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The local news during the Entertainment Report.

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A church in Tulsa, OK.

When applicable, people will flock to Hollywood leave flowers and mementos at the Walk of Fame star of a recently deceased star. Prince, of course, was not your average star and does not have a star on the Walk of Fame. As a result, a someone decided he needed one where fans could mourn.

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“Baby I’m a star”

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And of course, my own that I posted on Instagram.

The only thing I’ve seen that came close to this was when John Lennon was assassinated. It was a beautiful way to celebrate the life of a man who wore the most feminine outfits while shredding a guitar like no other – and prancing around on stage in his trademark high-heeled boots.

So guys, if you ever think you’re a badass, just forget it. Prince owns you even now.

He was taken away from us much too fast but we were lucky to walk this planet at the same time to experience his incredible gift.

“No one in the whole universe will ever compare”

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So thank you and goodnight, sweet Prince. Rest in Power.

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Electronics, Entertainment, Life, Video Games, Xbox One

Plop Plop, Fizz Fizz


5bbc952a01a7760eb04b8b4bc31da025There are some things in life for which you have no real explanation.

Like getting your leg caught in a ceiling fan, for instance. And on Saturday, I had an odd thing happen to me. Perhaps not as odd as the ceiling fan thing but odd enough.

I dropped my Xbox One controller – yes, an expensive wireless one – in a bowl of water.

I know it sounds silly but it almost makes sense once I explain. Besides, it’s not like I have a houseful of water-filled bowls just sitting around. I only have two: one for the cats and one for the dog.

In this case, it involves the one belonging to Arliss which is in the den or, as Anthony calls it, the man-cave.

I despise that term, by the way.

Anyway, the water bowl in question sits beside to Arliss’ bowl of dry food in the man-ca…den. Both bowls are situated next to a small table that has my nightly essentials strewn upon it: audio/video remotes, a notebook filled with notes pertaining to my ongoing Japanese studies and, of course, my Xbox controllers.

On Saturday morning, I went into the den to grab something off of the table. I don’t remember what it was but at any rate, while I was reaching for it, my Xbox One controller scrambled off the edge of the table and directly into the bowl of water.

*plop*

Oh shit. Really, oh shit. It was submerged for maybe one whole second at the most which is certainly enough time for water to make its presence known on the innards of any electronic device.

I figured it was goner but retrieved it from the bottom of the bowl anyway. I shook it vigorously, hoping to get all of the water out of it. And in my attempt to shake it dry, I slung water all over the den floor and patio doors. I continued to do so until I thought I had it all out.

Then I ran into the bathroom and turned on the hairdryer – trust me, it’s Ann’s not mine – to finish the job at Max Power. If there was anything that would dry it out, this would be it.

This was about all I could do for the time being. I inspected it and it seemed fairly dry on the inside (at least as far as I could see once removing the battery cover). I then tried it out – and there were problems.

When pressing the Xbox button, the system would power-on but the controller wouldn’t stay on. The light on the Xbox button would flash a few times and turn off. Nothing after that.

Then I put some of my reliable rechargeable batteries in the controller since they seem to be much more powerful that the standard alkaline batteries I use. No dice – the controller was doing the same thing.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s not like I use the system very much. I seem to use it more for streaming baseball games online since I can’t watch them otherwise due to the greed of my home team and a certain cable provider watching YouTube videos via Chromecast from either my phone, tablet, or PC in the living room. So if I had to buy a new controller, I could go cheap and just get another wired one.

And that’s what it was looking like at this point.

Hours later, I tried it again. The controller literally looked like it was breathing its last breath with the light slowly fading like it hadn’t done before, almost as if it were saying goodbye.

I could almost hear a little voice crying, “Help meeeeeeeeeeeeee…”

Well, crap.

I had already planned on putting it back in the bowl of water and taking a picture of it to share on social media if it had died. If there was nothing else to be done then I might as well have some fun with it, right?

Then Sunday comes along. After a morning of mishaps (that’s another blog post), I thought I’d give it one more try. So I held the Xbox button down and the system powered up. The good thing was that the controller stayed on.

Resurrected. A true Sunday miracle. Or was it?

I thought I’d give it a try by playing Forza Motorsport 6 and everything seemed to be functioning just fine. Then Anthony wanted to play so I handed it over to him.

He discovered that Change View button wasn’t working. He came across this because he wanted to change the POV in FM6 since he doesn’t like my POV: either the hood or bumper views. I would have never found it myself unless I played another game.

I was now going to have to shell out x-dollars because one stinking button wasn’t working. Isn’t that a pip?

So tonight about an hour ago I gave it one more shot and, using some critical thinking (yes, I’m capable of such things), I found the cause of the problem.

In FM6, you can apply Mods to your car with varying degrees of difficulty to earn more points, XP, etc. Some are one-time use and others will remain until you decide to deactivate them.

So I started my Career, got to the track, and reviewed my Mods. One of the active ones was Hood View, a mod which gives you extra points for only using the hood POV; you cannot changed it once the game starts. I went into the Settings and removed the mod, then started the race.

As soon as it started I hit the Change View button and, lo and behold, it worked.

Resurrection, again.

So even after being submerged in dog-water for about a second, I managed to bring the controller back to life with only a hairdryer and the brute gorilla force used when shaking it dry.

Then again, we managed to wash and dry Anthony’s old iPod twice and while the screen had some water damage, it still worked.

I guess we have that kind of strange luck.

Computers, Electronics, Entertainment, Gadgets, Geek Stuff, Product Review, Smartphones

Review: Pebble Smartwatch


As I do on occasion, today’s post is a review about a recently acquired item. But first, let me tell you of the story behind it.

My lovely wife Ann thought it would be nice to buy me a nifty gadget – she knows I love technology – for Christmas in the form of a Metawatch Strata. While I did like it, there were a few things that I couldn’t really get used to, namely the difficult-to-read silver (?) display and its failure to control music on my phone. This would have been a great feature when I was out running. But no matter how I tried, it just wouldn’t read the music on my phone which was pretty disappointing.

After two days, I reluctantly returned it to Best Buy for an exchange. I say “reluctantly” because I am the guy who never, ever returns gifts no matter what. I just don’t do that. But in this case, with a smartwatch that wasn’t all that smart, I didn’t have much choice.

I had been researching the Pebble Smartwatch before I went to the store and ended up getting it for the same price as the Metawatch Strata (on sale for $79.99). Ann still seemed disappointed in my choice but she’s since learned that it was the right one, and here’s where the review begins. Note that I am currently using an HTC one M7, probably the best phone I’ve had, to connect to the Pebble.

unnamedWhat Is Pebble?
For starters, I should go over what exactly Pebble is. It’s a simple, functional smartwatch with a black-and-white backlit LCD display that does only what it needs to do. It’s not fancy like Samsung’s Gear smartwatches and doesn’t promise to do all the ridiculous things that Apple is saying its Apple Watch will eventually do when it’s finally released – whenever that will be. Pebble is indeed the Bauhaus of smartwatches in a market currently ruled by Warhols, and that’s a good thing.

Pebble is designed to be an extension of your smartphone by displaying notifications for incoming phone calls, emails, and texts. (Additionally, you can set the Pebble to vibrate for any and all alerts.) It also lets you control smartphone apps and functions such as music and fitness apps such as Endomondo, my preferred fitness app. You can also load apps like Yelp and onto the watch although some of them may need the full-size accompanying app (like Endomondo) on your phone in order for them to run.

Design
The Pebble is what it is: simple. You won’t be overwhelmed by its looks but if you feel that making a fashion statement is part of owning a smartwatch, then you definitely have other more expensive choices out there. It’s available in white, black, or red and if your feeling really GQ, you can go for the Pebble Steel, twice the cost of the standard model and with a few more features. As for me, I opted for black as I know it will be getting banged up and dirty between running, cycling, and the daily rigors of work.

(Speaking of getting banged up, I bought a Zagg InvisibleShield protector to cover the screen. The only image on this post without it is the one showing how to control music.)

There are a total of four buttons on the Pebble: the three right-side buttons are for navigation and the left-side button is for the backlight, although there are settings in the app to activate the light when you shake your wrist. Your choice.

Connectivity
Pebble connects to your phone via Bluetooth, which means that you should expect a shorter battery life from your phone as it is talking to the Pebble constantly. Through the use of the Pebble app, you can designate which smartphone apps you would like to receive notifications from, in my case I only have it set up for text alerts, emails, calls, and a few select apps. That’s about all I really need. When you get a notification, it will show up on the Pebble’s screen. Note that in order to receive email notifications, you must be connected to your data network. I only state this because I always have my data off. Text messages, however, will always show up but MMS messages will not send an alert to Pebble as it cannot display images.

One of the downsides I immediately noticed was that when I got a text, I still had to use my phone in order to reply. This was remedied when I discovered the Awear app which lets you reply with, not compose, short messages. You can select from a predetermined list of replies (Positive, Negative, etc.) or make your own list of personal Shortcut messages within the app to reply with (e.g. “Stupid cats!”) Despite a few bugs, Awear is exactly what I needed.

Speaking of Bluetooth, Pebble had a few problems while I was running with Bluetooth earbuds, namely freezing, resets, and songs playback being really choppy. I’ve since learned to stick with wired earbuds which isn’t a big deal since they sound better and playback is not hindered. I’ve never run more than one thing on Bluetooth before so I’m not sure if it was my phone or Pebble acting funny and not being able to handle everything.

Battery Life
The Pebble comes with one of the strangest proprietary USB charging cables I’ve ever seen: magnetized. The charger has a few small prongs extruding from it along with some small magnets. Line them up and the watch charges, but the trick is getting the charger to stick. The magnets don’t stay in place very well and the watch has to sit just right or the charger will not connect – and the watch won’t charge. The good thing is that a single charge will last you a few days if you are just using it for basic functions. Here’s a shot of the Pebble with the weird charger attached.

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However, if you plan to run other apps on top of that, then expect considerably less life from the battery. After a nearly 9-mile run the other day, it was down to 40% but being it charges quickly, it wasn’t an issue once I was home. That said, you can’t just plug any USB cable into it to charge. You’ll need to buy another proprietary one from Pebble.

Functions
I’m trying to figure out the last time I was out for a run and had this much fun. As stated earlier, Pebble can control a variety of apps including Endomondo. Before I had Pebble, it was a real pain to stop said app on my phone while standing at a crosswalk or taking a quick hydration break. Now it’s as easy as pressing a button.

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These are my stats after my run a few days ago. As you can see, the middle-right button is the start/pause button and that’s a freaking godsend when compared to reaching for my armband, waking up my phone, then hoping that it can register my tap over the armband’s thick, plastic window. With Pebble, hit that middle button and the app stops. Amazing. (While Endomondo does feature an automatic start/stop function based on your movement, I prefer doing it manually.) The three stats you see here can be changed within the Endomondo app, and Pebble requires installing their Endmondo app in order for this to work.

Then there’s the music.

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Pebble has a built-in Music app that lets you control whichever music app you choose via the Pebble app on your phone. Again, this beats the hassle of reaching for my phone all the time while running. All it takes is a few presses of a button and the music is paused. Once I’m ready to go, I start it up again. It works flawlessly.

Along with those two functions, you can install apps to give you updates on weather, sports, stocks, etc. The downside here is that Pebble limits you to a combined eight apps and watchfaces so you’d better choose wisely.

Watchfaces
Pebble comes with a few watchfaces preinstalled and you can download more via the Pebble app. More are designed by other users and some are really amazing (Mario Bros. and retro Casio faces) while others are equally crappy. Once you download them, you use the app to send them to the watch. The problem with almost all of these watchfaces is that they are more aesthetically pleasing and less functional, meaning they don’t give you stats on missed calls, texts, battery and phone life, etc. And while the Awear app has its own watchface that displays all of those things, it cannot be customized.

Enter Pebble Canvas, a third-party smartphone app that allows users to create their own custom watchfaces. Not only that, you can also customize watchfaces created by others once you download them to the app. The possibilities are practically endless. Here are the watchfaces I’ve created so far, with Basic being the most popular of the three with over 20 downloads.

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Since creating Basic, I’ve added the Bluetooth icon, unread Gmail and Weather features to it (see image under Battery Life above). While watchfaces created in Pebble Canvas won’t be nearly as clean or fancy as those available in the Pebble app’s store, they serve a better purpose and give the freedom of complete customization.

Summary
I’ve had my Pebble a few weeks and I admit that I really enjoy it. The Pebble watch is uncomplicated. Its e-reader display won’t win over a lot of people and neither will its limited functionality. However, there were plenty of people who believed that Pebble’s limited functionality was worth the $10.3 million it raised via Kickstarter. While I didn’t contribute, I’m a believer in this little smartwatch and all it has to offer despite the few hiccups I’ve encountered along the way. It’s a great running mate, a functional smartphone notification system, a fine music controller and oh yeah, it tells the time as well. I couldn’t expect it to do more and while not for everybody, I’ve been very happy with it so far.

Electronics, Entertainment, Shopping

When Black Friday Comes…


Black Friday is quickly sneaking up on us, what with all the leaked ads popping up on sites and forums all over the Intarwebs. And yes, there are lots of great deals to be had provided you like to stand—or if you prefer, camp overnight in freezing conditions—and fight off throngs of rabid, maniacal shoppers looking for the same bargains you are.

Well, I’m not one of those. Not only do we normally stay as far away as possible from any retail establishment on said day, we usually have our Christmas shopping done well before Halloween and this year was no different. The only post-Halloween purchase I made was for Ann and myself, our early Christmas gifts to each other. They were good deals to begin with and we buy other good deals throughout the year so that once Christmas comes around, we don’t have to spend time fighting off crowds.

With social media being the thing these days and crazy kids shooting videos of anything and everything, we’ve all seen the YouTube clips of blood-thirsty consumers ramming the doors of their local Walmart and running over anyone who was reluctantly in their path. This, however, is nothing new. I recall the days when Ann and I worked for Walmart back in the early ‘90s, when she had to crouch down and sneak into the store through the little door used exclusively for shopping carts because of the crowd gathered around the regular entrance. Even so, with her name tag on and with an associate manning said door to let her in, her entrance nearly caused a riot amongst the crowd.

What is everyone celebrating again?

Maybe some find it fun to be around angry people who will just end up selling their stuff on eBay for a few extra bucks. Well, I don’t and I’ve worked enough years in retail, back when stores were still closed on Thanksgiving, to keep as far away as possible on Black Friday.

Besides, there are already good deals in the days leading up to it. We found this one today via the Walmart app:

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Here’s an iPad mini for $219 with free shipping and free case. Yes, it’s lacking the Retina display as well as the faster processor but some little boy in this house is going to be pretty happy when he opens this up on Christmas morning (compared to Dad who’ll open his Walmart credit card statement and gawk incredulously). All it took was a decision, made from the comfort of our couch, to buy this thing and have it delivered. Done and done.

Let’s compare that to what Wally World is having the evening of Thanksgiving:

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Same item for $20 less, however:

  • It’s Thanksgiving night at Walmart and not online. There are plenty of other places I’d rather be, like on my couch suffering from a tryptophan-enduced food coma.
  • “While supplies last” most assuredly means that unless you are a linebacker or an NHL power forward and can get to the Electronics Department before anyone, forget it.
  • Read the fine print. Nobody reads the fine print. Anything that requires wristband distribution is not promising and could get ugly when they run out.
  • The $30 gift card is a nice touch, but my deal included a case. I’d wager that most of those gift card will be used for cases anyway and those can average around $23. Almost a wash.

Even though the Thanksgiving Day sale may be a better deal in the long run, I consider the extra few bucks I spent a Convenience Fee in that I avoided everything I despise about Black Friday by ordering it now and even having it delivered. No fuss, no muss.

So when Black Friday comes, I’ll be somewhere far, far away from all this madness, and my shopping will be done. It’s just not for me.


I’m aware that this song is a reference to the stock market crash, but I’m playing on the title.

Computers, Electronics, Entertainment, Geek Stuff, Smartphones

Adventures in Smartphones


Okay, so it’s been way too long between posts and I sort of have an idea about today’s topic.

As you may recall, I dropped my Samsung Galaxy S4 Active the day before I was to participate in the Long Beach Marathon Bike Tour and 5k. In case you don’t remember what it looked like after the fall, here’s a refresher.

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Since the day I dropped it, I had been tolerating the ugly display and felt every little crack as I slid my finger across the screen and because of that, I had to buy a cheap screen protector in order to save the tip on my index finger from getting any glass stuck inside of it. And I worked with it as long as I could.

I think it was about a week after The Dropping when I decided that I couldn’t take it anymore and gave AT&T a call to get an idea on what I could do until I’m eligible for an upgrade. The simplest solution, as they told me, was to buy a cheap AT&T GoPhone and slide the SIM card in it and everything would be back to normal.

Thinking it was a good idea, I did just that by purchasing the ZTE Compel at Radio Shack since the nearest AT&T store didn’t have them in stock. In fact, they had very little in stock and shouldn’t even be in business. More on that later.

Thinking I had the problem temporarily solved, I took it home, put my SIM card in the phone, connected to WiFI, and started getting my favorite apps. By the time I hit App #7, the internal memory was already full. I didn’t even think to start moving apps to the memory card; I immediately figured that this phone was lacking and decided to take it back after two solid hours of ownership. It just wasn’t going to work for me.

So now I’m back to using Ol’ Crackly. I started to browse the Best Buy site for some reason, knowing I didn’t have the money to fork over for a new phone but after searching, I did find a Samsung Galaxy that was in my price range—sort of. I still didn’t have enough money to buy the thing. I then made the decision to apply for a Best Buy credit card and, within seconds (which really is some kind of record for me), I was approved and could start shopping immediately. Hey, man. Desperate times, desperate measures.

10697408_10152586326394118_4861105702589338811_oAnd when I buy a phone, I take a lot into consideration (except maybe for that ZTE piece of garbage, which was bought out of sheer desperation). Things like replaceable battery, expandable memory, internal memory, and camera megapixels are all important when I’m comparing. I had narrowed the phones down to a couple of Moto G models (16GB internal memory and no SD card expansion) and the Samsung Galaxy S II (16GB internal memory with SD card expansion) even though the Motorola phones had no removable battery. I don’t know how you iPhone people do it. In the end, I took a chance with the Galaxy S II knowing that it was indeed a few years behind in terms of style, OS, everything. Then the waiting game began as I checked the UPS Tracking Number daily to see when the phone would arrive.

I was very happy when the phone arrived. It was so shiny and…white. But the problem was that, being it was well over three years behind the times, it had a standard SIM card and not the mirco SIM cards that today’s smartphones use. This meant I had to make a trip to my local AT&T store to get a larger SIM card.

They didn’t have any of those, either. Remember when I said this place shouldn’t even be in business? Well, there you go. I had to end up scooting down the local Corporate store where I took a number and waited but not very long. I told them what I needed, they scanned my info to it, I was done and on my way home.

Now it was time. I had a somewhat new phone and my SIM card which I inserted and started the setup process. It all went well and I was ready to once again start installing apps.

Here’s the funny thing about the Samsung Galaxy S II: it has 16GB partitioned memory with a paltry 2GB dedicated to the Android OS and apps. Two. Freaking. Gigabytes. Had I known this from the get-go there would have been no way I would have bought it as I’m a heavy app user.

Anyway, I started installing apps and was relatively satisfied having my most frequently used apps on it. Then came time to give it a test run—and it failed.

The dual-core processor couldn’t handle things very well and it froze up on me frequently. The 11GB of remaining memory are for storage and pictures and I soon realized why that is: the phone was so bad that it couldn’t save images to the SD card. I would take a few pictures and then review them, losing the last couple I had taken. Once I switched to saving them internally, the problem went away but that didn’t solve the freezing-up issue. This was enough for me to decide that it had to go back to Best Buy, where I was asked why I was returning it.

“It’s a horrible phone,” I said. “It really is. It just didn’t work for me.”

That’s two phones within a week and at this point, I was off the grid. Remember, that phone had a standard SIM card and my Galaxy S4 had the micro SIM card, meaning it was useless until I could get my info put back onto a micro SIM card. Ugh.

So I walked around Best Buy looking at unlocked phones and man, I didn’t want to spend a lot which was the main reason I bought the Galaxy S II. The thing was just over $200 which I thought wasn’t too bad for what it was on paper, but I soon learned the truth. But after looking over several models and asking the associates how much internal memory they had (mostly 8 or 16GB), I was starting to feel as if I would be back to using Ol’ Crackly once again.

That was until I saw the HTC one M7.

It was blue, my favorite color. It had 32GB of internal memory. It had a quad-core processor.

And although it has a non-replaceable battery and no memory expansion, in the end (and $299 later) it went home with me.

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Well, I didn’t go straight home just yet. I had to make yet another trip to the AT&T Corporate store to get my info put back on a micro SD card which they happily did in no time flat. And once I got home, I finally cranked this baby up and let it fly.

I was impressed. I’m still impressed. This phone is everything that my previous AT&T phones were not: quick, responsive, a flat-out joy to use. And I hesitate to say that despite it not being waterproof like Ol’ Crackly, I enjoy using the M7 much more.

Then it came time to start chipping away at the 32GB on internal storage, or about 24GB remaining after bloatware and OS are factored in.

Apps installed and ran perfectly. There is absolutely no lag when running anything on this phone. I then transferred the music I had on the micro SD card over to it and as of now, with all of my most frequently used apps installed and enough music to keep me happy, I still have 12.4GB remaining. Ol’ Crackly was just under 8GB remaining but a lot of the stuff was running off the micro SD card which could explain the lag I sometimes experienced. And if the music on the phone isn’t enough, I have over 10,000 songs stored online with Google Music.

Another plus is that I upgraded to Android KitKat, and that this model is on the list of phones that will be getting Android Lollipop next year. I won’t be obsolete for a long time!

Now if there’s one thing I could say I don’t like about this phone, it’s the HTC Sense launcher. While it looks beautiful, it seems to lack a lot of things that the stock Touchwiz launcher does. But I didn’t mess with it for very long as I installed Nova Launcher, a completely customizable Android launcher that looks and functions better than Touchwiz.

Also, the camera is a measly 4MP but with everything else the HTC one M7 brings to the table (quad-core processor, 2GB RAM, Beats audio, FM radio, awesome design, slow-motion HD video, etc.) I’m willing to compromise. In the right hands, even a 4MP camera can look pretty good. Here’s a full-size sample of a picture taken with the M7.

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Definitely not as sharp as the Galaxy S4 Active but still acceptable for me, and I now understand how iPhone users deal with non-expandable memory.

I also bought a case for it, a rather rugged one that will have to do until I can find an Otterbox case. I’m willing to spend…uh, charge the extra money to my credit card for an Otterbox case so that this phone doesn’t suffer the same fate as the Galaxy Active. I’m just not ready to deal with that again.

And oh, it’s good to sit and blog again. I just wish my laptop was still working so that I can retire to privacy of my Creative Corner where I enjoy writing so much more.

Entertainment, Television

Jumping The Shark


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The term “jump the shark” is used to describe a ridiculously stupid, pivotal moment in a television show’s history that drives the proverbial nail in the show’s coffin.

It was based on a moment in Happy Days when Fonzie literally jumped a shark while on water skis – and of course, wearing his trademark leather jacket.

But now that we’ve been watching terrestrial TV and an abundance of syndicated old TV shows, it’s plain to see that Arthur Fonzarelli did a ridiculously amount of stupid things that make jumping a shark seem like a normal event, like riding a bull and saving the dude ranch (a completely unnecessary two-part episode that included way too many songs sung by Potsie) or participating in a demolition derby to prove to Pinky Tuscadero that it’s no place for the girl he loves.

But I guess “jumping the shark” just sounds better.

Entertainment, Staycation, Vacation

24 Hours of Disneyland


05-19-14-Event-logo-Starting tomorrow at 6am, Disneyland will be open for 24 hours for those who are brave enough to “rock” their Disney Side.

And although I despise the use of “rock” as a verb for donning any article of clothing and successfully gaining the approval of others and, therefore, really dislike this slogan, I will be there with the family. It’s okay if you think I’m nuts because chances are you’re right.

We’re not going because we’re hardcore Disney fanatics. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, being raised in southern California sort of desensitizes you from the ahhh! factor that mostly everyone outside of the state gets when they hear “Disneyland.” It’s just another stop along the 5 Freeway for us in most cases and our Annual Passports* were bought as a way to kill a few Sundays a year when we had nothing else to do.

But there are exceptions, like those who will be camping out starting at midnight tonight waiting to get in at the precise moment the gates open then partake in a marathon park visit for the next solid day.

That’s not me. While I like Disneyland and all that, let’s get something straight: you will never find me camping outside of anyplace for anything. You just won’t. Unless I’m camping for the sake of camping.

We’re going because we were invited to go by a friend who just spoils us too much, but whose spoiling is so appreciated. We simply cannot repay her for what she’s done and continues to do.

At any rate, here are the details of our visit.

It won’t be the full 24 hours. I am working until 7pm on Friday and Anthony has school, so right away there’s a good portion of the 24 hours cut from our visit. I plan on meeting the family and friends at the park around 8pm provided traffic around the park is not winding down every possible side street like an anaconda.

Lines won’t be an issue for us. While the crowds may be huge and lines long, the one thing those who camped out will still have to do is wait or, as they most likely will do, use a FastPass. Not us. We will once again have our VIP Guide giving us quick access to all attractions. He will be ours from 4pm – 4am so we need to cram in as much fun as we can in those 12 hours. He can also schedule prime seating for everything going on for this special event.

I am going all night. I have made it my quest to uh…rock my Disney Side from the time I arrive until 6am the following morning. I want to see how tired people are as they drag themselves down Main Street. I want to see the sun come up over the Matterhorn or Space Mountain. I want to see World of Color at 3am, ride the Haunted Mansion at midnight, eat a churro at 4:47 in the morning. I’m going to do this, even if the family decides they’ve had enough.

We have a room. If the family chooses to end their quest early, they’ll have a room waiting for them at the Disneyland Hotel. And when I drag myself in there at 6am, I can crash for about 5 then start to pack up for our 11am check-out time.

It will be social. What good would an event like this be without spamming your social network feed with umpteen photos? I plan on posting pictures/tweets on Instagram and/or Twitter at every ride we conquer along with the time we are in line, for as long as my phone’s battery holds a charge, with whatever hashtags are pertinent to the event. #disneyside seems to be the only one I’ve heard of as of now.

I have no idea what we’re in for but rest assured you will see it as it happens on the aforementioned networks. Wish us luck!

And hey, I think I’ll wear this loud shirt from 1990 – Disneyland’s 30th anniversary – to the event.

Or should I *cringe* rock something else?

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*We’ve since abandoned renewing our APs as they because way too much for us. Being unemployed didn’t help matters.