Business, Life, Money, Movies, Television

Baby, You’re A Star


Sunday was a nice, blustery day so we decided to get out of the house and do a little bit of shopping – mostly window-wishing – at the local outlet.

As is the case with most outlets these days, the walkways are riddled with independent vendors trying to push their wares to anybody that passes. I had heard it said that these guys are the modern-day equivalent of pop-up ads and it’s true: they just keep pestering you.

But one booth wasn’t selling tennis shoe polish, laser-etched iPhone cases or fidget spinners (and I swear if I hear my kid say that one more time, I’ll scream). And unlike most of the booths, it was unmanned when we passed it.

What they were selling was a Hollywood dream to make it big in television and movies. It was a casting agency that specialized in recruiting children and teens for studios like Nickelodeon, Disney, etc. or so they say.

And it wasn’t until we were ready to leave when we were approached by the person who was running the booth. Apparently she thought we looked like a bunch of pigeons as she walked up to us, taking particular interest in Anthony.

She first asked if we were local. I confirmed her suspicion. Then the spiel began about how she was looking for teens age whatever-to-whatever to cast for shows on the aforementioned networks. That’s when I started to grin and then dropped the mic on her.

“Nah, that’s okay. I used to do background acting and…”

At the mention of “background acting” I swear that woman left a puff of smoke behind her and disappeared faster than Usain Bolt in the 100m dash.

Why is that?

There are a few reasons for her to not take interest in me or Anthony.

First, casting agencies in general. When you’re selling Hollywood to some slack-jawed yokel that doesn’t know any better, they will of course shovel out whatever it takes to make their kid a star. And that’s the problem: legit agencies will NEVER ask for money up front, and you can bet that this one was going to ask me for my wallet in order to get Anthony a few headshots that would be stuffed into an album of hundreds of others that already got bilked and still haven’t been cast for anything. For my casting file, my headshot was taken with a digital camera at the agency. That’s all they need especially if it’s only non-union background work. Speaking parts require SAG-AFTRA union membership and that costs money, something that you pay directly to the union and not the agency. Only then will you make decent money. Until then it’s minimum wage, baby. Except may for the monetary bumps for exposure to smoke, water, or the studio using your car in the background as well. Living the Hollywood dream? Hardly.

Second, I’ve seen what kids have to go through in this industry. For adults, it’s no big deal other than hustling for more jobs during your downtime between shots and there is a lot of downtime. For kids, however, it means having their parents on location with them, going to the on-set “school” between shots, and just long days that nobody that young should be put through. There’s never guarantee of when the production will wrap and if they have another shoot the next morning or get a callback for the current one, it’s a lot of stress for parents and kids. Kids also get hungry and antsy. This is why they are so hard to work with. It’s a miserable existence and a life I would never wish on any child. Believe me, it’s nothing like what you see on the screen or social media.

I can say quite confidently that those last two paragraphs are exactly what went through the mind of this woman as she ran away from me. She knew I had an inside track about the industry and didn’t even want to mess with me.

So sorry, kid. You’re not going to be the next big thing.

But you’ll always be our star.

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Economy, Money

The Penny Pincher


mr-krabs-tips-9First, I’m pleased to say that I’m once again taking a break from that time pit called Facebook. I do that occasionally in order to clear my head from everything that Facebook has crammed into it.

And honestly, with the way things are going right now, I sort of want to escape from the bad news which seems to be unfolding at an exponential rate. I keep away in order to plant some peace deep in my soul – what little soul there is in me.

At any rate, here’s an interesting little story. Or strange or ridiculously stupid depending on how you see it.

Anthony and I headed out to the Grocery Outlet with a very short list of things to buy. I had a $3 off coupon and wanted to buy myself another Bubba tumbler, quite possible the best freaking thing I’ve bought since I started drinking more water. Seriously, ice does not melt in this thing. It’s pretty incredible.

But because of their low, low prices, Grocery Outlet is one of those places where it’s impossible to stick to a short list.

Four bags of marshmallows for 50 cents? I’M STOCKING UP RIGHT NOW. That’s until you realize that you’ve never eaten close to four bags of marshmallows in your entire life and chances are they’ll get stale before you open the second bag. It’s like that.

Thankfully, I didn’t see the need to do that but along with my tumbler I did end up with some other bargain I couldn’t pass up and we made our way to checkout.

The total for my transaction with the coupon was $9.22 and since this was one of those rare occasions when I had cash on me (read: my leftover Las Vegas winnings), I happily handed over $10. The cashier then asked if I had the 22 cents. It’s usually what they do when they are low on coin so they can give back dollars for change. I’ve been there, trust me.

I checked my pockets and came up empty. I then asked Anthony if he had any change – yes, I felt bad about it – so that we could help the cashier with her predicament. He dug deep in his wallet and came up a penny short at 21 cents.

No biggie. Pennies are a dime a dozen (if that makes sense) and no doubt the cashier would end up finding one somewhere in the store, on the parking lot, in the breakroom, etc. And if she was a penny short at the end of the day, seriously, nobody would freaking care.

It was just a penny. A single, solitary penny.

So I handed our $10.21 over to her and she placed it on the register. This is where it gets weird.

Now remember, we gave her the 21 cents to not only get a dollar back but help her out a bit if she was short on change. But it was obvious she wasn’t.

She then put the paper and coin in the register, sorting it all out by denomination. Thinking she was going to give me a $1 bill and my receipt, she then starts to crack open the roll of quarters and nickels.

I gave Anthony a strange look. He returned it.

She then began scooping change out of the drawer, counted out 99 cents and along with the receipt, handed it all over to me. Essentially, she gave back the 21 cents we had given her plus more.

As I grabbed my bag and walked away, I was trying to figure out exactly what just happened by mumbling to myself, throwing up hand gestures and drawing air numbers ala Vera from Alice complete with the confused look.

I just couldn’t figure out why she didn’t give me that $1 in change. It would have been that much easier for everybody. As a way of  thanking Anthony for helping me out (or at least trying to), I handed over the 99 cents to him. He was happy with that.

So if you ever go to Grocery Outlet, don’t be swayed by their great sales on marshmallows. And for God’s sake, have the correct change.

Economy, Money, Work

Lyft Lyfe


CLICK ME IF YOU USE LYFTI had been silent about this since the moment I considered it. Why, I don’t know. Maybe I was being too critical about all of the negative aspects that may come with being a driver for one of the many ridesharing services which, in this case, is Lyft.

But I guess the only way to find out was to get involved. So back in October, shortly after my scooter accident and the purchase of my car, I signed up to be a Lyft driver. And I’m not gonna lie – I also applied for Uber. I figured now that I was driving again I might as well see what this was all about.

I ended up with Lyft for many reasons. Their vetting process, vehicle inspection locations, and customer service (for drivers) were all superior to Uber. I have yet to have my car inspected for Uber because their nearest location isn’t really convenient and frankly, I’m not doing this as a full-time gig. If it were then I wouldn’t have a problem with finding the time to get it done.

(Side note: I was also a vetted driver for the short-lived Sidecar service.)

Anyway, I was approved to hit the road way back in December but never bothered to go out to try to make some money. But that changed today.

Shortly before the start of the Super Bowl, I decided to give it a shot. I ended up parking for a little bit by our local airport – it’s about 5 minutes from home – to see what was going down. I figured having an airport in close proximity would prove to be a goldmine, but it depends on many factors.

Not a single ride request showed up on the app. Besides, this airport currently only allows drop-offs for ridesharing services but I see people waiting all the time across the street. It’s a way to skirt around the rule since you aren’t on airport property to pick up your ride.

After waiting about 15 minutes, I decided to drive down to the gas station then go home since it didn’t seem like a lot was happening. But on my way to the gas station, I got an alert for a pick-up which was only a mile away. I had been so hesitant to try this whole thing out and like new every job, there’s a bit of nervousness when you start.

Long story short for my first rider, it went well. They were on their way to a Super Bowl party and had a bag of goodies they were taking. The destination was 8 miles way so we had a good chat on the way. I dropped them off and thanked them, rated them, and drove away.

Simple, painless, and paid. I could probably get used to this.

Still in Online mode while driving away, I got another alert for a rider that was close by. And here’s the thing: although I was a little bit farther than I had preferred to go, Lyft requires that drivers be at a 90% acceptance rate or they are penalized or something. It’s all new to me. I had completed one ride with another waiting. If I had turned this one down, 50% acceptance. Why mess with things?

Lesson 1: Always accept new rides when you’re starting out. It’s just smart.

So I accepted the ride and picked them up. The difference here was that they weren’t sure of the physical address; just a general area. I can see why: it was condo complex and having delivered pizzas in the past, they can get confusing. Another easy pick-up and drop-off.

By now, I was out for about 2 hours (1.25 of actual Lyft-ing) and had completed two rides, the second one with my fuel warning light flashing. Remember? Low on gas? Fortunately, my car is an econobox that gets great mileage so it wasn’t a major concern but I stopped and got some nonetheless.

Afterward I figured I had put in enough time for the day and headed home to have dinner with the family. Shortly after I arrived, I got a text from Lyft stating that my first rider may have left something in my car. I checked the back seat and sure enough, they did.

Lesson 2: Make sure your ride has all their personal belongings at drop-off, checking either visually or by asking.

So I called them and verified that their items were in my car and I would drive back to deliver them. But rather than drop them off at their destination, they told me it would be fine to leave them at their house which I thought was a nice thing to do. They could have been mean about it being Super Bowl Sunday and all but they weren’t. I appreciated that.

So let’s get to it. Is driving for one of these rideshare companies worth the effort?

Lesson 3: This will not make you rich.

There are so many variables involved that can make or break you: time of day, time of year, local events, weather, etc. all have an impact on what you are paid. If you rely on this as your sole source of income, you’d best hustle and alternate between Uber and Lyft apps when the other isn’t busy. I don’t plan on doing this full-time but it’s nice to know that should I need it, it’s there.

In the end, before Lyft’s fees, I ended up with about $20 after 1.25 hours of driving. By comparison, I make more at the office but I’m sure others probably don’t. Once Lyft deducted their fees it dropped to about $16. Then, of course, factor in the daily wear-and-tear on your car, gas, and everything else and chances are I made much less.

But I suppose there’s more to it than that.

It’s the freedom to go online when you please to make a few [extra] bucks. It’s meeting new people and helping them get where they need to be, especially on a day when many probably shouldn’t be driving. And while I don’t deal with the public at the office, it was a welcome change to do it again and have conversations about whatever came to mind.

Would I give up my job for this? Perhaps if I was making much less money at, say, a grocery store I probably would. This freedom is so much the opposite of the shackles of retail but if you’re working there part-time to keep your affordable health insurance, this is a great way to earn a few more bucks.

Do I plan on doing it again for extra money? Sure. It’s easy and pretty fun, and Lyft no longer requires that unsightly fuzzy pink mustache on the front of your car.

And I’m sure there’s more I will learn along the way but for now, it’s not all that bad.

 (Note: Already use Lyft? Click the logo at the top!)
Family, Fatherhood, Life, Money

A Summer That Won’t Suck


When I was working at the grocery store, there were a few things I lacked.

First, dignity. There was a time when working such a job was a rather respectable thing to do with people spending a good portion of their lives there, making decent money and having plenty in their pension.

But it’s not like that anymore. New people get nowhere near the same benefits as those who were working before the big strike about a decade ago. It’s just cheap labor for little money, and it’s a completely miserable existence that I wouldn’t wish on anybody.

That said, the other thing I lacked was an income that would allow us to do, well, anything. My paychecks were so microscopic that once the bills were paid, we couldn’t do much of anything besides sit at home. That also meant doing what we had to do in order to stay afloat. Again, a miserable experience.

But of course, things have changed since then.

My new job continues to be a rewarding experience and now that I’m a regular employee (since last February), I get a handful of extra benefits.

One of those benefits is three Summer Days every calendar year. They are paid days off – we still get personal and sick days – that we can use anywhere between the beginning of May to the end of September. It’s probably one of the coolest little perks I’ve had at any job.

So with my paychecks now being, oh, a little more than they used to be, I’ve decided that this will be the year I treat the family to A Summer That Won’t Suck.

I’ve been looking into a lot of different things for us to do this summer, most of which are road trips around the state: San Francisco, San Diego, or just a trip to Los Angeles to see things we might have missed. We’ll gas up the car and see where we end up and I’m sure it’ll be a good time.

Plus, we’re now AAA members!


For preparation, I’ve been searching for destinations on Google Maps and saving them for future reference.

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That way when we’re out somewhere, we can also see what else is in the area and get directions to it. Killing multiple birds with one stone.

I’ve also been doing this for my eventual trip to Japan. This is only Osaka but trust me, there’s much more I’ve saved.

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While a bunch of places are eateries we’ve been wanting to try, there are local attractions that I haven’t been to in decades like the Hollywood Forever Cemetery which is the final resting place of legends such as Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, and even two of The Ramones.

And I’ve never really taken the family on a walk of Hollywood Boulevard to be tourists so that might be an option as well.

Either way, the fun begins in a few weeks when I’m using one of my Summer Days to extend the Father’s Day weekend, and this year Father’s Day just happens to fall on the same day as our 23rd anniversary. We’ll be heading down the 5 – we don’t say “Interstate 5” in California, just “The 5/405/605” etc. – to do some outlet shopping and lunch one day, hitting World Famous Farmer’s Market the next, then most likely going for lunch on Sunday for Father’s Day and our anniversary.

This is in addition to the the concerts we will be attending for which I’ve already bought tickets:

  • Strangelove, a Depeche Mode tribute band performing at the OC Fair in July
  • Perfume in August
  • Pet Shop Boys in October (not quite summer but oh well)

Oh yes, the OC Fair will definitely be visited as well. Concert tickets include admission to the fair.

And even if I don’t use a Summer Day, the weekends are still open for any adventure we might want to take on.

Plus with all the overtime I’ve been working lately, it’s practically guaranteed that this summer won’t suck.

I’m ready. We’re ready. Bring it on!

Economy, Money, Work

At Last


In my Year in Review post, I had mentioned that (among other things) there was a good chance that my current freelance assignment was going to turn into a permanent, full-time affair.

I had been freelancing there since August and only had maybe three weeks off between then and today. They called me back when one of the other proofreaders—that’s what I’m doing yet again—went on vacation in September. I’ve been there ever since.

Then things got interesting. The word was that we had just landed a huge project with a current client and they were going to be in need of help. Naturally, the company started to search for potential candidates so that they could be in place once the work started to materialize. That said, they let all employees know that this was also an opportunity for them to move up and into one of the new vacant positions.

One of them was Proofreader*. Naturally, I applied.

And although I’d been there since August, I was still a bit nervous about how I would measure up against others who might have applied—and if they would even consider me at that point.

But my worries were all for naught. For some reason, they like me but I guess the feeling is mutual: I really enjoy working there, especially someplace that is not Ralphs. (In fact, I’ll refer to the new place as Not Ralphs or NR for this post.)

About two weeks after submitting my name, I was informed that my freelance gig was extended until January 31 and, as of February 1, I was officially hired. No more freelance; I was now an official NR employee.

And I can’t begin to tell you how happy I was.

No more waiting until Thursday or Friday to find out if I was returning on Monday. That was probably the worst part of freelancing: figuring out the bills when nothing was guaranteed the following week, and how to split what could have been my last paycheck into little chunks in order to pay everybody. That game was finally over.

No more going home after 3 or 4 hours when there was little work. Granted, I’m paid well enough to where even working 20 hours a week at NR was significantly more than what I made for 40 hours at Ralphs (not that I ever got more than 30 hours while there but you get the idea). Now that we’re starting to get the work for the new project, it’s full-time hours. There’s going to be plenty of stuff for us to do.

I no longer have to travel light. I’ve started to decorate my cubicle with personal items, something I refused to do while freelancing. In fact, my old Ralphs name badge is now one of the items on my desk—just because.

It’s Monday—Friday, 9 to 6. Bank holidays are paid days off and we get so many freaking perks as far as days off go that it’s insane, but NR knows that happy employees are good employees. Some of those days off include three Summer Days that we can use during the summer months in case we want to do something with the family. Then there’s floating holidays and personal days, not to mention two weeks of vacation that accrue each calendar year. I can finally take a vacation with the family and have money to do things. That will be nice when the time comes.

Speaking of money, we spent last Saturday at a local outlet and did some serious shopping. I can’t tell you the last time we did that but I can say with certainty that it wasn’t during my 18 months at Ralphs. We could barely pay the bills, let alone treat ourselves to much of anything.

Then there’s the commute which is about 20 minutes from home. It’s an easy ride on my trusty scooter that is easily filled with gas on less than $3 a week in most cases.

And the views downtown are spectacular, as is walking down to the marina during lunch.

My Chinese zodiac sign is the monkey and in this, the Year of the Monkey, it seems my luck as finally changed. As I’ve mentioned to HR and the boss, NR is exactly where I need to be at this point in my life.

NR is everything my last place wasn’t and I am so freaking grateful for the opportunity they have given me. I look forward to being there for a long time.

*I’m a much better proofreader when I’m being paid to do it. Considering the time I write these posts, I can’t much guarantee ye olde blogge will be 100% free of errors so don’t bother to point any out Smile

Blogstuffs, Children, Economy, Exercise, Family, Fatherhood, Life, Money

2015: My Year in Review


Either I was going to do it or Facebook was by putting random pictures together and calling it “my year.” I don’t think so.

As I have done for the last few years, I am once again tying a ribbon on the end of the year with a review of all of the good and bad things that happened to me over the last 365 days including things I’ve never mentioned here or on my personal Facebook account. Of course, pictures and links to accompanying posts will be posted whenever possible.

By the way, this is only my 27th blog post of 2015 so I’ll try to make it worth your while. Here we go.

January 2015

I ran quite a bit and rescued my neighbor’s turtle who had slipped underneath their gate.

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Anthony and I attended the Dodger Fan Fest and it was everything I hoped it would be. On the field, in the dugout…just an amazing time.

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February 2015

Rather than get gifts for his birthday, Anthony opted to have his room made over which meant finally painting over the Thomas the Tank Engine picture I had painted on his wall when he was 3 years old. I never quite finished it but he didn’t mind and was actually hesitant about getting rid of it since it was there for so long.

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I took my HTC Re camera on California Screamin’ at Disney California Adventure.

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Oh, and I turned 46. Meh.

March 2015

My job at the grocery store bakery continued to give me fits.

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I didn’t quit when I wrote the note you see above but I was ready to almost every time I clocked in. Having to document everything (in pictures or writing) was a royal pain but a necessity according to my then-union rep. It’s hard to stay motivated when the boss would leave stuff like this behind and expect you to clean it up plus do your regular duties.

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And don’t get me started on all the spelling errors in their notes and labels.

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I failed my DMV motorcycle skills exam.

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I was part of about 1,000 people to take part in the Run the Runway event, celebrating the Grand Reopening of R25 at Long Beach Airport. It was a short one-mile and obviously flat course.

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April 2015

We went to Knott’s Berry Farm’s Boysenberry Festival and tried all sorts of boysenberry-flavored items. The tasting card also included fried alligator and I have to admit that it was pretty darn good.

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Fried alligator bites and fries, oh my!

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Anthony and I participated in the Grand Prix View, an event in which residents were able to ride, walk, or run along the shortened course of the upcoming Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

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Here’s a video of our lap.

My job continued to suck as is obvious by this note. Seems like the manager was the only one who never made mistakes and I refused to be a victim anymore.

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My penmanship is usually much better but when you’re frustrated and in a hurry to leave, you get your point across any way possible.

We went to the Formula E race to watch electric race cars quietly tear up the track we rode a few days before.

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I ended up on Bing Maps after spotting their survey vehicle on the way home.

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My doctor confirmed that I had tendonitis in my right wrist which was caused by work. I filed an accident report but didn’t pursue a claim as it would have only led time off and no pay, something I didn’t need or want. Naturally and as expected, it turned into a clusterfuck of biblical proportions.

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My condition improved as the months went by, thankfully.

May 2015

I decided to retire from blogging (again) only to return a few days later (again).

And because May is National Bike Month, I decided I’d ride my bike to work all month.

It lasted two  days.

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We bought a couple of red-eared slider turtles and they are some of the coolest pets we’ve had. (They are surprisingly quick on dry land!)

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With the pittance my job was paying me, we bought what we could from the visiting Hello Kitty Café van (but their prices were kind of high, too). Ann had been waiting months for this!

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I ran 10k on the beach for the hell of it and made my own medal out of a seashell – for the shell of it.

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June 2015

I thought it would be fun to learn Japanese and I was all gung-ho to start. I made some progress but have pretty much given up at this point. I may start up again, though.

Anthony graduated from grade school and made his way to middle school. We’re incredibly proud of him and although the transition was tough at first, he’s now handling it like a champ.

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We went to a Touch-A-Truck event where kids were free to climb, touch, and experience huge vehicles up close.

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Despite my job sucking the life out of me, the company decided to send me to the Corporate Office for thorough Bakery and Deli training for whatever reason. I’m smiling here because a) I was not at the store being tormented and miserable and b) it was the first time I had ever gotten a 40-hour check while working there. And, we got to take home the food we made every day.

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I discovered that a local mall doesn’t allow alligators on their escalators.

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At said mall, Ann found an outfit she HAD to have but didn’t buy. (No, she didn’t have to have it. We just thought it was hideously ugly.)

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After my week of training, I returned to my regular work schedule only to realize that nothing at the store had changed.

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We discovered a revolving sushi restaurant and my life hasn’t been the same since. For the good, I might add.

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At $2.50 a plate, things can add up pretty quickly…

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July 2015

I was commissioned by a friend to shoot some stills of Anthony and other young golfers in action.

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For the second time this year, I failed my motorcycle skills exam.

Skip to :58 to see me dip inside the line in literally the last segment of the test. I still think it was messed up that the DMV official didn’t give me a second chance like the previous one did, especially since I had made it further into the test. Now I have to take it again. Thanks, buddy.

I won tickets to a Dodgers game, courtesy of world famous Philippe The Original.

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Here we are at said Dodgers game.

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The Screwing of the Dave continued at work where I was given some overnight shifts, apparently for being a such an awful person. Stocking dog food at 1:13 am is a job for unskilled morons who work overnight because it’s best they don’t associate with the general public, and thanks to the store manager, I had become one of those morons.

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Oh Hello, Kitty! She’s got the right uniform, too.

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I attended a meditation and chanting service at a local Buddhist church and loved it. I can see myself going regularly. (Note that this is my altar that sits on my drawing table.)

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August 2015

You can only kick a dog so many times before he turns around and bites you, and that’s exactly what happened in August. Pushed into a corner at work, I had no choice but to fight my way out of it which led to my indefinite suspension and eventual termination (or “your services are no longer needed” as was stated by the manager). But you know what? That’s okay because I can’t say enough positive things about the job I’ve been working since then, even if it’s only freelance work and I had a few weeks off. It’s close to home, it pays me well, and there are so many other things about it I love. Can you say beer and pretzels at our weekly Social Hour? Twice-weekly breakfasts? An environment free of drama? And there’s still hope that they will hire me soon which is something I desperately need now. Not only for the money, but because I really effing love what I’m doing now – as does Anthony, who I’ve taken with me a few times.

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See that? That’s the face of someone who is earning decent pay doing a job not many can do in an environment filled with like-minded and creative individuals. So screw stocking dog food and feminine hygiene products overnight, Ralphs. You can have it.

By the way, former boss. Shouldn’t you be wearing gloves while you handle food and assemble cakes, especially after touching your mouth?

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But remember, I’m the moron who didn’t follow the rules.

Anyway.

We bid a fond farewell to the Spirit of America, the local Goodyear blimp. We arrived the day after the official public event only to learn that there was a private event being held for friends and family of the blimp workers. But my brother worked for the blimp years ago and I dropped a few names and pointed out a few people in the crowd to the PR person – and we were in. Not only that, but we got to go inside the gondola, something that visitors on the previous day couldn’t do. It helps to know people!

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Although I have been on at least six blimp flights, it was still an absolute thrill to climb aboard her one last time. I just wish I could have been “going up” (as the crew would say) that day. Dad used to bring me here to watch the blimp land so it was even more meaningful for me to have Anthony experience it up close. He now has something to tell his kids about when the time comes.

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Useless Fact: during one blimp flight, I was asked by the pilot if I wanted to fly her. I refused for some reason, and that regret will follow me to my grave!

Later that month, I did another golf photo shoot in the wee hours of the morning. Lots of great shots were taken.

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Despite my best efforts to avoid it, I had become a part of the Apple Cult when we switched providers. I looked high and low for an Android phone that appealed to me and none of them did, so I went with the iPhone 6 if, for anything, a different experience. So far it has been and I love it. I’ve since upgraded to the 6s.

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A group of FA/18 jets were practicing at the airport and the public was invited to see them up close.

Of course we went.

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September 2015

After riding 20+ miles one day, my bike’s odometer finally hit 1,000 miles. I had at least 1,000 on it before I installed the device.

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Still working, still enjoying the view from the patio.

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While putting my stuff away after work, I ended up throwing my keys in my scooter’s underseat storage – and closing it shut. I had to take the train as close to home as possible where Ann met me with my backup key.

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I then had to take the train back to work and was able to ride my scooter home. What an adventure. But worth it because I saw this guy on the train. Don’t bother – you’ll never be as cool as him.

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I decided to join a gym again, a move I kind of regret because the closest one isn’t really close. And being outdoors is better.

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October 2015

I discovered San Antonio Winery and I like every flavor I’ve tried so far.

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The first week of October in Long Beach means one thing: Marathon Weekend!

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Anthony participated in his third Kids Fun Run on Saturday…

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…while Dad was up at an ungodly hour to ride his bike 20 miles on Sunday. It was 4:30 am when I took this shot.

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But even if it’s a long day, the reward is so worth everything you put into it.

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This was my sixth bike tour and I will be back in 2016 for my seventh, and my third combo (I’m running the 5k on Saturday).

Here’s the entire bike tour. I’d recommend running it at 2x speed.

Green Tea Kit Kats. ‘Nuff said.

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Our family tradition that started in 2004 continued as we got our picture taken in the cut-out at the local pumpkin patch.

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Despite November being No-Shave November, I went the opposite way and rid myself of facial hair a few weeks before because I got tired of the upkeep. And the grey.

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Halloween at the new place was as insane as I expected it to be. I wore this just so I could be in shorts at the office but I had to get my picture with a coworker who was dressed like The Dude – complete with his rug. Because it really tied his cubicle together.

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November 2015

An unannounced rocket test freaked out everyone in the SoCal area, including us.

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Video:

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For the first time ever, I left some stuff on Dad’s headstone for Dia de los Muertos. Anthony made the flowers out of duct tape.

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We goofed around at the L.A. Auto Show.

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A bit of a proud moment at the auto show when I saw one of the projects I worked on finally on display. It was strange seeing it in its intended state when previously I’d only seen it as a PDF file for proofing.

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My brother stopped by for a visit. He works as Disneyland and was in Tomorrowland for a few days, so I had to pose with this hideously ugly costume he was issued.

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Long Beach native Snoop Dogg (or Snoop Doggy Dogg or Bigg Snoop Dogg or Snoop Lion depending on the day of the week) was doing his second turkey giveaway that week. I was off work early and decided to drop by VIP Records and see what was going on. Pretty cool guy, and he knew just about everybody who talked to him. Keepin’ it real, to use the parlance of our times.

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On Thanksgiving morning, I ran a Turkey Trot 5k at the last moment. A friend of mine and her wife were planning on doing it but one became sick a few days before, so she offered their entries to me and a former coworker. Every ninth finisher got a pie. I didn’t but my friend did. Lucky duck!

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And in the spirit of being thankful, I’m very thankful for Mom’s health improving. At her request, I’ll say nothing more about what she’s gone through over the last year.

December 2015

Holiday parties commence at the office. One day every department was treated to pizza and an assortment of libations. Yes, this is at my desk. No, it’s not uncommon to see alcohol in the refrigerators at work. Yes, I work at an amazing place with amazing people.

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With the price of the GoPro Hero 4 Session dropping to $199, I had no choice but to upgrade. Merry Christmas to me!

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More fun times at work, this time for the Kids Holiday Party. Poor Santa is struggling – Anthony is a solid kid.

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The decorations down the street from the office are beautiful.

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And that’s pretty much been my year and unless anything amazing happens in these last few days, that will be it for this blog post.

One last thing. After freelancing since August, I’m this close to being hired permanently. There are still some things that have to be worked out but it’s looking very good for me at this point, and all I have to do is wait until these things happen – and keep my productivity where it is. They seem to like me.

From stocking shelves at a grocery store where I was treated like crap to working on all sorts of literature for the automotive industry at a place that respects my abilities and where I’m surrounded by creative people. I’d say my year turned out to be pretty good, even if it had some awful moments here and there.

Here’s wishing your 2016 is filled with luck, health, and much love. Live one day at a time and never look back. It’s the only way to get through these crazy times.

 

All the best!
Dave

Electronics, Gadgets, Money

Change Is Good


apple-iphone6-silverWhile I despised my time at Ralphs, I must admit that some of their perks were slightly worth the trouble. Slightly.

The major one, of course, was health benefits for myself and Anthony that set me back maybe $7 every week. If I had hung around there long enough to add Ann then they would have gone up to $15 per week. Definitely not a bad cost.

Another equated to cash back for every dollar we spent at the store. At the end of every quarter, I would get a certificate for whatever that amount was. In some cases, it was as high as $80 which could be used on anything in the store.

Then there were the other perks like getting a discount on cell phone plans which, after thinking about it, wasn’t all that spectacular even with the discount. We made the move to AT&T a few months after my start date and were with them ever since but now that I’ve parted ways with Ralphs (or vice-versa it seems), it won’t be long before American Telephone and Telegraph gets word of it and I lose my discount. I don’t even want to know what my bill would be then.

So we had to make a move and that move was going with Sprint’s “Cut Your Bill In Half” plan. It’s definitely a deceptive title all things considered since it only cuts the data portion of your bill in half so don’t expect your $150 bill to be $75 because it won’t. Granted, we are now paying less than we were with AT&T and with insurance on all three lines but as for cutting our bill in half? Oh no. It’s far, far, far from it.

As a stipulation of the plan, we had to get all new phones which was no big deal for Ann and Anthony. They chose the iPhone 6 without hesitation. They knew what they wanted.

Me? That’s another story.

It needs a lot of storage and expandable memory. Must be small enough for an armband when I go running. A good camera would be nice. Stylish would be okay, too. I’d like a nice display as well.

So as the paperwork was being filled out, I made my way around the store looking at a variety of Android phones because that’s all I’ve owned since first getting a smartphone – and I wasn’t about to change that. There was too much I enjoyed about Android, namely complete customization: launchers, the ability to make (free) ringtones from any .mp3 on the phone, widgets, and the fact that it could be treated like a hard drive which made transferring data a breeze.

Then there was the iPhone. I never liked them because everybody had one and their stigma of “sheeple” customers always bothered me. I didn’t like Apple’s proprietary nonsense with cables. I didn’t like that memory could not be expanded. I didn’t like the way Apple controls just about everything on the phone via iTunes. I didn’t like the fact that you couldn’t add widgets to the screen (I’m a big widget fan). I didn’t like much about iPhones even if I had owned and still own a few iPods. Plus, the absence of a Back and Menu button was also a big turn-off. How can I get anything done with one button? There was no way I could get used to this kind of thing even if I had an iPod touch in the past.

Besides, they were always too expensive for me.

But as I made my way around the store looking at different Android models, I discovered that no matter which one I chose, it was just the same experience I’ve had on my previous models only in a different skin. Same turkey, different bread only now the turkey was starting to get a little ripe. And I didn’t want to eat bad turkey for the next two years.

The LG G4, Samsung Galaxy Note 4, and even the HTC one M9 (I was using an M7 at the time) weren’t offering anything special. Most had limitations in terms of storage or some other thing I just didn’t like, so I continued my browsing. This was the worse case of beslutfattande* I’d ever had.

And the family had grown weary with all of this, especially Anthony who had to give up his phone and lose all of his Minecraft progress. He was not happy about that. But I still couldn’t decide and continued to make the rounds in the store.

Then it happened. I threw my hands up. I gave in and pointed to the 64GB iPhone 6.

“Oh, just give me that one,” I said to Ann. Both she and Anthony were pretty shocked at my decision with Anthony asking if I was okay. He knows I loved my Android phones and was always talking smack about iPhones and their limitations.

But I didn’t have anything to lose in choosing the iPhone because I could bring it back in 14 days if I didn’t like it. I was so certain that I’d despise the thing that I told the girl at Sprint that I’d see her in a few days.

Well, it’s been a few days and I still have my iPhone. Do I like it? Let’s go over all the things I thought I’d miss.

Widgets: A widget is a live, quick-reference app that can be installed on any of your screens. It’s great for things like weather conditions, sports scores, etc. and they are one of the things that separated Android from Apple. But do I miss them on my Home screen? Nope. Not at all. They were a convenience but definitely not a necessity.

Free Ringtones: Android phones allow you to assign any .mp3 file as a Default or Contact ringtone. All you have to do is point to it and it will play that song as you assigned it. Apple charges for their ringtones through iTunes which kind of annoyed me considering I’ve already paid for my music. However, I found an app that allows you to create your own ringtones from songs in your iPhone’s music library. It’s a little tricky and still involves using iTunes to get them on your phone but it works. Solved that problem.

One Button vs. Several: Having one button isn’t as bad as I thought it would be and I’m getting used to navigating my way around the phone with only one physical button. Naturally there’s a learning curve but being I had an iPod touch, there wasn’t much to learn. I guess just the thought of having only a Home button on a device I’d use more frequently than my iPod bothered me but no, it really doesn’t now that I’m doing it.

Expandable Storage:  As of this post, I have over 2,600 songs, 9 videos, 49 apps, and a whole bunch of pictures on my 64GB iPhone. I’d say that what I have on it is pretty substantial and it gets me by. All of this and I still have over 33GB left. I don’t think I’ll have a problem with storage even if I add more music to it.

So that covers everything that made me so hesitant about the iPhone. What about the rest of it?

Size: I wouldn’t say it’s perfect because nothing really is but I will say that it’s amazing how much technology got crammed into something so thin. Even with a case on it, the iPhone still sports a very thin profile and I like that. It fits right in my pocket and armband for running, but sometimes almost seems a little too thin.

Display: It’s crisp and clear, and the camera seems to produce decent quality pictures but I have yet to shoot videos with it.

Performance: This pretty much seals the deal. With any of my Android phones, it wasn’t uncommon to get the “Unfortunately, [app name] has stopped running” warning telling you that something went funky. But I suppose this is what happens when the phone is basically a computer and treated as such: things break. With Apple having a little more control over their iOS, it seems they’ve gotten a better grip on things like this. No, I can’t say that this will never happen with an iOS device because there are some apps that crash on my iPad but not as often as they have with any Android device. The iPhone’s performance is nowhere near anything I’ve had in the past: it’s fast and fluid, and blows all of my other phones out of the water.

At this point, everything else on the phone is just a bonus. The Touch ID works as expected and I have scanned both thumbs and index fingers to allow access which makes it easier when sitting at my work desk. I also love the Ringer/Vibrate switch on the side of the phone. One flip and the sound is on/off. It’s also nice to adjust the playback speed of podcasts, something I could never do with an Android device. (I listen to podcasts at 1.5x speed so I can cram in more while at the office.)

And oh, I can find cases for it anywhere — even at the dollar store.

And as an added bonus, my Pebble watch works perfectly with the phone. It was kind of glitchy with my HTC one M7 and would sometimes reset but I have yet to experience that with the iPhone. The only thing about the Pebble that’s disappointing is the lack of apps for customization, i.e. ones that allow you to make watchfaces or reply to messages. There are none for the iPhone so that’s definitely a setback.

My earbuds also fall the under It Just Works category. Botton was response very with my unpredictable Android but not so with the iPhone.

The Verdict: I have to admit that despite my initial trepidation, I am beyond satisfied with the iPhone 6. Not only is it a great device but it’s also an entirely new experience for me and change is most definitely a good thing.

The people at Sprint won’t have to worry about seeing me within the next 12 days with phone in hand, ready to return it to them in exchange for a Samsung or LG. But with Apple reportedly announcing new models in a few weeks and our contract being a part of the iPhone Forever plan, I will most definitely be paying them a visit to upgrade to the newest model once it is available.

But I’m not camping outside the store for it. That’s just goofy.

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*Beslutfattande: Swedish for “decision making.” This is what I got from proofreading several languages in the past.