2014: My Year In Review


I know it’s a few days late but I like to wait until the year is over because hey, you never know what can happen, right?

Anyhow I bid you a very Happy New Year. And in keeping with what seems to be a new tradition since I’m always taking pictures of even the most minor event in my life with my phone, I’m going to share with you my photographic year in review* as I did last year. I enjoy doing these posts because I throw in a lot of crazy little things that I saw along with the big things, plus add often sarcastic commentary to go along with all of it.

Will 2014 compare to 2013? Will it be better or worse? You be the judge. So grab your choice of beverage, sit back, and enjoy the (possibly bittersweet) ride.

January 2014

We were invited to go to Disneyland and took the first of what would be, quite honestly, too many trips to Walt’s Magic Kingdom.

IMG_1619

I found a wallet and tried to return it, which turned into one clusterfuck of an ordeal. (Note that the term “clusterfuck” may appear many, many more times in this post – you’ve been warned!) The coins were found in the parking lot next to the wallet but I kept them. Half-dollars are cool.

IMG_20140107_100916-picsay

We made another trip to Disneyland a few weeks after the last one. It’s already too much.

IMG_20140120_112733

I had two of my photos posted in the local newspaper which recently shut down after only 20 months.

IMG_20140122_100014-picsay

IMG_20140102_095648

February 2014

I discovered that the local church has parking dedicated to corpulent parishioners.

CAM01889

In an effort to cut costs due to unemployment, we cut the cable cord and bought Roku boxes and digital antennae.

IMG_20140212_093014

Speaking of unemployment, I got a job the day after my birthday at a local grocery store where I tend to take selfies in the freezer.

2014-07-28-21-22-35_deco

And speaking of birthdays, I turned 45 without much fanfare as don’t have my birthdate visible on Facebook. (Those who know, know.) I’m not a big birthday person and only posted this cryptic image on Instagram for people to figure out. I think only one person did.

PhotoGrid_1392349852399

I celebrated Chinese New Year the way I did last year, by riding in the Chinatown Firecracker 30-Mile Bike Ride. It’s one of my favorite events but sadly, due to my part-time status, all of my events for 2015 have been put on the back burner. I may not do any if I can’t get the money together for them.

PhotoGrid_1393190029559

March 2014

I participated in my second Coaster Run but only the 5k. It rained for most of it and was probably the most fun I’ve had doing an event.

PhotoGrid_1393782145944 (1)

I witnessed one of the most amazing sunrises in recent memory.

100_0332 tm

We switched from MetroPCS to AT&T using my new Corporate Discount through work. That, of course, required getting new phones.

IMG_20140311_123136

I decorated (read: wrote on) my first cake while working in the Bakery.

IMG_20140330_145559-picsay

After around a week of building, I completed constructing The Simpsons LEGO house.

IMG_20140331_075642

We celebrated Anthony’s 10th birthday at a local pizza place where his grandfather showed him how to score a bunch of tickets playing the Blackjack game.

IMG_20140329_101931-picsay

April 2014

While out for a run, I saw the Amityville Horror house being built in a local park.

IMG_20140413_072010

You know. Korean Doritos.

2014-04-21-12-55-23_deco

We took one of two trips to the tide pools, one of our most favorite local spots.

20140424_110338-picsay

Sadly, on my Mom’s birthday, my Aunt Mary (seated) passed away. This was taken a year earlier at Mom’s surprise 75th birthday.

10256612_10152197217279118_7152726511052891669_o

May 2014

We were invited to go to Disneyland’s 24 Hour event and I was the only person in our group to make it to sunrise on Saturday (after arriving around 4pm Friday). I didn’t blog about it; I only posted my pictures on Instagram.

20140524_054946

June 2014

We discovered that there’s a Hello Kitty wine, but we don’t like Chardonnay. I’m more of a Merlot person now that I occasionally drink wine.

IMG_20140602_092949

We took our final trip to Disneyland.

IMG_20140624_213104

July 2014

I got this really creepy lenticular Jesus picture sent to me from a church that was begging for money. I was on their mailing list for a while and got all kinds of weird stuff sent to me, including a communion wafer.

2014-06-30-14-42-22_deco

The door of the baler at work came down and smashed my fingertips. They were numb for about a month or so but are fine now.

20140627_170125

In an effort to earn a few bucks since I was (and still am) only working part-time, we sold our extra refrigerator. And you know what? That turned out to be a big clusterfuck as well!

IMG_20140702_180325

Only 17 months into our lease, we had to say goodbye to the Kia Optima. Working a minimum-wage, part-time job just wasn’t enough to make the payments anymore. It felt like a kick in the gut but it has turned out to be fine in the end. It also gives me yet another opportunity to say that Kia financing is the worst on the planet. Read this post for more information.

20140711_125642

The day we got rid of the Optima also ushered in a new day of motoring for me: I bought my Yamaha Zuma scooter which I still love. Payments are 1/4 that of the Optima and it is ridiculous on gas (between 65-80 MPG), meaning I’ve never put more than $3 in it since I’ve owned it.

2014-07-12-10-33-19_deco

I applied for a job at Disneyland. I had the interview and was shortlisted then later offered a position. I turned it down for many a good reason.

2014-07-01-19-33-59_deco

I got a second job someplace near and dear to my heart, which I quit after only one day of training. I’ve never seen the paycheck. I quit for many reasons, the main one being their ultra-strict policy on personal items and phones. It pretty much granted them the right to search my locker, backpack, and phone any time they wanted with no reason or cause. I’m an honest guy but their policy was way overboard for me, so I left.

IMG_20140708_105826

After a month of studying, I took the written exam for my motorcycle license and got my permit.

2014-07-29-15-39-19_deco

August 2014

Anthony got his parakeets.

IMG_20140726_193619

I hit 100 miles on the scooter.

IMG_20140804_105048

We took a trip to Mattel, across the street from where I used to work.

IMG_20140815_103425-picsay

We paid a visit to the Queen

temp~01

…and her neighbor, a Russian submarine.

IMG_20140821_125605-picsay

My friend commissioned us to refurbish the sign for his restaurant. Here is the Before shot.

IMG_20140829_103631-picsay

September 2014

My “promotion” at work became official. But I still take selfies in the freezer.

IMAG0518

I was reunited with some friends from my old Catholic school whom I hadn’t seen in over 30 years.

IMG_20140906_210007-picsay

Remember the sign we were working on? Here’s the finished project.

IMG_20140916_121921

How YOU doin’?

2014-09-27-14-58-27_deco

October 2014

The job allowed us to root for our favorite local team in the MLB playoffs, so naturally I did.

IMG_20141003_190428

My mad art skillz came in handy at work once again when I was asked to conjure up a sign for a our seasonal caramel apples.

IMG_20141008_191917

Catastrophe. Just a few days before participating in another event, I dropped my phone and rendered it useless.

IMG_20141010_082710

That same day, my scooter was vandalized by local school kids who don’t understand what it’s like to have their property willingly broken.

IMG_20141010_160938-picsay

Anthony ran in his second Aquarium of the Pacific Kids Run

IMG_20141011_111017-picsay

..and I did my second duathlon the following day. I did it last year and rode the bike tour the previous four years.

IMG_20141012_093121-picsay

I replaced my broken phone with this, the Samsung Galaxy Skyrocket II. It was such a horrible phone that I returned it the next day.

IMG_20141024_193623

It was replaced with the HTC one M7, an absolutely amazing phone.

IMG_20141025_164615

November 2014

I got a new camera and started shooting quality photos again. My first trip was a Dia de los Muertos event.

DSC_0018

A few days later, we made another trip to the tide pools where I messed with the different settings on the camera.

DSC_0146

Anthony and I took the train to the L.A. Auto Show where the camera performed well in every lighting condition.

DSC_0533

December 2014

Well, outside of Christmas, there wasn’t much to speak of in December so I don’t have many pictures for that month. It looks like 2014 had its share of highs and lows but naturally, I took the good with the bad and moved on.

By the way, I’m still on Facebook Vacation and enjoying it. It’s amazing how much you can do with your time when you don’t give it so much attention.

Anyhow, there’s my second annual Year In Review post and I hoped you enjoyed it. Here’s hoping my 2015 is less phone-breaky, scooter-pushy, and wallet-findy and that yours is everything you wish it make it to be.

*Selected events, of course. You don’t need to know about my doctor’s visits.
Advertisements

How Could You?


36975990If you’re one of those who has a ton of pictures on your phone and is afraid to transfer/delete them, this post is for you.

As we speak (or as I type – your preference), I am backing up the 150+ pictures that currently reside on my phone. The 100-150 mark is my usual limit; more than that is just way too many.

With our phones becoming more of a capture-all-of-life’s-moments device and less of a phone, chances are that you have a lot of pictures stored on yours as well. Go ahead and look. There’s probably more than the 150 I’m transferring right now. But it gets worse.

I’ve seen screencaps posted on various Facebook pages that show the image being Number 1,987 of 2,242. If I get paranoid over a mere 150 images, you can imagine how jittery I get when I see something like that.

An aside: if you know how to screencap and upload to Facebook, why not just upload the original image?

But I digress. Man. Seriously. Why do you have so many on your phone? It’s time to TRANSFER THOSE THINGS! And right now you might be asking yourself why I care so much about the images on your phone.

It’s easy: they are your memories. You thought these moments were important enough to capture and save. I’ve seen Facebook posts from friends who have either lost their phones or had them crash or die, thereby wiping out all of their memories they thought were important enough to save. It’s not a fun thing to deal with, think about, or even have me preach about but the reality is that eventually, it will happen. Not might, but will.

This is why I follow Leo Laporte’s advice of the importance of backing up your stuff – images and otherwise – once a week to at least two devices: one local and one off-site. This ensures that your stuff is saved no matter what happens. And it’s a family thing: I also backup everything on their phones, too.

Owning a smartphone is more than just holding a little status symbol in your hand. It does require a little work, especially when it comes to backing up your stuff. And that work means learning a skill which I guess some might be too lazy to do or just don’t feel like learning, and that’s not good because the skill isn’t hard to learn.

If you are particularly fearful of technology, backing up images is practically a no-brainer with either iOS or Android, both of which offer a system of automatically backing up your pictures as you take them. Google gives you a decent amount of 15GB combined Gmail/Drive storage and 100GB a year can be had for a mere $2/mo. iCloud offers 5GB for free and offers larger capacities for a new lower price.

For the more daring, there’s cloud services like Dropbox and Microsoft’s OneDrive. Both of these require the installation of an app which like Drive and iOS, offer automatic uploading that can be set to WiFi-only to save on excessive data usage. Dropbox starts users off with a mere 2GB of storage but can be increased with referral bonuses or purchasing additional storage. (I’m currently at 59GB through referrals and a 48GB bonus earned with the registration of my Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 tablet). OneDrive gives you 15GB, the same as Drive but can also be increased with referrals. I’m one of OneDrive’s early adopters and was using it as SkyDrive, so my storage is set at 28GB.

Once uploaded to the ubiquitous cloud, your images are accessible via your device’s app provided you are connected to your network or WiFi. What that means is that it’s safe to delete them from your device and you will have two copies: on your computer at home and on the cloud storage service of your choice. You will have them. They are safe.

wdfMyCloudAnd if you really want to geek out, you can buy a WD My Cloud device which is your own personal cloud storage system.

It’s stored in your home and through the use of an app on your phone, allows you to send your pictures directly to it no matter where you are. Personally, this is going to be my next choice as they offer a huge amount of storage for the price: they start at $150 for 2TB. That’s a lot of selfies.

And guess what? You can still delete them from your phone after uploading.

Oh hey, look! All of my images are now uploaded and viewable on my phone plus can be downloaded to it if necessary!

Success!

I have them all organized in a Phone Pix folder then in subfolders by Year, Month, and Date Uploaded or Event. Not hard, and I know exactly where to look for things. Most services also allow folder sharing where specific users can add or delete files as needed. This is handy when, you know, you go out for Karaoke Night and your friends shoot incriminating videos of you.

With technology being such a big part of our lives, I can’t think of a reason why anyone should have so many pictures stored on their phone. It just takes a little patience to learn and time to transfer, both of which I’m sure most of us have. You could have uploaded/transferred a bunch just by reading this post like I did.

Don’t fear it any longer and risk losing all your images. Isn’t it worth the time to learn something so simple and have everything saved, or simply do nothing and lose it all?

Now I can’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to do but this doesn’t seem like a tough decision, does it?

Dead., Part Deux


(Note: I started this post last night, February 25, 2014. You will see references to “today” throughout the post and at a certain point, I will explain why. Trust me, you will enjoy it.)

In a post on February 3, I mentioned that my iPod touch had suddenly and unexpectedly died and there was nothing I could do to revive it outside of visiting an Apple Store and speaking to a…Genius.

Fortunately for me, that won’t be happening. I have something to show you.

Photo Feb 25, 10 05 18 PM

See the date? That’s today. Okay, maybe that’s not enough proof. Here’s a shot with the year.

Photo Feb 25, 10 14 31 PM

As you can see, it does indeed show February 25, 2014 or today’s date.

Ladies and gentlemen, my iPod has risen from the dead like a messiah. It’s back to 100% functionality and I’ve been slowly filling it up with the music it once held, a task I really, really despise since I have so many songs in my library.

So what did I do to get this thing working again?

Dunno. I suppose if I knew exactly what I did, I would gladly tell you so that you could perform this same operation on your iPod/iPhone should it ever be terminally stuck on the “Connect to iTunes” screen no matter what you do to it:

clip_image005

I tried so many different ways of resetting it that I ran out of ideas. I mean , honestly, how many can you think of with only a volume rocker, power button, and Home button? Which ones do you hold down and for how long? It’s things like this that drive me nuts about Apple and their not-so-forthcoming instructions on resetting your iPod. Makes me mad.

At any rate, I’m not entirely sure of which buttons I pressed in order to get it working but if I had to guess, I’d say it was the Power button and the Volume Down bottom.

I had read somewhere that doing so and holding them down simultaneously for around 40 second, gdio


(Flash-forward to February 26, 2014 – the REAL today)

Alright folks, here’s the story.

I worked my first eight-hour shift last night at my new job. It was from 12pm – 9pm. It was fun but tiring and the first time I worked such a shift, or eight hours in general, in a long time. I walked to and from work, a brisk 10-minutes from home, and being the job requires me to be on my feet all the time, I was pretty tired by the time I got home.

Then I thought it would be a good idea to try and write a blog post and you can see by the sentence that ends in “gdio” I didn’t quite finish. In fact, here’s a screencap of what happened while I was writing the draft:

Capture

I fell asleep a few times and managed to wake up in time to grab this, a screencap in which my hand apparently came to rest on the V key.

So there’s my explanation. Back to the post.


Anyway, yes. Holding down the Volume Down key and Power button apparently did the trick because after holding it down for so long then connecting it to the PC, iTunes happily told me that my iPod was now in Recovery Mode and had to be reset. Victory, finally! Being it was useless at this point I figured I might as well blast the drive clean and start over.

So it was done. The iPod was restored back to like-new condition (internally, at least) and complete with the “most advanced iOS ever,” aka iOS 5.1.1!

Photo Feb 23, 8 52 57 PM

Hey, it’s old. It can’t be upgraded past this version.

I’ve since started to slowly fill it back up with music which as I stated before, is a pain with my collection. Obviously, I also lost all of my apps and am slowly going through my account to see which ones I had on there when it decided to implode. I’m looking at it this way: if I can’t remember them then chances are I don’t need to download them. I’m using more apps on my Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 and my phone anyhow so it looks like my newly revived iPod will now be dedicated 100% to music.

That’s fine with me, because looking at my downloaded app history, I have no idea why I had a Poo Tracker app on it anyhow.

Cutting the Cords


Cryptic__45First of all, Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you out there who care to celebrate it. We do and there was plenty of celebrating around these parts as it is also my birthday – 45th to be exact. I used the photo you see here as my Facebook profile picture today in order to cryptically acknowledge my date of birth.

With all of that out of the way, let’s get to the meaty center of this post.

As you know, things are starting to turn around for us. We’ve figured out how to pay for the car and I’m going to be trained for my new job tomorrow morning then start work the following week. Even so, money will still continue to be tight around here so we’ve decided to do what we could to cut back on some of our expenses.

One of the biggest and essential expenses we have is our bundled Verizon FiOS bill, which at present is just over $100/month for phone, Internet, and TV. Our contract is up next month which means that our 2-year honeymoon price will soon be out the window and it could then be upped to $150 or maybe $200. That’s way too much especially when this guy can’t tell you the last time he sat down and watched a network show. Remember, I don’t even own a DVR. That’s how important TV is to me.

rokuWe were looking into a variety of options including cheaper TV and Internet service. We don’t care about the landline because of our unlimited everything plans we have on our mobile phones. Even so, if we did get a new TV provider, we’d have yet another honeymoon period before our rates would jump to some crazy amount. Not what we want.

So after much deliberation, we decided to do the following once the contact is up.

  • Ditch the landline. We just don’t use or need it.
  • Keep FiOS Internet. It’s just the opposite of the landline.
  • Cancel FiOS TV service. It’s back to terrestrial TV for us.

So what will we do for TV? Roku, the tiny little box that streams content via WiFi directly to your TV, will be our TV provider.

Yes, we figured that this would be the best way to go once we get rid of our TV service and while it doesn’t have everything, it’s a means of entertainment. I bought a Roku 2 box the other day and here’s what I really like about it.

  • Almost free TV. Roku has a bunch of different channels that you can add to your account, the main one being Hulu Plus which runs $7.99/mo. (Hint: download the app then sign up for a Plus account through the app and get 3 MONTHS free vs. the standard 7 DAYS when you register via your computer!) And “almost free” means just that. While a lot of the content is free, movie channels require you to register with a credit card should you want to rent or purchase content. In fact, Roku also requires credit card info as some channels are not free.
  • Setup. Probably the longest part of setting it up was entering my ridiculously long WiFi password via the on-screen keyboard. The rest was a breeze.
  • Download the app. It makes using the device much simpler.
  • More than TV. Pandora and Slacker channels are also available so you can rock out to your favorite tunes and when you sign in to your account, your stations will be there and ready to stream. Handy when you have it connected to a surround sound system like I do.
  • Headphone jack in the remote (Roku 2 and 3). Talk about privacy! I watched a bunch of stuff last night and didn’t disturb a soul.
  • Watching streaming content from my La-Z-Boy. There are some shows like Leo Laporte’s The Tech Guy that I’d rather watch on my 42” TV and not on my small monitor. This solves that problem.

So what’s not to like about it?

  • Limited programming. You would think that with the plethora of channels you get that content would be endless. Well, it is. Some shows on Hulu Plus may only have one random season available and that could be the first or the ninth. It’s really hit-and-miss, and a lot of the movies are not the best. Popcornflix, for example, is just horrid although I did watch a documentary about the Dalai Lama last night which was interesting.
  • Not another account! Some channels require you to register in order to view content. This was fine and well until I realized that I needed a notebook to jot down all of my info for these accounts I just created.
  • Useless channels. In addition to creating new accounts, many channels cannot be viewed unless you have a qualifying cable TV account. This is pretty useless when your goal is to ditch your provider for the sake of something cheaper. Why do I want to watch such a channel on Roku if I already have it on FiOS? Duh.
  • Some channels listed but cannot be viewed. One such channel is Travel Channel which shows up on the Hulu guide but whose content can only be viewed online and not via Roku.
  • Limited content. Some programs may show up but you’d be disappointed to learn that only short clips can be viewed. It looks like a lot but in reality they are mostly just a few minutes in length.

One of the things I will miss about FiOS is watching my Dodgers play. While I can still get selected games via standard TV, a majority of the games are broadcast on cable so I’ll miss out. This is my sacrifice as is Ann’s abandoning of Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters.

The thing is that if you sit yourself down and search long enough, you will find something to watch on Roku and as of now, I’ve got around seven movies in my Hulu queue just waiting for me. If you’re one of those who absolutely must watch the next episode of that Kardashian reality show then Roku is most likely not going to be for you.

But if you’re someone just looking for some kind of entertainment whether music, movies or TV, this gadget will probably be worth the money you’ll invest. As a matter of fact, I bought two of them this weekend to plan for the impending doom of FiOS TV.

By doing things this way, we may end up spending around $60 for our TV service ($50 for Internet and $8 for Hulu Plus) vs. the over $100 for our new bill.

The cord cutting has indeed begun and while not 100% satisfactory, I’ll gladly pay the lower price.

Dead.


IMG_20140131_150131-picsay

Joe Mama and Motodork. Those are the respective names of the iPods you see here.

Joe Mama was purchased in 2006 after much debate over features and dimensions. My other choice was the Zen Vision: M, a player that like the iPod has seen various changes over the years. Joe Mama has served me well despite being “only” a media player and its 30GB capacity has always seemed to be just right, even if I have a 32GB card in my phone and rarely use it for music. Joe Mama has only seen one battery change since its purchase, a battery bought on eBay and replaced by yours truly. I still use Joe in the car and whenever I want to take my music with me. It’s held up flawlessly.

On the right we have Motodork, the name inspired by a perpetually jobless individual who had nothing better to do but ride his minibike up and down the streets over and over.  Motodork, originally dubbed Meatwad, was purchased in 2010 after I realized that an 8GB iPod was pretty much useless to me. Sporting a whopping 64GB in storage space, Motodork was all the iPod I would ever need and more: apps, WiFi, email, etc.

But Motodork pretty much lost any value it had left with me once I got an Android phone and started using apps and streaming music, checking email, etc. on that device. Eventually it ended up becoming my alarm clock because I didn’t need it for much else and it was even more useless when I got my tablet.

And that may be what made it angry.

You see, about a week ago, I woke up and saw the screen you see in the picture above: the “Connect to iTunes” message. I had had that message show up before and it disappeared when I either did what it said or plugged it in. The culprit is usually a battery that is so dead that it doesn’t have enough juice to even start up.

This time after trying both, nothing happened. I then tried the old reset and still nothing.

I hit the Internet and searched for relevant terms and found solutions, provided my computers would recognize the device when I connected it. At this point, iTunes can’t find it and Windows lists it as an “Unknown Device” without drivers.

I have been trying without success to revive Motodork even though Joe Mama is the true music workhorse. Apple Forums, tech blogs, advice from friends – none of it has helped.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that Motodork, which is not jailbroken I might add, is officially a paperweight after less than four years of service. And whenever I turn it on, it’s telling me to connect it to iTunes. It’s pretty much dead. The good thing is that I was in the process of selling it to a friend but I held out for whatever reason. I would have been embarrassed if it stopped working after the transaction,

But Joe Mama just keeps on plugging along, playing music just as it was intended to do, after eight years of use. It’s a testament to less being more, and more not always being the best in the long run. In fact I’m still considering a 160GB iPod Classic somewhere down the road to replace Joe Mama.

As for now, I’ll still use Joe until it decides to take a dump which is fine. I’ve already got a replacement battery ready to install.

RIP, Motodork. I hardly knew ye.