Saturday, November 30, 2013

Technically Frustrating Weekend

Frustrating weekend from a technological standpoint.  I started to extend my WiFi signal as my AT&T Uverse modem (the HGV3800) has such a shitty WiFI range that it won't reach to the front of the house.  It also won't reach back to the guest house.  So Thursday I installed an additional Netgear WNDR4500v2 in the office to extend 2.4Ghz and add 5Ghz to the guest house and yard.  Then, it was thanksgiving and cooking the turkey called.  Next day - Friday, it was raining but I decided to complete the installation of my Sonos system.  I was getting extremely frustrated as the controller (my ipad) kept wanting to upgrade the components but the upgrade kept failing. Also, the components at the front of the house wouldn't pair up even though I installed a wired bridge up there.  Little did I know that all of this was because I was losing tons of packets on my Uverse connection.  I only figured it out Friday night when the TV kept freezing and then the DVR wouldn't reboot properly.  Continuous ping tests show big gaps of packet loss and high latency.

I called uVerse, got cut off 5 times (this is why I have a land can't do online tech support if your internet is down and you can't call them if you have VoIP, because your internet is down - which is how VoIP works.  Also, I have Sprint wireless which means that cell connectivity in my house sucks.)   After a frustrating experience just trying to reach somebody in India I was able
to get through and they are sending a tech for Saturday morning.  I finally had to force Dena to go to bed because she was getting mad because she couldn't do her homework.  No internet, hello!

Saturday morning arrives - The guy arrives at 9:15 am.  It's 11am now - he's still here.  I now have a new modem, all the connection wiring under the house is new, still dropping packets.  He just moved it from Coax to twisted pair - dropping packets. 

12:30p AT&T guy leaves - he's out of ideas.  We still have packet loss and pixelating on the TV.  So irritating.  I'm going for a hike to walk off my frustration and anger.

Update: came home tonight after a Hannukah party and tried to print something and it wouldn't work.  I pinged my router and my printer and was experiencing the same latency inside my own network!  I started unplugging things to find the culprit and discovered it was my Sonos Bridge.  Now, how do I fix that?  At least the internet and TV are fixed.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Pre ThanksGiving 2013

This year we are breaking tradition and we are having Thanksgiving at our house.  We are making it kind of a pot luck where guests are bringing most of the side dishes, Dena is doing desserts and I'm the turkey and gravy gal.  I've always wanted to deep fry a turkey but after some research that seemed like it was going to be a pain in the arse from a clean up perspective.  What would I do with 3 gallons of used peanut oil?  Hot peanut oil.

So I decided to invest (not a great investment $99) in the CharBroil Oil Less Turkey Fryer.  This little beauty doesn't use oil - it uses infrared heat to cook the bird and frankly anything else that takes a long time to cook.  The one I bought holds up to a 16 pound bird and cooks it in 2.5 hours.  I brought it home from Lowes about a week ago and just forgot about it until Tuesday before Thanksgiving when I figured I'd better open the box and make sure it was all there.  Good thing I did because some assembly is required.  It took me about 35 minutes to put the legs on, put the lighting mechanism on and then the handles. Of course, there was a screw missing for one of the handles.

I actually read the directions and it tells you to season it several times (you can do it only once before the first cook if you want) just like you would grandma's frying pan.  This turns the inside chamber a kind of bronze color and allows even heating.  I have to admit, the people on the CharBroil website and customer service are quite nice.  I called Wednesday about the missing screw - they are sending me a replacement.  On the website they have lots of videos on how to cook your bird, mount it, stuff it, carve it, rub it, etc.  The actual cooking part, according to the video, is very, very easy.

To get creative I decided to do a rub on the bird.  A dry rub makes a nice crispy skin.  The rub I dreamed up has paprika, black pepper, sea salt, nutmeg, thyme and a couple other things in it.  I oiled up the bird, then rubbed it all over with my seasonings the afternoon before.  I also stuffed the inside with garlic, shallots, thyme and sage.  This all sat and "marinated" until 2pm Thanksgiving day when I took it out of the fridge, emptied the cavity (so as not to mess up my cooker), popped the bird in the basket and threw it in the "fryer".  If it turns out I'm going to be SO stoked.  You don't put a lid (the provided one) on it unless its windy and debris will get in or unless it 30 degrees outside.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Geocaching and Poison Oak

I had a chance to go out Geocaching today with the Geo Dog.  We were up in Franklin Canyon, an area I'd never been to before.  I was going for a newly published geo cache as the FTF (First to Find).  Not that it's a competition or anything, and not that I'm competitive, but you know....I had to do it!  Fortunately we were first to find and bonus - the cache was highlighting the unofficial geographic center of Los Angeles. 
  After that I couldn't resist picking up a few others in the neighborhood.  The last one I got was in a wooded area and shaded.  Geppetto and I went tromping around and came up with the cache without too much trouble.  We got home and I got on the computer to log the caches.  I had a few pictures I wanted to share.  I by chance decided to read the previous logs from the shady wooded cache (GoldenMonkey).  I was shocked at my stupidity.  I usually read the logs before but I was confident I could find it without any issues.  Every log said "be careful of the poison oak, it is everywhere".  I quickly got on google to see what it looked like.  I'm sorry to say I walked over and through all of it! 
Geppetto promptly went into the bath tub after I stripped off all my clothes.  I am highly allergic to poison oak, ivy et al.  I gave him a big old hug in the car on the way home.  I'm probably screwed.



Sunday, October 13, 2013

All of Us - First Day

This is the beach right across the street from our house - this is all of us, except Ian who is taking the picture

Busy Day in Maui

Busy day today - we went down to Makena Beach, aka Turtle Town to snorkel - we didn't see any Sea Turtles but Ian and Sienna saw a black tipped reef shark.  Pretty cool.  Here are a couple pictures.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

My Apple Theory

The "Wall Street" pundits just piss me off.  Today those pundits are complaining that Apple didn't make enough iPhone 5s's to meet sales demands over the weekend. This will, of course, cause Apple's stock to dive.  The comment from USA Today  "In particular, analysts were looking for signs that the more-expensive iPhone 5s sold out quickly — a possible sign that Apple had trouble making enough of the devices to meet initial demand."  Now that's just ridiculous.  If Apple hadn't sold out then the stock would dive because Apple didn't sell out so there must not be enough demand.  It's a lose lose situation for Apple and the pundits.  Whether Apple made 2 million or 20 million iPhones for this release they would be complaining about something.   It seems that people hate a winner.  Especially a winner that is from a liberal "march to your own drummer" kind of philosophy. 

Let's look at a few things here - first, the iPhone 5s in gold sold out first.  Why?  Well, in a lot of countries gold is a symbol of prosperity and wealth.  If you have something Gold then you are the cat's meow. I had someone tell me Thursday that if I could get the money and buy as many Gold iPhone 5s's possible then they could be sold in Arab countries for 3x the price.  Did Apple make less of the Gold iPhone?  Wouldn't that have been clever to make less of that model in order to drive demand?  That's called smart marketing people.

But enough about the iPhone 5s & 5c.  This latest Apple bashing spree started on the launch date of those two phones but the problem really began much before that.  In my opinion it a chapter of it started on the launch of iOS 7 during the Apple Developers conference.  I guess that's where I have my greatest complaint of Tim Cook (Apple CEO).  iOS 7 is vital to the iPhone 5s and is part and parcel to it's innovativeness.  One could argue that iOS 7 IS the iPhone 5s.  Tim Cook et al should have kept iOS 7 under wraps and told developers about it on the sly then made a big deal about it during the iPhone 5s launch.  I think this would have had more impact on technically challenged people who are wondering why the 5s is so innovative.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

2 Years Ago

Two years ago I was diagnosed with Uterine Cancer.  One of the things that continues to haunt me to this day is my lack of sharing of this fact with my friends, close friends, co-workers, anyone frankly. I didn't want anyone to know.  At the time, that was an important, very important fact.  I forbade Dena to allow anyone in the hospital to visit me (except my mom), for the four or so days I was there. 

When I look back on it now, hopefully with eyes a little more open, I realize that it was selfish.  I didn't want my friends/family/co-workers to see me as weak, vulnerable, sad, in pain, sick or anything else.  To allow people to see me post surgery or let them in pre-surgery was to admit that I had cancer, that it was serious, and that it was real.  I didn't want it to be real.  Who does? 

Years and years ago, when I was in my twenties, I had two great people in my life die of horrible, painful cancer deaths.  One, a friend, another a mentor and friend.  Both refused to be seen in the hospital in their final days.  I resented them for that.  I resented them because I felt cheated of saying goodbye.  One of them disappeared completely off the radar for months during the worst of it because she wanted to protect all of us from the horrors of it all.  She was a tough, stoic sort, and I respect that toughness, but did she really need to bear all that pain and anguish alone?  No, of course not, that's what friends and families are for.  The other, a fellow from Austin Texas, an older guy, who was brilliant, I saw at City of Hope during late stage four and it was awful.  It's an image I'll never forget.  Do I regret it?  No.  Of course not.  I was able to talk to him, joke, reminisce, hopefully provide him some comfort and joy, and say goodbye.  With Sherry, the stoic one, I never got that opportunity. 

I think that I have learned my lesson and that if, god forbid, I'm ever faced with such struggles again, that I have the strength to share it with my loved ones.   The benefits for both parties far outweigh the negatives.  We are humans and sharing in adversity is in our DNA and we must remember to embrace that.  Nothing is gained by being "hard as a rock". 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Rat Wars - part 3 - What am I defending?

Rat Wars 2013 - Part 2

Now that I know the sons a' bitches are out there I couldn't give up.  At first I was depressed for a few days because I felt I was going to lose.  This weekend I got a new vigor for the war and went to OSH and bought a bunch of big rat snap traps.  I admit, I've never used a snap trap before.  I couldn't figure out how to even set the damn thing.  I turned to You Tube to figure it out.  This guy has a great video on how to bait a trap and what to use.

Basically, don't use peanut butter.  They are smart little buggers and know to just lick off the peanut butter from afar.  Also, you need to use rubber gloves, they will not come near anything that has human scent.  Use bacon.  Wrap the bacon around the bait stick with twine or steel wire so that they cannot pull it off.  Good idea. I followed his advice to the letter.  Make sure you bait where they run.  For some reason the buggers are running on the side of my fence, not the top.  So I put two traps on the top and one on the side.  I screwed the traps into the fence so they couldn't just knock them off.

Set them at 5 o'clock and back from dinner at 9 o'clock and had success.  Two down, G-d knows how many to go.  I'm using Tomcat snap traps.  Don't try those stupid black jaw like traps.  Those don't work. You know the old adage, "build a better mouse trap"?  That's BS.  There is only one trap that has worked since the beginning.  The old fashioned snap trap!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Rat Wars 2013 - Part 1

Until now I didn't really realize what was eating my tomatoes.  I feared it was rats but hoped it was squirrels.  The other night, it was official, rats.  Smaller ones.  I thought mice but Dena said tree rats.  There was one in one bush over by the house and 3 in my big Celebrity tomato plant.  They scared me, Geppetto and I them.  Sons of a bitches!

This sent my mind awhirl.  How will I combat this threat?  Cut worms are one thing.  Rats quite another.  Cut worms are not smart, nor are they big!  I devised a plan to encase my Celebrity in small chicken wire with a cut out door so I could get the tomatoes out.  But time was a factor.  I had to go buy the chicken wire, fashion the entire encasement, etc etc.  In the meantime I took to cutting my tomatoes off the celebrity before they were ripe, not green, just orange, before the sons a bitches got them.

Thursday night I was innocently picking Lemon Ice cherry tomatoes off, while picking I was stewing about the loss of celebrity big reds, some of these were 10 - 12 ounces.  I glanced up and caught something out of the corner of my eye.  Dark Grey?  Dark grey rat butt?  Seriously?  Eating my lemon ice cherry tomatoes while I'm picking them???!!!  I quietly put down my handfuls and snuck over to the garage and got one of Geppetto's weave poles.  These are 1" PVC pipes about 3' long that are used to practice weaves for agility.
I walked over and whacked it.  I heard a rustle, Geppetto went ape shit and I suspect the rat was dazed and scurried under the next pot over.   That pot is a large 1/2 wine barrel made out of solid oak.  I have these pots suspended up on top of bricks to aid in drainage, that's where the son 'a bitch was hiding.  I poked and prodded and Geppetto whined and jumped (this is what he does when he "trees" something) and finally I decided to put my back into it and I moved it about a foot from the wall.  Geppetto was able to get behind, I poked some more and a big commotion was heard from behind.  Geppetto trotted out all proud like with the small rat in his mouth.   I screeched and yelled "drop it"!  He never obeys that command.  He did this time.  He dropped it and the rat crawled slowly away and he snagged it again.  I yelled "drop it" again.  Geppetto dropped it. As the rat crawled away again I thought to myself, "How in the hell am I going to kill this thing?"

I tried yelling for Dena but she didn't come.  Geppetto had grabbed the rat again by now, I yelled drop, sit and Leave it.  Which he obeyed.  Amazing what training will do.  He watched that rat patiently while sitting and while I ran and got a long pick up stick thing that my friend gave me.  I grabbed the rat, still squirming a little, plopped it into a garbage bag and proceeded to whack it a bunch more times until it lived no more.  I admit, I felt bad about it.  But it was war.

Round 1 was over.  Round 2 was imminent.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

iPhone 5 versus Samsung Galaxy S4 Head to Head

I've had the opportunity to test the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S4 head to head.  My testing was for work and it was more from a 4G Sprint (Samsung S4) versus LTE AT&T (iPhone 5) perspective but since I was doing the exact same thing on each phone I couldn't help but compare them.

Samsung S4 impressions:
  • screen is bright, big and beautiful.  I loved that about it
  • It's too big.  I cannot do anything one handed. When I put it up to my ear I feel like an idiot, like I have an ipad at my ear.
  • its slippery.  The silver sleek back makes it slippery so a case is necessary, however if I added a case it would be really too big.
  • I felt that I had worse voice calls on the Samsung than on my iphone 4s on the Sprint network.  In areas where I had not had issues before the Samsung had issues.  Why?  I don't know but it is what it is. 
  • The keyboard just sucks.  On the iphone I can properly type out even with one hand a significant amount of text without it being morphed in to indiscernible words.  The S4, no way.  Some texts there wasn't a word that was recognizable so I found when I was texting or emailing I had to be paying significant attention to the phone and keyboard so I could choose the corrected words all the time. Irritating.
  • I find the Google Play marketplace a pain to use.
  • Android features in general do not have the same ease of use that similar functions on the iPhones do.  Everything on an Android take too many clicks or the options are buried in menus below menus.  It's just irritating.
iPhone 5 impressions
  • Lighter than my 4s so that was nice and lighter than the S4
  • fits quite nicely in the palm of my hand
  • fast
  • usability crushes the Android OS
  • say what you will about iTunes and the app store but I know when I download an app there isn't some malware hidden inside it because Apple has vetted every single app.
I'll take the iPhone 5 - hands down, every time

It's interesting how Americans love a winner but only if they win so much.  For example, the Yankees. Everyone loved them until they started winning the World Series too frequently, then people hated them.  Apple is a winner and were the darling of the tech sector for years.  Now - every tech and money blogger bashes them for lack of innovation, too controlling, blah blah blah.  Let's face it people - it's an American company.  Embrace it.  Why are you embracing a Japanese company?  Apple employs 1000's of workers in the US.  Support them - don't bash them.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Geocaching in Edmonton, Part 3

This was our last find.  It was by far the cleverest geocache I've ever seen.  It was really only a fluke that we discovered it.  The kids and my mom are determined cachers and do not give up until the find is made!  Look closely at the picture below.  Something is not quite right.  The birch tree cluster you see there, one looks like its cut off.  Upon closer inspection I thought it was odd that the birch bark was not adhered directly to the tree.  Viola!  The cache was found.  Looking closer at the second picture you see a PVC screw top on it.  This is a real birch log with one side somehow hollowed out, a 2.5" PVC pipe put into it, the original birch bark adhered to it and then its flipped upside down so you don't see the PVC cap.  It wasn't until I grabbed the log and heard a thud inside of the cache container that I realized what it was. 

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Geocaching in Edmonton Part 2

Here's a picture of all of us on our hike - great shot!

Monday, June 03, 2013

11 Varieties this year!

Here are some pictures of my special heirloom varieties.  The top picture is the Costello Genovese - Hard to find old classic heirloom 8- 12 oz fruits.  I'm not sure why the deep ribbing, it didn't say that it was like that nor do the pictures look like that.  I have another that has deep ribbing, maybe I mixed up the labels?  The bottom one is one of the ones I am SO excited about.  The Lemon Drop - Translucent yellow/green cherries, sweet/tart flavor.  Doesn't it look like they are going to be SO interesting.

Geocaching with the Family in Canada

What a fun, fun afternoon we had yesterday.  I introduced my family and especially the kids to the world wide treasure hunt game called geocaching.  Geocaching in Edmonton is very different than in Los Angeles. With the incredible amount of greenspace in the city every cache we found was an adventure and unique.  The first cache we found was no more than a couple blocks from my sister's house but it might as well have been in the forest. The first picture is of that first cache.  It was hidden in a fake birdhouse.  I wonder if the birds get faked out too? 

Each cache we found had a large number of kid friendly goodies in it and we left a Los Angeles souvenir in each as we went.  Here's a picture of Sienna who is holding the GPS to cache #3 - as you can see, she is highly focused and was very good at it.

Cache #4 was a small micro and I was worried it would be hard to find.  I let the kids run with the GPS while I used my geo senses to track it.  I discovered it but let them make the find.  It was a toughie but Sienna made the grab.  As you can see by the picture it is a fake bolt.  The trick is in looking for things that are not normal.  None of the other 6x6 posts had a bolt in it - so, different...Clever hide for sure.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Cucumbers - yummmy

This is just a normal cucumber plant.  It's about 6" long now.  I should have put a quarter in the dirt beside the picture for context.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

How is the Garden Doing?

Currently I am battling something akin to cut worms on every single tomato plant.  They are making the leaves of all my plants look like swiss cheese.  It's very frustrating.  I tried some "organic" safe spray and they just ate right through that.  I tried two applications.  I tried searching for hours at night with the flashlight to catch them by hand, mistakenly thinking they would be as big as horn worms.  They are not.  This morning at 5:30am I resorted to Neem Oil.  I sprayed under pretty much every leaf, meticulously.  We shall see what happens.  A gardening friend of mine reminded me that a healthy plant is better at fighting off disease and pests better than a weak plant and that if you are gardening in containers you must fertilize every 2 - 3 weeks.  I had not done that, but I have now.  Makes sense, just like the human body.  Here's a picture of the current state of a few plants.  As you can see the one under the window is almost 7' tall.  That plant is the cherry tomato plant.  Not sure if I should start pinching it or let it go crazy!  The little thing to the left is the spinach.  To the right in the horizontal container is the Michael Pollard variety of tomato.  This is the first year it is in gardens so it's an heirloom.  The leaves on the Michael Pollard are HUGE.  Some of the longest leave branches are 18" long.  How in the hell am I supposed to train that thing?

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Spring is Here - Tomato Time!

Spring has definitely sprung here in Los Angeles.  Everything is bloom.  The nurseries are buzzing and my green thumb is itching.  I had the pleasure of going to Tomato Mania with a couple new friends last weekend and I wanted to share with you my experience and what I bought. 

They have events all over Southern California this time of year. The event I went to was at the Tapia Brothers veggie stand in the Valley by the 101.  We drove up and I immediately felt anxiety.  It was Sunday, the event had been already going on since Saturday morning.  Would they be sold out of everything?  There were cars and people everywhere.  I wanted to run to the tomato area and snatch up plants ASAP. 

The pickings probably weren't as abundant as they were on Saturday but they were still good.  There must have been over a hundred variety of tomatoes.  Maybe more.  Some of the special hybrids were picked over and there were no more yellow pears left but I had no trouble buying more than my backyard can hold.

Here's what I bought:
  • Celebrity - classic beefsteak
  • Cherokee Chocolate - rosy brown skin, smoky flavor
  • Church "Beefsteak" heirloom - been around for 100's of years, from Virginia
  • Sweet 100's - classic cherry with "100's" of cherries per vine
  • Black cherry - just as it says
  • Sun Gold - golden smaller fruit
  • Lemon Drop - Translucent yellow/green cherries, sweet/tart flavor
  • Michael Pollan - brand new hybrid, pear shaped yellow fruit with green stripes, fits in palm of hand
  • Costello Genovese - Hard to find old classic heirloom 8- 12 oz fruits
  • Carmello French Hybrid - italian, deep red large fruit, deeply ribbed
I hope you are all excited about his as I am.  And if you have been a recipient of the fruits of my labor before, imagine the boon this year!