Monday, December 30, 2013

Planning Your Trips

This a concept I finally grasped this past November. Here are some of the tips that worked for me and hopefully they will be of some assistance to you.

I love to visit cities that trend on the more expensive. That doesn't mean you have to pay an arm and a leg to visit. Here are some tips I wish I would have followed before most of my recent trips.

1. Buy your plane ticket early

I'm going to New York at the beginning of January. I was mostly on the fence until about a month and a half to two months out I had seen an advertisement on JetBlue's Facebook site for 20% off any flights within a certain date range. I ended up getting tickets for $135 after tax each way. Talk about a jackpot! Many airlines seem to have these outstanding flash sales. I've since seen similar deals from Virgin America and Southwest. Like your airlines and hotels and you might see an enticing enticing deal as well

The other issue with buying your ticket early has to do with rising costs when your planned trip date is approaching. Prices tend to get higher and it will make you kick yourself in the foot for missing the rates that would give you more dough to spend on fun activities. Start checking the airline sites around Tuesday and avoid buying on the weekend. I ended up riding the train cross country because I was too late in booking a flight. I ended up eating an extra 40 buckaroos. In my language, 5-8 beers I could have had.

2. Read the fine print on the travel booking sites

Boy did I learn my lesson from this one. It only took twice. I booked my room on Priceline and it gave me a price that I thought looked VERY appealing, and there was a blurb underneath stating "Tax Not Included". That is a confusing statement, don't you think? It was for me and I took it at face value as the site would pay for that. Kinda dumb, I know. When I was entering my info on the site, I also didn't see a place to add my AAA discount too either. My best recommendation is to call the hotel up and ask if they can offer the price on the travel site. It's a 50/50 chance especially in summertime.If so than make sure you ask for any additional discounts such as AAA. I easily would have saved an extra 10% by doing so.

3. Just because it's expensive doesn't mean you can't do anything for free

New York is an expensive town. Even so, there are a zillion activities you can do for free. Many art galleries including MOMA and Guggenheim offer free days, Friday and Saturday respectively. There might be a line, but who cares. a couple of other free places to visit are the 911 Memorial, the High Line, Central Park or Flushing Meadows where the Worlds Fair was held. You just need to be creative. Just fyi one excellent place to visit in Chicago is Millennium Park, where the Giant Bean resides.

4. Talk to the guy/lady sitting next to you

Talking about the Giant Bean. When I rode the train to New York last summer, my first train ended in Chicago and the next one I had to wait several hours to board. I talked with my seat mate the entire trip, and he just happened to be from Chicago. So I asked him where some fun places to see and where to eat. He walked me down to Millennium Park which completely blew my mind that somebody would go that far out of their way for me. He also gave me recommendation for a place to eat, but I ended up having to skip out on that and find a nice burger joint instead. The point is, if you strike up a conversation, you never know what kind of connections the people around you might have. Just don't be annoying about it.

5. Choose the off season for lower rates

I'm planning on possibly an extended stay in a region far different than any I have experienced to date. I've only seen the region at its best, and now I'm about to see it at its worst. What are the benefits of this? Nobody wants to stay in a drab dreary snowy place. That correlates to awesome plane ticket prices and killer hotel rates at hotels that would normally be 2-4 times as high in the summertime. It might even make some activities cheaper as well because nobody wants to leave their warm house for the "extreme" cold. Just make sure you pack accordingly for wherever you might be planning.

As with anything else that you might potentially spend thousands of dollars on, do your research, leave your itinerary somewhat loose, and plan for your trip. You will enjoy your trip much better, and everybody will be jealous that you are going on more trips than they are. Don't be cheap, be frugal. It's worth your time.

Monday, September 23, 2013

My Unhealthy Story and What I Need to do

As we get older, the majority of people start to think about their bodies and how we can keep ourselves from wasting away. I didn't start until 2 years ago when I finished up a 7 year bender. More specifically the last Monday of July was my wake up call.

I remember the night fairly well. I was getting ready to watch Monday Night Raw and it had been a few weeks removed since my favorite wrestler, CM Punk, won the title and "Walked out" on the company. When you are as big of a pro wrestling fan as I am, you watch for special moments that just give you the chills. You get these moments with any kind of entertainment. Well.... on this night, there happened to be one of these moments, and I missed it because I was drunker than a son bitch. It was so bad, I woke up still drunk and had to text my boss that I wouldn't be in because I was physically incapable of calling in.

In this case Irony took over. My favorite wrestler just happens to be a straight edge and I missed his triumphant return because I felt the want to pour massive amounts of alcohol down every pore and opening in my body. Do you know how it feels to be witnessing History and to blow a spectacular chance at viewing it by being plastered? Thankfully, YouTube has come to my rescue and given me back that feeling. Its the same feeling I get When I watched Chris Jericho make his first entrance to Monday Night Raw, Every time I rode Mission To Mars at Disneyland as a kid, or even my first steps in the city I love (and hope to reside in some day).

Shortly after missing that moment, my cat and I moved into a home with a different family. But this one wasn't used to seeing high quantities of alcohol move as if we were in the brewery itself. After a bit of shame, mostly from myself but received from everybody else, I gave up the nectar of the gods for roughly one year. Though I wasn't eating healthy, I lost 20+ pounds and I felt pretty damn good. I got a little cocky and changed around my drinking habits from 1-2 24 oz bombers a week to 3-4 a week and onto now where I drink anywhere between two 12 oz beers a day to going out to the bar a couple times a week and/or drinking three to four twelve oz bottles a day. I'm starting to get tired of it.

So, in the interest of getting healthy again, and wanting to be flexible like martial artists, I'm trying to turn my way around with a couple different exercises that I will be taking one day at a time and then working them into longer stretches. Also, I'm going to be keeping a daily weight count and time count for the days I walk. I timed myself the other day and walked 5 miles in an hour and a half.

Here are my keys to success

1. Limit the alcohol intake to the weekends only. Its ok if I have some during the week, some days you just need a beer and it can't be helped.
2. take up some exercising that will promote being flexible, I just started DDP Yoga
3. walking at least twice a week
4. Focusing on my task at hand. Learning Python and Ruby so I can increase the opportunities available now and in the near future when I take off from this area.
5. Make my lunch and take it to work. I spent $1.50 for a shitload of noodles and a pork steak. two of my favorite foods. I probably should make a spinach, romaine lettuce carrots and broccoli salad with as minor an amount of dressing I can stand. The real key is to stick it in a plastic bin and shake the bejesus out of it so the dressing covers the greens more thoroughly and evenly.
6. One day at a time. Rushing has no use with this.

Now for some comments from you. What are you doing to increase your healthiness? and how do you keep yourself from falling back into your vices or bad habits?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Another One Bites the Dust

Or should I say.... The dohyo?

I assume many of you readers know that I am a huge sumo fanatic. I've been watching it for the past four years after discovering it on NHK World.. There was some news breaking today that Former Ozeki Baruto is retiring after a nine year pro career as a sumo wrestler. I'm very bummed out because he has been a major player the whole time I've been watching the sport. He's retiring because of a nagging knee injury that wouldn't go away and probably will stay with him for life, to some degree.

He is in an awkward position because if he were to have pulled out of the current tournament, he would have been demoted off of the upper divisions and with that goes regular pay and benefits. Homasho was able to bounce back after a two tournament recovery period, but there is no guarantee how many tournaments Baruto would be sitting out. In the pro wrestling world, Tyson Kidd just came back from a similar injury that took 6+ months to recover from, and then a solid amount of training on top of that. Unfortunately for us fans, I think Baruto made the right choice for the sake of having a life after sumo.

I think I might start working on my new sumo schedule today. But I guess I need to start watching and tracking again or the schedule won't work. I wonder if there is fantasy sumo, like fantasy football, and if so, how many people always pick Hakuho.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What does the I really stand for?

The iPhone 4. The next new gadget in my arsenal. here is a short interview I conducted with myself shortly after finding out that its on the way.

What's taken you so long to get one of these mar

Simple answer? I didn't need one. I got myself an iPod touch 2nd gen about 3 years ago, around the time when the iPhone 3G came out. I needed a device to take my attention away from the boring trip to work in the mornings on the bus. 

Why would you get a version that's two years old and nearly obsolete?

I just need to play my angry birds dammit! I'm also getting it for a great price. You can get these guys "new" on Ebay or craigslist for about 200 bucks, as long as you know how to be patient and can work Ebay like a pro. If you have some geek in you like me, you can get one with a broken screen for about 100 bucks and then get a new screen for 20-30 and save a boatload of change.

What are you looking forward to the most out of your "new"/old phone?

Well. for the last few years, since smartphones have become the norm, phones have been getting more and more expensive. So to save a few bucks, I've just been buying inexpensive prepaid smartphones. What I'm looking forward to the most is having a phone that just works. I don't really have to worry about age, because I'm replacing the battery as well, and I don't have to worry about space and having a bastardized version of Android. And before I forget, I will get to play and update all of my old apps and get to use an incredible 5 megapixel camera. Don't forget the camera. I almost don't need to carry my SLR with that thing on there.

Which carrier is your phone on?

Ehhh... AT&T. The internet is probably the most expensive part of the service and they are practically forcing unlimited minutes and texts on you just so you can get the bandwidth you want. I wish I could be using T-Mobile, for their unlimited internet, instead, but I really can't complain. I got the phone for a REALLY good deal. Also, I'm not the original owner so I might have some hassle unlocking the phone unless I use it for a few months.

Maybe I will post some of the guides I used if I am successful at replacing the screen and the battery.

So in other news, The iPhone 5s and the new ipads look like they will be announced next week. Any early adopters here? if so what new features are you looking forward to?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Repel the Dwell

I tend to dwell on what I do and don't have in my life. Obviously, I spend more time on the don't. That's one of the few lessons I never seem to learn. But the never learning just seems to be one of my quirks. God..... I hope I don't teach my kid that one.

This weekend I went on a super fun camping expedition to Dixon Lake in Escondido. It was strictly a reconnaissance mission for an upcoming camping trip to the same lake in October. Mainly to iron out all of the wrinkles and to give recommendations and share warnings with the other campers that are attending the same trip. I went with three friends, two of them being the leaders of the group organizing the whole trip.

We checked into our site on Friday afternoon and setup camp. Then we drove down to the lake to get some time clocked in for some fishing. The entire drive down from the campsite, we were discussing the best ways on how we should kill the fish once we caught one. The irony of the situation is that all four of us are pacifists, even more so when it comes to wild animals.

As you can imagine, none of us caught a single fish. So I guess the whole discussion was a bust. I hope in October that will be a different case. My co-worker shared with me some neato tricks on how to get fish to bite the hook, which I'm very eager to try.

Do any of you fish? when was the last time you hit the lake? Mine was with my Snoopy fishing rod back in the early 90's. It's probably still sitting at the bottom of Irvine Lake too!

PS.... If you are a craft beer enthusiast, Stone Brewing is about 5 miles away and worth the visit. Thank you, have a nice day!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

In the Wilderness

One of the things I've learned, while watching shows on Tru TV (not talking about Wipeout here), is to always expect the unexpected when it concerns wildlife. For example, I watched a docudrama about a lady who went to one of those swim with the dolphin events in the carribean and the dolphin ended up grabbing the lady's leg and pulling her under. With that, I've come directly into contact with the local wildlife over the last month or so.

Experience #1
Around three or four weeks ago, I went to my favorite beach,Sunset Beach, to partake in some long awaited body boarding. I was out in the water waiting for some waves when I looked up the coast about 100 feet to some surfers who were going crazy for some dolphins that were coming near shore for some fish and playing in the waves. They came pretty close to me, maybe about 30 feet at least, but I decided to paddle in a bit to get out of their way. They stayed around for a bit but ended taking off for greener pastures. That was actually my first time seeing dolphins in that area and it was indeed pretty cool.

Experience #2
I seem to have gotten the bug and really enjoy hiking the trail to the Bridge to Nowhere. The trail goes right through the Sheep Mountain Wilderness. The first few trips through, I didn't see a single mountain sheep and I assumed it was a BS ploy. My fourth time up was on a rainy/drizzly day and when I was taking my mid hike break at the bridge, I actually saw a group of about 7 or 8 sheep walking on the hill just to the south! I wondered if I would be able to get a better view of the sheep in the future because they look pretty interesting.

This last weekend when I took the trail, I walked the majority of the trail with a guy who commonly prospects on the east fork of the San Gabriel River. He was telling me that the sheep are actually very common sights but most people are looking down at the trail instead of looking up and seeing the awesome sights. We parted at about the four and a half mile point and I continued to the bridge and a nice half hour break and watched the bungee jumping instructor setting up the rig for the morning jumpers. I then started back to the trail head and got about 5 minutes away when I heard a rustling in a bush about 10 feet away from me next to the trail. I grew a tad concerned and I looked over in that direction and saw two more mountain sheep less than 20 feet away from me! They were running parallel to the trail  and trying to get up the side of the hill. I was sooooo close that I thought one of the sheep was going to charge straight at me and I'd be running my ass right back to the bridge.Whew! That was close!!

I hope I get the chance to see more wildlife out in the middle of their habitat. They are much more interesting out there than seeing them on a day trip to the LA Zoo.

Monday, May 27, 2013

It's Time To Go

I've been wanting to write about this for awhile and couldn't find the right words. I'm gonna die ......  maybe. Hopefully. Well, I probably will someday.

I'm leaving an uber cool trip to New York City, today. I'm going by train which is mostly unthinkable mode of transportation in this day and age in the US. I'll post some updates along the way if I can get internet on my phone.

I'm not actually dying, btw.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Breaking Out of Purgatory

I just accomplished a task that I have been dreaming and procrastinating for several months. Well, more like the last year.

The quest for any artist is to have their work shown. Now, this really goes against the grain for most of us artsy type people for several reasons. Many are introverted. For others, their work is just so personal that they could never imagine their work being completed or seen by somebody else. Its just one of the grandest feelings that we get to keep ourselves realistic.

I just made that move this past weekend. I looked at about 100 photos that I shot at two different brewerys and at Griffith Park. I wasn't proud of my work one bit. And I had several great photos. But I think I'm straying away from my point.

Just because you do art doesn't mean you should stop moving forward. The way to go is to mow every person in your path down and get to point B. I just sent out my first sales pitch to have my work hung at the new tasting room of a local brewery. Its a good deal for both sides. My photo/s get shown, they get free decorations, and I get experience.The worst thing that will happen is that my photos won't get shown. Well..... They are already not CURRENTLY being shown other than my website. There is no real downside If I get rejected..

I hope this doesn't make it to the eyes of my prospective sale, but I was just looking to gain some experience and some well needed guts/cojones to take me to the next level. I obviously passed that test when I hit send in my email, even if it ends up in the spam filter. I can say now, what many other people in this world can't say is "I did it!".

This year is already starting to shape up as a big win for me! I just need to keep following the lead of my favorite wrestler, CM Punk. Because he is "The Best In The World!"

Booo.....I need a new job :'-(

Edit #2
Wow! What a ramble!

Edit #3
Do these really count as edits since I added them before I posted this the first time?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Getting into Music Shape

Whoever thought that starting a podcast would be a breeze. Not much sweat involved, unless it was kinda hot outside. Well, then I remembered I am making a music based podcast. 100% of the music will be written by me.

I haven't really picked up my guitar or my bass much over the past two years.So, the question now is how do I get back into shape with my playing. If you're asking yourself the same questions, here are a couple of ways to get yourself back in:

Exercising your fingers:

This is probably the most painful part of learning a stringed instrument. The best way I've found to do this is to use one of those hand grips that the MMA guys use to work on their fingers. Resold under the Planet Waves brand, this handgrip has on one side a rubber bumper that fits on your palm and the other side has four hard plastic bumpers on springs. Then you kind of just work on your fingerings as though you were playing.

Another technique I read about in an interview with Dino Cazares (of Brujeria, Asesino, and Fear Factory fame), where he used to strap scuba diver ankle weights to his wrist and put black electrical tap on his finger joints. He did this until he finally got to playing at his regular speed without the extras. He then would remove the tape and weights and all of the extra resistance increased his speed and accuracy. The article is no longer available on its former site, but the excerpt is still on the website.

Playing your scales

Practicing scales actually have several different uses when playing a guitar. First off, it helps you learn notes and positions. Second, they help you learn how to switch strings seamlessly. That seems to be a  more difficult concept when you're first learning how to play. Third, it helps you learn how to time yourself. Pick up a metronome from Sam Ash or Guitar Center and play along to the pace it sets.

Here is a good link that shows the different guitar scales available
Here is one for the bass
Here are the triads and progressions

Listen along

My favorite bassist ever, Tony Campos, mentioned in an interview several years ago that one of the ways he learned to play was by listening to Cannibal Corpse and other death metal and metal bands and trying to figure out what notes they were playing and then try and recreate it himself. By doing this, you also come to respect the different styles of music you play, which in turn makes it easier to remember and pick up.

Another reason to play other peoples music is that its easier to learn techniques and notations that you would look at on a sheet of music and wonder how the hell you would play that. I remember when I first was learning to play, I was looking at an old copy of Guitar World that had the sheet music for Schysm from Tool. It was my first time seeing triplets. I never even saw those when I was playing in my school band. Then I listened to the song 50 million times, and then I was good to go.

Get out there!

My last but not least tip is to just get out there and play! get some type of decent and find an open mic, join a band, or just jam with some dudes (and/or ladies) who enjoy the same style as you do. I was in a very short lived band and it was one of the most fun times of my life! Just make sure they live near you or you all must be willing to meet in the middle. Concerts are a great way of finding others that share your interests, of course. And have fun out there playing music!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Sounds of Hell

I was sitting here and thinking about what I wanted to write about. At first, I was going to write my next entry for starting a podcast, but then after I had written everything out, I thought I would like to mention something I've found interesting since I was a little kid. The Sounds of Hell!!!

This clip was taken from my most favorite radio show ever, Coast to Coast AM. Click Here to read the backstory.

I actually listened to that recording when it played live on the radio about 8 or 9 years ago. At the time I was a delivery driver for a pharmacy, a job I strongly disliked. When you are on the road for 8 hours a day, you end up listening to talk radio. Well, I used to drive from midnight to about 4 AM every night. So I had just returned to the pharmacy after finishing up my delivery run.I had to drop off my paperwork and split. The pharmacy was located in a commercial zone that was virtually empty in the middle of the night. Nobody driving on the road and the pharmacy was closed.

So I pull up to the entryway from the street and sit there to listen to this recording. It kinda freaked me out. and all of a sudden from the right side of my car, I see this  tiny orange glow come out of nowhere. I started freaking out, and then I see it was a homeless man sitting on the lawn of the business and I jump like 4 feet into the air! OMG!

I thought that was the best piece of radio I had heard ever, that is until they had on the guest who was the spokesperson for the Maitreya and the guests who shared their recordings of EVPs and Exorcisms. Very compelling radio! To be honest the exorcisms are the best but the EVPs are the freakiest. Especially when in one area you hear the voice of the kid and in another you hear the voice of an adult and its determined that they are the same spirit messing with the investigators!

Unfortunately, people get a little too upset when great topics such as this get talked about. Mostly, its done by people who take religion a bit too seriously. Its worth it to take a step back and just enjoy life. Tightwads!