Author Archives: Mike

Yuma Hamfest 02/20 – 02/21



Just back from two fun days in Yuma AZ attending their 2015 Hamfest.  Had the opportunity to meet up with a number of friends from San Diego and make some new friends from all over the US who attended.  Not sure what the attendance head count was for the event but I’ll place it at 1,500 – 2,000.  I attended several seminars covering topics such as Broadband Mesh Network/BBHN ;  Digital HF Communications and Magnetic Loop Antennas. Lots of new and exciting things happening in the amateur communications world.

While at the event, I took the General Exam test…. and, I PASSED! WhooHoo!

Great event.  Had lots of fun and can’t wait for next years Yuma Hamfest.


Posted by on February 22, 2015 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Ham Radio License Upgrade

I’ve had my Ham Radio license since 2001. Most of the time, I’m on local 2-meter or 440 MHz San Diego repeaters talking to friends that I know from the various radio clubs that I belong to. Recently, I have been getting the bug to upgrade my license to the next level from Technician to General. Especially since the Morse Code requirement has been dropped.  I already have several HF radios that I acquired several years ago but due to my license restrictions and the physical space it takes to put up a HF antenna, the equipment has just been sitting in the closet. Below is a photo of the Kenwood TS-450S. I also have a Kenwood TS-820.

For the past several weeks, I’ve been studying the General test exam questions (… all 400+ questions) and I’m almost ready to take the test.




Posted by on February 22, 2015 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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First Cut .. Pen Making

Here’s a few images of a couple of pens from my new lathe. The top pen is a Manhattan style made with a wood called “Bubinga”. The lower pen is a Cuban style made from certified Olive wood from Palestine.

I’ve made about 6-7 pens so far. A few from Acrylic and a few in wood. I’ve torn up and ruined more blanks than I want to admit. Just too aggressive with the gouge and chisel.

I’ll update the site with additional images as I turn more pens and pencils. I’m having lots of fun creating and designing custom writing instruments so far. See ya soon!

Posted by on January 3, 2015 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Martian SmartWatch

Many may not know it but I have a fetish for watches.  I probably have a dozen or so hanging around. Some of them are rather inexpensive Timex type watches for when we go camping or on vacation, and I have a few nicer watches for night on the town with the wife.  Over the past few years, I’ve tried several smart watches and have been totally disappointed .  . . until now.

Best Buy recently had a sale on the Martial Notifier for $89. It claims good interfacing with iOS and has lots of high ratings from Amazon and Best Buy. This isn’t a high-end do everything Smart watch but what it does do, it seems to hold up to its claims.


Martian Watch-Notifier3

Several of the key features of the Martian are:

  • SMS notification
  • Email notifications
  • Find My iPhone
  • Activate Siri
  • Out of range Alert

On the OLED display, you can set character limits and scroll speed of the messages.  and even adjust the sensitivity of the vibration alerts. After a notification, you can just tap the watch and dismiss the notification(s).

Battery life is quite reasonable and lasts me a week before needing to recharge. The Martian Notifier has two separate batteries. A standard watch battery for the analog watch function (which is suppose to last two years before needing to be replaced) and a separate rechargeable battery that manages the smart functions of the watch. Charging cable is an altered micro-USB cable with a extended end connection that goes deep into the watch. Its a very unique cable so you need to ensure a safe storage and not lose it.

The not-so-good...

The standard watchband is made of rugged silicone.  It picks up fuzz from your sweater, pocket lint, etc. all too easily (UGH!).  I’ve read where you can change out the band to a more stylish metal or leather band. I should also mention that several folks have posted a reminder that the watch IS NOT water proof in any way. Another slight issue for some is that you cannot be selective in email notifications (user, email account, subject line.. nada!. Its all or nothing and this tends to be a bit of an annoyance in my case due to the number of junk emails I get. Lastly, it doesn’t have the ability to pop-up reminders or calendar/meeting notifications.

I was hoping a bit more from this watch but again, at $89 I still think its a good deal for anyone who want basic SMS & Email notifications instantly on their wrist. .



Posted by on November 24, 2014 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Pen Making…Just Another Hobby

Settling in with retirement has left me with quite a bit of free time. Whats a man to do?  Pick up a new hobby of course!

**Creating Custom Pens — Everything seemed simple enough and the cost was reasonable.  They would make great gifts and I’d enjoy making these from a variety of exotic woods, acrylics and such.

I picked up an inexpensive lathe at Harbor Freight (Was $350…got it on sale $280 add an extra 25% discount coupon making it $210).

This lather has
– Decent 3/4 HP motor
– Variable speed from 600 to 2,400 RPM
– Pivoting headstock to allow extra-large bowl turning capacity
– and includes a nice floor stand

I also picked up a face shield and a few hand tools to get me started.  Then, off to Rockler to acquire the pen blanks and a few other items needed to get myself started.  What started out to be an investment of a few hundred dollars was quickly adding up.. and I have not turned a single item yet.  Sandpaper, wood polish, acrylic polish, CA glue, mandrel, bushings… the list went on.

My first snafu was the brand new lathe. Upon opening the box, it was clear to me that this was a used item. After getting everything out of the box, not only was it used, many parts were missing and misc. junk (nothing to do with the lathe) was just tossed into the box. Back to Harbor Freight. With very little hassle, they exchanged it and I loaded the 175 lb monster into the car and headed home again.

It took a little over an hour to get the lathe assembled and ready to use. I grabbed a scrap piece of wood and turned a mini baseball bat. Eh… it was okay for a first use of the lathe and the hand tools.


Posted by on October 7, 2014 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Officially RETIRED as of 08/01/2014

Spousal approval… Paperwork submitted… Financial Advisor okay’d

Officially, today is my first day of retirement. Feels weird. Almost like I’m on vacation with no-where to go.  I still have lots of forms to complete (insurance conversion, 401k changes, etc.


Posted by on August 1, 2014 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Epiphone Hollow Body DOT-VS

I have been wanting to restart an old hobby of playing guitar.  This is my new Epiphone DOT-VS.  She doesn’t have a name just yet but she plays wonderful.

I also acquired a iRig adapter to hook it up to the iPad or PC to add reverb, rock and other enhanced tones/sounds.  As well as, it adds the ability to record single or multi-tracks.  I need lessons… badly.  Add that to the bucket list


Posted by on July 8, 2014 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Our 10th Anniversary

We made it…. 10 years of marriage.  No second thoughts or regrets.  Best thing that ever happened to me.

We decided  to spend our 10th anniversary (just the two of us) at the house in Mexico. We had a lovely quiet weekend and totally enjoyed the time together.  MC even got a chance to break out a canvas or two and whip up a few new paintings. The girl has some creative talent.


Posted by on June 26, 2014 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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UPGRADE: Sony Vegas Pro 13

As some of you may know, I love producing and editing video.  I’ve been using several different video editing programs (Sony Movie Studio, Adobe Premiere and Sony Vegas Pro v8).  With Sony’s new release of their professional video editing package (Vegas Pro v13), I got an upgrade offer that was too hard to pass up.  It included NewBlueFX Titler Pro 3.  All together, the full retail costs would be about $800-$1,000. I got everything for roughly $300.  And — they’re also tossing in a nice Lower 3rds package from NewBlue too.

Click, click, enter credit card info…  submit and its done.  The new software has been purchased. The new 64bit version was a bit of a hassle getting it installed. Most of the issues are around the GPU configuration and ensure installation was performed while logged in as ADMIN.


Posted by on May 28, 2014 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Early Retirement Offering… Hmmmm

Received a FedEx package from work this afternoon when I got home. It appears than I’m being offered the option of early retirement along with several hundred other staff. No special benefits or compensation being offered except a health care trust fund package. Rumors are that future offerings won’t get better… if anything,  the health care package may go away.

Time to start looking at this seriously. I only have about 45-days to decide and not sure I’m ready.  Lots of Pros and Cons to consider. If accepted, my last day of work would be July 31, 2014.


Posted by on May 15, 2014 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Las Vegas for Valentine’s

We just got back from a nice 5-day Valentine’s vacation in  Las Vegas.

Mostly, we kicked back and enjoyed the down time. We stayed with Marielena and Jorge (MC’s sister and husband) who lives in Vegas.  We enjoyed a few nights out having dinner, visited with her brother Luis who also lives in Vegas.

For entertainment,  we went to a Bobby Caldwell concert;  got to enjoy the Cirque Du Soleil “MYSTERE” show at Treasure Island and did a bit of shopping.

One more day of vacation left and then its back to the daily grind at work.


Posted by on February 17, 2014 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Rancho Las Salinas – Sheep Feeders

MC’s mom has a small ranch with about 60 sheep.  As the number of sheep increases, the old feed bins have caused a bit of an issue.  The larger sheep seem to take over the feeders and the rest try their best to grab a bite or two.  Solution….. $900 of wood and materials and a nice weekend to build four 8′ dual sided feeders.

Click here for a short video

While at the ranch, we also got to enjoy watching an ewe have a cute baby lamp.  Amazing that after just a few minutes, the lamb was up and feeding on mom. I believe we have over 15 sheep that are close to having babies!


Posted by on February 7, 2014 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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125th Tournament of Roses Parade

MC, Joaquin and Nelson all  joined an estimated 700,000 people for the 125th Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Ca. 

This was a special event offered by the employee association at work. They left San Diego at 3:30 am aboard a chartered bus.  Upon arrival, they were fed breakfast and found their perfect stadium seats just before the parade started at 8 a.m.  This year’s theme is “Dreams Come True”.  Singer Natalie Cole sang at the 125th Tournament of Roses Parade

The seats were great the weather turned out nicely for the event.  There was 5 miles of marching bands, horse riders and floats of all sizes and shapes.


Posted by on January 1, 2014 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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HP DL380 Server

Acquired a new tech toy to occupy my time.  HP DL380 G5

With the recent change in positions at work,  I need to get up to speed quickly on Server 2008, Active Directory and Group  Policies.   The new server was a great find on eBay at $260 and $45 for shipping.

The config includes ;

  • Dual Xeon Quad-Code Processors
  • 16 GB RAM
  • 4 x 172 GB SAS drives
  • Redundant power supplies
  • iLO Remote Access
  • Windows Server 2008 R2

Posted by on December 10, 2013 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Dual Camera Car DVR

I bought two of these dual camera “Boom Yours” DVR’s on Amazon for $62 each.
The DVR has two cameras that can both be rotated 270 degrees, allowing for recording high definition videos from two different angles (front and rear traffic). The night vision feature will also allow you to make clear recordings in relatively dark environments. It also has the option of recording cab audio too.
Compared to normal car DVRs, this new model introduces two new functions:
-GPS Logger: Open up Google Maps and you can instantly see your vehicle’s driving track, speed, time, and date.
-G-Sensor: Also known as the gravity sensor, this car DVR detects and records any sudden motion or speed changes in X, Y and Z axis. As soon as any sharp braking, rapid acceleration, excessive cornering or sudden impact occurs, the DVR records and locks the recording.
  • Screen: 2.7 inch high definition screen
  • Lens: f: 2mm; F, 2.0 (IR lens)
  • Camera: Front: 140 degree wide angle Back: 120 wide angle
  • Color sensor: 1/4″” color CMOS
  • Video resolution: 1280*480 (dual mode), 640*480 (single mode)
  • Video format: AVI
  • Cycled recording: Yes
  • Memory: Micro SD card up to 32GB (not included)
  • Microphone / speaker: Built-in
  • Time stamp: Yes
The included software allows you to view the recordings along with Google Maps GPS info reflecting the driving speed and real time map tracking.  I’m using it with a 32GB MicroSD card and I’m getting 6-8 hours of recorded video and meta data.
The quality of the video is acceptable.  You won’t be able to read license plates on cars unless you are right on top of them such as a stop light but the video is clear enough to see any action in front or behind you.
For $62 each, I thinks its a good deal for the features.

Posted by on November 18, 2013 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Out with the Old (BMW) and in with the new (Cadenza)

My trusty 2007 BMW 328i hard top convertible was going on 7 years old.  Although, it only had slightly over 50,000 miles, I was ready for something new and a bit more comfy to drive.  Here’s a link to my post when I first got the car and it had less than 100 miles on the odometer.

MC continues to rave about her 2012 Optima Hybrid.It didn’t take long for her to forget all about her Ford Expedition.  Well, this all got me thinking for several weeks about trading in the Bimmer and getting something new.  I wasn’t having any issues with the BMW… just had the burning desire for something new.  Besides,  if I’m planning on retiring anytime soon,  I wanted to have something solid and hopefully paid off when the time comes.

I started to notice the new ads on TV for the Kia Cadenza

I think the car is very nice looking and its loaded with just about every techno gadget one would want in a car.

Features included:

  • 3.3 L V6 with 293 HP (19/28 mpg)
  • Paddle shifters on steering wheel
  • Power mirrors that fold away automatically
  • 550 Watt 12 speaker Infinity premium stereo
  • Sirius XM Radio
  • Nav with voice activation
  • Real time traffic reports
  • Rear view camera
  • Bluetooth & iPhone/iPod connector
  • Air conditioned and heated seats
  • Smart Cruise control
  • Lane change warning system

I opted for the Platinum Graphite (dark grey) with 19″ custom wheels, the Luxury and Technology package (these two alone added $6k to the price tag).

The Smart Lane Change and Advanced Cruise Control is very cool.


Posted by on October 1, 2013 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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When a Pebble is a Rock

A co-worker showed me his Pebble watch last week.  He’s using it with his Galaxy 3 phone.  Overall, he’s pretty happy with it and hasn’t had any issues.  I’ve been watching the reviews and it seems that they’re a hit with some and others (especially iOS users) who seem to have issues with the Bluetooth service losing connection.

Pebble offers vibrating notifications, messages and alerts. You can dismiss notifications with a shake of your wrist. Some of the features include;
•Incoming Caller ID
•Email (Gmail or any IMAP email account)
•SMS on both Android and iPhones
•iMessage (iOS only)
•Calendar Alerts
•Facebook Messages
•Weather Alerts
•Silent vibrating alarm and timer

With a quick check on-line at Best Buy Chula Vista, I confirmed they have the Red and Black models in stock.  At $149, what the heck, I’ll give it a try. Well, 40-minutes later, I’m back at home, box opened and the device getting a charge. A quick review of the included manual and I start the setup process.

After 45-minutes of trying to configure the watch, I’m already very frustrated.  The screen goes blank (just a white display), the buttons are not responding and I get weird screen display like its stuck between menus.  Okay,  maybe it needs a full charge.  After 5-hours of charging, I reset the watch back to factory setting (5 minutes to just get the menus to respond),  I try again and again with the same failed results.  Upon checking the trouble shooting tips on-line, each of the issues described in their document, I’m having each one of them.

I also discovered that the Pebble Watch will not connect to Microsoft Exchange email accounts. It only works with IMAP.  Another draw back, even if I was able to get ot working as advertised.

Back to Best Buy it goes.  I so wanted this to work. Guess I’ll just have to wait for the iWatch from Apple… assuming the rumors are true.

UPDATE: While returning the Pebble Watch to Best Buy, I had the chance to ask the clerk about other returns.  Yep — plenty of them.  All with various complaints of screen and button issues.  Sounds like someone has production or software issues.


Posted by on September 8, 2013 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Cabo San Lucas – Our mini vacation

It’s the Labor Day holiday and MC and I decided (… okay, she decided) we needed a quick get-away for the long weekend.  Our timeshare points were about to expire and we needed something quick to avoid losing them. Neither of us had been to Cabo and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. The only snafu, is reporting thunder storms, lightning and rain — Before, During and After our visit. Being the crazies were are, we elected to go anyway.

Thursday, 08/29 3:15 PM, we boarded Volardis Airlines flight 450 from TJ.  Two hours later, we arrived at Los Cabos International Airport. We rented a car ($47 for 4 days) and headed off for a nice 30-minute drive to San José Cabo. Yes– it was hot and humid but no rain or storm in sight.  Apparently, the day before, it poured for several hours and winds were reported to hit over 60 MPH.

We stayed at the Wyndham Resort in San José Cabo.  Its about 20-30 minutes from downtown Cabo and has almost as prominent vacation and resort destination attractions as Cabo. After we checked in, we headed to the Mega grocery store and stocked up on bottled water, breakfast and lunch foods… not to mention all of the wonderful pastries for snacking.

We discovered that in the winter, pods of whales can be observed in the area. They bear their calves in the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez after completing their six-thousand-mile migration from Alaska and Siberia. There are many talks of viewing these right off the coast as they migrate North.  Sounds like an opportunity for another trip to catch this amazing activity.

The following morning, we visited the Grand Mayan just a few miles away from our resort.

This place is a 6-star resort with large Mayan statues in the entry.

We spend way too much time talking to the timeshare folks.  They so much wanted to sell us a $65,000 golf-vacation package.  Thank you but no! It’s a place we’ll look into for a future stay but just too darn pricey for purchasing.

On Sunday, we took a drive to the marina in downtown Cabo to head off for a fun filled day on a ‘Party Boat/Snorkeling’ adventure.    While MC got to enjoy the water, I stayed aboard the boat.. sicker than a dog.  Not sure what set it off but for a few hours, I was in bad shape.  Nothing a few Pepto pills couldn’t handle.

Monday was a relaxing last day.  We spent much of the day sitting out by the pool reading with a few dips in the large pool to cool us down.   Overall, we had a great time. Cabo is simply beautiful and we had a very enjoyable time.


Posted by on September 3, 2013 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Baofeng.. no, its not anything like Yoga

The Baofeng UV-5RA is a compact 2-way hand held transceiver providing 4 watts in the frequency range of 136-174 MHz and 400-480 MHz. It is a compact, economical HT that includes a special VHF receive band from 65-108 MHz which includes the regular FM broadcast band. Dual frequency watch and dual reception is supported. You get up to 128 memories.. more than sufficient for most ham users.
Other key features include:
  • Selectable wide/narrow FM
  • A/B Band switch
  • Battey save function
  • VOX
  • DCS/CTCSS encode
Select able frequency steps include:  2.5, 5, 6.25, 10, 12.5 and 25 kHz. RF power may be selected at 4 or 1 watts.

So much for the techie talk.  The best spec… the price.  On Amazon, they’re selling these like hotcakes for a fantastic price of $30-$35. And, if you are a Amazon Prime member, shipping is free!  Accessories like external speaker/mic or additional Li-Ion 7.4V 1800 mAh battery and the programming cable are all dirt cheap too.

Package Include:

* 1x UV-5RA (VHF136174 UHF 400-480Mhz)
* 1x 7.4V 1800mahLi-ion Battery Pack
* 1x Antenna 136-174/400-480Mhz
* 1x Belt Clip
* 1x Hand Strap
* 1x Earphone Mic/Headset
* 1x English Manual
* 1x Adapter
* 1x Desktop Charger ( 110V ~ 240V )

I ordered two of these on Saturday night and they were delivered on Monday.  now, that’s fast.  Thank you Amazon!

It takes a little bit to get the hang of entering frequencies, PL tones, etc. Once you figure out the process, the rest is pretty easy.  Much better than my Icom or Kenwood.
So far, I really like the radios and the wide frequency range it can handle.

Posted by on August 28, 2013 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Hacienda Punta Piedra (Mexico)

In celebration of  my birthday, Nine of us all headed down to the beach house in Mexico for a nice long 3 day weekend. We brought in a cook and two massage girls to help make it a very relaxing stay.  Nothing like waking up to a fresh pot of coffee and chicken Chilaquiles being prep’d for breakfast.

After breakfast, and a walk down to the beach, we all jumped in and learned how to make tamales (shredded beef, port and chicken) along with what is referred to sweet tamales with pineapple.  This was going to be our dinner.

The weather was nice even though the early mornings were a bit overcast and hazy.  Evenings were cool even up past midnight.

Here’s our view while sipping coffee in the early morning.  I’d take this any day!

We sat out in the back patio watching the waves roll in and the dolphins swimming north. We ate, drank, snacked and started all over again.


Posted by on August 5, 2013 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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8,000 Windows XP converted… many more to go.

I’ve recently moved from supporting our executive offices to a new position on our Windows 7 migration project. We have roughly 12,000 Windows XP systems. Some used a general office computers, others are in critical call centers who are operational 24 x 7.  Some are with staff  out in the field daily.  Not to mention, at last count we have 10’s of thousands of applications that all have to be certified or may require some form of remediation to ensure they function correctly under Windows 7.

One of the bigger challenges is timing.  Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP April 2014.  The project has a deadline of January 1st to wrap up the project. With 4,000+ systems still to go, it will be difficult at best.  To add to the mix, we’ve had several MAJOR reorg’s within our IT organization and key staff members have been either laid off or moved to other projects.


Posted by on May 10, 2013 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Tahiti Vacation – 2012

Tahiti – September 2012

Our vacation to Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora was in the planning for over a year. Some of our best photos of the South Pacific were taken on Moorea & Bora Bora. The prestine lagoons with white sands, and deep colored sunsets make for an awesome scene for romance on the island. This has to be one of the best vacation islands ever. We enjoyed the trip with Nelson (MC’s son) and his wife Wendie.

We spent the 1st week in Moorea and the 2nd week in Bora Bora.

Click the image below for our photos

We also have a YouTube video here

Enjoy!  Mike & Maricarmen


Posted by on September 28, 2012 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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MC’s new Kia Optima Hybrid

It’s was finally that time to trade in the Ford Expedition.  With the cost of gas at an all time peak and we had slightly over 140,000 miles on old Betsy, it’s caused us to start thinking that it’s time to start looking around for some shiny new wheels. Our need for such a big vehicle (Boy Scouts, camping trips, Home Depot runs, etc) were becoming  fewer and fewer.  Add this to the fact that MC has been wanting a Hybrid (despite my opinion that most are rather ugly) this is what she wanted.  However, the Optima is a nice looking car, doesn’t look like the typical “Green Vehicle” …and,  there is a Kia dealer not too far away from the house. We had looked at the Kia Optima several times before but MC just wasn’t ready to give up the Expedition just yet.  I think she’s ready now.

Well, after several hours of test drives, looking over various models and features, prices and such… MC decided on the Satin Metal (fancy name for light grey) in the Hybrid model, fully loaded.

The 2012 Optima with the Convenience and Technology packages, it includes;   a rear-view camera, an 8″ display navigation system,  heated and air conditioned front seats, heated rear seats and an eight-speaker Infinity sound system with HD radio and their UVO voice-activated BlueTooth system. On the model she selected, it also includes their custom 17-inch wheels, xenon headlights, leather upholstery and a number of other cool upgrades and features.

The dealer offered a decent trade in value for the Expedition… all we had to do was sign on the dotted line. And, that we did.

UPDATE: 08/2013 – Well, six months later and MC still loves her Optima.  She’s getting somewhere between 32-36 MPG and it still looks and smells new. Not a drop of problems or concerns. Several Kia Optima owners have filed suit because of their over estimates on the MPG rating.  As such, she now gets a bonus check  depending on how many miles she has driven.


Posted by on February 26, 2012 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Luis Miguel Concert

This was our second time seeing Luis Miguel in concert. The show was suppose to start at 8:00. Finally, just before 9:00 he decided to kick things off. Seems that he is almost an hour late for many of his own shows according to some reviews. Ours was no different. As well, he closed down a bit early too. Instead of 2-hours, we got about 90 minutes of entertainment. I somewhat felt cheated. Especially since we bought the box seats for six.

I have to admit, he sings very well and kept the crowd moving and singing right along. We heard a few songs from many years ago to some of his newer tunes. At a little more than half way through the concert, he brought out a full Mariachi band and dance team. The crowd (mostly hispanics) really got into it.

We took Joaquin with us. This was his first major concert and although he’s not a Luis Miguel fan, I did see him tapping his toes a few times.

Overall, it was a great evening. I think the best part was when MC was singing his songs to me (in spanish no less).


Posted by on September 10, 2011 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Ahhhh Dang… TV’s out cold!

The other night, I flipped on our bedroom TV  and tuned to watch the FoodNetwork.  Yes — I’m hooked on the FoodNetwork. I quickly headed down stairs to get a fresh cup of coffee but when I returned, the TV was off.  At least, that’s what I thought.  Our 42″ Sony TV that we purchased about 5-6 years ago, finally blew the rear projection lamp.

Originally, I thought this was a good excuse to head out to buy a new LED or LCD TV. After a few checks at Frys, Best Buy, Costco, etc. I quickly came to my senses and decided I’d try to open the sucker up and perform a bit of minor surgery. Sony actually makes changing the bulb a fairly easy task.  I was able to find a replacement bulb at a factory distribution warehouse about 20-minutes way and the cost was only $120. Certainly cheaper than a new $600-1,000 TV. Once I got back from MI-Tech (,  As I started taking the TV apart, I also grabbed the vaccume and cleaned up the dust buildup inside, around the lens and the cooling fan. I had everything back up and ready for testing in just over a hour. As I held my breath, I pushed the on-button.  The green light blinks for a few (that’s a good sign).  All of a sudden, BAMB!  The red bulb error light comes on. After a brief inspection, I quickly noticed a safety switch that prevents the TV from turning fully on unless the front cover is completely in place and secure.  Five minutes later… all is working and I’m back to watching the FoodNetwork. I guess the new TV will just have to wait for a while.


Posted by on September 9, 2011 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Sade – LIVE in San Diego, CA

What a treat to hear and see Sade live right here in San Diego at the Cricket Wireless amphitheatre (which happens to be just a quick 20-minute drive from our house).  Sade, a British-Nigerian singer, together with the opening R&B star John Legend, pulled off a perfect evening. MC, with her magical know-how purchased fantastic box seats where we were able to sit very comfortible around a nice sized private table area with a great up-close view of the stage. Oh — and it included VIP parking just steps away from the entrance and dinner too!

I absolutely love to listen to her music. She sung many of my fav’s including;    – Soldier Of Love  – Your Love Is King  – Kiss Of Life  – Smooth Operator  – Jezebel  – Is It A Crime?  – Nothing Can Come Between Us  – The Sweetest Taboo  – No Ordinary Love  – By Your Side.

Besides the awesome music, she had some stunning visuals that covered the entire back-drop of the stage.  I don’t think I have been to a better concert.


Posted by on August 26, 2011 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Windows Home Server 2011

Aug 2011 – I’ve been running Windows Home Server for a few years and it has provided a great system for backups and a media server.  Somewhere around April, Microsoft finally released it’s new version (code name Vail) which has been in the works for several years. Despite the many new features in WHS-2011, there has been lots of posts on complaining about the removal of Drive Extender which is Windows Home Server’s storage pooling technology that allows you to coombine multiple hard drives into one large storage array.

Windows Home Server 2011 is mostly Windows Server 2008 R2 with Service Pack 1. This means you have the latest and greatest underlying technology powering the server platform. And, as an added bonus, a bulk of the software being developed for Windows Server 2008 is going to work with Windows Home Server 2011. Not to mention the driver support for new hardware is much better and it includes support for all of the newer high-capacity hard drives. Although I was in no hurry to upgrade, it’s now August and time to take on a new project. I also have a failing 1.5 TB Samsung drive that I know I need to replace, plus — one of the cooling fans is making a bit on noise too. None of this was going to be easy due to the shear volume of data I have.  Roughly…. 3.5 TB of music, photos, movies, backups from several computers, etc.. This would take the whole weekend migrating everything over. Long story made short, I made a few mistakes (including formatting the primary drive with the index of all the files) but in the end,  everyting got moved over and running smoothly.  I also upgraded the version of SharePoint however the memory required may force me to upgrade the server. We’ll save that for another day.


Posted by on August 12, 2011 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Sony’s Dash & Best Buy’s InfoCast

The recent Best Buy Thanksgiving ad caught my eye on the Sony Dash and the Best Buy branded InfoCast. In short, they are internet connected devices that streams Facebook posts, internet music,  photos, weather and various Chumby (Flash Lite) apps — all on a nice touch screen.  The basics are the same between the models except the Sony has a 7″ capacitive screen and the InfoCast is a 8″ resistive touch screen.  They both run a unique version of the Chumby OS linux software implementation and connect to the internet via 802.11 A, B or G wilress. Sony version uses a tweaked version of the Chumby widget OS that is  not as open as most Chumby devices. However,  the Dash also adds in Sony’s Bravia Internet Video platform to support streaming media services like NetFlix, Pandora, and Slacker. NetFlix isn’t available on the InfoCast as yet. The reviews for the InfoCast and the Dash are mixed.  Many call the device a expensive alarm clock with only minimal 3rd party apps while others love the fact that it runs Linux 2.6 and open and is hackable. Engaget has a good review of the Sony Dash  here and the Infocast here. I have to admit that most of the apps (1,500) are worthless even though they are all free.  There are the few that standout and make the device worth the price tag.  The Sony Dash sell retail for $199 and the InfoCast (available only at Best Buy) sells for $169.  They were on sale for $129 and $99. So far I have only configured my Facebook account and NetFlix for the Dash.  Watching videos has been flawless. Next week I’ll open the InfoCast and give it a whirl.


Posted by on November 28, 2010 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Disneyland with the Italian Students

As some of you may know, we have two Italian high school students living with us for a few weeks. It’s part of a student exchange program at Joaquin’s school. MC, Joaquin and our two Italian students off to Disneyland for the weekend.

It started out as a day trip but the excitement got to them and they decided they were going to make it a two day event Park Hopper Tickets for Four…..

  • $600 Food & Lodging…..
  • $300 Gas (Expedition w/ 14 MPG) ….
  • $100 The smiles on their faces… Priceless!

Posted by on November 13, 2010 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Basia – Anthology San Diego

Great dinner and concert at Anthology here in San Diego.  Basia is a Polish singer-songwriter known for several Latin-flavoured jazz-pop crossover hits like ”Crusing For Bruising,” “Promises,” “Time & Tide,” “Drunk On Love” and “New Day For You.” Originally, our tickets were for the upper level.  Due to them over selling and a shortage of seats, we ended up on the first floor with fantistic seats.  Here’s a few YouTube video links of her music; Time & Tide: New Day for You:


Posted by on November 12, 2010 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Webelos Day 2010

Another fun scouting day.  Our Boy Scout Troop hosts a Webelos Day every year as a community service and recruitment activity. The event was held at Rohr Park in Chula Vista and attended by ~100 Webelos scouts and their leaders. Our scouts helped the Webelos boys earn their badges in:   – Citizen   – Naturalist   – Readyman   – Scientist


Posted by on October 24, 2010 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Alex & Julietta Wedding – Las Rocas Resort & Spa

Another great weekend in Mexico.  The wedding was at Las Rocas Resort & Spa in Rosarito (about 20 minutes South of San Diego). Alex and Julietta, who have been dating for a number of years finally decided to tie the knot with 200+ friends and family. The weather was a bit overcast but the light rain held off until after the vows. It didn’t take long after the reception for the party to kick in.  Lots of dancing to a live band and a crashing of the hotel bar for some karaoke.  More photos and karaoke videos to follow.


Posted by on October 17, 2010 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Houston, we have an Eagle!

On October 6th, 2010, Joaquin finally did it.  He has his eagle rank in Scouts.  Only 3% of all scouts achieve this top rank. His board of review was a panel of five members from BSA counsel who interviewed him and his accomplishments in scouting over the past years. For more information on Joaquin and his Eagle Project, go to our family site at


Posted by on October 6, 2010 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Giraffe Stone Plate

Twany, a good friend and co-worker introduced us to the Living Desert & Zoo in Palm Springs several years ago.  The place is fabulous.  The zoo has unique range of animals from Aardwolves, camels, dik diks, giraffes, hornbills, meerkats, rock hyrax, warthogs and zebras.  On their recent trip last week, she bough a gift for MC… a Kisli Stone Carving.  It is hand carved plate by tribes in Kenya. It’s a great addition to MC’s giraffe collection. More information on The Living Desert can be found on the web (Click Here)


Posted by on October 2, 2010 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Great Basin National Park Foundation

Another chance to show my web development skills.  PROJECT: Redesign the  The Great Basin National Park Foundation’s web site. Our President & COO is on the board of the GBNP foundation and wanted to revise the site.  His assistant provided me with a 23 page Powerpoint document wih the basic layout and content.  The site is clean looking and nothing fancy but it’s a great start for them.  I pulled the whole thing together in one weekend. It’s still in draft form and not all pages are complete. Check out the initial draft at


Posted by on October 1, 2010 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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The end for loud commercials?

CNet Article by Chris Matyszczyk You’re sitting there at home watching your favorite team toy with your emotions. Suddenly, an extremely loud voice assaults your ears: “You know what your 2:30 in the afternoon feels like…right?” At least that is the one commercial, peddling some fine caffeinated product called 5-Hour Energy, that, to my mind and ears, is louder than James Earl Jones shouting at a man who has just stolen his trousers in a cave. There is no excuse for this excess racket. There even exist gizmos that help mitigate viewers’ pain. Thankfully, it seems that sense might finally have prevailed on behalf of the senses. According to Ars Technica, the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act is very close to becoming law. It has passed the Senate and it needs just one more approval from the House for a little more peace to reign over your surround sound. The bill asks the Federal Communications Commission to modulate as it regulates. Ads should no longer be able to boom out at decibel levels far beyond that of the accompanying program. I am still troubled that the term used in the act is “substantially” as one person’s substantially can be another person’s slightly. However, Ars quoted Senator Chuck Schumer, a sponsor of the bill, as offering these calming words: “It’s about time we turned down the volume on loud commercials that try to startle TV watchers into paying attention. This is a simple step that will keep ads at the same decibel level as the programs they are interrupting.” It takes a truly sad human being to feel their ad is not good enough to be accepted for its creativity or the strength of its message, leading to the need to shout a little louder in order to make the sale. Unfortunately, there are too many salesmen who believe that this is the way to pick up girls, too.


Posted by on September 30, 2010 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Able Planet Headphones (NC500-SC)

One of my newest tech additions is the Able Planet noise cancelling headphones (model NC500-SC).  I got my first glance at these from a co-worker. She picked up a pair for the fantistic price of $49 on a one-day only purchase offer.  They sell anywhere from $149 on-line from places like Amazon, Newegg, CircuitCity and others. I found the price as high as $249. 

I looked for almost a week and couldn’t even get close to what she paid — that was until last week. AlphaShark offered them for $62. I only had about 27 minutes to buy before the offer went away.  Since I never shopped at AlphaShark before, I had to register and establish a new account.  Long story short, 10-days later I had them in my hands.  Wow–These are nice.  They are the typical over the head, full headphones but the sound is simply amazing.

Able Planet NC500SC Sound Clarity Noise Canceling Headphones
List of Specs and Features:

  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Sensitivity at 1 kHz; 115 dB (Off); 121 dB (On)
  • Plug: 3.5 mm
  • LINX AUDIO provides enhanced Sound Clarity for individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss
  • State-of-the-art active noise cancellation (ANC), to reduce undesirable sounds and background noise
  • In-line volume control enables easy adjustment to safe listening levels for hearing preservation
  • Operates as normal headphones when ANC function is turned off, or if batteries run out
  • Full-size ear cups with soft cushions swivel for maximum comfort
  • Lightweight adjustable headband provides superior fit
  • Removable Cord with 1/8″ and 1/4″ Stereo Adapters
  • Custom fitted carrying case

Posted by on September 26, 2010 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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BVHS-PTSA web site

Just finished adding the last few finishing touches to the new Bonita Vista High School’s PTSA web site. BVHS-Site Demo Check it out at: Next we’ll create their own domain name ( and then teach the PTSA officers how to maintain and update their new presence on the web. We are hoping that it brings a new communication method to the parents, students and BVHS community. Let me know your thoughts. Mike


Posted by on September 25, 2010 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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Art Walk on the Bay

With the Safety Congress event behind us (Thursday & Friday), we decided to stay at the hotel another day. From our room up on the 14th floor, we could see all of the activity in progress for the Art Walk on the Bay event that starts Saturday morning.  We thought it would be a great way to start out the weekend and enjoy a bit of San Diego. All we had to do is walk right out the front door of the hotel and we would be right in the middle of the event. Hilton Bay Front Hotel There were roughly 80-100 booths setup.  Some of the art work was simply amazing.  Many of the displays were paintings from acrylic to water-color, some wood decorative items and a number of custom glass artists.    A few hours later, we had covered the Art Walk event from one end to the other. As we started to head out, I noticed a corner booth that I thought we missed.  Wow, glad I noticed this little gem.  The artist, Gustavo Santana, makes etchings in glass all by hand. MC noticed a giraffe item that she wanted for her collection at home.  Well,  if she had to buy something, so did I.  We walked away with two of his prized glass works.


Posted by on September 18, 2010 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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2010 Safety Congress and Leadership Awards

MC and I spend the day at the 2010 Safety Congress and Leadership Awards with 400 of our closest friends from work.  Well, actually — we worked the event.  It started with the setup and rehersal on Thursday from 3:00PM until 9:00 PM and up again at 5:00 AM to get ready for our co-workers to show up at 6:30. All of the hard work everyone put into the planning and coordination of presentations, speakers, food, etc. etc.  allowed everything to be absolutely perfect. Although I only spent the past two days involved in the event, MC and a large cast of others have been working on this for months.  2010 Safety Congress & Leadership Awards  MC (left) and Zoraya (right)


Posted by on September 17, 2010 in Mike's Daily Ramblings

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