Archive for August 2013

Labor Day 2013

August 30, 2013

Well, Labor Day weekend is almost upon us once again. Somehow, it doesn’t feel like Labor Day. So I was thinking, why not?

First thing different is that Paula and I are retired. Have been now for a little over a year. So holidays don’t matter so much. I don’t have to go back to work on Tuesday. We have been out here in the LA area now for a little bit over a year. For Paula, this was coming home sort of. She still runs into people around Pedro that she went to high school with me, the only people I know out here are the folks at blue lodge and OES. Even when we were living in Billerica, there was no chance that I would ever run into high school or even college friends. The community is way too diverse.

Another difference is that back east I would be putting the boat away for the season. Summer’s over. It starts getting chilly fast. Certainly too chilly for being out on the boat. I no longer have a boat. I didn’t have the urge to get a new boat either. No place nearby to use it. Besides, the kids are all grown up and don’t have the time.

Now, let me tell you about the weather here in LA. September is hot. Heat will continue probably through mid October. Even here close to the ocean, the daily high temp is in low 90’s. Monsoon season is also starting. It doesn’t rain much, but when it does, it comes down in buckets. Riverside (East of LA) had major flooding yesterday. Click here for a local story on the flooding. Of course with the flooding comes mud. Lots of it. Sometimes the thunder storms don’t bring much rain. They bring forest fires. Luckily for us, we are not anywhere near the big fires this year.

So Paula was looking for something to do over the holiday weekend. One thing she found that looked interesting was a bus tour of Art Deco architecture around Long Beach done by the Long Beach Historical Society and the Queen Mary. Here’s a link to the Art Deco Society of LA.  Lots of interesting examples of Art Deco around LA. Unfortunately, the tour was sold out. I put a reminder in my calendar to check next year. There is also a big affair going on at the Battleship USS Iowa. I suggested that we wait and go on Tuesday or Wednesday when all the kids have gone back to school.

I received a flyer from the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra. Someone figured out that I like classical  music. I told Paula that a concert would be a good birthday present next March. There will be an all Brahms program with Piano Concerto No 2 in B Flat and Symphony No 1.  in C minor. I will be getting tickets ASAP.

That’s it for now. Have a great Labor Day weekend.


How to disable Game Notification on Facebook

August 20, 2013

A couple of days ago, i posted on Facebook about the annoyance of getting game notifications. I like FB. It allows me to keep up with news from my friends around the country that i would not be able to do otherwise.

But the constant game notifications is just plain annoying. I am happy that my many friends enjoy FB games. But as I stated before, I could care less about your latest exploits on Farmville or Candy Crush Saga.

I don’t think that you can disable all of the notifications, but you can get rid of them. Here’s how.

Open FB on your PC.  Click the “Games Feed” button on the left hand side of the page. You should see something like the following:

games feed


Then click the “friends” button under one of the games. It doesn’t matter which game. And you may have to do this more than once. This will give you a list of your FB friends who have played that particular game.

games feed 1


You should get a list something like the following:

games feed 2


Mouse over the “Friends” button. Then you should see a list of menu choices. I wasn’t able to get a screen shot, because my screen grab app can’t get a mouse over image. So you’re going need to follow along with the steps.

The are several menus and sub-menus on the Friends list. The first is “Get Notifications” after that you will see “Show in News Feed”. If “Show in News Feed” is checked, there should be a “Settings” item right underneath. Click on the “Settings” button. You then should see a list of items to be included in your “News Feed”

Unclick the “Games” item. Repeat the process on each FB friend listed in each game. This will eliminate most of the Game noise, but probably not all. It may take a while to get all of the game notifications. But sometimes you just have to do the unfriend thing. I try to judge the signal to noise ratio (or in some cases, the noise to signal ratio). You just have to judge if it is worth keeping a FB friend.

I hope you find this useful.


VPN Anyone?

August 19, 2013

You might say what the heck is a VPN? VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. VPN’s were originally developed to allow internet users access to the web from behind corporate firewalls. It was also used to allow home users access to corporate networks that were hidden by firewalls. Here is a much more detailed explanation of VPN’s on Wikipedia.

Okay, all well and good. Now VPN’s are used for several other purposes. Here’s a list. (by no means exhaustive).

  1. Security on public networks. If you use public internet access, say at your local Starbuck’s or local library, you are using a public internet. This means that other people with some clever tools can listen into what you are doing. The can see what sites you are visiting. They sometimes see the data you are transmitting. Using a VPN on public internet is a very good practice.
  2. Access to sites that are blocked. Some sites are blocked. Sometimes by governments (eg. China, Middle East), sometimes by corporations, and sometimes by ISP’s.

So there are private VPN’s operated by corporate IT departments and there are VPN’s that are public where you can purchase a license to use their service. I will be talking about the latter case, because that one is the most useful for the average user.

I first started thinking about VPN’s recently when CBS and Time Warner Cable (TWC) started a very public fight. The fight is over fees that CBS wants TWC to pay for the right to provide CBS to TWC’s customers. TWC customers could no longer watch CBS shows on their TV service. TWC also blocked access to CBS web sites on their internet service. I can’t do anything to fix the former problem (unless I buy an antenna or switch providers).  But I can do something about the internet service. I could of course switch TV and network providers, but that is a giant PITA.

The solution is to install a VPN on my laptop. There are several providers available. Most of the providers try a free “try before you buy” license, typically good for a few days. Currently, I am trying out “Avast Secure Line”, Seems to work. I can view the CBS sites. I need to try on MLBTV by attempting to watch games that are typically blacked out. It has free three day license. Then $42 for a year.

Here’s the screen shot of the Avast Secure Line:

avast secureline

iOS solution is a bit different. There are several iOS apps available. Search the App Store for “VPN”. Installation seems to be straight forward. The apps tend to be free. They typically limit initial free bandwidth to 300mb. So you get to try before you buy. After that you have to do in-app purchase to buy bandwidth. The privacy needs for my iPAD and iPhone are more important than my PC. I don’t take my laptop travelling very much. Most of the time it is plugged in to my home wifi. Here’s the link to the app store entry for “VPN Express“. There are other VPN apps. Try them and see what works.

2013-08-19 11.17.01

So my recommendation, get a VPN. Remember that freedom isn’t free, and neither is security. There is way too much snooping going on, Both by the government(s) and others. This is one additional way to keep people from snooping. Plus, now I can watch “David Letterman” and “Big Bang Theory”. VPN’s won’t prevent mail providers like Google or Yahoo giving the NSA the admin passwords to the mail servers. But it does plug an important hole in internet security.

I still need to try the VPN apps with MLBTV games that are blacked out for being local. For me that would be LA Dodgers and LA Angels. Not a real big deal. I only care about them when they’re playing the Boston Red Sox.

More on Hotels

August 5, 2013

During our trip last week we stopped at several different hotels. All of the hotels were mostly mediocre. We generally paid about $100 per night.

The worst hotel was the Primm Valley Resort and Casino (see my previous post on the subject.) We also stayed in two La Quinta hotels and one Best Western.

I made reservation for the La Quinta directly on their web site. The reservations for the Best Western and Primm Valley using and and are both aggregators. This means that they take the reservation and payment from you and deliver it to the hotel. Down side is you pay for your hotel stay when you make the reservation. They then pay the hotel when you check in. So if say, you make the reservation 30 days ahead, has your money for thirty days.

When you make a reservation directly (ala La Quinta), you don’t get charged until you check in.

Of course, (as we found out) that dealing with an aggregator, there is more chance for a screw up. ie. more people involved in the transaction.

La Quinta seemed to do pretty good on the basics. Both rooms were clean. Beds were comfortable. The free breakfast was rather meager. Though nothing would compare with the breakfast at the hotel we stayed in Memphis last year. Breakfast consisted of Krispy Kreme donuts (Max 2 to a customer) and coffee.

Breakfast at LQ consisted of cold cereal, toast, waffles, yogurt, juice and coffee. The Best Western had all of the above plus scrambled eggs, bacon and biscuits & Gravy.

All of the hotels we visited had WiFi, but the speed was generally putridly slow. Never exceeded 1Mb download speed. Most of the time it was about .5Mbps.

Of course, Primm Valley didn’t have WiFi. They don’t want you playing on the internet. They want you playing in the casino.


– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Hill Aerospace Museum (at Hill AFB)

August 4, 2013

After we had completed our tour of the Grand Lodge of Utah, we headed 30 miles north of SLC to visit the Aerospace Museum at Hill AFB. They have an amazing collection of aircraft and Air Force memorabilia. Admission is free. The are many volunteers that run the place and would be happy to talk with you about the place.

The museum is stored in two large hangars as well as airplanes stored outside. The first hangar is mostly related to WWI and WWII. The second is mostly Viet Nam and Korean War.

I think that is a C7. Hard to believe that it could ever get off the ground.

Beautifully restored B17. Not designed with creature comforts in mind.

P47 Fighter.

Boing-Stearman tail dragger. “Kaydat”. I never got the experience of flying a tail dragger. There are Stearman’s still flying. (probably not the military variety.)

Prototype Trinity atomic bomb replica used for testing.

MK6 Atomic bomb (replica) used in Japan.

P51 Fighter.

Early prototype ejection seat. I wonder who the test pilot was who got to go for the first test ride in this thing.

Anyone remember the TV series “Whirly Birds”? Also, as seen on MASH.

SR71. Man that thing is big.

Early jet engine prototype.

Several varieties of rotary wing hardware.

One of the aircraft used as “Air Force 1”. Type of aircraft used when the heavy iron not appropriate. I think this was a Lockheed.

If you are in the area, drop by. It’s worth doing especially if you are excited by airplanes. Or perhaps, you got to ride in one of these back in the day.


– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Hill AFB, UT

Grand Lodge of Utah

August 4, 2013

Last week we decided to drop by the Grand Lodge of Utah on S Temple Street in downtown Salt Lake City. The web site says that tours only on Friday’s. But we decided to give it a try. It turns out that another young couple had the same idea. So a nice man took pity on us and did a tour just for us. Here is the view of the front of the building.

We visited several lodge rooms, each with a different theme. The first that we entered was the “colonial” room. The east was designed like a front porch of a colonial house. The room had a real trestleboard for an altar. Each of the rooms had a real staircase with 3, 5 and 7 steps.

Next, we visited the Egyptian room. The backdrop in the east could be changed to suit the current use of the room. The room was then setup for a York Rite meeting. Notice again the staircase in the northwest corner.

Then we visited the middle-east style room.

There is a good size auditorium that can be used for larger meetings like Grand Lodge or Grand Chapter of OES.

Finally, a few more random pictures.

Tyler’s Desk

Art work on the columns in the dining hall. (what lodge would it be without a dining hall?) Note, the 3, 5, and 7 steps in the middle panel.

Grand Master’s apron.

Location:Salt Lake City, Utah

HotelCasino is a dirty word

August 2, 2013

Remind me never to stay in a HotelCasino in Nevada ever again. What a massive Fxxxup. More about that later.

First, we drove 450 miles today from Salt Lake City to Primm, Nevada. Straight shot down I-15. We got off at about 10:00am. Took some doing to get Mary K loaded with her luggage. Off we went.

We stopped for a break at about 100 miles. Then stopped for lunch at Cedar City. We went into a Denny’s. Denny’s is usually dependably average. We sat down. The waitress asked “One check or separate?”. Paula and i said one check, but Mary K says “put mine on a separate check” Mary K had yet to pick up a meal tab during the trip. So she decides to pay only for her meal. Not the whole check. Grrrr. This particular Denny’s was particularly bad. Several menu items were unavailable because they were waiting for the delivery truck.

So we take off on down the highway. We stopped for gas north of Las Vegas. It was an ARCO station the wouldn’t take my credit card because I didn’t have a PIN. So had to use my ATM card.

So we finally pulled into the Primm Resort & Casino. I had reserved two rooms with Travelocity. Primm only had reservation for one room. I would have let it go seeing as they had available rooms. But the rooms were prepaid through Travelocity, so I would have been out $45.

So the lady at the reservation desk at Primm says call Travelocity and have them fax the reservation again to 702-679-5159. So I get on the phone to Travelocity. Finally get through to them. Explain the situation. Give them all of the trip codes and reservation codes. I give them the FAX number. Only the Primm lady gave me the wrong fax no. It should have been 702-679-5195.

So after 25 minutes on hold the first time and 25 minutes on hold the second time we finally get it straightened out. Almost.

We get the second room. We asked for it to be close to the original room. He says sure. We ask for location on the room map. It couldn’t have been further apart. Well it was on the same floor. I asked him do you think these two rooms are close together? huh? I was out of fight.

So we have a sandwich at the sandwich shop. At off to the room to go to bed. We gave Mary K instructions on when we would meet for breakfast.

So tomorrow we have another 250 miles to get home. We will be happy to get home. Paula and I have sworn to each other that we will NEVER, NEVER, EVER travel with her again.

I truly hate hotel casinos. You have to go through the casino to find the check in counter. The noise is deafening. HotelCasino NEVER NEVER NEVER again.

So bottom line. Travelocity sucks and Primm Resort sucks too.

There I feel better already.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Primm, NV