Sunday, July 16, 2017

Electric or Gas

About a year ago, I installed 14 solar panels on my roof.  They do a pretty good job.  I still pay a little for electricity, but the panels produce the overwhelming majority of the electricity we use.

Right now, I have a full house.  That means we average 6 or more people in a week and about 3.5 dogs.  I say this because besides myself, there is my wife, mother-in-law and two daughters.  One lives here a bit over half time and the other half at their boyfriends parents.  Her boyfriend is here about half time.  There is a niece with a newborn that comes here to work remotely about 8 hours, five days a week.

You might wonder why I would mention dogs.  First we have three full time dogs.  2 Outdoor medium sized mutts, and one indoor psychotic mutt that is half Chihuahua and half Jack Russel Terrier.  Finally, my daughter and her boyfriend share a dog that is half Doberman.  I think the other half is Rhodesian Ridge Back.  It is a huge dog and is usually in doors cause of issues.  So why do I count them, because the remainder of my family seems to think that the big dog needs to TV running when we have to go out, so the dogs consume electricity.  Even the two outdoor dogs often have music playing to keep them calm.

At some point we will go from a full house, to an empty nest where it will be just my wife and myself and I am wondering what to do about electricity and gas.  First, we will be producing more electricity than we will be using and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is required to buy our surplus electricity and pay for it.  I can't wait for that first check from them.  I am going to get a picture of it, frame it and hang it on the wall!  I want everyone to know they finally paid me, instead of me paying them.

After that, then what?  I still pay for gas.  I buy my gas from another company, but it is sort of a joke.  PG&E still charges for using their pipes to deliver the gas and that costs more than the gas does.

So I made a list of the things I use gas for:
Wall Heater
Stove and Oven
Water Heater

Gas is still cheap, so I always have the option to just continue using gas for these things, but I will be producing more electricity than I consume, so here are some ideas that I have come up with:

Heater - I have a pellet stove in the living room, so that may be my answer.  There is a full heat pump (Electric heating and air conditioning system that is in the Sun Room and my In-laws bedroom.  At some point, we may need to move into that bedroom cause it is not up half a flight of stairs.  If I want more heat, I already have an nice electric space heater.  It is one of those oil filled radiators.

Stove/Oven - I really don't like electric ranges, but I hear the induction ones are very nice.  My wife already uses the toaster oven more than the gas oven, so we might keep it that way.

Water Heater - Is much larger than we need.  I might get two small ones, one for the upstairs and one for the down stairs and just turn them on when we need them.  I am thinking of doing that soon for my mother-in-laws bathroom now.  I could add a solar water heater.  The technology needed is so simple, even I can design one.

Dryer - We did have an electric dryer in the past when we rented.  It was ok, but not great.  I image they have improved over the years and we are willing to set up a clothes line in the backyard and drying racks in the sun room.

I still want to improve the insulation in the two attics we have and probably put an awning over our bed room window to keep it from getting too hot in the summer.

Those are my ideas for now.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

30th Anniversary - Cruise to Alaska

Day 1 (Saturday)  We flew from Oakland at 9am to Seattle.  For the first time on a vacation for us, we did not have to get up at 4am and go to San Francisco.  We arrived into Seattle, and took the hotel's shuttle to the hotel.  We Stayed at the Best Western Executel near the airport.  I thought for sure that we would have to check out luggage, so I told the clerk that we were there for our 30th anniversary.  We were able to go right to our room!

I had made reservations for a dining tour.  We took the light rail to Pikes Market.  The tour consists of visiting 6 different restaurants.  Walking to each one, while our tour guide tells us the history of the area.  You definitely walk off anything you eat.  We first discovered this type of tour when we went to Puerto Rico last year.  One exciting thing did happen.   We were at the place where they throw the first, enjoying smoked salmon.  I was right next to the guy who was catching the fish.  I noticed with each throw it was getting closer and closer to me, but I decided not to move.  Yep, I got smacked with the fish.  Right in the face.  It didn't hurt, but the guy was so worried that he had hurt me.  When we returned to our hotel room, there was a card wishing us a happy anniversary signed by the individual staff members.

Day 2 (Sunday) We take the shuttle to the cruise ship.  The process of getting on went a lot quicker than I had expected.  We took Holland America.  The only other cruise we had been on was with Carnival and that ship was huge.  It was like a city.  Our ship held less than 1,300 people.  It was much more intimate, which we liked.  It was more like a town, and we got to know people.

I am prone to sea sickness, so we started taking sea sick pills right away.  This meant that we slept more than we wanted and missed a few events that we would liked to have attended.  One of the very first things we did was take a tour of the ship.  I recommend this to anyone who takes a cruise.  It saves a lot of time not getting lost.  The ship was beautiful and funny enough, our room was very large, though the beds were not.  The food was great, the crew was great and the views were amazing.

We woke up really early by chance on the day that we visited the glaciers, so we went up to the crows nest and sat in the two lounge chairs that are right in front.  We stayed there most of the day, till we arrived at the glaciers, when the opened the bow for us so we could go outside and get an amazing view.  The place was called Tracy Arm.  There were so many icebergs, so many animals, whales, sea lions, dolphins, bald eagles ...etc.  The ice was so blue, absolutely beautiful.

Our first port of call was Juneau.  There we had two major excursions:  The first was the dog sled camp.  You could ride a sled in the snow, but it requires a helicopter ride to the top of a glacier.  This is a lot more expensive and my wife is afraid of helicopters.  At the camp, the sleds are on wheels, but the dogs are the same.  We got to meet one of the mushers that will be in the Ididitarod next year.  We got to check out the gear and play with the puppies.  They were so cute and we had a great time.

Next we went on a whale watching tour.  We saw lots of hump back whales, and bald eagles.  The problem is that I tried to take pictures, but whales are quick and the boat was rocking.  I only got a few pictures, and they weren't that great.

The second port of call was Sitka.  There is port at Sitka, so they ferry us in on small boats to the small dock.  It is a beautiful place with islands all over the place.

From there we took the local shuttle to visit the Bear Fortress.  This is where the rehabilitate bear cubs that loose their mom.  Interesting that Alaska is one of the few states that shoot bear cubs that loose their mom.  The Bear Fortress is a non-profit organization.  They are going great work, and the space they have is 17 times the average amount of space a bear would have at a zoo.  All of the bears seem so happy, so playful.

From there, we visited the Raptor Center where they help injured Eagles, Hawks, Falcons, Owls ...etc.  Again, they do great work.  Those birds are amazing.

The next port of call was Ketichan.  There we bought a few souvenirs and we waited until all of the tours left.  There is an office there, where all of the tour companies have a counter.  I negotiated a really good price for us.  We were going to be there last customers of the day.   We ended up getting a private tour.  I explained that we really did not care about the stops they normally make, we wanted to see a bear in the wild.  Util then, I had never seen a bear in the wild.  It is on my bucket list and one of the things I felt entitled to.

Our tour guide brought us to a place she new where the fishery was and she showed us where to look.  During that time, she was looking around trying to find a bear.  Next thing you know, she comes over to us, white as a sheep.  While looking behind us, a bear came out to cross the road.  Apparently both our guide and the bear were very surprised.  So, our guide tells us where the bear will come out.  This time, I decided not to try and take pictures, just enjoy the view.  Sure enough, the bear appeared and we watched it cross the meadow, taking its time.  We watched till it dissipated from view.  It was magic.

We went and looked at the totem poles before returning to the ship.

The last port of call was in Victoria, BC.  Here we took the bus into the downtown.  Where we checked out the Empress Hotel. Wow, amazing.  After, we walked out of the tourist area and went to a Tim Hortons, which is a famous doughnut shop franchise.  My family loves their coffee, so we bought some.  Then we went to a regular grocery store and bought some bottles of maple syrup.  We love real maple syrup and they sell it in these beautiful bottles for so much less that we pay in California.

The final day, we returned to Seattle.  It was great because we were able to check our bags in on the ship and get our boarding passes.  We flew home and spent one day recovering before going back to work.

It was a Happy 30th Anniversary.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Eulogy of Edgardo Sing 2015

On behalf of the family, I would like to thank all of you for attending either the viewing or this service today. It means a lot that so many would take the time during a work week to attend and show your respect for this great man from another century.

Uldarico Edgardo Sing Huapaya was born in 1919.  This was one year after the end or WWI.

We was born in Mala, Peru.  In case you don't speak Spanish, that translates to "Bad Peru".  That is where I learned to speak my "Bad Spanish".

His father was from Canton China and his mother was a Peruvian Indian.  Edgardo, as he was known, did not have an easy childhood.  He lost his mother at age 5, and his father passed away when he was 15.  With only a 5th grade education, he began to work with automobiles.  Keep in mind that at this time, few people had cars, especially in Peru.  This sort of made him a geek of sorts.  Was he the Sheldon Cooper of his time?

Edgardo was determined not to repeat the mistakes of his parents.  He took an interest in a 12 year old girl that was the friend of his younger sister, Elsa.  He found the only girl completely different from himself.  Her father was from Canton China, and her mother was a Peruvian Indian .... and Chinese.  They would wait until she turned 18 to get married.

One measure of a man is the family he leaves behind.  In this case, Edgardo and Lina ... okay, mostly Lina had: Santiago, Lina, Carmen, Ceci, Martha and Juan.  Unfortunately, when you live to 95, you run the risk that you may outlive some of your children.  In this case, both Ceci and Santiago passed away before he did.  Again, Edgardo did not have an easy life, but he always worked hard to take care of his family.  

Edgardo did not have a degree, but he seemed to know about everything.  When he retired at almost 80, he focused on growing fruits and vegetables.  He raised chickens and turkeys, including Poncho.  The largest, meanest turkey I have ever known.  We eventually got even with Poncho at a Thanksgiving dinner.  

All of the animals would follow Edgardo around the garden all day long.  As Edgardo grew older, he would fall down.  When this would happen, one dog in particular, Queenie would lay down with him and protect him until help found him.  Eventually, he fell down so much that he had to retire from the garden.  

Those who know me, know that I strive to be "Green", but I was nothing compared to Edgardo.  He found ways to reuse almost anything, which he stored an a little know residence called "#4".  For those of you who do not know about #4, think of it as his version of the Western White House.

Edgardo's greatest accomplishment was the love he gave to his family and the values and wisdom he passed on to them.  He made each grandchild feel like they were the center of the universe.  He leaves behind, Aaron, Lobelly, Aranja, Nina, Adrianna, Alejandro, Lila, Ceci, Enrique as well as Carlos and Kike, who both serve in the Air Force of the United States of America.  In addition, he leaves behind one great grandson, Sam.

When it came time to retire, Lina and Edgardo chose to live with us in California.  I can never express how grateful I am, that my daughters came home every day from school to family.  They are both fluent in Spanish, to the annoying point that they like to let me know that they speak Spanish much better than I do.  In the end, when Alzheimer stuck, the children both decided to quite their jobs to take care of the grandparents full time.  

You might think that these older people of the last century, last millennium, were not technical at all.  Well, let me tell you.  They Skped and they Skpyed a lot.  They have Skyped on Laptops, tablets and Smartphones.  They Skyped In the house, with a mouse ...  Sorry, not sure how Dr Suess got in there.  During birthday parties, the family in Peru would be singing along with the rest of us, right there on Skype.  In fact, Skyped contacted us about their story.  Such techies! 

I have heard people say ... I will never put my family in a home.  It is not that easy!  My family suffered greatly dealing with the evils of Alzheimer's.  Thank God, most people will never experience how truly awful this disease is.  Break down, after break down.  Carmen, Lila, Ceci and Martha, would dust themselves off, and the very next morning, they would be back tending to the needs of Edgardo.  We lost Edgardo over a year ago, but his body finally left us this week.

Lina, our heart goes out to you.  This December you would have been married for 70 years.  Imagine that. Lina, we all know this loss is devastating to you, but remember you are surrounded by family.  Family that flew in from Panama, Peru and Turkey to be with you.  When you look at the faces of your family, you will see Edgardo and he is here in the hearts and minds of all of us.  You will be surrounded by love until it is your time to join Edgardo.  

Edgardo, may you rest in peace

Thursday, May 9, 2013

New Phone

I am not one of those people that buys a new phone every year.  I don't like buying new phones, computers or cars, but every so often, it becomes necessary.  I used to have a HTC EVO 4G.  I got mine the very first day it came out.  In fact, I was the second customer in the store the day they went on sale. At the time, the EVO 4G was the most powerful phone out there.  It had a huge screen and was the only one that had 4G.  One major flaw with the phone, is that the battery was the same batter that HTC had used in all of it's phones.  This was ridiculous.  This powerful phone, using so much more electricity than any model they had ever produce before had the same battery.  Running out of battery half way through the day was a daily event.  I finally got on Amazon and found an after market battery that had twice the capacity.

With smartphones and computers, after a couple of years, you really feel their age and it was time to get a new phone.  I had become so frustrated with my EVO 4G.  Naturally, I looked at what else HTC, had.  The HTC One.  Made out of steel, is something I like.  I really use my phones and they take a beating, but what I did not like, is that the screen size was almost the same as what I was already useing.  Then I found out something that made me sick.  They changed the design so that you could not replace the battery, nor could you add memory.  The two key reasons why I did not buy an iPhone.

Google, bought the cell phone portion of Motorola and they are coming out with a phone, but again, the screen was not very big.  I really love Google and Motorola and American companies, but I'm old, my eye sight is not great and I need a bigger screen.

I have noticed that Samsung, seems to really be on the cutting edge of smartphones these days.  The one thing I don't like is that their phones are made of plastic.  I got down to the Galaxy 4s and the Note 2.  I loved all of the extra neat things in the 4s, but the screen size of the Note 2, solved my problem.  I purchased a extra tough case and insurance that fixes my phone anytime it gets damaged 

Getting all of my apps and data has proven to be a lot easier than I had feared.  So, the honeymoon is on.  I love my Note2!

Monday, April 22, 2013

To My Nephew Charlie : James Bond

Recently, my nephew Charlie has been producing a series of reviews of the James Bond movies.  He has done an excellent job and I am very proud of him.  He has his own page on YouTube, which you can visit.  For those of you who are not part of our family, or who have not been paying attention for the past 21 years, Charlie's real name is David Charles Bear 2, so his Youtube page is titled David Bear.  

Charlie is not really a film critic as he is a film reviewer, which I think is more noble in that he doesn't spend most of his time complaining about movies but really enjoys them and talking about them..  Charlie's  has a very structured way about presenting his film reviews.  He states that what is presented is only his opinion, yet backs up his opinions with facts.

So, why am I writing this?  First, while I listen to Charlie's reviews and nod in agreement with his logic, I find myself disagreeing with a number of his conclusions.  I would never do a series of reviews on my own.  After all, my nephew has already done this and has done a far better job that I ever could.  What this is, is a collection of facts.  Yes, my opinions are facts.  I am his uncle and not a film reviewer who has to worry about such things as credibility  If I list any facts, that are not quite correct .... well, don't confuse me with the facts!

Let's start with some fluff.  When it comes to theme songs, there is only one clear winner; Live and Let Die.  Hello?  That is Paul "I am a Beatle" McCartney" and that song rocks!  Way further down the list there are other classics such as Goldfinger, but really.  Live and Let Die could and should be the theme song of every James Bond movie.

Bond girls?  The winner is clear, Dianna "Emma Peel" Riggs.  She was not only beautiful, but tough.  She could kick your butt before it became popular for good looking women like Sharon Stone and Angelina Jolie.  Sure there are others like Ursula Andress, but they really are not in the same league.  The only one that even got close, was Hallie Berry.  Again,  just like Live and Let Die should be the theme song of every Bond movie,  Dianna Riggs or Halle Berry should be in every Bond movie.

Favorite Felix Lighter, the original Jack Lord is hard to beat, but the current one is Jeffrey Wright is pretty good.

There have been so many great Bad Guys such as Gert Frobe as Goldfinger, Harold Sakata and Robert Shaw.  Lotte Lenya was so memorable, that she was spoofed in the Austin Powers movies as Frau Farbissina.  A lot of actors played Ernst Blofeld, but I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Donald Pleasance

How about those "Other Bond Movies"?  Such as Never Say Never, Casino Royale, On Her Majesty's Secret Service and the Life and Times of  Ian Fleming.

Never Say Never is a great Bond movie.  Why?  Sean Connery.  Hello?  Never Say Never came out way after Roger Moore was James Bond.  It seemed that every Roger Moore movie was sillier and sillier.  Never Say Never, is what brought me back to Bond, James Bond.  It was the only Sean Connery James Bond movie that I was old enough to buy my own ticket and see it in the theater.

Casino Royale, the first one is a classic James Bond is spoofed.  What a cast!  David Nivens, Peter Sellers, Orsen Wells, Woody Allen, Deborah Kerr, William Holden, John Houston, Jacqueline Bissette and Ursula Andress?  It was funny as heck and deserves a special mention and yes it is a Bond movie.

I put On her Majesty's Secret Service in this special category.  In many ways it was the best and the worst Bond film ever.  If only Sean Connery had played James Bond.  Emma Peel and Telly Savalas were outstanding. It was enough to make them bring Sean Connery back for Diams are Forever!

The Life and Times of Ian Fleming is the story of the author of the James Bond series, Ian Fleming.  Ian Fleming had a very interesting life, that is what inspired him to write the James Bond series.  Ian Fleming was played by Jason Connery; the son of Sean Connery.  I'd watch this movie anytime over more than half of the other James Bond movies.

So, who was the best James Bond?  Simple, it is Sean Connery.  Next, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig and then Roger Moore. I have to stop here, because Roger Moore was actually Ian Fleming's choice of actors to play James Bond.  Fortunately, Ian passed away before he could see what Roger Moore did to James Bond.  To be fair, a lot of the problem for Roger Moore was the silly stories and poor writing.  Finally a special place in James Bond hell is reserved for Timothy Dalton.  If I were asked if I'd like to have my finger nails pulled out or watch a Timothy Dalton James Bond movie, I'd need some time to think about it.

When it comes to the movies, I tend to group them by who did them.  The worst are the Timothy Dalton movies, The Living Dayligths. and License to kill, although I find common ground with Charlie, by pushing those movies up by one and agreeing that the Quantum of Solace was the worst Bond movie of all time.

As for the best Bond movie ever, it is and will always be the first movie Dr. No. It set the tone and it broke all the rules.  My second choice is From Russia with Love.  I know a lot of people have Goldfinger as their number one choice.

All of Sean Connery's movies go right to the front of the list.  If I was ever annoyed by anything in any of his movies it was the surgery to make him look Japanese and think that they pulled it off in any way shape or form.  In general Pierce comes next.  Golden Eye, brought life back to this dieing series of films.  It went on too long, but that seems to be a trend in many action movies.  I really loved the last one he did "Die Another Day".  It was a shame that Pierce could not have enjoyed movies with better story lines.

Roger Moore brought such bad humor to the Bond series of movies.  His best were Live and Let Die, remember the "Cola or the Uncola nut".  In a View to a Kill.  Who could take their eye off of Grace Jones?

George  Lazenby did what any of wish we could of.  He was a model who heard that Sean Connery was out.  Went and got a hair cut so that he could look like him and got to be James Bond for one film!  I can't get angry at him at all.  It was like he won a contest on one of those reality shows.

Daniel Craig, the first half of Casino Royale is one of the best, but the end of that movie... Venice ... sigh.  The thing is that Sky Fall is a master piece.  It fixed all of the problems with the Daniel Craig series.  It brought back Q and Moneypenny. M dies in the line of action.

Timothy Dalton, ... oops just threw up.  Well, you know how I feel about him and his bond movies.  His two movies, were three too many!

Reflection:  When they next reboot the series, they should do, as my dad says, the books!  Set back in the times they were originally written.  It could be cool ... like cool jazz!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Venezuela - It's About the Middle

Those of us who live in the USA, like to call ourselves Americans.  Being an American does not just mean that you live in the United States of America.  Being an American means that we love freedom and we seek out justice and hate corruption.  We are not the only Americans.  Ask anyone from Mexico, Peru, Venezuela or Argentina.  They are Americans too.  They will point out that South America is part of the Americas and that is true, but it is not what is important.  What is important is that they share our same values.  They really are just like us.  They desire the level of freedom that we enjoy.  They want justice and hate corruption.

When Hugo Chavez first came to power, in Venezuela, he targeted the poor.  He started providing subsidised food, housing and transportation.  This sounds very noble until you realize that he was taking over and shutting down ranches and farms.  Venezuela purchases virtually all of its food from other countries.
If you said something or did not vote they want, you are off the list.  You see wasn't helping the
poor, he was controlling them through hunger and the need for housing ..etc.   If this was not bad enough, Chavez has been trying to add to be poor by attacking the middle class and this is where Chavez went wrong.  Despite their efforts to control information by taking over the media and rewriting the history books used in school, the Internet and specifically Social Media is the big leak in the damn.  With each election, the numbers continue to leave Chavez and his thugs.

It is all about the middle.  Whether it is the middle class or middle age.  It is one thing when young people, and especially students protest.  It is completely something else when their parents, uncles, aunts and even grand parents protest.  When the mid-aged take the streets to call you out, your government is in serious trouble.  You better know, that you have done wrong and in a big way.  When you have lied, cheated, stolen and wronged people so much that people in their 30's, 40's, 50's and beyond take to the street and stand up against your thugs in uniforms and and guns, you must know that your time is up.  You have crossed a line.  It is time for you to leave.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Socialism and Venezuela

I recently returned from Venezuela.  During this last trip President Hugo Chavez passed away.  I first went to Venezuela during the early 80's and have spent time there before and during the time that Chavez was in power.  Venezuela is a country that proudly claims to be a socialist country.

Venezuela is a beautiful country of mostly hardworking honest people, but the Chavez government is dreadful.  I could talk about their control over people using the food supply.  I could talk about the increase crime, especially concerning murder and kidnapping or how the senior generals in the military are lining their pockets by giving safe passage through their country to drug traffickers all of which are very serious, but I won't.

Instead, let's look at the media.  The Chavez government has taken control of most of the media, shutting down or taking over those that oppose his views.  Controlling information, re-writing history books, making outrageous claims over and over until many people don't know any better and believe the lies.  Billboards are  splattered all over the place proclaiming how great Chavez is, sometimes whole buildings are painted to achieve this purpose, but there is a hole in the dam.

It seems that Venezuelans are addicted to the Internet, especially social media.  It is amazing how many have smartphones and use them.   The truth is starting to spread and the opposition is making significant headway as the truth becomes known.

To my friends on the left.  If you think Chavez was good for Venezuela.  You don't know.  My friends in Venezuela are in what is left of the middle class,  They lived through the Chavez government each and every day.  To my friends on the right who think Obama is a socialist. You don't know.  I would take Obama or Bush any day of the week and twice on Sunday.  If you think I am wrong go visit a real socialist country like Venezuela.

So here is the lesson.  If any one posts a comment that I don't like.  I will delete it, just like Chavez deleted the press when they expressed opposing views.

Good luck to the people of Venezuela as you take back your country!