Saturday, June 30, 2012

Phony phones

6 AM - Phony phones
Yesterday I was getting pretty snippy with everybody. Because I found out yesterday just how much I have been getting screwed over by phone companies. Both here in the United States and in Mexico. 

Phone companies are not honest. In fact, I would label phone companies as being crooked. They lie, cheat and do just about anything to sell a phone.

I bought three phones in recent months. Two in Mexico. One here in the USA. Both phones in Mexico were sold as being brand new. In fact, they were old phones. For example the Samsung GT-S5830L was first released in March, 2011 and I got it with the Android 2.3.4 operating system, released in April, 2011. This Samsung was sooooo bad! I could not even hang up a phone call because the screen disappeared during a call.

I did not comprehend how bad this Samsung GT-5830L phone was until I bought another "brand new" phone from AT&T a couple of days ago. The AT&T phone is the Huawei-U8652 Android version 2.3.5. This Huawei was sold as being unlocked. In fact, it is locked. The U8652 was first produced in June, 2011 and came with Android 2.3.5 released July 2011. This Android version is not even supported anymore!

AT&T lied to me and told me that the Huawei was unlockable and all that I needed to do was phone AT&T customer service to get it unlocked. This was a damned lie! 

Let the buyer beware
I am not completely green. I understand the concept, "Let the buyer beware!" Well, I am aware now. And I do not believe even one thing that any of these phone companies claim, tell me, or advertise. Not anymore!

12 Noon - Lunch with family
One of my family members has been doing big favors for me by accepting deliveries at her home, depositing checks and forwarding mail. We went out for lunch today as a small reward for all of these favors. It was a good lunch at a Japanese restaurant with a habachi grill.

Another close family member went with us. This was a very good time!

2PM - Courtyard Marriott Hotel
I'm checked into the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in Pleasant Hill, California. For many years, this area was my home. I've returned here to visit a couple of friends.

Paul Gouveia is one of those friends. Paul was my partner in restoring the Veterans Monument during the 1990s.

Glenn Marchand is the other friend. Glenn was a journeyman cabinetmaker at the Emminger Corporation while I was working there during the latter 1990s.

I hope to visit with both of them.

Clear sky

Friday, June 29, 2012

Santa Cruz Diner

9AM - Santa Cruz Diner
There is no doubt that the restaurant that I like best here is Santa Cruz Diner. Because it is one of the old fashioned restaurants. Big portions. Not expensive. And, a huge counter to sit at and watch all of the action!

We are going to Santa Cruz Diner this morning. And I am sooooo excited about that!

11AM - A tree on West Cliff Drive
Except for memories, there is no way to get close to a loved one who has departed this Earth. That thought does not keep us from trying to get close.

And so, this morning after breakfast, I drove to that tree on West Cliff Drive where we scattered David's ashes. And remembered...
Dad at the tree on West Cliff Drive

Blue sky

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Family time

6AM - Time with family
The plan for the next few days is to spend time with family. Telling this story may be a bit challenging for our blog. Because these family members have asked not to be written about or pictured in our blog. 

We do not know exactly how we will do it, but somehow we hope to tell you what is going on.

1PM - Breakfast
We shared a lovely breakfast with family. Omelettes with cheese, onions, avocado, home made chili. Fresh orange juice. Really great time.

Right now I am checking into my room at the Best Western Plus Inn at Scotts Valley. The plan is to remain at this hotel for our two day visit to Santa Cruz.

3PM - BofA credit card
I dropped in at a Bank of America here in the City of Santa Cruz to ask for a credit card. You may recall that I was refused a rental car at Avis last week because I only had debit card. Bank of America approved my credit card application. But even this credit application was not straightforward!

It seems that in order to have credit, you must use credit. This is easy to do. Simply use a credit card to make purchases and pay the amount owed each month on time.

BofA is giving me what they call a "credit-builder" credit card! Imagine that!? Building credit at 74 years of age. Will wonders ever cease?

5PM - Supper
One family member is a terrific cook. Especially with Japanese food. And prepared sushi for supper. From raw ingredients just like in a restaurant. Came out great too!
Sushi rolls



Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Push north

8AM - Big push north
This morning after breakfast at Aunt Shirley and Uncle Seymour's home, we will head north out of Santa Barbara. This afternoon when we stop for the nite, we will have driven over 200 miles and be in the City of Monterey, California.

This Big Push North is a challenge for me. As you may know, I get "highway hypnosis" or "white line fever" kind of easily. The only cure that I have found for myself when this happens, is to immediately pull over and stop driving.

I've made a deal with myself never to look for a more convenient pull-over place. When I feel the fever coming on, I pull over right now and take a rest.

12 Noon - Two+ rants! 
Rant #1 - Bank of America and Quicken: 
A few months ago I upgraded Quicken 2001 to Quicken 2012. While using Quicken 2012, an ad popped up asking if I would like to subscribe to "Quicken Online Backup". A Free Trial, the ad offered.  So, I accepted this free trial.

It turned out that Quicken's Online Backup was terrible. Just a rotten software routine. Not intuitive. Not anything, as far as I was concerned. I rejected Quicken Online Backup with a scathing email. And guess what happened? About a month later I received a "Thank you" email from Quicken telling me that my account would be charged $9.99 for the service that I had NOT ordered!!

So, I contacted Quicken to tell them that I had not ordered backup. But Quicken's phone system would NOT connect me to a human. Instead directed me to their website. Bummer! Well, I know enough to understand when I am getting the run-a-round. And instead phoned Bank of America to reverse the charge.

And I actually got BofA to reverse the charge. But right at the end of the phone call with BofA, the lady says to me, "Your card will be cancelled and we will mail you a new card!" "NO, NO, NO!" I replied. "I don't want my card cancelled. Just the charge reversed." "We always cancel the card when there is fraud', she replied. "There is no fraud, just a mistake!", I countered. "I am sorry, but this is fraud. The card is cancelled".

You know something, I just do not understand a company whose supposed Customer Service people do not listen! So, this morning I went to a local BofA and got a new card issued to me.

Rant #2 - AT&T:
Yesterday I wrote to you about going to a local AT&T store in Santa Barbara. I got a new Android phone that works sooooooo much better than my Mexican Telcel Samsung Android, that you would not believe.

I tell the sales guy at AT&T that I do NOT want a discount for the phone. I want to pay full price and get an unlocked phone. "No problem!", he tells me. "Just phone customer service within 60 days and they will unlock the phone.

So, this morning I phone AT&T Customer Service and the lady tells me, "This phone cannot be unlocked. Wow!

So, I get the sales guy on the phone and we are having a 3-way conversation with me, the AT&T customer lady and the AT&T sales guy in Santa Barbara. A case number was opened for my complaint. There are more digits in this case number than there are stars in the entire Universe!

Companies that operate today just cannot seem to hardly get things right. I feel damned sorry for them.

5PM - Best Western Ramona Inn
We are now in our room at the Best Western Ramona Inn in the City of Monterey, California. It was a tough drive for me because of my sleeping sickness. Seems to be getting worse!

The room is nice. Got a nice bath tub. One of the first things that I shall do is soak in that tub!


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Phone puzzle

7AM - Phone puzzle
What I would like to have when visiting the United States, is a phone that costs very little to use and contains my Google directory of all my contacts. So far, I've not solved this phone puzzle. I've tried a couple of things, but do not like the results.

The first thing that I tried, was to simply use my Telcel phone. That worked! But it costs a fortune to use that phone. This Telcel phone method cost $50US in only two days! Hmmmm? Bummer!

The 2nd thing that I tried was to buy a phone card. That worked too! But not very good. This phone card required keying in the PIN and the phone number that I was trying to call. Too much trouble!

It seems that I should be able to get an Android phone that would be pay-as-you-go and would receive my Google phone directory. But for some unknown reason, I've not been able to find such a phone. Not yet, anyway!

12 Noon - AT&T
Here is what happened this morning. I went to the Santa Barbara AT&T store because on the Telcel phone it read: At&T/Telcel. I asked the AT&T guy if he could put a Sim card into the Telcel phone. "Yes!, if the phone is not locked". However, when the AT&T guy checked the Telcel phone, he found that it was locked.

"You will have to get another phone", the AT&T guy told me. So, I got another phone. It is an Android phone, same as the Telcel phone. With this AT&T phone, I bought an unlimited "pay-as-you-go" plan.

I got my contact list from Google transferred to this new AT&T phone. Everything seems to be working now. Praise be The Lord!

4PM - Uncle Seymour's art work
Uncle Seymour has maybe 15+ pieces of metal artwork around his home. Some readers like Seymour's art and have asked for more pics. Here are a few!

Blue sky

Posted from the hills above Santa Barbara, California

Monday, June 25, 2012

Shirley Seymour

6:30 - Visiting Shirley and Seymour
Our next visit is with Aunt Shirley and Uncle Seymour who live in the hills above Santa Barbara. I am invited for breakfast this morning. Always a good time at Shirley and Seymour's place. It takes about 40 minutes to drive from the Best Western Hotel in Oxnard to the hills of Santa Barbara. We set our alarm to give us enough time to make this blog post, pack up our stuff and get on the road.

I just stuck my head out the hotel room door. It is is a gorgeous day! Blue sky. Perfect for driving.

BTW, some readers have been worried because I took four naps yesterday. I took naps because of not getting enough sleep during the nite. But yesterday I bought some "Sleep Aid Tablets" at the Ralph's Grocery. This Sleep Aid stuff has Doxylamine in it. Don't know what this does exactly. But I got a good nite's sleep after taking one of these pills. If it works, I'll let you know!

9:30AM - Seymour's art work
I arrived at Seymour and Shirley's home 15 minutes late. There was traffic on the freeway! But, they waited for me to arrive before starting to eat. Breakfast was turkey sausage, eggs, toast. Aunt Shirley eats healthy!

Seymour designs and constructs metal art work. His designs are quite intricate. And I don't know why they are so intricate? Seymour does not tell me why. He just tells me, "I make what is on the drawing!"
An art work from Seymour

2PM - Machining up some art
Later in the afternoon, Seymour was working on this current art project. As a young man, Seymour was a machinist. In his home workshop, Seymour has a complete machine shop.

In the pic below, Seymour is milling up a component of his current art work.
Machining art

Clear sky

Posted from somewhere in the hills above Santa Barbara

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Breakfast Dave

8AM Breakfast with Dave
I've been friends with Dave Diamond from before we both were born. Dave's Mom was best friends with my Mom. And both of our Moms were named, "Anne". Dave and I were both born in November, 1937 in the tiny part of East Los Angeles called, "City Terrace".

When Dave and I were babies, our Moms would walk together in City Terrace pushing our Taylor Tots. We both grew up in City Terrace. Both went to City Terrace Grammar School together. And remained pretty close with each other all of our lives.

This morning I am going to breakfast with Dave Diamond. My longest friendship in my whole life.

Dave's younger brother Charlie wants to go to breakfast with us. So, of course I was very happy to say, "Yes" to Dave's question about inviting Charlie! I have known Charlie most of my life. He is about four years my junior and a really nice guy. Charlie owns an RV too!
Dave and Charlie Diamond
(Freddie the dog)

4PM - Best Western Plus in Oxnard
We visited with Dave and Charlie until about 1pm, and then headed north for our next hotel, the Best Western Plus in the City of Oxnard.

I really like these "Plus" rooms. There is a tiny kitchen. A nice bath tub. Big TV.

If you are getting the impression that I'm enjoying myself on this trip, you are "right-on!" I love staying in hotel rooms. Love visiting with friends. The only thing that is a struggle for me is the driving. Because I fall asleep soooooo easily. For this afternoon's trip from Newport Beach to Oxnard, I had to pull over and nap at least four times!

Clear Sky

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Phone and internet

7AM - Phone and internet
Yesterday I left the Samsung phone charger in my Heritage Inn hotel room in San Diego. The charger must have slipped out of the pocket of my travel bag, because I know that I put the charger in the bag. This morning in ShoutBox, reader TammyR suggested to go to the front desk at Howard Johnson Hotel, and ask them for a charger. Would you believe that they had a huge box of chargers? And found one for my Samsung phone? Wow! Thank you soooooo much TammyR!

Phone service: Guess what? The Telcel phone from Mexico is working for me here in California. I do not know how or why it is working. But am sooooo happy that it is! When the phone turns on, in the screen's upper corner it reads, "AT&T/Telcel". The phone is able to dial other phones. And, when somebody phones my number, the phone rings. Go figure? The phone stores that I asked about this tell me that what happened is not possible. But it happened anyway!

Verizon Internet Access: Yesterday afternoon I took my Verizon Modem USB stick to a local Verizon store and asked for a pay-as-you-go account. You may recall that this is the 2nd time that I went to a Verizon store with the same request. The first Verizon store could not do it. Something about a network problem.

However, yesterday, the Verizon store in San Diego was able to install a new Sim chip into my Modem USB device. And the new Sim chip only cost $5US! So now I have a very fast internet connection from Verizon, almost everyplace that I go. Pretty neat, huh?

6PM - Extended Stay America
We have checked in to our room at Extended Stay America near the John Wayne Airport near Santa Ana, California.

We spent a very nice afternoon with Cousin Jacky. Talking about old times, going out for Chinese food. Good time! We talked about  being the last of our generation. And still being vertical and above the ground. That's what people talk about sometimes, when they get to their middle 70s!

Clear sky

Friday, June 22, 2012

Solar house car

7AM - Solar house and car!
My very good friends, John & Mimi, have a solar powered house and car! The solar panels, batteries and solar equipment were bought and installed during the past year. Then, several months ago, John & Mimi bought a Mitsubishi Miev. An all-electric powered car!

Yesterday while visiting at their home, John put a ladder up against the patio roof, and we both went up to take a look. It is really impressive!

John installed  the big solar panels on the roof all by himself! Initially, the 12 solar panels that are behind John were installed. These 12 panels power the house. Then John installed 6 more panels to power the totally electric, Mitsubishi Miev! Isn't that something else?!

Mimi and John determine who gets to drive the Miev each day by which one of them drives the furthest away from their home. The one that drives the furthest gets the adorable [and completely silent] Mitsubishi Miev!
John shows us his solar electric power array

John "fills" the tank of his Mitsubishi Miev electric car

PS: If you have questions about John & Mimi's solar home and car, send them by email or post in ShoutBox!  We'll get John and Mimi to reply to your questions.

5PM - Encinitas
We are spending the nite at the Howard Johnson Hotel in the Town of Encinitas. We picked Encinitas because the fabulous Self Realization Fellowship garden is here. We first came to the SRF years ago, and wrote a story about this lovely place [link].

We always stop at the SRF gardens for a visit when passing Encinitas.

5:30PM - More info about John & Mimi's solar system!
There are 17 panels in all.  12 are to cover the house usage and five for car usage. More panels could be added, but no reason to. Because these cover our needs.  Any addition to our solar setup leads to diminishing returns on this "investment".
  • No batteries involved:  It is a "grid-tied system", that uses the electric company to store excess and provide more electricity when the panels don't produce quite enough.
  • Electricity production: Our solar system produces up to 29 kilowatt hours of electric power daily on good sunny days.
  • Savings:  About $70  per month on house electricity.  $50-60 per month on gas for car.
  • Additional information: Each solar panel has a small inverter on back and feeds the main electric line.  Each inverter/panel has its own internet address. This means that we are able to monitor electricity output and diagnose problems quickly.
Click [here] to view the web page giving a ton of information about our solar electric system!

9PM - Lost Samsung cell phone charger
Somehow I lost the battery charger for the cell phone. Had it this morning in the hotel in San Diego. Gone now! Looked everywhere. Checked the car with a flashlight. Cannot find that charger!

I know that I will be able to buy a replacement charger in the morning. But, it is the idea of my losing the charger. I am soooooo careful. Guess, not careful enough!

BTW, the Telcel phone works here in California. There is some kind of a relationship between Telcel and AT&T. I don't understand that relationship completely. But the phone works. And it does not appear to be too expensive to make and receive calls.

Partly cloudy

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Phils BBQ

7AM - Phil's BBQ
Yesterday afternoon, close to our hotel, we noticed a restaurant with a huge amount of patrons waiting in line for a table. Maybe over 100 people. "It's always like this", a couple standing in front of the restaurant told us. "It takes over an hour to get in. But there's a trick. If you go to the bar and wait for an empty chair, you may order food much faster!"

So, that exactly what happened. We got our delicious, scrumptious, fantastic BBQ at the bar in only 5-minutes! It was soooooo good. Impossible to describe the great taste!

Credit reports
Yesterday I was denied a car rental by Avis Rent a Car after Avis reviewed a credit report from Equifax [credit reporting company]. I took a look at the Equifax report online. There are three negative items in that report. They are from:
  • Midland Credit: I have never heard of Midland Credit and have never done business with this company.
  • HSBC Bank: I have disputed with HSBC for well over a year about a mis-applied a credit given to me by Cheap Tickets. When I informed HSBC, they agreed that an error had been made by them, but never corrected their error.
  • T-Mobile: This involves a dispute over a phone that was stolen from me. I reported the stolen phone to T-Mobile as soon as I learned of the theft. T-Mobile persists in trying to collect for calls the thieves made. T-Mobile gave up their claim for more than $1,500, but will not give up on about $450 which I refuse to pay.
This credit stuff is annoying, but is meaningless to me because I do not use credit, don't need credit, and do not plan to use credit ever again. 

In fact, if I had the chance to live my life all over again, I would have never bought anything on credit in my entire life. The way I should have done it, would have been to save money first, then buy what I wanted. This absolutely includes houses, cars, and other luxuries. [Please excuse this rant] 

Note: I do not plan to file a dispute with Equifax, because I do not care what they have in their credit files. I wrote about these credit issues here in my blog only to clarify this subject with you.

US Border Protection helps a senior!
Yesterday at LAX, I approached the US Border Protection area where they inspect and stamp passports. There were over 100 people waiting in the line. A Border Protection guard opened up the barrier and waved me thru to the head of the line.

Wow! Can you imagine that! I don't feel as though I need the help. But I sure do appreciate the consideration! Pretty neat, huh?

10AM - Biking and burgers with John
I've a date to go biking with my friend John along the Mission Bay beach walk. We bike north to a coffee stand along the beach walk in the Town of Pacific Beach. We buy cafe lattes and talk about all the stuff that has been going on. Later we will bike over to Five Guys Burgers for lunch.

John was one of four people who gave me strong support during the time right after my son David killed himself in September, 2010.

6PM - Supper with Mimi and John
I've been invited to Mimi and John's home for supper! On arriving, Mimi showed me the dessert she had prepared. Two gorgeous cherry pies fresh from the oven. The pies looked soooooo good!

The main course is what Mimi described as, "Mexican lasagne", and it was sooooooo good too!.

Partly cloudy