Monday, September 27, 2010

More Than What I Wished For

Was it only last Saturday when I complained about our boring summer this year which only saw a few warm days? Where we only saw a few sunny and blue skies? Where I complained about not seeing sunrise and sunset much because of thick fogs that starts in the evening and last until the next morning?
The Road I Take Every Morning
Don't get me wrong, I love fogs, but I love a great deal of variety too. I love to wake up in fog one morning, and wake up with the glorious sunrise the next morning. I love it most when the two would co-exist sometimes. I love gray skies, but I love blue skies too. Our summer this year has been loaded with gray skies day after day, I was missing the blue skies by the sea. Thus, I kind of wished for late summer to even say "hi", and though it may be late, I won't hesitate to rejoice and jump into the water. Last Saturday, when the forecast was sunny, warm and clear skies, I was rejoicing for I thought I got what I wished for. It will be a glorious time at the beach! I had my wish, of enjoying my barren desert cliffs against the bluest of blue hue, yes, brown against blue!

Broken Hill, Torrey Pines State Reserve
Beach Trail, Torrey Pines State Reserve
Looking for Dolphins from the top of Torrey Pines Cliffs
Dolphins as Seen from on top of the Cliffs
It has been a long while since I saw a clear blue sky like this, thus, it was such a big treat last weekend to be enjoying a warm day at the beach. I was dreaming if the temperature will stay a few more days, maybe, our water temperature will warm up a little bit and I would be able to enjoy boogie boarding again. My wish come true, the water temperature today is at 65 degree Fahrenheit ( 18 degree Celsius), warmer than summer's water temperature. I should be happy, I wished for this. BUT, I got more than what I wished, the air temperature soar high, REALLY high today that early this morning I felt throbbing pain from the heat. It is not late summer that strike us, but a HEAT WAVE!! Indeed, sometimes, we do get what we wish, and more :( Now, I am looking forward for this heat wave to be over. Thankfully, it will be cooler tomorrow, but still not back to the usual cool. I wished for summer to come even though it would be late, only that I got more than what I wished for :( Now, I am thinking, do I really want a late summer?

Time for a Boost (my search for a new cell phone)

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of Boost Mobile. All opinions are 100% mine.

(Photo of Teyla Browning, courtesy of MJ)

My baby girl, Teyla, loves my cell phone. If I happen to leave it laying on the couch for even a few seconds and she wanders by, she immediately reaches for it with her chubby little hands. If I am washing dishes in the kitchen, I'm sure to hear her squeal excitedly, "Fah! Fah! Fah!" That's baby talk for phone. If I don't come running in the next few minutes to "rescue" my phone, chances are Teyla will stick it in her mouth and start chowing down on it.

That's exactly what happened last week. I was too busy folding laundry in the bedroom. "Spongebob" was hollering on TV in the front room. And the next thing I knew, Teyla came toddling up to me, my red cell phone, covered in drool, dangling from her mouth.

My phone has been acting up since then. The other day, I had to tap it (more like bang it, really) on the sink counter just for it to turn on. Last night, it suddenly went dead in the middle of a phone call to a friend. I don't believe the battery could be the problem because I bought a new battery just last month. I suspect moisture from Teyla playing with it has finally caused irreversible damage and, lately, I have seriously been thinking about getting a new phone.

Well, a friend told me about Boost Mobile today and I've wasted no time in checking out its web site. I've always been the type of customer who likes to do a lot of research on a certain product before deciding whether to purchase it or not, so I spent quite some time reading about Boost Mobile, and these are the features I love about it:

Turns out Boost Mobile phones are social in nature. That's a big plus for someone like me who is unabashedly addicted to Facebook! The phone I have right now is ancient and, sadly, offers me no Internet connection whatsoever. That was perfectly fine years ago when people were content with checking their e-mail once a day. But in this day and age when everyone - even your grandma! - has a Facebook and/or Twitter account, how sad is it if you have to wait to get to a computer to check yours? After years of being unable to connect to social media from my old CP, I think the time has come to pick one that will allow me to update Facebook and Twitter while I wait in line at Wal-Mart or try to stay awake through a boring sermon at church. Boost Mobile phones can allow me to do this. How cool is that?! But wait .. it gets even better: For one price per month, a Boost Mobile phone can give me unlimited connectivity to Facebook! For a Facebook addict like me, the words "unlimited connectivity" sound like sweet music to my ears.

This simply means that 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, I can be in constant touch with friends and family all over country, all over the world. Nevermind if I lose Internet connection at home, which sometimes happens, like a month ago (due to a technical glitch and some lazy repairmen, we were without Internet for almost an entire week! Imagine what a sad and stressful time that was for me, a social network chic who thinks Facebook is the best invention yet since disposable diapers!) With Boost Mobile, I can access Facebook or Twitter from my phone and not have to wait on those silly Internet repairmen to show up!

Boost Mobile offers the customer different ways of making payments, which is another thing I like. It's kinda like going to a salad bar as opposed to ordering a plain old salad. You walk up to a salad bar with your empty plate, and there is this air of excitement as you gaze at the wide array of veggies and dressings in front of you. You have the option of picking out lettuce and tomatoes, and leaving alone those weird tasting green olives and hot peppers. You can pour Ranch dressing on your salad. Or if you want Thousand Island, I'm sure they have that, too. The Boost Mobile payment options are a lot like that - so varied!

You can pay online with your credit or debit card if you want. Imagine not having to use a stamp ever to make your phone payment! Over time, you could save all kinds of money this way! Imagine not having to drive all the way to a Re-boost location nearby - and maybe even in the middle of winter - to pay your bill! You could set up your account to make automatic payments. Or you could make one-time payments instead.

But those of us who are a bit old-fashioned and don't want to pay online can always find a Re-Boost location nearby and go there in person to make the payments. That's fine, too. For sure, the center will have kind customer service reps who can receive our payments if we so choose to show our cheerful faces there.

Another option is to pay by phone with a credit or debit card. Automatic payments can be made this way, as well as one-time payments. How convenient is that! No stamps either with this method. And think of it- you can even make a payment while driving down the road (although it's probably safer to wait until the car is not in motion, but still, what an awesome possibility!)

Boost Mobile allows us to surprise friends and family! Imagine this: You call up Boost Mobile to make your monthly payment only to hear the friendly voice of the customer rep on the other side of the line say, "Your bill has already been paid!" How surprised and happy do you think you would feel to hear that? I know I would be thrilled! Boost Mobile allows you to do this, or friends and family to do this for you. You can add money to their Boost Mobile account using a credit or debit card without tying the card to their account. I think this is a really neat feature!

Some of the popular Boost Mobile phones I have been eyeing are the Blackberry Curve- 8350i and the Sanyo Juno.

The Blackberry Curve- 8350i has Wi-Fi capability, built-in 2.0MP camera with enhanced flash and 5x zoom, GPS (perfect for someone like me who loves to travel!), QWERTY keyboard and trackball navigation. The Blackberry Monthly Unlimited plan features unlimited nationwide talk, text, web and e-mail. If I were to get a Blackberry from Boost Mobile, I think I would sign up for this plan.

The Sanyo Juno also features a digital camera, has hi-res 22" color display and dedicated 1-click keys, among other outstanding features.

So, here I go, guys! Wish me luck as I try to decide which Boost Mobile phone to get! I'm like a kid in a candy store right now, looking at all the different phones Boost Mobile has to offer. No matter which one I pick, I have a feeling I will be very satisfied. Teyla might not be too happy though because I guarantee you, a Boost Mobile phone is definitely not one I will carelessly leave on the couch for her to find and chew on. My old phone, maybe ... but not a Boost Mobile. Sorry, Teyla:)

- by MJ

Visit my sponsor: Reboost

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Goodbye Summer?

It has been several nights that I see sky like this from the back of your yard, it is not that very intense and colorful yet compared to late fall and winter nights, but I am glad to see this kind of sky after a long while. Because of thick marine layer developing in the afternoon that lasts until the next morning, the sun's glow can hardly make any effect on the sky making our summer days the most boring for sunset and sunrise. About 3 weekends ago, what joy it was for me to see the sun setting in the horizon,
something that I have missed for months since the gloomy days of April shower, May gray, June gloom, and where the gloominess extended to July and August. Though summer is my favorite season, but it is probably the most boring time of the year for sunrise and sunset photography in San Diego. It is therefore a joy to see a not so boring sunset after several months, I miss it! However, maybe, summer still lingers since I still do not see pink skies and beautiful sunrise consistently in the morning. Most of the mornings I wake up, I still see the very thick fog that  thankfully gives us mist for our plants to thrive in our very dry summer days. 
Being in a very arid environment, these late evening and morning fogs are a great refuge for our vegetation. Without the fogs, our vegetation would turn too dry and become a ready fuel for wildfire once the Santa Ana winds of fall arrives.The foggy picture above is typical spring and summer mornings in San Diego, and not very typical for fall and winter. So, maybe summer is sticking around in our morning fogs yet slowly bading us goodbye in the evening giving way to a more colorful sunset. But am I ready to say goodbye to summer when it seemed summer just quickly stopped to say "hi" this year?
I took the picture of the leaves above not today, not yesterday, but early August this year. When August is usually the time for me to hit the ocean, enjoying the waves boogie boarding, yet last month, I was hardly at the water. This is probably the year where I went in the water to swim and boogie board the fewest times :( 
Now, this part of the tree has changed its color more than a month now, thankfully, the leaves don't fall and the multi-colored leaves had lingered since summer. Though I miss our good old summer days ( we probably had very few warm days this summer and the El Nino has rendered our water really cold), but I am also looking forward to spring. Yes, spring, not fall, not winter, but SPRING!! How about you, are you ready to say goodbye to summer? 
Oh, today is a very beautiful day, clear blue skies. Though I love fogs, but it has been a long while since I have seen a warm and beautiful blue sky such as today. 
Enjoying a Beautiful Day at Torrey Pines
One of the reasons why I love a clear, beautiful blue sky is that it is easier to observe marine wildlife. Like today, from on top of Torrey Pine cliffs, we saw dolphins swimming. 
Dolphins as Seen from Above Torrey Pines Cliffs
What a joy it was to see them while relaxing after a hike, see them riding and playing with the waves, 
at the same time listen to the wonderful soothing music produced by the waves as they come splashing the land. Life, though how busy it is for me right now, still becomes great with the simple joys from the simple gifts that come our way from being out of the doors. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Koala Vacation

Koalas @ San Diego Zoo
          Outside of Australia, the San Diego Zoo has the largest koala population and had the most successful koala breeding program. But of course, the joy and excitement would probably be very different if we see the koalas in their native habitat in the coastal regions of Eastern and Southern Australia. For Australians, their perfect australian holidays would mean mixing rich cultural history with awe inspiring natural sceneries and awesome wildlife, such as the koalas, kangaroos and many more.
          I love observing koalas. I always think they are so cuddly and cute. Whenever I take a walk at the zoo, I always stop by at the koala exhibit and check if the koalas are awake. Most of the time, they are sleeping.Whenever I see the koalas awake, I can't help myself but keep on pressing the shutter of my camera despite probably I take the same pictures :). During the day, the koalas are mostly asleep being nocturnal animals. So, it is always a great treat for me to see the koalas playing with each other.
Three Koalas, what do you think are they talking about?
Now, how many Koalas Do You See Here?
          Notice the eucalyptus leaves surrounding the koalas, these are koalas's fooods. Koalas feed on eucalyptus, which has very little nutritional value. You may think the koalas eat the same type of food everyday, but there are more than 600 different kinds of eucalyptus. For the koalas, each type of eucalyptus tastes different. 
          Koalas spend 3 of their 5 active hours eating eucalyptus, and then sleeping for 16 to18 hours. Good life? :) Now, I am thinking of a good vacation :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Staying On the Safe Side

Guest post by MJ
photo of Sandstone Falls, West Virginia courtesy of MJ
Life is a series of surprises, someone once said. Many good. But an equal number heartbreaking as well. One such "surprise" happened to a friend a couple weeks ago while driving merrily along a road she had traversed so many times before in uptown Beckley, West Virginia. One minute, she was whistling the chorus of Lady Gaga's "Papparazi," the next moment, she said a sudden impact to her car from behind threw her forward, causing her head to bang against the steering wheel. It could be that the driver following her had lost control of his vehicle. He may have been changing radio stations, could have looked away from the road for a few split seconds, and failed to slow down as the vehicle in front of him - my friend's - slowed down while passing through a school zone. Or he could have been busy talking on his cell phone. My friend will never know though what exactly caused that car to crash into hers because the driver at fault swerved around her car seconds after the crash, stepped on the gas, and disappeared down the road in a cloud of dust. As a result of the accident, my friend missed a few days of work due to whiplash injuries and a painful bump on her head. The rear bumper of her car was also smashed in pretty bad. To date, she is still trying to sort things out with her car insurance company. It has not been very helpful. "And to think I pay such a high monthly premium!," my friend told me on the phone yesterday. "You would think my insurance company would do more for me." She said she is planning to switch insurance companies as soon as this case is resolved and search for cheap auto insurance... one that will be better at handling accidents in case they happen again. My friend agrees that life is indeed a series of surprises. Having auto insurance is one way of arming ourselves against all the reckless drivers out there.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Many Faces of Izu at Lion Camp, Wild Animal Park

All the 9 pictures below were taken from last weekend, in just a matter of few minutes. I may have featured the lions at Lion Camp in Wild Animal Park several times in this blog, however, let me share again these new set of pictures. This time, I won't put caption to the pictures. I arranged the pictures in order they were taken.
At Lion Camp, you can be nose to nose with a lion, literally, and still feel very safe. The lions can stare right at you with such intensity, even growl at you, yet, you will not run for your life. :) To come nose to nose with lions, there is a viewing area with very thick glass that separates man and lion, and both are in open space. However, for photography, I prefer to shoot the lions without glass. There is a second area to view the lions without glass, but this time, you can not be nose to nose with the lions, which is okay with me. What separates man and lion this time is the cliff between them. The lions can not jump off the cliff to the other side without falling off the cliff and they are smart enough not to do that either. However, in any case, so that the lions can't jump off the cliff, there is a hidden wire that prevents them from jumping off the cliff accidentally. The pictures above were from this open, grassy plain. To see how the lions roam around in their roomy camp, you check my previous post here

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Gold and Silver Investing

While reviewing the performance of my 401k and IRA accounts, I can't help but sigh at the behavior of my accounts. I miss the performance more than 3 years ago where checking my accounts would always give me a high. I am not complaining though since despite the growth is not as ecstatic as it was years ago, nevertheless, the money is still growing, and for me, still a lot better than putting it in the bank or spending the money away shopping here and there. Also, investing in our 401K and IRA helps us reduce our tax as well.

However, there is a limit as to how much we can put in our 401K and IRA, thus, some of the money I am saving for the rainy days and my old age are mostly in the bank. However, the interest rate right now is just low, in fact, very low, even CDs are just a mere l.4% APY. Now, I am looking at some other options where to probably gain more interest. Gold and silver have been stable through the years. In fact, Gold investment has been an ongoing bull in the market for years. The Gold futures have climbed 10% this year, very remarkable compared to very little percentage in CDs.

This post is sponsored by Goldline International, a gold and silver investing company that has served precious metals investors and collectors with a full range of products, including gold, silver and platinum coins and bars, numismatic and collectible coins, and rare currency. Goldline offers a unique Price Guarantee Program which can help protect investors from short-term price changes.

Visiting Spain?

One of my favorite things to do when I am home and simply relaxing is surfing the internet for places around the world. I would usually look for nature escapes rather than city escapes. Somehow, being with nature for me tells all the history and the important lessons from life to be learned. I take simple joys from examining the miracle of life from plants, wildlife, and from the natural sculpting and weathering of the Earth.

One of the countries I am very interested to visit someday is Spain. Perhaps because I was born in a country that was colonized by Spain and I wanted to see the country that has brought us Christianity and shares our passion for gastronomy and fiestas :). Also, I live in a US city now where Spain had a major role in its history. In 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese explorer commissioned by the monarch of Spain, stepped into history as the first European to set foot on what is now the West Coast of United States at Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego.
Cabrillo National Monument, where the first Spanish explorers set foot in San Diego
Spain is most popularly known probably as a country with very rich history, in itself the country is very beautiful. It is very diverse in its geography and landscapes, thus it is not a country where one weather fits all. Some places have mild weather, while some places can have very extreme temperature changes from very cold to very hot. Spanish weather can vary enormously from one region to another, thus it is important to check weather forecast for spain before going to your destination. It can be raining and chilly in one region, yet it can be hot and humid in another region.

This post is sponsored by Spanish Weather where it features weather forecast for the different regions of Spain. Every distinct region in Spain has a weather page, so it is easier to check for the weather condition at your chosen destination.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Do You Think You Can Fly?- Part 2

So you think you can fly? How are you going to do it? There are many several ways we can fly. 
1. Riding an airplane, not very exciting? 
2. Riding a hot air balloon, where you feel safe inside a basket as the burner heats up gas to raise the balloon higher and you get buoyed farther. Del Mar is the popular place for hot air balloon rides in San Diego where you will see the beauty of the Pacific Coastline in San Diego County. If however, you wanted the valleys, with the winery and vineyards below you, the nearest place from San Diego would be Temecula, in Riverside County. 
3. Parasailing, where you are attached to a parachute and then tied to a motorboat. Parasailing is considered by many as a hobby, not a sport since the person on the parachute has no control over movement and speed and therefore becomes simply a passenger like in an airplane, or hot air balloon. Parasailing in San Diego is more commonly seen at Mission Bay and Beach. 
4. Skydiving, is an aerial sport, where divers jump or fall from aircraft at an altitude. Skydivers can perform an assortment of aerial maneuvers before deploying a parachute to slow their descent. Skydiving in San Diego at Otay Lakes is set up to takeoff and land right in the same place thus allowing friends to watch the action. Their jumpships can hold up to 23 jumpers allowing group of friends to jump together.  
5. Ziplining, which a rider wears a harness which is securely connected to a cable suspended high above the ground, then rider glides along the cable. Nearest ziplining experience in San Diego is at San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park, where one glides over the African Safari exhibit. 
6. Then, there is hang gliding and paragliding, which was the aerial sport I introduced in my previous post. In this post, I will continue on sharing how paragliders and hang gliders fly. I will try to share the other different flying experiences in this blog some other time. Though I have photographed some friends who tried some flying experiences here in San Diego, however, for me, though I believe I can fly :) but as of this moment, I am enjoying photographing the activity, while I am hiking, walking around or touring some friends. My favorite outdoor activities would still be hiking, snorkeling and boogie boarding. I am very much a water and land person, though the sky is tempting me too :)
Now back to paragliding and hang do they fly?
A. Hang gliding
Ready.....get set....
B. Paragliding
Ready.....get set....
fly like a bird....without any rope tied to tow you behind a speeding motorboat. Fly without being contained in a basket and without a burner to produce hot air. Fly with an option fly up and down, fly North, South, West or East. Just fly......
Paragliding and hang gliding are unmotorized flying-sports. The two are similar in that you rely on the wind and thermal updrafts to help you glide in the air. Living in San Diego, it is not so much of a surprise to see a lot of surfers early in the morning and then, a lot of gliders later of the day. Early in the morning, there is less shore wind which is perfect for surfing, the conditions of the waves are much easier to ride. However, later of the day, the onshore wind picks up and ruin the surface conditions of the waves. The on shore wind creates a heavenly updraft off the cliffs that makes the paragliders float in all day long.

The glider exercises control by shifting body weight in opposition to a control flame. Hang gliders can soar for hours, gain thousands of feet of altitude in thermal updrafts, perform aerobatics in the air, and can glide cross-country for hundreds of miles. To become airborne, a hang glider's airspeed must equal about 20 mph. Airspeed is a combination of the pilot's running speed and the speed of the wind coming toward the pilot. The goal is to make the pressure above the wings less than the pressure below the wings to lift the glider up. As a wing lifts a glider up, gravity pulls it down. The two forces combine to create the gliding action. Pilots need to find constant upward forces to stay in the air for longer periods. While suspended in the harness system, the pilot steers a hang glider by shifting his or her center of balance. Leaning forward and backward causes the glider to dive or climb.

 In paragliding, the glider is strapped into a harness which is shaped like a chair. The harness is strung up to a parachute-like canopy called a "wing". The strings that connect the harness to the wing are collected into two bundles called "risers". The wind keeps you afloat while manipulation of the risers will direct your flight path. Hang gliding is similar to paragliding, though hang gliders are heavier than paragliders thus they require stronger winds. Hang gliders can glide higher and faster than paragliders.
Though paragliding and hang gliding are similar, but hang gliding is heavier and can glide much higher and faster
Paragliding and hang gliding are considered specialized sports which require much skill. However, you can get a taste of flight by going tandem:
this is to say, an experienced instructor goes with you and s/he helps you maneuver the aircraft. Student gliders start with tandem gliding first, then, as they learn about maneuvering and get their license to fly freely, they are able to fly on their own. Torrey Pines Gliderport is not only known as a free flight site, but also as a free flight school. 

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Do You Think You Can Fly?

Flying Above Torrey Pines Gliderport, San Diego
Do you think you can fly? If you do, how do you want to fly? Like him?
Hang Gliding
Or like her?
Hang gliding and paragliding are two forms of free flight in purest form. There is no motor, there is no tugging, both can soar the winds like a bird.  
Flipping in the Air
Unlike skydiving where there is only one direction which is down, paragliders and hang gliders soar just like birds, they fly up and down, they tease the wind tumbling in the air, they go really high,
or low,
or even lower teasing the grounds and then fly high again. They soar over the ocean,
or above the cliff, soaring like a bird.....
and birds soar with them, flying with them, just like in the above picture. Can you see the bird soaring with the gliders in the picture above? Is that a seagull? a crow? a pelican? the very common birds along the coast? Let's take a closer look.....
This hawk and a sea gull kept on playing with each other, teasing the gliders, and soaring with them high, low, flipping in the air, flying westward, eastward, northbound or south bound.

Do you think you can fly? If you live near San Diego, or have plans of visiting San Diego, you may want to try how it feels to soar like a bird at Torrey Pines Gliderport. 

How do these gliders fly? Well, they run and then jump off the cliff! In my next post, I will show you how these gliders run and jump off the cliff to fly....

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Dreaded haunted trail prep

Guest post written by Myrtle Smith

After I picked my grandson and his friend up from their middle school football practice the other day we drove by a billboard advertising a big haunted trail that’s near where we live. I normally hate scary things, but I took them last year because they wouldn’t stop begging me and the proceeds go to cancer research.

Even though the trail is meant to be a little dark, I didn’t have much trouble maneuvering through the woods while I took them on it. I would have rather not gone but Tim really wanted to go and I didn’t think it would be wise to let an 11-year-old go unsupervised on it.

The worst part about it was that I didn’t ever hear any of the people that were dressed up as monsters until they were right at me. That included the man in the mask with the chainsaw. After we rode by that billboard and I agreed to take them to it again, I looked up miracle ear hearing aid prices and went to a miracle ear center.
I don’t want to give those people a bigger chance at scaring me again this year. Their chances are already too good.