Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Google nexus

We finally got a smart phone, only 5 years after everybody else. Waiting had it's perks though. Google just released a new nexus phone - their line of unlocked high end the phones with high end Prices. Except this time around the price was decidedly middle end.

Just 299 gets you a 4.7 inch display, 4 core CPU and 4g support. I'm typing this on the nexus 4 right now and it's a joy to use. Jymm says it's super cute too. No question this is a high end smartphone.

So far it's not cheaper than most phones at 299 but the next step is the monthly plan. T-Mobile has a no contract (prepaid) plan for 30 that gives you 5gb of data at 4g speeds and just 100 minutes of talk. Combine that with a good VoIP plan and you have all the minutes you want and data too for almost the lowest monthly payment you can find for a non-data plan.

If you have a regular monthly contract that kind of deal would cost around 80 a month. So in one year you pay 960 just in monthly fees, plus some amount for the phone. With our setup you pay 360 for monthly fees and 300 for the nexus 4.  660 is less than 960 by a good margin and next year your cost is just 360, which is even better!

Prepaid no-contract is the future of phones, in San Diego and the rest of the country.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Palomar Mountain hiking and camping info

A little piece of the east coast (trees, shade, water, snow!) right here in San Diego. A real nice change of pace for locals, with camping and hiking opportunities. The trees here are surprisingly fat (esp, in the state park) and gnarled, which make for great photo ops and climbing.

There are three campgrounds, one in the state park, and two in the national forest.
Palomar Mountain State Park - campground, and most of the trails on the mountain.
Observatory campground - National forest, slightly cheaper than state park. Some of the spots are nicely nested in the trees, and some are out in the wide open, so be sure to book the type you want. Pay showers and flush toilets (free). A short trail leads to Fry Creek Campground.
There is also a trail to the observatory.
Fry Creek  - National forest campground, slightly cheaper than state park. Lots of good tree cover. The Fry creek trail leads to the state park, after a fashion.  About halfway along there is a bunch of unmarked roads (take the one going down hill), and then there is an unmarked trail just after a hairpin turn in the road. The unmarked trail is really hard to find, and somewhat hard to follow (there are plastic ribbons tied to the trees that help).  Watch for the poison oak along the trail. A GPS or at least a compass and a sense of direction is required! The trail is probably possible to find on a really old map of the state park, as it was official at one point and time, and just isn't maintained any longer.

Other info:

Current weather - conditions on the mountain tend to be a little cooler than the rest of San Diego, due to the elevation, but not much! Also, it does rain here, so it's worth checking before you go. 
 Nate Henderson Grade road - hikable dirt road up the mountain - partially in the trees.
The Palomar Observatory is open 9 to 4.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Buying a home in san diego: useful websites, background info, etc

We are planning to buy (a cheap, of course) home in San Diego. Here are some things I've found out in the process which might help others. Not exactly our usual topic, but certainly San Diego relevant.

My favorite website for looking at listings is sdlookup.com. They pull together more info than most websites, all on one page, which makes it very easy to browse, as compared to say, http://www.trulia.com/, though trulia is better about letting you limit the houses shown to you by price, etc.

But in the end I used Redfin.com, because they made the whole process point and click, from scheduling a tour of a home to making a bid. SDlookup is slightly nicer to use for just browsing, but Redfin wins hands down in the event that you want to actually buy a house.

In fact, we used Redfin as our agent, and were very pleased. Here is a review I wrote for another website about my experience:

Being a first time home-buyer I didn't know what to expect from our agent, but Tamara and team provided everything we wanted in terms of help, advice, and information through this long process. There were huge headaches in this deal, but 0% of them were due to redfin as far as I can tell. If anything, I wish I had listened more to Tamara, esp. with respect to the loan company, as the one I selected on my own was really, really horrible. Some of the things I really liked: fast responses to my emails; everything was signed electronically so I never had to make any special trips just to sign yet another document; the refund. The only thing I really wished I could have gotten more help with was deciding on the bid price we put on the house. Obviously, that's going to involve a lot of guess work, no matter how much help you get, but I felt like I had to come up with that more or less on my own. I never met Tamara in person, but I never had trouble getting her on the phone, and she always made time to talk to me or the selling agent on my behalf, so I really don't mind that at all. I would recommend using Redfin over a traditional agent to anybody buying a house, esp. if you are web 2.0 savvy.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fun on free Tuesday (Balboa park)

Balboa park is a great place to walk around, but the real attraction for most folks is the zoo and many museums. As far as we know there's no way to get into the zoo for free (legally). But every Tuesday, a subset of the park museums are open to San Diego residents, on a rotating basis. See here a list of which museums will be free next. Unfortunately for non-SanDiegans, almost all museums require a photo ID (with address) to prove you really are local (local college IDs also count). 

We like to visit all the free museums when we go, but there are some which we are more enthusiastic about. Alan's favorite is the San Diego Museum of Art, followed closely by the Museum of Photographic Arts. Both have traveling exhibits with some frequency, so there is reason to visit multiple times a year. When you visit the SDMA, be sure to check out the humming bird exhibit, which can be seen halfway up the main stairs opposite the entrance. You'll need to look out the window, as the birds in question are live and wild. Actually, you can check them out any day of the week if you walk around the back of the building, (slowly).

Jymm especially likes the Mingei International Museum. This museum features folk artists from around the world who work in various mediums. The art featured there is always interesting and colorful, and there is the added interest of having to decide which benches are for sitting and which are for looking at! Second on her list is the museum of photographic arts -- oops, Alan already claimed that one... I mean the Museum of San Diego History, although this one might only appeal to those with an interest in history in general. There is one room that is set up to resemble an old school department store which is particularly cool. Her favorite part of the history museum is actually available for anyone to look at- there is a mural of the history of Balboa Park itself on the wall outside of the museum entrance (near the bathrooms). Keep an eye out for the picture of Queen Zorine being kidnapped by a robot.

Other notable museums include:
  • Reuben H. Fleet Science Center- where you can get a preview of what you would see if you went to the Exploratorium in San Fran
  • The Air and Space Museum - where they've mounted and stuffed all of your favorite birds of a (metal) feather.
  • The Natural History Museum - where science becomes art. Also, be sure to check out the giant fig tree outside the entrance.
  • The Automotive Museum - more fun than you'd think.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lake Hodges/ San Dieguito River Park

Mere inches from I-15 there is a surprisingly isolated hiking area. There are a couple trails in this area; we hiked the North shore trail. Though it's officially 14 miles long, a significant part is closed, and at present we think it's only 4 miles.

The trailhead is in a large recreation area with bathrooms and picnic tables. The first 5 minutes of the trail parallels a road, without much shoulder to walk on, but the pleasantness of the remaining walk makes it worthwhile.

After a five minute walk you come upon the most exciting feature of this hike, which is the bridge pictured here. It is a concrete suspension bridge open to pedestrians and bikers only. The view from the bridge is quite beautiful, though when we were there a stiff wind blew. Tie your hats and small children down tight!

The rest of the trail is a bit more pedestrian, but scenic in it's own stark, barren kind of way, with long vistas.The foliage is typical of San Diego, with lots of brush and not many trees. We were there right after a rain, which meant there were lots of pretty wildflowers. Your results will vary.

As soon as you get out of sight of the highway, the hike feels surprisingly isolated, with only the occasional house perched atop the hills. For the misanthropic among us, this is a great trail- we saw only a few people in the couple of hours we were hiking there.

Most of the trail was very flat, with the occasional steep spot. Don't take a wheelchair here, but pretty much any ambulator could do it.

Shade index: 1%.
Bathroom index: two actual bathrooms in the first half mile, nothing but scrub from thereon.
Trail info and map.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Busy Bee's Bagel & Bakery‎ in La Jolla

Their prices are about the same as Einstein's, but they don't even measure up to that lackluster standard in terms of taste. Their bagels taste like bread that's been shaped to look like a bagel. Not any better than what you could get at the freezer section in the grocery store. Heck, even Von's bakery tastes better than these!

Summary: Typical prices for a bakery, typical taste from the freezer.

Location: 6861 La Jolla Boulevard, La Jolla, CA 92037-6137

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Lake Murray

San Diego is so dry (except for the beaches, I guess). The nice thing about Lake Murray is that it is just so wet. The 3.2 mile (one way) long paved path meanders around the lake, never getting further than about 10-50 feet from the water's edge, and is a pleasant respite from the parched almost desert hiking paths that cover most of San Diego. That said, it is interesting to see how little distance you need to go from the edge of the lake for the desert landscape to reappear (~25 feet).

The trail is one of the most popular we have ever seen in San Diego - except maybe for the beach on a nice weekend. If you want to escape humanity, go somewhere else! There's so much traffic (foot and bike both) that they have signs telling you to keep right, pass left. There are a few nice picnic tables and benches to stop and rest at, and a few nice views of the lake framed by the trees that dot the very edge of the lake (but unfortunately do not provide much shade). The trail also offers some interesting bird watching opportunities- Jymm recently got a camera with a10X zoom lens, so she welcomes any opportunity to take advantage of it and birds are the perfect subject.

The trail also has bathroom opportunities in the form of chemical toilets- stinky and dirty, but they get the job done in an emergency. Bring your own TP.

All in all, this wasn't one of our favorites. It was too crowded, not really scenic enough, and the walk was out-and-back rather than a loop, which makes the second half of the hike totally a deja-vu experience. Being near a large body of fresh-water is kind a of nice change of pace though.

Shade index: 10%

Official website.
Google map.

Addendum: We revisited this park one evening and found that it was much less busy. Not having to dodge people all the time made it a much more pleasant experience. The water is also pretty after dark, if you like sparkling lights.