Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Winter break in Wyoming!

For this winter break, my step-daughter Ash and I traveled the 1,000+ miles to spend it with my wife Renee and my step-son Erik in Laramie, Wyoming. Our journey started with a 6:00AM flight from Ontario to Denver. After getting our luggage and heading to the curb to wait for my wife to pick us up, we discovered how cold it was at over 5,200 feet in altitude. As soon as the door from the airport terminal to outside opened, we were greeted with a blast of VERY COLD air. We should have expected it, as we flew into Denver, we saw the fresh snow on the ground. Unfortunately for me, my gloves, beanie, and scarf were buried in my luggage.

My wife encountered some patches of interstate 25 with snow still on it, so her travel time was a bit longer than usual. As she pulled up to the pick-up terminal, the line of cars was backed up. Eventually we were greeted with the familiar sight of my wife's car and her smiling face behind the wheel. A quick hug and a kiss was all my step-daughter got in before we hurriedly packed our luggage into the car so that we could get into that warm car. We definitely appreciated that working heater!

Our time up here in Laramie has been very enjoyable. Of course just being able to spend it with my wife is the best, but we have had a great time meeting people and seeing a few sights. The three of us saw the latest +Star Wars  movie, The Force Awakens. So what did I think of the movie? We'll leave that topic for a later post, but be assured I loved it and so did Renee and Ash!

Last night Renee and I walked in the cold a few blocks to a O'Dwyers Public House, a local restaurant to meet a couple of Renee's friends from when she went to the +University of Wyoming for her Master's degree. According to +AccuWeather, the outside temperature was 28F, so we bundled up for a brisk walk, but I have to share that the cold wasn't as bad as I feared. We safely arrived to the restaurant and had a great dinner with Renee's friends.

In fact, the cold in here in Laramie isn't as bad as I feared. The snow really isn't a big deal, as the main roads are generally plowed to give you access to where you are going. The really bad part of this weather is something that seems to be worse for getting around: ice. For the last couple of days, the daily forecast has gotten a little warmer each day, so the snow is slowly melting in the day, but then freezing at night to form that dreaded shiny ice.  Ice that can make driving a car or just walking outside a very dangerous feat if not treated with respect.

Today is a quiet day for me. Renee is at work and I'm staying inside as we had a brief snow flurry storm earlier. I'm just enjoying the day relaxing and staying warm!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Got my Nexus 6!

Ever since +Google  announced many years ago that it was purchasing +Android and developing the mobile operating system, I've been an Android fan. Every year or two I've gotten a new smartphone with the Android operating system, but the line I've always wanted was something from Google's +Nexus  family of Android mobile devices. Back in 2013 I bought a +Nexus 7 7" tablet and I discovered how much better the Android operating system is without all of the extra "stuff" that the manufacturers put on their mobile devices.

So since then, I've wanted to have a Nexus smartphone to complement my Nexus 7, but +Verizon Wireless  has the best coverage in my area, and the Nexus 4 and later Nexus 5 phones weren't available to Verizon customers. If you wanted one of the Nexus phones, you had to be a +T-Mobile customer, so I had a few  +Motorola Mobility Droid (a Droid 2 and a Droid X2) and most recently a +Samsung Mobile USA  Galaxy S4. They were all nice devices, but I wanted a more "pure" Android device.

For instance, my Galaxy S4 had its own Photo app that was independent to the Google Photos service. That meant that if I wanted to access my mobile photographs from my computer, I had to manually upload it. My new Nexus 6 changes all of that. Every photo taken from my phone's camera is automatically uploaded to my +Google Photos account. I can now access those photos from my computer and use for things like sharing here.

Of course this is but one example of why I am so excited to finally have a Nexus smartphone. I will definitely be sharing later what my long term thoughts are on this phone! 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Finally got it!

Today marks a day that I have waited a long time for. Today I will finally have a Bachelor's degree. For those of you that didn't know, for the last two and a half years, I've been attending Southern New Hampshire University's (SNHU) through their College of Online and Continuing Education (COCE). Today SNHU confers to me my degree, a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Information Technology.

When I graduated from high school, I had plans to get my Bachelor's degree. I attended a local community college to earn any lower division courses that I could complete. I spent three years at that school, then three years at the local university, but for whatever reason, I never finished my degree. Shortly there after life caught up with me. Making a living, paying bills, etc., took center stage.

Ten years ago I decided that the only way I was going to get ahead in this world was to get my education plans completed. I spent the next two years taking classes in the evening (after working a full 8 hour day) at Crafton Hill College, a community college next to my work. It was a lot of hard work and I missed a lot of fun activities with family and friends, but I earned my Associate of Science degree in Information Computer Systems (concentrations in both Webmaster and Programming). My first college degree!

Life then took a detour. A year later I got married (and divorced two years after that), so I wasn't able to continue on. After my divorce, I tried to attend the same university that I had attended many moons ago, but I discovered that trying to get to the school after work and be on time was going to be impossible. I would have spent YEARS there, taking on the late night classes, when they offered what I need.

A few years later, I decided to check out the online programs that many universities are now offering. At the time, I was looking for a 100% online program offering a Bachelor's degree in mathematics. I was also careful to verify that the universities that I inquired with were regionally accredited, as I discovered with my ex-wife's degree that a Bachelor's degree from an non-regionally accredited college is worthless. I checked universities like Phoenix, Concordia, National, etc., and put in my email address for more information. Here's where SNHU really excelled: they called me in less than two hours after I submitted my inquiry!!

From then on, I discovered why SNHU has earned the reputation for being student-centric. My admissions advisor guided me through the process, including how to apply for financial aid and even he even contacted the schools I went to before to request my transcripts! I was really impressed how easy it was. I will share more about my SNHU and online education experience at a later date.

Well, 27 months later, I am sitting here, content with the knowledge that I have finally finished my B.A. It feels so good!! 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Crafton Hills brushfire

This afternoon, as I was leaving work, I spotted this plume of smoke to the northwest of the school. I wasn't able to ascertain the exact location at first, but my judgement said that the fired just on the other side of that hill and very close to the school. It appeared to be about halfway between YHS and Crafton Hills College. 

As I drove through the parking lot at work, I decided to take some pictures of the fire and share them on Twitter. As I drove down Yucaipa Blvd, I got a better angle on the fire's location. I turned up 13th St., and pulled into the dirt parking lot for the baseball field. I tweeted a few more pictures of the fire. I didn't know what the extent of the fire was, but I knew there were a lot of fire crews there working on it, so it was being attended to.

Anyways, the really interesting part of this story is that the Los Angeles television station, KTLA (channel 5), tweeted me and asked if they could use my pictures for their broadcast. I told them of course, just give me the photo credit! Wow!

The last I heard they had the fire under control, with no injuries or structural damage. A big thank you to all of those firefighters for the hard work to get it under control.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

We had a blast at Star Wars Celebration!

Renee and I had a interesting day yesterday. Renee's godmother gave her tickets to an event that neither of us had heard of. The event, called "Star Wars Celebration" is a ComicCon kind of event, but it is focused solely on Star Wars. We were both very excited to be able to attend since both of us are Star Wars fans. I even took this opportunity to wear my "wedding" shoes: my Star Wars Vans. 

As is the case at ComicCon, Star Wars Celebration brought out all of the cosplay enthusiasts. Renee even asked this young lady if she could take a photo with me. Who was I to argue?! 

All joking aside, the cosplayers ranged from the "I bought a t-shirt" look to people like this young lady who look like they came right off of the set. There were many Jedis, Stormtroopers, Darth Vaders, and even a few droids. 

This display of  small scale Darth Vader, a royal guard (in red), and a bazillion stormtroopers was really cool. Upon seeing it, I had to take a photo of it. The rows and rows of Stormtroopers was impressive! 

All Nippon Airways (ANA), a Japanese airline company, even had a scale model of their recently announced Boeing 787 airliner that they were going to paint with an R2D2 paint scheme. It was impressive to say the least and it makes me want to fly to Japan, just to ride in it! 

It was a great day for us. Renee and I saw a lot of things that we didn't know even existed and had a lot of fun. We've even looked into going next year, but the show is going to be in London. That is definitely not in our budget! Maybe when it comes back to California! 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Having fun at water polo game

Of course, as a coach, I want to make sure that my athletes are happy. Winning is nice and all, but my goal is make the experience enjoyable and to share my passion for the sport with the students. I hope that they enjoy it as much as I do.

This afternoon, after the varsity game was over, some of our ladies were hanging out on the pool deck, waiting for the JV game to finish. During the JV halftime, some of the girls asked me to take a photo of them. These are the photos I took today. I have to admit that they are very artsy, something that isn't always my strong suit.

This first photo is of Heaven and Pooka. These two silly girls gave my this expressions, but what really made the photo "pop" was the sun setting behind them. I liked the photo. It shared the playful nature of these young ladies and the fun of being young.

Tonight, as I was editing the photos, I decided to try my hand at some of the filters that are included with +Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. The first victim was Tayler as she smiled for me. I liked the way the photo felt with the blue tint. In particular, I felt it makes her smile come to life.

The next two photos are of a young lady who seems to have the ability to be focused one minute, and then a goofball the next, Miss Jordan. Once again, I was mindlessly going through the Lightroom filters and when I got this image, I knew I had a keeper. This filter makes her blue eyes leap out at you, and the red tongue (from eating some sort of candy) functions as a complement.

Another shot of Jordan, but this time it's been converted to monochrome. The setting sun provided a nice shadow to her face. As you can tell, she is quite the joker!

Well I hope you enjoyed these photos and their impulsive nature. I know they aren't anything too special, but they were fun to take and share, and for me that is photography.

-- Tom

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Celebrating 43 years my way!

The varsity and the alumni ladies had a great time,
as evidenced by all of those smiling faces.
Today I woke up another year older. Today is the anniversary of when I came into this world. Instead of having a birthday party or a fancy meal out, I celebrated my birthday doing the things I love: water polo and good food. 

As my TCO followers know, I volunteer as an assistant coach for the +Yucaipa High School girls water polo team. It just happened that my birthday was also the day that our team was going to host the team's "alumni game". This game is when the alumni ladies come out to form a team to see how good our current team is. 

Renee and I cuddle up for a cold and wet selfie pool side.
It was cold and wet up in Yucaipa, as we got some much needed rain. The rain forecast made me decide to leave the Nikon at home. I didn't want to risk the camera and lens getting. I also knew that I'd be busy in my role as assistant coach. Of course this didn't phase my future step-daughter, as she decided to take our family's Nikon D3200 out and try her hand at photographing the game.

I didn't have the "big" lens (70-200/f2.8), only our kit 55-200/f3.5-5.6. It was going to be a challenge, but I thought it would be a good experience for her to try it. I will take a look at the photos later and I'll share how they came out.

After the game, Renee, Ashleah, and I met my buddy Kevin at his favorite taco place in Whittier: Arturo's Puffy Tacos. Kevin has taken me to Puffy Taco about a month ago and it was delicious, so I wanted Renee to try them. So in spite of the rain and crazy weather, we drove down to Whittier for dinner and you know what? It was SO worth it!! Kevin has made us Puffy Taco fans!

-- Tom