Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Satellite Dish Rules

I've posted this before in my Oahu Favorites post (intended to inform new people moving to Hawaii), but looking back, it doesn't really fit there and really deserves it's own post. A few times, I've had friends or coworkers mention an interest in getting satellite TV, but uncertainty over whether or not their HOA or condo will allow them to put up a satellite dish.

The short answer is:


Reposted from my Oahu Favorites post:

We hated the Time Warner Cable and really missed our Dish Network service. We submitted the form with Forest City (Pearl Harbor military housing management company) to get permission to put in a satellite dish and got approval within a week. There is a booth set up right in the foyer of the NEX, and they offer a pretty good deal on the installation.

Note that FCC rules say a HOA cannot prohibit you from putting up a satellite dish (as long as it's less than 1 meter in diameter). Here's an excerpt from the FCC website:
The rule prohibits restrictions that impair a person's ability to install, maintain, or use an antenna covered by the rule. The rule applies to state or local laws or regulations, including zoning, land-use or building regulations, private covenants, homeowners' association rules, condominium or cooperative association restrictions, lease restrictions, or similar restrictions on property within the exclusive use or control of the antenna user where the user has an ownership or leasehold interest in the property. A restriction impairs if it: (1)unreasonably delays or prevents use of; (2) unreasonably increases the cost of; or (3) precludes a person from receiving or transmitting an acceptable quality signal from an antenna covered under the rule. The rule does not prohibit legitimate safety restrictions or restrictions designed to preserve designated or eligible historic or prehistoric properties, provided the restriction is no more burdensome than necessary to accomplish the safety or preservation purpose. [Emphasis added is mine.]
Note that they are allowed to impose certain restrictions. For example, Forest City says you can't mount it to the house. What the local satellite dish installers do is put a cinder block base down in your yard and mount the satellite dish to the cinder block base. Reception is great.

Revision 9/8/2008: Okay, we have had occasional minor interference on the screen that we never experienced while we had Dish Network on the mainland, but it hasn't been bad. I started keeping a log of the outages in March 2008, and I only logged one outage in April and one in May. So it happened less than once per month.

Note the satellite is over the continental U.S., so the dish will need to aim to the EAST-southeast. Functionality is ten times better than Time Warner Cable.

I have anecdotal evidence from one of the other officers in my wardroom that DirectTV requires a larger satellite dish than what is allowed, and he was forced to take down his DirectTV satellite dish.

End of Repost.

Update: Now that we're back on the mainland, I'm ecstatic to have DishNetwork HD service. We have an HD dual-tuner DVR receiver that feeds the family room and home theater in the basement, and we have a standard definition dual-tuner DVR receiver that feeds the master bedroom and the guest bedroom.

The dual tuner DVRs are really nice. They allow you to record two shows at the same time and watch two other shows. Plus we rarely watch commercials anymore. Just record the shows you want, watch them a little time late and fast forward through the commercials.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Central California Coast a la Blunoz


So, if *I* was going to fly to San Jose and go on a road trip down the central California coast to LA, then I would be sure to hit the following places...

First, I would try to time my trip to arrive the weekend of the Gilroy Garlic Festival. This year, it's July 24-26, so you might have missed the boat on that. If you DO make it to the Gilroy Garlic Festival, be forewarned that garlic will be oozing from your pours for the next several days. (But it's sooooo good!)

Next, I would wave a magic wand and take a time machine to go back to my favorite restaurant, La Scuola in Castroville, but it looks like they went out of business at least a year ago. :-( (Aside: Sorry Dave and Naomi - I went and got your hopes up telling you that you MUST try this place, and it's not there anymore. [sniff, sniff - dabs at corner of eye])

Okay, so in all seriousness, here's my recommended itinerary:

Day 1:

In Monterey, I would go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It is hands-down the best aquarium on the face of the planet. 'Nuf said?

Next, as long as I was down there, I would go for a walk down Cannery Row. This is where the old fishing canneries used to be, but the old cannery buildings have been revamped with shops and restaurants.

At the southern end of Cannery Row, I'd go for a walk out the Coast Guard pier and see the sea lions. There are dozens upon dozens of sea lions all over the breakwater at the end of the Coast Guard pier, and you can hear them barking from across the bay.

Then I would head over to LaLLapAlOoZa (yelp reviews / restaurant web page) for dinner. This. Place. Is. Awesome. Fantastically delicious food and amazing martinis. My favorite was the 3-mile Island (it was a melon-flavored glowing green concoction like nuclear waste). Even if you aren't a martini fan, you will still enjoy the fun olive-themed artwork all over the walls and the food is worth it. (It's a little on the pricey side, but it's good).

Some people like going in to see Carmel and Pebble Beach. If you haven't been there before and if you're a golf fan, then it might be worth a stop. If you're limited to a 3-day road trip, then I would bypass Carmel and Pebble Beach in favor of some other spots along the coast.

If you have time, I would recommend doing the 17-Mile Drive scenic tour of the peninsula and see The Lone Cypress tree. This scenic drive actually takes you by Pebble Beach if you do want to see it.

I would probably call it a night and stay somewhere for the night around Monterey.

Day 2:

Continuing southbound on Highway 1...

I'd stop and go for a hike in Point Lobos State Reserve. This is by far my favorite park in the area. We loved to go scuba diving and hiking there. We liked it so much we paid for the annual pass and certainly got our money's worth. Definitely stop by, check out the natural beauty and keep an eye peeled for sea otters, harbor seals, great blue herons, and lots of other wildlife.

V, LW, and me hiking in Point Lobos State Reserve circa Y2K

Point Lobos State Reserve
This cove was the site of one of the most
awesome scuba dives I've ever been on.

As you continue south on Highway 1, enjoy the coastal scenery driving through Big Sur and stop for lunch at Nepenthe. You can't miss it. As you head south on Rt. 1, it's a restaurant on the right side of the road like 500 feet up this sheer rock cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The view is spectacular. It's a really nice place. The food is good. Now, all that being said - be forewarned: you are going to pay a little extra for the view from the restaurant. It's not outrageously expensive (we're just talking like deli sandwiches and lunch fare, not fancy 5 course dinners), but you're going to feel a little bit like "that's all I get for that much money?" Like I said, you're paying for the view. Location, location, location. (I think if you go in EXPECTING that, then you will be in awe of the view and just enjoy it.)

Continuing your drive south along Rt. 1, be prepared for a 2-3 hour drive at 20-30 mph on winding roads. The scenery is gorgeous. We once saw a pod of something like 50 dolphins swimming down the coast with us.

Just before you get to Hearst Castle, you'll come to a spot where you can pull off the road and see the Elephant Seals. That's kinda neat to see if you aren't in a hurry. There are volunteers who man the site to watch out for and protect the elephant seals and have binoculars for you to check them out.

Hearst Castle is a must. Plan your trip around a visit to Hearst Castle. They offer five different tours here because it would be impossible to see all of the property (the castle and the three guest houses) in one tour. Make reservations in advance - they sell out!

By far the BEST of the five tours is Tour 5, the Evening / Sunset Tour. During this tour, the docents come out in 1920's attire and lounge around the property doing leisure activities as if they were staying there back in the castle's heyday. You feel like you stepped out of a time machine. It really brings the place to life. Unfortunately, Tour 5 isn't offered year round - I think it's only in the spring and fall. If you aren't timing it right for that (I mean, I did already tell you to plan your trip around the Gilroy Garlic Festival in July right, so you can't have your Hearst tour and garlic too.) So if you can't get Tour 5, then I recommend doing Tour 1. They recommend on the website that Tour 1 is a good introductory tour for first time visitors.

After leaving Hearst Castle, continue south on into SLO (San Luis Obispo) and stay the night at the Garden Street Inn. The Garden Street Inn is a very nice bed & breakfast with thirteen rooms each decorated in a different theme. We stayed in the Amadeus Room. When we stayed at the Garden Street Inn, they held a wine-and-cheese reception for us the evening of our arrival, and the following morning the owners cooked us a fabulous homemade breakfast. We definitely got our money's worth.

One of the neat things about Garden Street Inn, there was a journal in each room for the guests to write their thoughts and memories of their stay. We flipped through the pages of the journal in the Amadeus room and found several entries raving about a local restaurant, so we decided to check it out.

I tell you what.

It was SO good...

("How good was it?")

It was SO good that the name of the restaurant has been forever imprinted on my mind.

Buona Tavola

Needless to say, I recommend walking across town to Buona Tavola (yelp reviews / restaurant website) for dinner. The service and food were both spectacular and far above standards for most other restaurants in the state of California.

If you happened to be there on a Thursday night, then you will have the treat of walking through the local farmer's market on the streets of SLO in between the Garden Street Inn and Buona Tavola.

Another popular place to visit near SLO is the Madonna Inn. The Madonna Inn also boasts the claim of having every room decorated in a different theme, but it's in a more ostentatious, gaudy kind of way. There's a novelty to it though, and if you haven't been there before then you might consider staying at the Madonna Inn instead. (They have like 150 rooms at the Madonna Inn versus the 13 rooms at Garden Street Inn.)

Even if you don't actually stay at the Madonna Inn, stop by and use the men's room in the lobby. When you first walk in, you'll look around and say to yourself, "Self... where am I supposed to go pee? ...Wait a minute... am I... are we... supposed to go... IN THERE?" It's kind of hard to explain. Don't be alarmed when you see women in the men's room. They're taking pictures of the urinal.

Day 3:

Continuing southbound, Highway 101 will take you into Pismo Beach about a half hour south of SLO. Pismo Beach is a nice little community, and my wonderful wife and I went there for our babymoon (weekend getaway as a married couple before the baby comes and you become sleep-deprived zombies) along with our awesome friends Jud & Jill (who happen to also be related to us - Jud is my cousin, and Jill ended up giving birth to their eldest son the same day as we had our ES, but I digress). Anyway, Pismo Beach is a nice little community on the coast with lots of beach hotels and restaurants and shops.

The thing that really stands out in my mind about Pismo Beach though is that is the only place in California where it is legal to drive on the beach. Again, it's kind of a novelty - if you haven't done it before and you have any kind of an SUV or truck, then you might want to give it a try just to say you've "been there, done that." We went for a ride in Jud's Ford Explorer down the beach and back.

From there, I would continue on down Highway 101 and just enjoy the scenery all the way to Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara is a very nice area, too, but I don't much experience there to give you any recommendations what to see or do. You're pretty close to your Thousand Oaks destination by this time, so you might want to push through to the end. If you have the time though, you might check out Trip Advisor for some recommendations what to see or do around Santa Barbara.

Si tout.

Explanation: Some friends of ours are getting ready to fly out to San Jose and go for a road trip down to Thousand Oaks along the California coast. Since we used to live in Monterey and are familiar with the central California coast, they asked us for some recommendations of places to stop and things to see along the way.

As usual, I thought I would answer them with a blog post with links to the places of interest.

Unfortunately, all my time touring the coast was before the days of digital cameras, shutterfly, blogging, or Facebook, so I don't have any photos of previous trips to liven up this blog post. I could go scouring the internet for someone else's photos, but it's late and I need to hit the rack. Maybe I'll come back and add some photos later for future Google searches that come here looking for central California travel advice.

So there you have it, I hope you found some useful tidbits somewhere in my ramblings. :-) Have a wonderful trip Dave & Naomi!

Updated 7/23/09: Many thanks to my friend Corey for scanning some pictures of our time in Monterey and emailing them to me to post here on the blog.

Pentagon Gouge: Mass Transit Subsidy Distribution

Heads-up / reminder for my readers in and around the Pentagon:

This week is the distribution of the Mass Transit Subsidy at the Pentagon (Tuesday through Thursday), so don't forget to stop and pick yours up.

For more info on locations and times you can pick up your National Capital Region (NCR) Mass Transit Subsidy, see this website.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Before I start giving thanks, let me just recap the past couple of days as background.

I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Pearl Harbor to give a morning presentation and an have an afternoon meeting on the sub base. I flew out Monday and flew back Tuesday evening on the red-eye, so I didn't bother to adjust my body's clock to Hawaii time. After I landed Monday, I grabbed some stuff at the NEX, got some dinner at Tacos del Mar, checked into the Navy Lodge out on Ford Island and went to bed about 6 p.m. HST (midnight EST).

I woke up about 2:30 a.m. HST (8:30 a.m. EST) on Tuesday. I brought a couple of blockbuster DVDs with me. I finished off the first disc of BSG Season 2 and then I watched Fan Boys.

Fan Boys is about a group of Star Wars nerds who go on a road trip across country to California to break in to George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch and watch The Phantom Menace before it was released in theaters. They stop and get in all sorts of misadventures and battles with Trekkies along the way. It has some crude humor / sexual content - not something I would recommend for kids, but it was a pretty funny movie with some awesome cameo appearances.

Aside: The first and only way I ever heard about this movie was in this article in WIRED magazine along with these behind-the-scenes pictures. Surprisingly enough, telling each of my friends who I think are nerdy enough to have heard about and appreciate the movie, none of them have heard of it. Is it just me or did this movie get NO advertising at all??? (besides an article in WIRED magazine anyway)

About 5 a.m. when I started to see light in the eastern sky, I put on my running shoes and went for a run around Ford Island. What a spectacular and enjoyable run it was, too. I ran counter-clockwise from the Navy Lodge, past the USS UTAH memorial, past the new houses and their lovely view of the brig. The sky was getting brighter in the east as I rounded the southern end of the island and admired the view looking down the channel to the Pacific Ocean and across the water to the USS NEVADA monument, the shipyard and the sub base. I ran along the old WWII era sea plane ramp and down along the battleship row mooring keys to the USS MISSOURI, past the USS OKLAHOMA memorial and on down to the USS ARIZONA memorial. Then I turned past the swimming pool and by the traffic circle back on over to the Navy Lodge. Total distance for 1 lap around the island was 3.5 miles.

Blunoz run by the ARIZONA at sunrise

After I got done with my presentation and meeting on Tuesday, I did a quick scenic drive over to the windward side to get some macadamia nuts at Tropical Farms. After admiring the view of Chinaman's Hat, I headed back over the H-3 and picked up some POG for YB at the commissary. Then I met up with one of my JOs from the Mighty MSP and had an awesome dinner at Sam Snead's. I love the grapefruit vinaigrette dressing at Sam Snead's. I could drink the stuff by the gallon.

Okay, so shifting gears to the Thankful Thursday post, this week I'm thankful for:

- my wonderful family, the awesome dinner my wonderful wife cooked for us tonight, and the awesome bike ride we had around the trails here in Ashburn after dinner tonight
- a safe trip to Hawaii and back
- an awesome run with the history and beautiful scenery around Ford Island
- great shipmates like Matt (thanks for meeting me for dinner, Matt) and the awesome crew I was priviledged to serve with on the Mighty MSP
- macadamia nuts
- grapefruit vinaigrette dressing
- all the great family memories I have of our 15 months living in Hawaii - snorkeling, hiking, kayaking, scuba diving, and enjoying the aloha lifestyle


After catching up on reading some of my blog-roll this afternoon, I want to add one more line item to my thankful list.

I'm thankful for the bravery, dedication, and GUTS of guys like Darrell "Shifty" Powers.

Aside: Friends of mine on Facebook know I share this article's disgust with the MSM coverage of MJ's funeral and total LACK of coverage of people like Robert McNamara and Darrell Powers. (Let's see, WHY is the flag at half mast in the photo of the ARIZONA memorial above??? I wonder how may people in America would guess it was for MJ based on the MSM coverage of his death?)

Anyway, rants against the MSM aside, H/T and many thanks to FastNav for sharing the post about Shifty. I got choked up reading it on the bus ride home today.

Thank you for your service and Rest in Peace, Shifty.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Quick Daily Funnies

In need of a laugh but don't have a lot of time? Check these out...

I've previously written about a couple of quick, funny blogs I read, and I have a couple of new ones to add to the list. These are daily reads of mine that each take like 10 seconds to read and get a quick laugh in the morning on my way to work.

It's Lovely I'll Take It is still one of my favorites. This blog posts funny and bizarre photos found in ACTUAL real estate MLS listings. Over the course of time, the author has become obsessed with "chair." The standard stackable cheap plastic patio chair appears in a remarkable number of odd photos on realty listings, and the author of ILITI has started writing the descriptions of the photos she posts as if "chair" is a dear friend or the main character in a story. See, for example, this one or this one... Also, she has adopted a practice of inserting a "modesty chair" to cover up anything she finds inappropriate on a realty listing, like this or this.

FAIL Blog. Words fail me. How does one explain failure? You'll just have to check it out. (H/T to LS).

Cake Wrecks. Photos of actual cakes either for sale in bakeries or the "this is what the bride asked for and this is what she got" style. (H/T to CC).

New additions to my list:

Awkward Family Photos - the name is self-explanatory. I tried to pick one out as an example for you, but it's just too hard to choose.

There, I Fixed It! posts some pretty funny pictures of bizarre, jury-rigged contraptions people build like this one or this one. (H/T to FAIL blog for introducing this one).

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Wow, I have TWO milestones to report in the same post!

First, on Sunday, ES told us that he would mow the lawn for us for 50 cents. I said, "DEAL!" before he could give it a second thought.

Okay, so he's not QUITE strong enough to push the mower up-slope... YET. He's getting there, though.

I walked along with him and helped him with the tough spots. We were about half way done when he stopped, out of breath, looked at me with beads of sweat running down his temples, and said, "Now that I know how hard this is, I might have to charge you more than 50 cents." I told him once he learns to push the lawn mower in a straight line, I'd happily pay him more to mow the lawn. The lines in the lawn looked like an intoxicated baboon was pushing the mower, but I'm not complaining. I'm just happy he was interested and willing to do it. The straight lines will come with time - he's anal retentive like I am.

Over the weekend we also spent some time working with ES trying to get him to ride his bike without training wheels. Then, last night after I got home from work, that magical moment happened where he took off on his own without me or LW holding on to him.

Credit actually goes to LW for this achievement. She had him get used to just coasting in a straight line on the very slight downhill slope of our street with his legs out straight (feet just skimming off the ground). Once he got so he could just ride in a straight line, balanced with his legs out straight on either side, all he had to do was lift his legs up onto the pedals and start pedaling.

He's still pretty rough on the concepts of turning (the whole tilting over while turning thing freaks him out) and of getting started on his own from a stopped position, but he and I worked on turning and starting for a while last night. After he rode to the end of our cul-de-sac and back to our house four or five times with me running along beside him, he asked me to get my bike out and we rode to the end of our street and back several times. We stayed up way past his bedtime, but I remember when I first learned to ride a bike and I didn't want to do anything but ride and ride and ride some more. It was fun riding up and down the street with him for the first time on his own two-wheeler.

Hooray for ES! Keep up the good work!

Holiday Weekend

(Sorry, meant to post this sooner and got distracted.)

Wow, has it really been a WEEK since I last posted on my blog?

Let's see... what's been going on?

First, I went on a whirlwind trip to Port Canaveral, Florida. I flew down Tuesday evening in order to go to my friend Steve's combined Change of Charge and Promotion ceremony. They held the ceremony in this really cool "ant hill" bunker (it looks like an ant hill with periscopes sticking out the top) from where they launched our first American astronauts into space.

Blunoz self portrait in front of the ant hill.

Honorary parking spots for each of the astronauts who launched from this pad.

One of Steve's boys looking out a periscope.

Periscope View: A line of other ant hill bunkers at other launch pads. In the distance, you can see the Space Shuttle Endeavor being fueled on the launch pad. (Click on image to enlarge)

This was the first time I've flown on JetBlue, and overall I was pretty pleased with their service. This is the first time I've ridden on a plane with your own personal TV screen in the back of every seat and XM satellite radio and DirectTV at your fingertips. THAT was pretty darn cool!

Then I had an AWESOME holiday weekend.

Friday morning, we went on a family bike ride around the trails here in Ashburn and worked on projects around the house.

Family bike ride on the Ashburn Trails
(ES is on the ride-along behind me)

Friday night, I went out with some friends to see Transformers 2 at the Udvar Hazy IMAX theater. It was pretty exciting, but I don't think it was as good as the first Transformers movie. The action was very jittery and you couldn't really tell what was going on until the fight was over and you saw who was left standing. There were several incongruities in the plot - jumping from A to B without any explanation of what happened between A and B. They also put in a few inappropriate elements that I didn't feel were necessary to the movie, didn't add anything to the movie, and will result in me not letting my boys watch the movie. The special effects and the IMAX screen were pretty cool, and I'm glad I had the time out with friends (many thanks to my wonderful wife! :-) ).

Saturday, I worked on some more projects around the house and got ready for several friends to come over for a 4th of July barbecue. I taught the boys how to shuck corn for the first time.

Their facial expressions in the picture sure don't make it look like they're having any fun, but they both volunteered to help, and they both seemed to enjoy the end result.

YB impressed with what he found.

YB took this picture of ES with our pot full of corn.

We had 10 adults and 7 kids over for our 4th of July barbecue. The kids each got to catch a fish in the stocked catch-and-release pond behind our house.

After dinner, the kids got to enjoy some fun with sparklers (thanks Woods!)

Of course, our boys had to turn it into a light-saber duel.

It was an absolutely beautiful evening Saturday evening. Even after all our guests left, I enjoyed just sitting on the deck for a little while enjoying the peace.

This isn't the best panorama shot (you can clearly see the seams between the three pictures), but I include it to give you a feel for the evening out on the deck (click on the image to enlarge).

Sunday we went to church and then my wonderful wife made those mole chicken tostadas for our church home group lunch.

Okay, so as I sit here and type about my weekend, it may not seem like we did a lot, but it was a fun weekend overall. There were a few games of Stratego and Nerf N-Strike on the Wii interspersed here and there, too.

Well, that's all for now. I hope you all had a good 4th of July weekend, too!