Tuesday, February 24, 2015


It's hard to believe but recently Los Angeles was ranked as the 3rd most transit friendly city in the United States.  We've made huge strides here in this sun-soaked metropolis in public transportation in the last two decades and there's more to come.

We now have a subway, several light rail lines, and commuter rail to go along with our vast bus system.  The one thing we don't have (yet) are signs at the stops and most stations telling you when the next ride will be coming like they do in Europe.

There are some transit apps for your smart phone or tablet that can be utilized to various effectiveness.  We're going to put the top three to the test...NEXTRIP, NEXTBUS, and the LADOT App.

NEXTRIP is used by Foothill Transit to predict when the next Foothill Transit bus will arrive at your stop.  It's not too hard to use. You go to the site, www.foothilltransit.org/NEXTRIP ; find the bus line you're waiting for; and use the dial bar at the bottom to dial in your stop. When you press "Done" the next three predicted bus arrivals appear.

My Foothill Transit bus is only a minute late

NEXTRIP uses GPS technology that pairs the bus location to the stop chosen.

PROS: From the three or four tests I've done with it, it's pretty accurate. Bus arrivals were within a minute of what is displayed.

CONS: There's no reload button. You have to start at the beginning to recalculate or choose another bus stop.  It only displays Foothill Transit buses when there might be a number of buses using the same stop from other transit agencies.

NEXTBUS is an independent arrival app technology. It's at nextbus.com . Nextbus uses the GPS location of your phone to predict when the next bus, or train, will arrive. It has the advantage of redirecting you to another stop or station nearby if that is a better choice.

PROS: Nextbus will give you a menu of several providers that come by your area, you're not limited to one.  It uses the GPS location of your smart device, thus enabling it to display numerous stops or stations in your area which you can use to determine the most efficient bus line or train to take to your destination, not necessarily the one that will stop at the stop you're standing at.

CONS: Is supposed to be accurate to 2000 meters...that's two kilometers...and prediction times are not as accurate as the other two apps listed here.

LADOT App is provided by the L.A. Department of Transportation and provides arrival predictions of its buses, most notably the DASH buses used downtown. It has the added feature of having a live map showing you icons of exactly where the buses are at any given moment. Get it at ladotbus.com.

PROS: The maps are very accurate and the bus icons shown on them are a perfect way to see exactly where that bus is.

CONS: Only works with LADOT buses. Sometimes the GPS units in the buses are not working so those buses do not show up on the map.

While I think the LADOT app works the best, the Foothill app is also pretty accurate, while the NEXTBUS app is not quite as accurate but covers more transit providers.

Next time you're waiting for the bus in L.A., be sure to have each of these bookmarked so you know when your ride will be there.

Copyright 2015-Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, February 23, 2015

Lavender: It's the Bees Knees!

Storm clouds are on the horizon for this Oscar's Sunday here in Southern California. While the rich and beautiful crowd undoubtedly have some poor production assistant to hold an umbrella over their freshly coiffed head, I have no such assistance so I'd better get what little gardening I have to do done.

I should also turn off the sprinkler timers until drier weather arrives to save on our precious water in this dry region.

I'm trying to fix my poor citrus production dilemma. My three-tree citrus grove just doesn't produce the way I want it to. I get hundreds, may thousands, of very fragrant blossoms each year but just a few fruit from each tree.

When I say few, I mean hardly any...two from the cara cara orange; three tangelos; and about ten Meyer lemons.

During the blooming period, I rarely see bees on the plants. You'd think such fragrant flowers would really attract the little honeymakers.

One place I do see them...tons of them, actually...is on the lavender plants.  Last summer, our backyard lavender  plant died so this year, I need to replace it.

I bought two small plants like this a Lowe's.

I dig an appropriately sized hole, knock the plastic pot off, and just stick it in the ground.  I planted a lavender between each citrus tree to attract the bees and, hopefully, they will notice the nice looking plants next door and go looking to do a little pollinating, if you know what I mean and I think you do. 

Dirt tamped down and plants watered in, we'll keep our fingers crossed for a better citrus crop this year.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Recipes for a Cheapskate: Chile Relleno Omelet

I'd given up on this plant months ago. Every time it'd grow a bit, the squirrels would come and eat it.  I hadn't even looked at it in months and, when I did, I saw these two little pasilla chiles on it.

Finally, I had a semblance of an edible crop.  Not a bunch, but just barely usable.

After harvest, I fry 'em up in a dry pan til the skin blisters.

Next, I need to scrape off as much of the outer membrane as I can.

I go out and pick a couple of serrano chiles off of our other plant.

Everything is diced up together and, with a little cheddar/jack shredded cheese mix, put into an omelet.

Here's the delicious result.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


NOTE: We can't always be on the road so this occasional series of posts presents stories of a more general nature, things that happen to us while at home.  Hope you enjoy them...

There's not a lot my son can do. He can't play sports the way he'd like to; play a musical instrument; move out on his own...you get the picture...but there are some things he can. These he develops a passion for such as movies, gaining knowledge on sports, travel, etc.

One thing Tim loves is his music. Hopefully, I've inspired it, but he has great and evolving taste in music. For Christmas or birthday presents, he only has one request. iTune cards.  Along with his noise cancelling headphones, it's a great convenience for those hours long drives or flights to help him pass the time easily.

Tim loves his iPod and he has the largest capacity one ever made at 160GB.  He loves to boast that he's up to whatever this weeks number of songs are...in the thousands...so you can imagine his dismay not too long ago when his beloved iPod would no longer sync with iTunes on his computer or anybody else's.

Not only that, but when he logged onto iTunes, his account was empty.  A blank slate.  Easy you say, just sync the iPod with iTunes and problem solved but iTunes would not recognize the device. The backup and sync icons were grayed out.

A little backstory will come in handy here. One day, a few months ago, Chrome...the Google browser that Tim prefers to use...would no longer work on his laptop. Nothing that anyone at Google or the many offering advice on the Internet could suggest would work.

The last resort was reinstalling Windows 7. The update only install didn't work so we backed up his data and did a complete reinstall.

That fixed the Chrome problem. Unfortunately, now we had the iTunes problem.  Again, nothing we could find would fix it except I was finally able to get our desktop to recognize it and sync the songs on the iPod into iTunes but Tim still could not sync newly bought music back down to the device.

While resetting the device (wiping it clean and starting over, basically) would be the option, the empty iTunes window on Tim's laptop had me scared from trying this option. I didn't want to be on the hook should my son lose thousands of dollars of music, so a trip to the Apple Store and the Genius Bar were in order.

I booked a reservation online at the store in Rancho Cucamonga, a 28 mile drive away. It's only 12 miles to our closest store in Pasadena but we'd have problems parking and it's not free either. An extra 15 minutes would be a small price to pay not to have to deal with the crowded conditions in Pasadena.

We made a day of it. Tim got dropped off to see an early matinee of 'Whiplash' in Claremont. Letty and I had a snack for breakfast and did some clothes shopping. Our plan was to meet up again after the movie, have a quick lunch, then head to our appointment.

The Apple Store is located in Victoria Gardens, a giant outdoor mall that is so big it has several streets within to drive your car around.  It also has two streets called Main Street (north and south) and, of course, we picked the wrong one to park on. By the time we found the store, we'd whittled down our lunch time to 30 minutes.

The plan was revised to go to the store and see if maybe we could check in early.  No dice.  We are told to come back 10 minutes ahead of our appointment and check in.

The Apple Store site said our visit with the genius should only take 15 minutes so we decided to put lunch off until after our visit.

Coming back at the appointed time and checking in, we're told to wait at a nearby table to be called for the genius. Ten minutes later our name is called and, seeing Tim in the wheelchair, we're told to wait where we are and the genius will come out to us.
I set up Tim's laptop and iPod so we can get right to work.

25 minutes later, we're still waiting for the genius.  When we ask, we're told we're next on the list.  What was going on when they called our name to go up to the bar? Who knows, we're never told.

The same guy that told us to wait at the table for the genius now comes and tells us to head to the bar. What happened to the genius coming out to us? We're told they could help us at the bar better.

I break down our setup,head to the end of the bar (where a foldout platform is deployed for wheelchairs) and set it up again. We tell the genius the problem. She doesn't want to hear it, at least from us. She wants to hear it from Tim.

"It won't sync," he says.

"What are the symptoms?" she asks.

"It won't sync."

See, the problem is that Tim relies on his in-home IT specialist (me) to diagnose the technical problems. He can't really describe whats happening because he didn't deal with it.

Finally, I tell her she needs to listen to me because I'm the only one who can describe what's been going on.

OK, it needs a full reset. I make sure to ask that Tim will not lose any of his purchases.  No, he won't but anything he's copied from a CD (about a thousand songs) will be deleted.


Reset commences, genius disappears ("I'll be right back."), and the synching begins.  About 10 minutes later, it appears the sync is complete but we want to make sure the genius looks it over and gives her OK but she's nowhere to be found. Out of the 25 or so employees just standing around the sales floor, she isn't one of them. Eventually, we ask what happened to our genius and someone goes to look for her.

She was out back smoking a cigarette. Finally, she give her OK and our hour and a half at the Genius Bar is over.  What an ordeal.

Stomachs rumbling, we finally head over to a nearby Fuddruckers to have a giant hamburger to quell our hunger.

Remind me why it is everybody is so crazy over Apple products again...

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Mother's Job is never done.

This is our Christmas Cactus. We got it six years ago and it's been in a hanging basket next to the orchid bench ever since. I would imagine we should think about repotting it soon.

It's a gorgeous flowering plant, reliably blooming, as it's name suggest, every holiday season.

This post is not about that, however. It's about the alien that came along with it.

I'm talking about the volunteer, or weed if you will, Kalanchoe daigremontiana that grew out of the side of the basket.

It's almost taken over the basket but it still let's the Christmas cactus alone. It puts out thousands of pretty little lavender flowers. It also produces little leaflets that drop off to create new plant, giving is the common name of Mother of Thousands.

Funny, though. None of those little leaflets that have dropped off have created any new plants. It seems content to crowd in with the Christmas cactus.

Apropos of nothing, the camellia next to it is also blooming, giving us a very colorful corner of the garden in this California winter.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Cyms, Dends, and Epis...it's Orchid Season Again

Not content to wait on my schedule, the orchids have gone ahead and started blooming. It's not a big deal but it pushes me to get cracking on giving them some care.

The problem with the cymbidiums is that their flower stocks are top heavy. This is also the time of the year that we get some big winds. If I don't do something, they'll snap off in a stiff breeze.

This guy is a good example.

I'll pull a bamboo stake out and put a twist-tie on it. I use the 'figure 8' method, where I cross the twist-tie across itself to put a cushion between the bamboo stake and the flower stock.

There, all done.

Other news on the orchid front...this little epidendrum will be pumping out dime-sized flowers throughout the season.

This dendrobioum...

...and this one also show buds and signs of a very spectacular bloom to come soon.

The last dendrobium, above, was a hanging basket but some rodent or bird dug a hole in the bottom so it's in the orchid infirmary to recover until we can repot it.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Surgery for a Rose

This years I've decided to push my garden chores back by a month. Last year, I pruned the roses over New Year's weekend. This year, I've waited until now. The Moonstone, pictured above, got tired of waiting and started the season without me.  He'll just have to start over.

The same with Angel Face, which already put out a bloom.

Time for me to fish out my loppers and finish off the job.

That's it. Job done.  All the roses front and back are now ready for another season. Hopefully the deer got their fill last year and they'll leave them alone for this season.


Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

This Vine Needs Our Support

It's time to start gardening again in our back patio. I let it go a bit fallow this fall, we had some home improvement projects we needed to get done, and now it's time to get back into the dirt.

While we were successful in keeping the birds away from a good portion of our grape crop this year, the trellis I built for it years ago is straining under the weight of this now mature vine.

It's listing a good 20 degrees and the crossbars have become detached.  The wood is still good thanks to the decision to use redwood when I originally constructed it. Redwood is pretty resistant to rot and I use it when I can, especially in a wet gardening environment.

Pretty simple in execution, I just pull the wood out of the ground, trim up the grape vine a bit, and use a mallet to hammer them back in as deep as I can get them. Then, just screw in the crossbars and I'm done.

The plumeria is a great grower but it goes in some directions I don't want it to go.  I've trimmed them up and tried to point out the way I do want them to go. We'll see what they look like this summer.

I've already pruned the front yard roses. Easy job as the deer have been keeping them in check for me. I've only got a little room left in the green waste bin so I can only prune one of the backyard roses this week. It'll be Mr. Lincoln.

That's it for this weekend, next week I'll see about tilling in some amendments for this year's vegetable garden.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved


Our ratings are...
Fully Accessible - You can access all of the attraction, with no problem, in any type of wheelchair.

Mostly Accessible - You can access most of the attraction, and all of the important parts of it, with your wheelchair.

Partially Accessible - You can access a good deal of the attraction but some parts are inaccessible and some important parts you'll miss.

Inaccessible - Kind of speaks for itself, avoid if you're in a wheelchair.

Here's Salzburg, Austria...

Haupbahnhof - Fully Accessible. The town's train station is where you'll be deposited after a 75 minute train ride from Munich. The buses out front are accessible via the back door (good luck with getting the driver to help you) but be aware that everything you'll want to see is also within easy walking distance to the station.

Cathedral - Mostly Accessible. The church where Mozart was baptized and plied his trade as an organist is easily seen via a chair but restrooms will have to be found elsewhere.

Hohensalzburg - Partially Accessible. Looming on the hilltop, protecting the town, this giant castle is reached via a funicular. The train is accessible via a separate path, follow the ticket taker's directions, and a lift to the train platform. Security guards here are not known for their warmth, let them push the elevator buttons for you. At the top, only the outer perimeter (which includes the restaurant) is accessible to wheelchairs.

St. Peter's Cemetery - Mostly Accessible. The supposed hiding place for the Von Trapp family from the movie 'The Sound of Music' does hold some famous remains, such as Mozart's sister.

Mozart's Birthplace - Inaccessible.

Mozart Family Residence - Fully Accessible. The Mozart family home on the other side of the river from his birthplace is a very nice museum that chair users can take advantage of.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, February 2, 2015

Hit Hard by the Drought but Not Quite a Knockout

Driest year on record. That was 2014. Already in January and February, we've had just about as much rain as we had all last year. Still, we're under mandatory 20% reduction and orders not to water our lawns more than twice a week.

Luckily, there are some plants in the garden that thrived even without all that water. The plumeria, at the top, bloomed better than ever. We even had strangers sneak up and pick the flowers.

Cherry tomatoes came alive in their hanging basket.

The chiles produced way more than we could ever eat and are still going strong.

Put them together and I've got a great salsa to use as a base for making chilequiles and eggs.

Orchids are a lot tougher than people give them credit for...

...and, of course, you can't really kill bougainvillea.

Mr. Lincoln proves that roses are also a great drought-tolerant plant, although the deer coming down from the dry mountains found the blooms irresistible.

Copyright 2015 - All Rights Reserved