Central California Coast: Day One

We left  on Wednesday morning up the coast for the redwoods. It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. From South Orange County, it took us two hours to reach Ventura. We had lunch at a mall that overlooked the Pacific. Our mom used to live there so we saw her apartment and church. Before that, we played on a grassy field with views.

The poinsettias and the painter.

I threw the football with Dad, and my sisters threw the frisbee with him. We were going to go to the Santa Barbara Mission, but we took a wrong turn and ended up at a cool park. It had climbing rocks and a good climbing tree. We saw something that our family assumed was a gopher.


Finally, we arrived at the mission. They had a funny picture. It is the one on the left.

After that, we went to the Danish town of Solvang. They make excellent pastries.

I know mine looks like a giant Oreo without frosting, but it is not.

I had a cookie with chocolate on the outside. There was something like whipped cream on the inside. It was really good. We walked around Solvang then went back to the car.

Dad checked us in on his computer to the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Santa Maria. We had good sleep and woke up for day two.

A preview of day two:

In the morning, after breakfast, we were on the road again. We took yet another detour and found yet another park! This one had ocean views and a tire swing.

To be continued…


The other days of my trip were:

Central California Coast: Day Two

Day Three: coming soon


On Wednesdays, we are part of a homeschool co-op. My classes this year are:

  1. Science in the Beginning
  2. Blogging and 21st Century Skills
  3. Apologia Botany
  4. Strategy Games

Science in the Beginning, is about the first 7 days of the world. At the end, we do jeopardy about what we learned that week. During last week’s Daily Double, the other team bet all their points and lost. Now they are at zero.

In blogging, we write blogs and deliver presentations. Here are a few of the blogs besides mine:

Kasen Weekly

The Paper Master

Oliver is a Beast


Classical Girl

We are having a contest. Whoever writes the most blog posts over 1oo words receives a $20 Amazon gift card. Second gets $15. Third gets $10 and fourth wins $5. Communikate won first, I won second, Tealsurfur won third and This Guys Blog won fourth. Tealsurfer’s blog is private. This blogging class is taught by The Contemporary Homeschooler.

Raising hands during a blogging presentation.

Next, we walk to the sanctuary. We do the Pledge of Allegiance and go over announcements.  After that, we have lunch. My mom usually buys us pizza, and we pack a candy bar from Halloween.

Our next class is botany. We are making a plant game for the last week of 2016 that has Co-op. We use the Apologia curriculum where you use a notebook and a book to read from. You can buy the curriculum.



The group picture for botany.

In Strategy Games, I mostly play Risk. It is a board game that takes a very long time. It ends when you dominate the world. We can never get that far in 55 minutes so we do it in a different way. You win by owning the most territories. People play the other games, fortunately. Having all 5 people playing Risk takes so long. Usually, we have two to three people.

Playing Risk



Co-op is very fun and I like it.

Fossil Hunting

We looked for fossils during a hike on Tuesday. Our guide knew the right area so we found plenty. I took one home with me.

Group picture

We arrived at Cook’s Corner to meet up with the group, and I climbed a hollow tree.

Walking down the trail to the fossil area

We went with a guide who we have been with twice. His name is Joel. He always has us introduce ourselves somewhat the same way. We tell who we are and where we come from. We are really allowed to say we came from anywhere. I usually say I came from “somewhere.”

When we started on the hike, we pointed out rocks we found that were interesting. None of them were fossils, though. We saw some burnt logs from a fire that ravaged that area a few years ago.

In a tree killed during the fire.

We walked down that trail for awhile. We came to a natural rock climbing place. There were two caves with a lot of litter.

My sisters in the cave

You couldn’t really fit into the caves, though. I went into that cave and one a little higher that is hard to reach. After that, we went to the creek. There were a lot of fossils.

Some Fossils

There was also a rock that looked like a dinosaur. We walked down a little farther to a sulfur pond. It smelled really bad. The smell was like rotten eggs. We went down a little farther, once again, to a great place to climb. I found it, and everybody followed me.

We went about as far as the camera shows.

John and I went the highest. That probably sounds confusing, but there is another John who I am friends with. The view from there was so high it made me dizzy. Christian and Ian made it up behind me. We all went down together, but John went down first. We walked down the path a little farther then turned back. Everybody was getting tired, but I could’ve walked a little farther.


The area with the burnt trees was fun. The wood was so soft I could take some of it off. The result was getting my hands sooty. My sisters did it, too.

For dinner, we stopped by Peppino’s Pizza to buy some pizza and wash my hands. The day was good from the fun hike to the delicious pizza.

Product Review: Tower of Terror Shirt

This is a Twilight Zone Tower of Terror t-shirt I bought at the Tower Hotel Gifts in California Adventure.

Me wearing the Tower of Terror Shirt

It is 100% cotton. I bought it because Tower of Terror is closing on January third. The shirt only says The Hollywood Tower Hotel and has the logo. The Hollywood Tower Hotel logo is unique. It looks normal, like any fancy hotel logo, but somehow foreboding. The reason is, in fact, that Disney did it that way. The t-shirt might have been bought in the 1930’s and preserved until 2016. That is how real it looks.  Even though it doesn’t say it, anybody would know that it came from Tower of Terror. The t-shirt is very good and will last long after the hotel closes. I guess the five guests will never find their way out of the Twilight Zone.


Interview with My Grandfather about Working on the Apollo Space Missions

`This is an interview with my maternal grandfather. He worked on the Apollo and Skylab space missions. The interview:

  1. What computer did you use when you worked for IBM?
    We worked on several computers. IBM built the computers that actually flew on the Apollo, Skylab, and Space Shuttle spacecraft and controlled the spacecraft. Most of the early spacecraft computers were referred to as the Launch Vehicle Digital Computer (LVDC). We did much of our Apollo software testing on a large IBM System 360/44 Computer. When I first started, we did our software testing by observing 1’s and 0’s on the panel on the front of the System 360/44 Computer. These corresponded to the actual computer programming binary code used to fly the spacecraft.
  2. What was your favorite part about the job?
    My favorite part of the job was working on a program that was of high national interest. The space launches were televised on national television and ongoing coverage was provided. Also, it was a real honor and major challenge being responsible for major software and testing components of the program that assured the safety of the astronauts, as well as achieving the mission results. As Manager of Software Development for space programs, I had the responsibility to ensure my team made no errors in their programming of the space computers. If there were errors, it could result in a disaster, including the death of the astronauts, many of which were neighbors and friends.


  3. What flights did you work on?
    Apollo 11 – 17, All 4 Skylab Flights (SL-1, SL-2, SL-3, SL-4) and most of Space Shuttle Flights (STS-1 – STS-9, STS 41-B – STS 41-G, STS 51-A – STS 51G)
  4. Where did you work?
    I started my space work with IBM in Huntsville, Alabama – where I worked from 1969 – 1973. I then transferred to Houston, TX, where I completed my space work around 1985. I then moved on to other jobs within IBM.
  5. Did you work on Apollo 13?
    Yes, I did – I was a programmer for software that helped provide Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GN&C) and Redundancy Management for Apollo 13. GN&C software was actually used to fly the space vehicle. Redundancy Management was used to provide computer backup in case any of the 5 redundant computers failed.


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Apollo 13 capsule


  1. How many Apollo missions did you work on?
    7 Apollo missions – Apollo 11 – 17
  2. What was the last flight you worked on and what year was it?
    Space Shuttle Flight STS 51-D in 1985.
  3. Why did NASA have this job open?
    During the space program, they were many opportunities for engineering and science majors. In addition to Computer Science majors, many math majors, as I was, were offered computer programming positions in the space program by NASA.
  4. What made you want to apply to this job? 


IBM logo.svg
IBM logo 1972


When I was growing up, I was fascinated by the space program. When I was given an opportunity to take a job in the space program, especially as a computer programmer, it was a very easy decision.

     10. How much training did it take you to be ready for the job?

The training was never complete. A very solid technical education was required to be initially prepared to perform successfully in the space program. To ensure that the space missions would always be completely successful, we had to continually apply lessons learned from the experiences of thousands who were involved in the space program. In addition, we had to continually update our technology and related knowledge to address the increasing space program challenges. Our attitude was that we needed to be “perfect” in our job performance and continually train ourselves appropriately. We absolutely could not afford to make mistakes in our work.

That was an interesting interview. He must have loved that job. I wish I could be there and see all that equipment.

Overall view of the Mission Operations Control Room in the Mission Control Center, Building 30, during the Apollo 9 mission.
Ground control


Nerf N-Strike Retaliator Review


The Nerf Retaliator is a great gun. It has 4 configurations and 4 pieces.

The Nerf Retaliator

See my video for the Nerf Retaliator.

All pieces are compatible with the Modulus™ series. It comes with the gun, stock, barrel extension, and handle. It has one tactical rail on the cocking piece and two on the barrel extension. The gun shoots farther without the barrel extension. Without it, the darts tend to corkscrew.



The accuracy is so good that I hit someone in a Nerf gun fight right in the head about 15 feet away. That was without using a scope. That is hard because Nerf guns do not have the best accuracy. The Retaliator also uses a direct plunger to fire the darts, unlike the Tri-Strike which uses a reverse plunger.


Direct plunger


Reverse plunger

The action of the Retaliator is also very smooth. Now, for some special features:

  1. On the barrel extension, there is a little feature that helps target at what you are firing.
  2. In the handle, there is room for an extra dart.
  3. The extra handle has two lengths.

One of the cons I found was some paint was chipped off on the stock. I ordered the gun from Amazon. That was included in the reviews, but it does not affect the performance.


Shelter Building

Last Tuesday, we went on a hike with our friends. Our leader, Joel, showed us where we were going to build a shelter. erectingshelter2 When we arrived, there was work to be done. First of all, there was the problem of finding enough sticks to make the shape. The shape was going to have one long stick diagonally held up by two small sticks. After we found the sticks, we used others like the two shorter ones to create a wall.

Bringing a stick over for the shelter.

I tied together two crisscrossing sticks because it looked like one was going to knock the other one down. We used plant fiber to tie the sticks together. The knot I used was a random one, but it worked surprisingly well. After that, we put leaves on it.


Before that, Kasen, Ian and I went to find some more sticks because our supply was running low. We brought back some good ones. I found a straight one which was awesome. We were trying to get down the stick on a dead yucca, but it was time to put the leaves on.

Going to get a stick. The yucca in the background is the one we tried to pull off.

Kasen had a great idea. He found a stick like a rake and raked up the leaves for us to put on the shelter. I went inside the shelter when they were putting the leaves on. It was raining leaves! I did go out to put on more leaves. We were putting them on to make insulation. The result was a good but not very comfortable shelter. It would still work, but it would be much better if you had a blanket. Even though we didn’t sleep in it, you  definitely could.


If you can’t already tell from the words and the picture, you should know it is uncomfortable.

It was quite fun building the shelter.


My Roller Coaster Presentation

A few months ago, I made a multimedia presentation on roller coasters. It has stats, videos, and history.  This is the presentation: My roller coaster presentation. Click present to see it in full screen and use the arrow keys to navigate the slides. I made it because I really like roller coasters. So far, I have used it three times. It was used in a blogging class, public speaking class, and sailing. Here is a picture of me during the roller coaster presentation.

During the video of the roller coaster, Colossus.

Don’t pay attention to slide 2. I don’t have the answers to any of the questions on the questions slide. You can try to answer them, yourself, though:)

Tower of Terror FAQ’s

The FAQ’s of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

When did Tower of Terror open? The Hollywood Studios Tower opened in 1994. The California Adventure Tower opened 10 years later.

The Hollywood Studios Tower opened in 1994. The California Adventure Tower opened 10 years later.

Which Tower of Terror is the best?

I’ve only been on the California Adventure version, but I’ve heard the one in Hollywood Studios is the best.

Is the ride scary?

I certainly don’t think it is.

How many Towers are there?


How long is the ride?

The Hollywood Studios version is five minutes.

Should I go on it?


How expensive was it to build?

The least expensive was  70-90 million dollars for the California Adventure tower. Most expensive was at Tokyo DisneySea, costing 230 million dollars, because of the decoration.

Is the California Adventure version any good?

I think so. If you really want to go on Tower of Terror, definitely go on the Hollywood Studios version.

To visit a Tower of Terror blog not owned my myself see Tower Secrets


Ecology Center: How to Save Resources

Last Tuesday, we went to The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano. It had all kinds of fun and educational activities. The house they used for an office once belonged to a Pony Express rider!

We saw the front yard. It soaked up the water in the dirt and used it to grow their plants. We learned the asphalt on normal driveways sends water down into the gutter and goes into the ocean. That is wasteful. The backyard of the center also does the same.

That much water for a soda!
Just that much water for water.

To water their plants, they use tubs to collect rain. They only use water from a hose when needed. They showed ways to save water that I and many people don’t know about. For example:

  1. Food with meat takes much more water than food without. The farmers have to use the water for the animals to drink and so on.
  2. Soda takes more water to make than water to drink! That is because in creating the cans and watering the sugar cane it takes water.
  3. Purchasing a used t-shirt is better than a new one. That is because you have to water the cotton plants.


One of my friends running across the saving water path.


Next, we saw a broken machine. With you pedaling, the machine was supposed to send water through some pipes and make it rain by sending water through grooves in the roof. Instead, we watered the plants.


Getting the water to water the plants.


In the greenhouse, they use a method called aquaponics. It has small clay balls so they didn’t have to water the soil. That system was an aquaponic garden. The way it works:

“Aquaponics is, at its most basic level, the marriage of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (growing plants in water and without soil) together in one integrated system. The fish waste provides organic food for the growing plants and the plants naturally filter the water in which the fish live.” – Mother Earth News


Aquaponics garden.



After that, we visited their chickens. We also saw how they make compost. One of the ways was they use worms to eat their leftover food, and the worm dung makes good fertilizer. Their other way is they let their organic trash rot into soil. This is called composting.

Before we left, I put limes under the tires of our car. It didn’t wreck anything, but it was funny. Overall, the field trip was quite fun.