Results tagged “journal” from kwc blog

Lance Fest

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Lance Armstrong Attacks - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley
Lance Armstrong Post-Race - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

All you Lance Armstrong fans my like what's going on over at my Spare Cycles blog.

Japan Observations

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The elevator in the Ginza Apple Store has one button. The elevator stops on every floor.

I bought a stick from Tokyu Hands. They wrapped it very well. I didn't know how to explain that its stick-ness could not be harmed.

The lady at the Kobe beef place refused to serve anything to our vegetarian friends. In her defense, even the fried rice was cooked in Kobe beef.

Belatedly back

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Sea Turtle

I had a much needed sea turtle adventure in Hawaii last week and finally got some surfing in.

More sea turtle photos

House Elf

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Our lovely new kitteh House Elf is at home. She's constantly kneading in a little marching pattern with her front paws and she's always hungry, so she's spends all her time walking in a circle from the food bowl to the water bowl to the litterbox to us. Even while she's eating food her front paws keep up the marching pattern. I've tried to calm her down and cradle her, but her front paws keep moving and soon she's up on my shoulder looking for more road. As cute as it is, we're hoping that she'll feel more at ease soon.

We were worried when we were looking at cats that we were going to get one that was too threatening in size for our older cat Pirate. Given that Pirate is only a year old we still have an image in our head of the tiny little kitten we adopted. With our fist-sized House Elf, we now realize that our Pirate has grown up a bit. It's a bit mind-blowing to come home and feel like your cat ate the pantry while you were away.

House Elf and Pirate are both alumni of the Santa Clara Humane Society, which is just a treasure trove of wonderful pets waiting for a new home.

Photos

'Tis mine

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I know I have issues when I go to buy boxers and I come back with a MacBook Pro. I've avoided buying laptops as I've always had a work laptop, but that was before I was really into photography. Apple's revamp did my wallet in and is my first Mac purchase, though I've been using Macs at work for the past several years. Now that the case is much stiffer and has a virtual right click button, I can mostly shut my mouth about the differences between PC and Apple hardware.

I like the new revamp a lot. It feels much more sturdy, which is good considering that I bent the CD drive out of shape on my old Pro. The case also has the subtle detailing that I found lacking in the previous Mac Pro design and feels like a much more worthy successor to the Ti design. The trackpad is much smoother and the entire-trackpad-is-a-button is pretty sweet. I'm not sure about gestures yet: four-finger and three-finger swipes are pretty cool, but I'm still not used to accidentally triggering the resize gesture. It is inevitable that one of my nervous habits will collide with a new feature: tapping the mouse 'button' looks a lot like a pinching motion. Windows broke me of my shift-key tapping habit and Google Desktop broke me of my ctrl-key tapping habit -- I may go into nervous breakdown if I can't find a free key.

Oh, and I did manage to get the boxers.

Zero-G: Boom-de-yaddah

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I'd love to write more about it, but, honestly, my brain is just fried right now. Perhaps tomorrow. It's such an intense and amazing experience and my mind is still trying to digest it all. I've wanted to do this for over a decade and it's with absolute gratitude to my employer Willow Garage that I can add this unique experience to my life. For some reason I feel like singing the Discovery Channel commercial, "The World is an Amazing Place." boom-de-yaddah

Zero-g Photos and Video

She is Ninja

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Ninjas can warp time and spaceIn a display of her ninja-prowess, we just found out last week that our 1-year-old dog Ninja was never spayed. We -- and our vets -- had previously thought she was simply spayed improperly, but a more careful examination reveals no scar. More sophisticated ultrasound equipment was actually required to make the discovery as well as four trips and two attempted operations.

Ninja was also never microchipped, despite the tag around her neck that lists the number of the microchip that we now know is not inside of her. Some day another dog will show up on our porch and Ninja will greet her with a wink and a hug.

We're unsure what else to continue believing about our dog -- if that is her actual species -- but we're wise to her trickery now. We are still mystified as to how she evaded the original operation, but her records do leave some clues. There is a full medical chart for Ninja detailing the operation and mutliple followup checks. More careful examination reveals the method to Ninja's deception: she tricked them into spaying and microchipping her shadow.

The chart shows a photo of a dog remarkably similar to Ninja, except entirely black. A simpler explanation would be that they mistook Ninja for another dog at the shelter, but her continued evasion of all surgical procedures since then says otherwise. Ninja has such control over time and space that she is able to create a shadow of such detail that it is capable of being spayed. Amazing.

First ReviewMy first review for PhotographyReview.com is up. Hopefully the first of many. Please check it out and let me know what you think.

I reviewed Phoxle's white balancing products, which I was first introduced to when I attended a Camera Owners of the Bay Area meeting. I was impressed with their ingenuity and sought them out as a review target. If you're wondering what the big white disc is that I have with me when I'm shooting, you can checkout the review for more. Chris Pedersen of Phoxle was a stand-up guy throughout the whole review process and his presence on message boards out there showed that his friendliness is not reviewer-biased. So, to summarize the review before you read it, buy the SpectraSnap.

It's been pretty busy between reviewing camera equipment, reviewing bikes, reviewing pens, and writing web sites to collect cycling links. I've also been doing more studio work with bikes and holding down the day job building robots. I was a bit ashamed to have to use official shots of the Phoxle equipment instead of taking my own, but the time is just crazy hard to find I say, crazy. Of course I'm not complaining because all of this is a lot of fun.

More posts forthcoming

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Even a shortened Comic-Con (skipped Wed/Thurs) was full of fun goodness, but the gas tank is now empty and I'm pushing the car in neutral. I'm really fond of the sketches I got this year and I'm looking forward to scanning them in and sharing.

Tour de Comic-Con: Friday's Stage

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comicconsplash_ccilogo.gifkwc arrived in San Diego just in time to walk over with the rest of Team Uni (bleusky, ota, parakkum, and littlestar -- m had already gone on a solo breakaway) to the Convention Center.

The big panel on the day was Joss Whedon, plus the writers and actors of Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog. The line for Ballroom 20 was once again a nightmare, but kwc was able to guide littlestar and bleusky through the special door he found last year, past the cast of Stargate: Atlantis, through the security guard check, and into the ballroom. A harrowing course, but easier with experience.

The first goal on the day was to obtain the Lego pieces for the Joker figure, which like all good schwag, is upgraded to even better schwag when completed: you get a display box that also contains a Lego Batman figure. It was time consuming, though easy to complete, and Team Uni now has six Lego Jokers, seven Lego Batmans, and an extra Lego Joker head.

Nathan Fillion and Neil Patrick Harris dueled on stage in real life as on screen and Whedon answered the many questions with the normal entertaining, sarcastic responses. There didn't seem to be much difference between Captain Hammer and Nathan Fillion, and much of Dr. Horrible's character was formed out of Neil Patrick Harris' amusements for boredom. Felicia Day was forced to keep her hands on the table after the audience misunderstood what it meant to be "twittering".

The sketches today were few but quality: a couple Attaboy sketches, a Pirate Scratch by Kurtz, the yearly Stan Sakai sketch, and some monsters by Rodolphe Guenoden. parakkum collected some signed Queen and Country definitive editions from Greg Rucka, who entreated parakkum to "Please, don't blow me up." Yes, Rucka can peer into men's souls. There was also a bit of 3D to this year's sketch haul: a Gary Baseman-drawn Vimobot.

Team Uni regrouped at the end of the day for the Avatar finale. The audience was tested with long lines into Room 6CDEF and the verbal challenge: "If you get out of line to go to the bathroom, the line is closed, we will not let you back in. If you have to go to the bathroom, you will have to chose." The crowds where huge, the silhouette of a Fire Lord logo was visible -- MST3K style -- at the bottom of the video screens, the fan art and costumes were entertaining, and the finale was epic.

The Tour de Comic-Con is a go

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comicconsplash_ccilogo.gifSchedule conflicts and sold out tickets had me thinking that I would have to miss Comic-Con this year after five straight years of attendance. I was forced to think what my life might be without the crushing crowds and schwag schwindling. But Team Uni has proven that the Tour de Comic-Con truly is a team event. littlestar, parakkum, and m on site braved the volatile Wednesday parcours to secure a last minute entry for me. Southwest frequent flier vouchers took care of the rest.

I'm a bit out of form and I'll have to ride into form for the event. It took the help of d to help find my sketchbook (sitting on the bookshelf, where you'd naturally expect it). There's only ten pages left so I'll have to be selective tomorrow. I'm also forced to travel without many accessories as Comic-Con does not allow rolling luggage on site and I'll be flying directly to the event. Five years and I'm still a rookie.

Nevertheless, I'll put everything I can into the event because there is so much to be seen, so much to do, so much Comic-Con.

Brooklyn Bridge

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Olafur Eliasson: Take Your Time @ MOMA

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Photo gallery

Olafus Eliasson created one of my favorite installations I've never saw -- The Weather Project at the Tate Modern -- so I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon his "Take Your Time" exhibit at the MOMA. I can't think of any American museum that can really rival the Tate's Turbine Hall for immersive art, but Eliasson took over every knook and cranny he could find in the MOMA. A fan propels itself in the atrium, an opening in the wall takes you to a platform that hovers over infinite reflections of yourself, and yellow flourescent lights in the hallway turn everyone into an intense monochrome gray. My favorite part of the exhibit was a multi-faceted kaleidoscope light that sent colors of every stripe onto the surrounding walls.

If only I had been in NYC this weekend instead of last: Eliasson's Brooklyn Bridge Waterfalls are due to open tomorrow. Perhaps another favorite never-seen installation to add to my list.

Photo gallery

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© Murakami @ Brooklyn Museum

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I can never figure out whether Takashi Murakami is an "artist" or clever con. His study of otaku/manga/pop fetish commercialism looks an awful lot like otaku/manga/pop/fetish commercialism. But LIchtenstein got away with plagiarizing pages out of comic books and now hangs in nearly every modern art museum; at least Murakami does original work.

Brooklyn MuseumI was sad to miss Murakami's show in Los Angeles. I stayed at a hotel just two blocks away from the exhibit, but between New Years, the Rose Bowl, and the Moca's limited hours, I couldn't make it over. I must have some gravity towards Murakami: last weekend I found myself staying in Brooklyn just on the other side of Prospect Park, so I was not to be denied this time around.

The exhibit takes over a large swath of the Brooklyn Museum and spans two floors. The museum feels transformed with Murakami wallpaper covering many of the rooms to intense effect: imagine the effect of standing in a room covered with smiley flower wallpaper, smiley flower paintings, and smiley flower sculptures. If that doesn't seem intense to you, imagine another room with eyeballs on pink.

The biggest transformation was also Murakami's most brilliant stroke: a fully operational Louis Vitton store sits in the middle of the exhibit, offering some of Murakami's previous work for LV as well as an exhibition-exclusive design.

Murakami's exploration of otaku sexual fetishism setup the most disturbing twist: there was a large number of parents who brought children to the exhibit. I would have thought the naked female robot transforming into a spaceship would have deterred them from going further, sparing the parents from having to explain the life-size manga woman spraying milk from her breasts and the male counterpart just across. But no, deep into the exhibit, there were kids happily drawing smiley flowers on pieces of paper.

Photos aren't allowed inside the exhibition, but I tried my best anyway: photo gallery

Fire sky

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Why can't the sky be this interesting everyday?

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Movie: Iron Man

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ironman.jpgI saw Iron Man last night and enjoyed the movie. All jokes about Robert Downey, Jr. and how he didn't have to act aside, lets think about the boldness of the movie's construction for a second.

Most hero origin movies (Spiderman, Batman Begins) spend the early part of the film having the protagonist become the hero and then you get a bunch of bad-guy-butt kicking to fill the rest. Almost the entire Iron Man movie consists of Tony Stark building the Iron Man suit. The bad guy fights are essentially debugging. I can just see the writer/producer meeting now:

"Fans love superhero origin movies. Let's make the entire movie about Tony Stark building his suit."

"I dunno, can we really fill two hours with him building his suit?"

"I know! We'll have him build two suits!"

Kudos to Robert Downey Jr., who as a result of this writers' decision shares most of his screen time with robotic arms (whose last roles were suicial GM-car-building robots) and a cellphone. Even Gwyneth Paltrow takes her acting cues from the robotic arms, dutifully holding items for Tony Stark while he shouts orders at her.

But really, it works somehow.

Before Iron Man was the Incredible Hulk preview. It's the only movie I can think of where a remake was justified by how bad the previous movie was. Another Marvel property, The Punisher, comes to mind, except that I don't think that anyone expected either version to be good.

Ninja is 1!

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Ninja sleeps Ninja at 1

Our little girl is now one-year-old-ish. She's twice as big as when we got her eight months ago and a lot of that seems to have gone into her ears and snout. If her energy levels are any indication, she's going to be a puppy for quite awhile longer.

New Bike!

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Judicial efficiency

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I was photographing the courthouse in Washington, Georgia and noticed that the back of the courthouse is a jail:

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Pirate Fest!

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Pirate Fest!

Savannah straddled a fine line between old charm and decrepit, winning me over as I got to see more of the town outside the historic district. Tybee Island won me over more easily: Tybee Island Pirate Fest, Oct 10-11. Oh, and their mayor looks like Marky Mark.

At the Tour de Georgia

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Tybee Lighthouse - (c) Ken Conley

Covering it over on my spare cycles blog

Balloons!!

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d and I went on a hot air balloon ride over Napa on Sunday -- quite a blast. It floats so smooth and gently over the valley, highly recommended. All of the balloon rides happen at sunrise so it's like seeing a secret side of the valleys: hot air balloons being inflated on railroad tracks and parking lots, flying over the vineyards, and then landing in whichever field the winds take them to. By the time the first winery opens they're already gone.

More photos

Ninja false pregnancy update

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Our dog Ninja has been going through a "false pregnancy": she wasn't spayed correctly and apparently after a dog goes into heat, it thinks its pregnant regardless of the facts. Naturally, because there is a 'pregnancy', it is followed by a 'puppy': any object will do.

We were hoping that Ninja would adopt our kitten Pirate as her puppy and cement their odd relationship for eternity, but after several weeks we concluded that Ninja skipped this phase of bitch confusion entirely. We were wrong.

Ninja has had a habit of hiding in the bushes whenever I took her into the backyard these past several weeks. She would stand there and poke and prod things around for a few moments until I usually yelled at her to get out of there. Today, though, was time for her 'puppy' to have its first run of the yard. Ninja emerged from the bushes with a tennis ball in her mouth; she had been such a good mother to it these past several weeks.

Exercising to eat, and sleep

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I've been riding a stationary bike at work during the rainy months, but yesterday's Road Bike Review ride was my first time on the bike in a couple months. We spent about 3 hours on the bike on mostly flat terrain, which I followed up with a burrito, four tacos, and half a bag of chips -- the lady at the counter gave me two cups when I asked for a glass of water. Then I slept for a couple of hours. Then I ate some pizza. Then I slept for a lot more hours.

I'm having a blast

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Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago

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In the event that our flight does not land in Chicago, we will be landing in Dulles

That was the gist of what I heard as I sat down on my Southwest flight this morning. There was much missing from the announcement, such as why a plane that had not yet taken off was uncertain about the location of its landing. We were given the option of leaving the plane, but we opted to stick around for this new adventure in 21st-century quantum air travel. After all, both Chicago and Dulles are closer to our destination than San Jose. Win/win.

I got off my plane in Dulles with a hop and a skip, eagerly looking forward to what Southwest's next exciting twist on air travel would be. They didn't disappoint: we could not be given a refund or voucher because those can only be given at our destination. Dulles was not our destination, but I thought they had already redefined the concept of 'destination' earlier in the day.

They offered us a "40 minute" shuttle from Dulles to BWI in rush hour to catch another flight, but we decided to go rent a car on our own. At worst we arrived an hour later. At best we are currently not in Alaska.

Canon Professional Services

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My Canon Professional Services (CPS) membership arrived in the mail today along with a big book of lens porn (EF Lens Work III). You can download the book for free, but it is pretty in print.

What is CPS? As a Canon repair person explained to me on the phone, the boxes with CPS stickers get taken off the mail truck first and handed to a repair person. CPS also has another great benefit: the CPS loan program. It is a "Try Before You buy" system that allows you to demo various Canon equipment.

You have to be a professional to qualify and the application has a long list of materials you have to supply to prove this. If so, you can e-mail cpsmember [-at-] cusa.canon.com for an application.

Silicon Valley Dinner

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amazoncardsWe pigged out at the delicious Alexander's Steakhouse to celebrate a friend's birthday. When it came time to settle the bill there were five Amazon credit cards. As it turns out, we all enjoy that post-Christmas Christmas from Amazon: the day the envelope of $25 gift certificates arrives.

Pirate/Ninja Play

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Some of you have requested video evidence that Pirates and Ninjas can in fact co-exist, so I submit the above. If you'll notice, it's the smaller, scrappy Pirate that initiates the whole affair by grooming then attacking Ninja. Ninja obliges as gently as a 50-lb dog can, occasionally sticking Pirate's entire head in her mouth, at other times offering her legs like drumsticks to the cat. I edited out as much cuteness as I could to keep it under two minutes, but it was tough.

Concert: BB King in Marin

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d and I got to see BB King play up at the Marin Center on Friday. It was my second time seeing him play and each time is a joy. He's five years older than when I last saw him, which means a bit more storytelling than singing -- and a lot more viagra jokes -- but his voice and Lucille still are still masters of the blues. I always regretted not hearing John Lee Hooker; at 82-years-old BB's voice still roars and I still marvel at how he can squeeze the strings. Gold doesn't rust. This quote from his San Quentin performance summarizes the night well:

Blues to me is something like whatever ails you. You make something out of whatever it is. If you want to make it bluesy, it can be fun and still be bluesy, just a type of music we call blues. Now I want you to, you know, do something, whatever you feel like doing. That's alright. You know, if you got something you want to shake, go ahead and shake it, clap your hands, stomp your feet, yell at me, anything you feel like doing.

We were there to celebrate him along with his music. The two-hour performance was more personal than I remember before: he talked about his old age; he talked about his younger days growing up in the boondocks of the segregationist south and filling his belly full of white-only water; and he shared plenty of his philandering side ("I never wanted to sleep with all the women in the world... just as many as I can").

He'll be coming to Monterey in June and I'm hoping I can get tickets.

Matt Wates CD in the mail

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Matt Wates Sextet Picture of You

My copy of The Matt Wates Sextet A Picture of You CD arrived in the mail today, featuring metamanda on the cover and CD label. Its selfish to gush about CDs with your photography on the cover, but I also gush because Matt Wates has reaffirmed my trust in the ways of the Internet: locating a photo he wanted on Flickr, paying for it, giving proper credit, sending a free copy, writing a nice note, etc... Most importantly, I actually enjoy the CD -- the sort of music that goes well with unwinding after a day of work like I am right now. A class act and musician.

Look for the CD to go on sale at the Audio-b Web site.

PS: In other photo news, my gallery at Integrate Fitness is up.

Rose Bowl 2008

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Sun sets on the Rose Bowl as USC score another touchdown

Over the New Years break d and I went down to visit my aunt and uncle and watch the Rose Bowl. They were kind enough to offer up their seats to me and I happily accepted.

I pretty much got what I wanted with respect to the game. USC had to blow out Illinois in order to get any respect, which they did. The conventional wisdom was that USC was a much better team and that Illinois shouldn't have been selected for the Rose Bowl; this was validated by the 49-17 final score. One of the things I enjoy about watching USC play is that they use all their weapons: Davis, Ausberry, Dennis, Reed, Washington, and McKnight all had touchdowns. McKnight gave a performance that has people thinking Reggie Bush in future years.

Rose Parade Floats 2008

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Rose Parade Floats (19)
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Last year we woke up early for the Rose Parade; this year we chose sleep and warmth and the opportunity to see the floats up close. We took a shuttle from the Rose Bowl the day after New Years to go see the floats parked along the street. There wasn't as much pageantry nor animation, but it was great to be able to see details of the floats that previous were only revealed to me by my zoom lens.

Rose Parade Floats 2008

Wimpy California

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Friday's rainstorm was quite a day: our roof at work poured water, we lost power at home for 12+ hours, two lanes of the highway were closed between home and work, and trees were tipped over on my commute. I also hear that Highway 17 was closed and an 18-wheeler tipped over and closed the Richmond bridge. Other areas suffered 80+ mph winds, but all of the damage in my area was from about 3 inches of rain. Go Cali!

Pirate's First Post

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I've always suspected that our cat Pirate harbors murderous thoughts. She jumped on my keyboard just now to type me this message:

cv Q DEAED FFFFFFFFFFFFFFce /'io bc

She appears to prefer to send messages in hex.

IREX 2007 Photos

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Photos set (115 Photos)

Subaru Robots (1) Baby I am Robot Herby Dentist Bot Head

Servo bots playing soccer and laser tag:

Robo Soccer Robot Laser Tag

A concierge robots, including one with a virtual robot concierge on its chest:

Aro - Concierge Inside a Concierge Service Robot Enon

Tiny, tiny motors:

Tiny Namiki Motors

Hands:

Squse Hand (1) Yaskawa Hand Hand with non-functional ultrasonic wrist (1) Hand

Freaky dentist bot and contemplative Rubics cube solver:

Dentist Bot 2 Motoman Rubics Cube Solver

Industrial arms:

Kuka 1000kg arm Fanuc candy packaging (1) Fast Toshiba arm Nachi

And more:

Ladybug (1) Kawasaki balancing bot Hexapod Flexpicker Furo Halluc II Comet IV

Photos set (115 Photos)

Yin-yang

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Yin Yang Yin Yang (3)

d worked a lot on the Pirate/Ninja socialization while I was off in Japan for a week. Witness the power of her skills, even in the face of cosmic misalignment. It's been nice for me because I've been zonked with jetlag since getting back. It's nice to be able to pass out on the sofa with your puppy and kitten curled up on you.

They aren't really this good when they're both awake and puppy/kitten hyper, but its easy to get them to curl up with one another when bedtime approaches.

U can has hoody?

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I've already fielded a couple of questions regarding Pirate's plastic hood, aka Elizabethan collar. It's to prevent her from licking her stomach as she heals from her recent spaying. In the meantime, Pirate has adopted a special gait while wearing the hood, which is part strut and part sea legs:

Pirate vs. Ninja

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Pirate vs. Ninja

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We're making slow progress on the Pirate and Ninja introduction. The Dread Pirate Lily is bold and courageous, even with kitten sealegs that stagger to and fro. Pirate prefers friendly nose-to-nose greetings with Ninja from the front and attacks on Ninja's tail from the rear -- never trust a pirate, not even a pirate kitten.

Ninja has been fairly good throughout, with some mishaps. Ninja pretends to evince calm as she lays down watching Pirate play, but her left front claws are dug in for good pounce leverage. d and I have been caught off guard several times already by these sudden Ninja moves.

I must return now to the living room. Just now Pirate confused her water bowl for the open sea and went swimming. Her plastic hood gives her tunnel vision and now we must return her to safe shore.

Pirate Videos

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The obligatory new-cat videos are now online and embedded below. The videos don't quite capture The Dread Pirate Lily's omnipresent purr -- imagine a helicopter flying overhead in the distance. At first I thought there was a copter flying into Moffett. It took some testing bringing Pirate back and forth to my ear to convince me otherwise.

One video I didn't post is fairly boring until about 30 seconds in when I let out an "ow" as she stands on my chest. She doesn't know the difference between scratching post and not scratching post. As a result I feel aerated, though her two-month-old claws are too small to leave visible proof.

We're slowly progressing on the cat/dog and cat/rest-of-house introductions. Ninja is learning that, whenever Pirate appears, she gets a mouthful of treats. Pirate's perspective is rather different: she sees a dog that is always chewing.

Pirate

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Pirate's First Day (4)

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The mortal enemy of the dog is the cat. The mortal enemy of the ninja is the pirate. Cosmologically it was only a matter of time before the two were brought together under our roof. We picked up our new kitten, aka the Dread Pirate Lily, from the Santa Clara Humane Society. Our dog Ninja is a San Mateo SPCA rescue -- perhaps they will add Peninsula vs. South Bay to their natural conflict. Nitpickers may point out that a cat is more naturally the ninja and the dog the pirate, but they forget that you must balance these forces: the universe has rules about these things.

Lest I be blamed for bringing Ninja vs. Pirate into my household, I will point out that it was d who first sent me listings for potential pirate pussycats. It was skillful manipulation on d's part: I'm not keen on cats, but a pirate cat is irresistible -- as is the opportunity to have a personal LOLCat kitteh:

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Ninja @ 6 Months

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Ninja (3)

It's the time again folks, Ninja photo barrage!

Ninja (5)

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Ninja (2) Ninja (10) Ninja (1) Ninja (7) Ninja (6) Ninja (4)

Some more photos in print

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I'm thankful that Road Bike Action picked up some more photos of mine: a two-page rear spread ("Last Shot") and three in-article photos. I feel like I've accomplished impossibly many cycling and photography dreams this year and it all started with RBA. To get another welcome surprise from them is a wonderful close to the season.

Now I get to chart some new goals for 2008, which feels ridiculous because my 2007 goal was to get a media pass. My modest goal is to shoot one US Tour from start to finish, which I've never done. My medium goal is to shoot two US Tours start to finish, and my impossible goal is to shoot a stage from the back of a motorcycle. We'll see how I do 365 days from now. Today I went to the route announcement for the 2008 Tour of California prologue, so I'm already getting excited.

Back from the Urban Challenge

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We drove down to Victorville at 1am and back at 4pm -- needless to say the words are a bit blurry right now and the photos won't get uploaded until tomorrow. Many thanks to my coworker who is a much better no-sleep driver than I.

In eight hours we'll find out who the official Urban Challenge winner is. Right now I'm leaning towards CMU's Boss, though I want it to go to VT for doing so well with far less -- perhaps there should be handicaps based on $value of sensors used.

Stanford's Junior crossed the finish line first, but it barely had time to get off the finish line before Boss crossed. Virginia Tech's Odin was close behind. The fact that those three managed to finish the nearly six hour course within minutes of each other is a sign of how well each ran the course, but reports were that CMU's run was more flawless.

The actual finish time only served as a rough grouping -- Stanford, CMU, and VT were clearly best, UPenn ran a solid conservative approach in the middle, and Cornell and MIT were last (of the finishers). CMU several minutes after Stanford and VT, but I also witnessed Junior stuck behind Cornell's car for 20-or-so minutes and another 10-or-so minutes behind the MIT/Cornell crash. It will be up to the judges to tally up points and minutes and come up with an official score, which is a bit of a flaw in the design of the current challenge -- no one really understands what the scoring system is.

Any of the finishers can lay claim to an impressive feat, so it only with alma mater pride that I take a slight dig at Cornell. Cornell's SkyNet and MIT's Talos were the worst of the best, finishing almost two hours after the top three and forty-five minutes after UPenn's slow-and-steady Little Ben. They seemed doomed to scrap it out after Talos attempted to pass SkyNet and ended up getting rammed -- the teams had to carefully pry the interlocked sensors apart.

It seemed that Cornell had the upper hand over MIT as SkyNet made it to the final traffic circle first. Then it stopped. And sat for minutes. With the finish line in sight. Talos pulled up and turned onto the finishing straight. SkyNet seemed to sense its loss as it promptly unstuck and crossed the finish line last.

DARPA Urban Challenge NQE Photos

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CMU's Boss

Team Gray's "Autonomous Car in a Box"

Copy of IMG_2565

I've posted my photos from the qualifying round of the DARPA Urban Challenge. As I only got to see 1.5 actual runs that day, most of my photos are from the pits. You can admire the sensory overload of CMU's Boss (above), or the seamless hiding of Team Lux, or the simplicity of Team Gray's "autonomous car in a box" (also above).

NOTE: most of the cars that I photographed in the pit are the teams' backup cars and are not always identical in configuration.

2007 DARPA Urban Challenge NQE Photos

DARPA Urban Challenge quals

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I flew down to Victorville for the day to watch Wednesday's qualifiers. It probably wasn't the best day to visit as the good teams had already qualified -- CMU, Stanford, Cornell, UPenn, Virginia Tech, and CarOLO -- and the really bad teams (i.e. crash-worthy) had already been disqualified. What were left were the teams that, while not dangerous, didn't have all the bugs shaken out, which meant a lot of delays. In the six hours that I was there, I only saw one run, which occurred after about an hour of delays. The run was by Team Gray on the 'C' course, which seemed to go well enough for three laps before some sort of incident required the team to jump in the golf cart and go service the stopped vehicle. I also saw the comically large OshKosh vehicle get stuck trying to navigate its way to the B course.

The highlight was going through the team pits and getting to peak in everyone's cars. Team Gray's was one of my favorite cars because they've compartmentalized their processing to a small blue box with dual Pentium Ms, which stands in stark contrast the the 10-20 rack Core2Duo units that several other teams are using. MIT's and CMU's cars were covered with every sensor known to man. Hopefully I'll have time to post some photos soon.

Some of my co-workers got to see Stanford's smooth A course run, which was brought to an early close due to its great execution. Apparently it took them two tries to pass the course -- their theory was that DARPA's radios were causing interference with the velodyne. They also saw Caltech's A course run, which was dangerously amusing: the van ran the wrong way on the course, to the terror of the DARPA stunt drivers.

DARPA has hundreds of Ford Taurus' for the event. The cars are pretty cool -- the interiors have been replaced with a roll cage and bucket race seat, and many appear to have wireless cameras attached to the roof. You could easily shoot a Hollywood movie using the Urban Challenge as a backdrop: abandoned, decrepit military housing with identical DARPA vehicles parked in the driveways as robotic cars creep around: a utopian universe gone awry.

Bridge School 2007

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This year's Bridge School was a bit more low key than others. Eddie Vedder, Flea, and Jack Irons canceled late and were replaced with My Morning Jacket, which tipped the mellowness balance a little too much. The Saturday show was without the special moments that usually define a Bridge School concert, like Billy Idol and Neil Young performing together, or Tony Bennett and Paul McCartney. The local papers were begging for Bruce Springsteen to make a visit, but that was a pipe dream.

The highlights for me were the Tom Waits and Jerry Lee Lewis sets. Tom Waits performed with the Kronos Quartet, which was theatrical and beautiful, in a noir sort of way. The director gave Waits a Halloween-appropriate lighting scheme -- I'm hoping that the video I took came out decently well. Jerry Lee Lewis was also a joy to watch, especially the combination of innuendo and age. At one point his lyrics were, "twirl for me", which he accompanied with a comically slow gyration of his arms. He may be 72 years old, but he can still rock.

The Metallica was the headliner, but their set ended up being a bit odd. They opened with four straight covers, including Only Happy When It Rains by Garbage and I Just Want to Celebrate by Rare Earth. They then moved on to "covers of Metallica songs", which included Turn the Page, an official Metallica cover song. In other words, it was Metallica covering a bunch of songs, which didn't get the audience too engaged until they ended the set with Nothing Else Matters. You can already buy the songs from the Metallica Web site, which shows that Metallica has come a long way from its Napster days.

Robots dance

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Robots meet

On of our robots got to meet Anybots' Monty at Robodevelopment. After cordially shaking hands (above) they awkwardly danced liked children at an elementary school dance. The parents had to intervene after a failed pirouette.

Robots dance Robots dance

Hitting the press

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Ninja Training: Slide

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Ninja's YouTube debut showed that she was but a ninja neophyte, not yet a master of descending stairs. Now look how she's grown -- playgrounds are no match for her ninja skills.

I know I'm biased, but I think this is the funniest thing I've seen all month..

Down Cows

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IMG_2398.cutout.gritty

IMG_2417.bw.noise

I awoke from my photography slumber to do a quick 20-minute photo shoot with the Down Cows. I have been in bands but never shot bands, so I was up for the experience. After shaking off the rust I emerged with two usable photos, which I then used for Photoshop CS3 practice.

The Down Cows were rehearsing for their upcoming gig with Wisely November 13, 3pm in Sunnyvale.

VeloNews!

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VeloNews Spread

crossposted from spare cycles

I got my first photo in VeloNews -- the latest with Hincapie on the cover. It's a two-page "Off the Front" spread showing Scott Moninger riding past a convoy of Missouri Department of Transportation trucks. Obviously I'm happy, but for several reasons:

  1. I've had this goal for a long time.
  2. I almost didn't stop to take the photo. I was in a hurry to get to the finish line of the time trial and drove for several more minutes before I said, "Stupid, that's the shot." One illegal U-turn later I took the photo.
  3. I happened to capture Scott Moninger, who later announced that the Tour of Missouri was his final race. It's nice to be able to pay respect to him, even if unintentionally.

If you're trying to find a copy of the issue, you won't find any at the Borders in Palo Alto :).

Beware of Ninja

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IMG_2244

The return of my flash (broken during the Tour of Missouri) made it easier to get some photos of Ninja.

Ninja @ 5 Months Photo Gallery

What happened Saturday?

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Several streaks were broken on Saturday. For me, I've never seen USC lose a game in person. I've also never seen Stanford win a game in person -- I've even seen Stanford lose to Navy. The USC fans around me hadn't seen USC lose at home since 2001.

All the people I talked to after the game pretty much went through the same course of emotions:

  • USC 9-0, halftime: "oh well, USC will blow them out in the second half."
  • 23-17, 4th quarter: "it won't help USC reclaim the #1 spot, but a win is a win."
  • Stanford on USC's 5-yard-line: "this should wake the USC defense up. Time for them to stuff Stanford and end this farce."
  • 23-23 and Stanford lining up for the extra point: "well, um, USC's going to block that extra point, right?"
  • 23-24 and 0:49 on the clock: "Hmmm, USC could actually lose this one. But they'll march down and kick a field goal."
  • Incomplete pass on first down, USC receivers strolling back to the line instead of hussling to spike the ball and stop the clock: "Oh crap, they're gonna lose."

Ninja

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Ninja sleeps Ninja

d and I went to Palo Alto Animal Services and the Peninsula SPCA on Saturday intending to check things out, but of course we came home with a dog. We pretty much knew that if we asked to meet a dog, it was all going to be over, and Ninja pulled out all stops. She jumped immediately into my arms when we got into the play area. I exclaimed, "Woah, she's fast like a ninja!" and the naming was done.

We couldn't have picked a better dog. She's great with people, she loves to fall asleep in your arms, and she's easy to train. We put a bed in the family room and a crate in our bedroom and she's immediately picked up on them. She likes put her toys in her crate before bed and she brings them out one-by-one in the morning. She's pretty good at knowing what her toys are, though TiVo remotes and small digital devices seem to fall into her toy recognizer; a TiVo remote does have the wrong affordances for a dog. If you're wondering why I don't have any high quality photos of her yet, it's because she lunges at any camera-like device that she notices.

Other stats: 5 months, 20-30 lbs, four-and-a-half-feet long (can reach kitchen counters), some sort of mix (shepard/labrador?)

Here she is showing that she knows how to destroy toy camels:

Stairs are a more difficult challenge, though she may have just been playing us for treats:

iPhone UI: Built for 2 1/2 year olds

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I have returned from my trip with the above video, which is my 2-1/2-year-old nephew playing with my iPhone. You know a user interface is good when you can put it in front of a toddler and he gets it immediately. I'm a very proud uncle.

The video was taken the second time I showed him the iPhone, but it was pretty much the same the first time around, except I think he left more toddler finger goop on the screen the first time.

On to West Virginia

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Discovery leads the chase

I've journeyed from west to east across Missouri, through Branson, Lebanon, Columbia, Jefferson City, Hermann, Washington, St Charles, and St Louis. Today I thought would be easiest because a media sedan was there to drive me around the circuit. Little did I realize that I would end up sprinting 12+ blocks because the media sedan passed me by twice.

It's been a blast. Perversely, the hard bits added to the fun because it seems that the harder I worked for the shot, the better the result. You'll find lots of photos over on spare cycles. I can't say I've really visited Missouri as much as I've photographed it. Almost all my time here was spent in hotels, press rooms, or in the car. Next time, I'll go out for dinner.

Many thanks to m for the 20D loan -- couldn't have shot the race without it.

Jefferson City

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I've now made it to Jefferson City, where I am staying at my third Best Western in a row. They must like me now because this is the nicest of the three I've stayed in -- actual hotel (rather than motel) quality. I've settled on them because, unlike some higher priced lodgings, they actually offer free in-room wireless.

I tried to stay in the same hotel as the riders/press the first night I was here. The conversation with the front desk went somewhat like this:

Me: "Do you have any rooms for tonight for one person?"
Hotel: "Yes we do."
Me: "How much?"
Hotel: "Two-hundred-twe-- that can't be right. Let me check. Huh, that is right. Two-hundred-twenty dollars."
Me: "Um. Thanks."

I stayed at the Best Western two blocks away for $70, and I still ended up at the same bar as team managers (Johan Bruyneel, Jonathan Vaughters), mechanics and press. The riders from DFL-CyclingNews were the only riders present. They managed third place in the time trial so clearly they had a good game plan.

My game plan seems to be going well also. The media has been hanging out in the hotel lobbies, all siphoning off the same wifi signal.

Tomorrow I attempt to follow the riders from Jefferson City to St Charles. If today was any indication, it means that I will get some easy but boring shots at the start, frantically drive for an hour between stopping points just so I can get two shots of the riders zooming past, and then attempt to finally get a finish line shot right. I'll be happy when I get to St Louis where the riders pedal around in a circuit: by then I'll be delighted to shoot fish in a barrel.

My weekend

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Christine Thorburn Sunset on the 24 Hour Course

As part of my tune-up for the Tour of Missouri I spent all of Saturday shooting cycling races. First up was the Beat the Clock time trial at 7am. The was mostly "field testing the 70-200 f/2.8 IS", so I shot some head-on shots as those are the most stressful for the equipment. Not everything was a keeper, but the image stabilization reduces one more area of mistake: camera shake. Normally at 200mm, you have to shoot at around 1/320 or faster to avoid camera shake blur. With all the action that's going on, I sometimes forget to check the shutter speed while shooting (I always shoot with aperture priority). IS gives a little more margin.

I left the time trial, stopped off at home to upload my photos, then zoomed down to Monterey for the World 24 Solo/Team Championships. The organizers gave me a lift out to the first checkpoint on the course and proceeded to hike about 5-7 miles along the course back to the Laguna Seca raceway. The narrow single track along the way gave me ample opportunity to break in my 16-35mm as well as my 580EX II flash. The flash got some additional testing when the sun went down and riders continued to race, but I must say that I am still not comfortable using flash in my sports photography. By 9pm I was nearly out of battery life, compact flash storage, and personal energy -- I drove home happy but tired. Hats off to anyone who shoots all 24 hours of the 24-hour race. Much, much more difficult than any road race I've shot.

All-in-all it was a great photography day, not in the photos, but in the ability to stress all of my equipment and to shoot in all kinds of light. I shot several shots with riders heading into the morning sun, battled the annihilating overhead noon sun that casts dark shadows over faces, and got some pleasing lighting with the setting sun. There was also a couple of hours of battery left to shoot some night motion blur.

They're here: 70-200 f/2.8 and 1.4x

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New Toy (the bigger one)

Two new toys arrived in the mail for me today: the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS USM and the Canon 1.4x extender. I've long been eying these as additions to my cycling photography arsenal, but I didn't view myself as 'worthy' of them at the start. Actually, price was probably more a factor. With the Tour of Missouri coming up, I figured now was the time to take the pocketbook plunge.

Experience matters for photography, but let's not kid ourselves. The person with the more expensive equipment will take better photos, at least for sports photography, where your photos have to been in focus to qualify. I took cycling photos for years with a film and analog Rebel, but it was the Canon 30D that immediately took things to the next level.

I'm hoping for the same sort of results with the 70-200 f/2.8 IS and 1.4x combo. The image stabilization in the 70-200 f/2.8 IS has a specific mode for doing panning photography, which is a popular staple of cycling photography (example). The extra advantage of the f/2.8 should also help in darker conditions, which my old 70-200 f/4 suffers in. One other bonus: weather sealing, which matters when you're trying to run around with a plastic baggie trying to keep the rain out.

As for the 1.4x, it's my compromise. It's been recommended to me that I pick up a 300mm lens, and there's been no lack of them at the finishing line of events that I visit. A 200mm isn't long enough in those situations and a 300mm collapses the depth of field better. Unfortunately, a 300mm requires man-of-steel arms to lug around. I've seen a photographer leave his 300mm in the media van rather than lug it around the course.

A 1.4x is cheaper and lighter. It will turn my 70-200 f/2.8 into a 98-280 f/4, which should fit the bill (an extender affects both the focal length and aperture). I was always worried that 1.4x or 2x extender would slow down my old f/4 lens too much, but the f/2.8 provides that extra breathing room.

I'll have several occasions in September to break the new equipment in. Hopefully it will perform well. In any case, it's another step towards guaranteeing that I never make money off of photography.

70200_28lis_usm.jpg canon14.jpg

A CD Cover

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Sunset Maui-1I get to add CD cover to my list of photo credits, which happened so serendipitously that I couldn't really believe it happened until the money arrived. There was no effort on my part -- it's a photo of meta that I uploaded to Flickr from a Maui trip way back. Even the photo was lazy: I was just messing around with my camera settings on the beach... which is pretty much what I normally do when I'm relaxing at the beach.

John Scalzi has extolled the benefits of the Internet for the lazy artist -- he has sold multiple manuscripts by uploading them online for free instead of submitting them -- but little did I know that this magic could reach my neck of the woods.

I have some more details on my Vox.

Too many work computers!

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I've been swamped, mostly by having to clear off all three my work computers of data I'd like to save before they're wiped. Foldershare has made the process easier, but there's no good solution for 1.8GB iTunes video files.

The main event for me today was my going away party. Strangely enough we only get company gear when we leave, so I at last have an SRI shirt, mug, and pen. I had been looking forward to the SRI mousepad -- the mouse was invented at SRI -- and was shocked to find that they were out. Who knew they were such popular items?

Of course a going away party is not about getting things but rather the opportunity to say farewell to everyone. Mine was made easier by the fact that I will continue consulting for awhile, so there were less goodbyes and more, "see you less often." At my new company I will be working with people I have not seen in awhile, and so even there the goodbyes did not last long.

Tour de Comic-Con/Team Uni: Sunday

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Sunday's stage is short largely ceremonial. Panels are sparse, most of the good schwag has run out, and everyone is generally exhausted.

Team Uni did several celebratory laps around the convention floor, picking up some last-minute sketch points and some goodies for the Credit Ruining Accoutremonts Classification (CRAC). bleusky, m, and ota hung together to hit up the Flight booth for additional sketches while parakkum and kwc struck out on their own. kwc focused most of his attention on James Jean sketches, purchasing a NYTimes science sketch and a Snow White and tiger sketch for his sketchbook.

ota and kwc made early exits to head to the airport, while parakkum, m, and bleusky celebrated at the team dinner along with parakkum's parents, who provided amazing support to our team throughout the Tour: lodging, transportation, food, and good company.

Tour de Comic-Con/Team Uni: Saturday

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Saturday's stage blew away Team Uni's expectations in many ways. A gameplan to ride the queen stage with a warmup climb of the Quick Draw Panel (Cat 4) and then over the Ballroom 20 climbs of Heroes (Cat 1), Battlestar Galactica (Cat 1), Futurama (Cat 3), and Joss Whedon (Cat 1) turned more adventurous than planned, at least for team member kwc. The team made sure to shed all extra gear for this event to ride as light and slipstreamed as possible.

The team went into Saturday's stage with a plan to avoid the convention floor, fearing that it would be even more swamped than in previous days. Instead, the team observed it was perhaps the least crowded that it has been all week. Points for the Credit Ruining Accoutrements Classification (CRAC) were easy pickings and kwc was able to pick up limited editions of a Transformers Rodimus and Hot Wheel Batmobile, neither for himself, and the former being an item that m has sought after the entire convention. Instead of having to do the usual wait in line to get a ticket to get a time to wait in line again, kwc was able to walk directly to the cash register. Perhaps it was like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: kwc was able to retrieve these items because he had no desire for it.

Why was the convention floor so empty? Perhaps it was because other convention go-ers were doing was most of Team Uni was doing: waiting in line to get into panels. The length of the Ballroom 20 climb was five times longer (if not more) than in previous years for nearly identical panels (e.g. Battlestar Galactica). There were enough people to circle the entire east wing of the convention center.

kwc bridged up to bleusky and m, who were far up in the line but still found themselves unable to join the Heroes panel. This is when things got a bit interesting for kwc. He made a brief stop at the bathroom, which he found was temporarily closed for VIPs. The bathrooms were reopened and he soon found himself passing by the kid who plays Micah on Heroes washing his hands at the sink. kwc noted VIPs meant there must be another path from the bathroom to Ballroom and formulated a plan of attack.

kwc told bleusky and m about the run-in and possible secret path, and then decided to go scout the route. He poked his head through the unguarded double doors to check the security and... walked right into Ali Larter and the rest of the cast of Heroes walking down a back corridor. The breakaway was forming and kwc knew that this was the one to go with. He jumped into their draft -- not that there is much of a draft walking behind Ali Larter -- and pulled out his iPhone to block his badge and blend in with the assistants. A bodyguard made fertive glances at this new rider in the break.

The composition of the break at this point: the entire Heroes cast—Jack Coleman (H.R.G.), Noah Gray-Cabey (Micah Sanders), Greg Grunberg (Matt Parkman), Ali Larter (Niki Sanders), James Kyson Lee (Ando), Masi Oka (Hiro Nakamura), Hayden Panettiere (Claire Bennet), Adrian Pasdar (Nathan Petrelli), Zachary Quinto (Sylar), Sendhil Ramamurthy (Mohinder Suresh), Dania Ramirez (Maya), and Milo Ventimiglia (Peter Petrelli) as well as Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale, and Tim Kring. There were also the guests and family of the cast, including Rob Liefeld. It would have been a fun scene to take a photo of, but kwc could only think, "don't give away that you don't belong."

The group swelled up at the back entrance to Ballroom 20, then split as the cast,crew and people with black wristbands were led in. Quite a lot of the guests did not have these wristbands and as Jeph Loeb zoomed past he promised that he would send someone back to bridge them back in.

With the big names now gone from our midst, the security drones descended upon us, setting a mighty crosswind that threatened to expel the wristband-less chase gruop. An assistant bravely stood at the front and absorbed the blunt of the wind shouting, "I cannot move from this spot. If I do, I will lose my job." kwc cowered in his draft.

kwc briefly jumped on Rob Liefeld's wheel as he led a group over to one of the sidedoors, where a security guard was offering to let them in. The Liefeld group quickly dissolved as they noticed the others getting backstage, so they quickly sped back to that group, through the door, and backstage. kwc was in and quickly found that backstage was crowded, and all you saw was the cast's back -- he left backstage to find a better view.

The Heroes panel itself was actually boring -- the sort of panel where the moderator asks each panelist the same trite question, except that the entire cast was there, so this was quite tiresome. There was the occassional playful moment between members of the cast, usually led by Greg Grunberg, and there was the brief appearance of Kevin Smith, who was the first on the session to wonder if the Japanese characters on the show were gay. As excited as the audience was by his presence, he warned that might spell doom for the show as it did Veronica Mars. There was a clip at the end of the show that revealed little in the way of plot and more in the way of who was in the clip (I won't give it away here). kwc got a "Comic-Con Exclusive" first printing of the Season 1 DVD box, which is just a ridiculous piece of schwag. Maybe he can take advantage of the same people who buy PS3 boxes on eBay.

kwc was able to grab a fourth-row seat for m, who remained patient in line and got in for the Battlestar Galactica panel, which turned out to be a "Women of" sort of affair as Lucy Lawless, Tricia Helfer, Katee Sackhoff, and Mary McDonnell were the cast members present. It was a more entertaining event than Heroes and Ronald Moore talked about the upcoming Razor episode, which will be a sort of bridging episode that goes all the way back to the first Cylon war as well as back to the original attack on the Pegasus.

bleusky returned from sketch-hunting to watch the Futurama panel. Team Uni originally thought of the panel as being the Joss Whedon camping event, but it ended up being kwc's favorite panel on the day. The writers wrote a thank you comic to the fans and Comic-Con came on and performed it. It's one thing to see brief clips of voice actors on DVD extras, it's another to see the actors working together and someone like Billy West single-handedly do dialog between Fry, the Professor, and Zoidberg. John DiMaggio's larger-than-life presence was not all that different from Bender, and he, West, and Maurice LaMarche were all able to entertain the audience with displays of their voice talent -- the best being when they showed how they blended different voices to come up with their Futurama character's distinct signature.

The final climb of the Ballroom 20 course was the Joss Whedon event. In prior years, Whedon was able to deflect bad questions with great ease; this year he seemed more eager to answer the "what makes you more creative than me?" sorts of questions that dominate these events. He talked about his new effort Sugar Shock (available online) as well as Buffy Season 8, feminism, etc... He also resisted chants from the audience to dance like a monkey.

parakkum took part in the separate Magic competition held on Saturday (parakkum's diary entry). He caught another opponent accidentally cheating and took that match, but bad draws and otherwise made for a tough event.

Ota rode the first Quick Draw panel with other team members and then rode a separate course through the Jim Henson/Tokyo Pop panel and the Hall-H-Category (HHC) Disney/Pixar event.

The full team grouped together to ride at the front of the line heading into the Sails Pavilion, getting a table up front and indulging themselves in the free nachos, cupcakes, and candy that the organizers generously offered. The first half of the event had some fun skits and costumes, but the team was passing out on the final stretch.

Tour de Comic-Con/Team Uni: Friday

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Schwag

Team Uni was riding at full strength for the first time yesterday as ota did a full course and there were temporary reinforcements from Temecula, as bleusky's friend jw drove in. The full team showed immediate dividends in the schwag competition: bleusky and jw were able to collect the popular Harry Potter bags, while ota did a blazing timecheck through the Wizards of the Coast booth to collect a Magic starter set.

The team's fast start was helped by a switch to The Cheese Shop for morning grub. There was no Guinness/coffee combo to be had, but massive carbs were delivered promptly.

Sketch Classification

Team Uni sent honeyfields, bleusky, and kwc to collect points in the sketch competition. bleusky collected several sketches, including a Stardust sketch from Charles Vess and a color painting from Scott Morse that earned her first in the sketch ranking on the day. kwc focused on collecting points at the Flight checkpoint, getting an excellent vampire from Rodolphe Guenoden, a beautiful fairy from Sarah Mensinga, and generally filling up the front of his Flight book with signatures. honeyfields added two more Sakai sketches to Team Uni's totals, with both a sketchbook sketch as well as a detailed sketch in the Art of Usagi Yojimbo hardcover.

kwc collected on the long-promised "Usagi Yojimo Charges into Battle on Bike," which was assisted by the Tour de France being on TV in Stan Sakai's hotel for visual reference.

Usagi commision from Stan Sakai Flight 4 Guenoden sketch

Panels

Team Uni made a wise decision to avoid the early day Hall-H-Category (HHC) sessions. The Whiteout session was reminscent of Paris-Roubaix as Kate Beckinsale was caught behind a the train tracks across from the Convention Center and her fellow panelists were unable to convince security of their status.

The team instead sent a big contigent to the Neil Gaiman talk, which did not disappoint. Despite have no prepared remarks or plan, Gaiman 'burbled' his way to many laughs with his Alan Moore ("he's very big and very hairy. And as he gets interested in something, he loooooms") and Guillermo del Toro (Neil's "Magic Dumbo") anecdotes. There were also some anecdotes of the early days of Comic-Con:

Gaiman: You'd sign for 10 or 15 people and then no one else would come
Audience: awwwwww
Gaiman: It was great!

Someone asked him why, if there was a God, why is there the Endless? "Isn't that like saying, if there was a God, why do you need to buy hamburgers?"

On Volume 2 and 3 of Absolute Sandman: "And of course you could kill someone if you dropped it on them. Useful. For the right person."

parakkum's diary covers the talk as well, including the Spectacular Spiderman panel beforehand. I like "Cheeks"' character design for the cartoon, but the backgrounds were crap.

m held fast in the Stargate doubleheader, taking many photos and reporting that the folksy girl from Firefly is moving to Stargate: Atlantis.

The strenuous course eventually helped Team Uni commit some missteps in panel selection later in the day. The very attendable HHC Star Wars at 30 punished ota, parakkum, and honeyfields with non-Star-Wars marketing, and the Jim Henson talk similarly punished bleusky. A Scott McCloud family slideshow had kwc gritting his teeth and pulling an early exit.

The team's spirits were lifted as parakkum's parents treated the team to a dinner at Nati's in Ocean Beach. The team stuffed its stomach with quesadilla crisps, jalapeno-soaked carrots, and Mexican-flavored carbs.

The ever-busy Saturday promises much in the way of panels. Just in Ballroom 20 is a string of Heroes, Battlestar Galactica, Futurama, and Joss Whedon. The hopes to avoid crashes on the convention floor and ride a good race, though it will have to do so without honeyfields, who has made a planned early exit for this year's Tour.

Tour de Comic-Con: Thursday

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Nutrition is important to Comic-Con: eat enough calories at breakfast, you can hopefully hold off hunger until the floor closes for dinnertime. Fail, and you must choose between crappy convention floor food or losing a couple of hours to venture out into the Gaslamp district.

Just as important is where you get your food. Team Uni has traditionally eaten at Hennesey's on the weekday mornings and The Field on the weekends -- the The Field offers true Irish breakfast but is not open on weekdays; Hennesey's approximates Irish breakfast. The compromise has worked until yesterday, when poor service cost Team Uni an hour right out of the gate and set the team back in the CRAC (Credit Ruining Accoutremonts Classification). Harry Potter bags were already gone; tickets for exclusive Transformers were gone. Shaun Tan advance reading copies were offered as consolation from Scholastic.

Such missteps do not keep Team Uni down: the team recovered by heading over to the Wizards of the Coast area and making quick work of the giant d20. parakkum, honeyfields, and bleusky combined to win Axis & Allies: D-Day, an Axis and Allies Naval Starter Set, and a Magic core starter set with online CD. kwc picked up a Star Wars Bounty Hunters booster pack but wasted too much time collecting stamp bonus. Team Uni hopes to repeat its Thursday morning gameplan on Friday with better results; Hennesey's will be avoided and kwc has already pre-collected stamp bonuses to move through the Wizards area quickly.

bleusky showed she has good legs despite being a rookie, easily collecting all five cards scattered acround the Convention Floor for the Avatar competition, earning a sixth bonus card for her efforts. She and honeyfields also teamed up to do a privacy-for-schwag manuever, earning Eduardo and Samurai Jack cellphone accessories from the MMOG booth.

Sketch competition

Scott Morse "sketch"kwc had a very good day in the sketch classification. Scott Morse did a "sketch" that was, in fact, the first color painting that he's done for kwc in five Comic-Cons and two APEs, and an awesome one at that. kwc also got a Mike Mignola, and Stan Sakai sketch, as well as a Wolverine sketch from David Finch of Ultimate X-Men fee. The latter was a split category prize: 1/2 sketch and 1/2 CRAC as it was a paid sketch. A Stan Sakai Usagi commission should earn Team Uni full dual sketch/CRAC points but will not be ready until Friday's stage.

honeyfields scouted the Flight booth and racked up huge sketch points: Sarah Mensinga, Johane Matte, Kazu, Clio Chiang, Reagan Lodge, and Ryan Estrada all did drawings for her sketchbook. They are all fantastic, but the Mensigna sketch deserves special mention. The rest of Team Uni will be making passes by the Flight booth based on honeyfields scouting report.

m's big prize on the day was a Magic art print from the artist that shows off all the detail that is lost in the smaller card form factor. m got his first-edition Stardust hardcover signed by Charles Vess alongside a previous Neil Gaiman inscription. He also dropped back to help kwc get his Stardust signed after kwc's legs cracked on the first attempt.

m, honeyfield, kwc, and bleusky did a team ride through the David Petersen/Mouse Guard booth, picking up three copies of the hardcover volume one and many sketches -- Petersen humored us and shared stories of eating dinner with Sergio Aragones, Mark Evanier, and Stan Sakai. The moral:

Never follow a Sergio shortcut through the snow,
what lies beneath you do not know,
for saved time you try to beg,
you must sacrifice Mark Evanier's leg.

King of the Mountain (KOM) competition

Thursday's stage had an unprecented addition that is a sign of Comic-Con's growing popularity: a Hall-H-Category (HHC) KOM with twenty-or-so unlabelled switchbacks that cut across half the length of the convention center and around the sculpture garden outside the Hall. The Hall-H-Category climbs were added in 2005 (related: Team Uni's first Hall H experience), but the major-movie-studio events that are held there have typically only occurred on the more popular Friday and Saturday stages. The Thursday event was a bit of an unknown: a Thursday major motion picture event, with Neil Gaiman and JJ Abrams.

m and kwc attempted to conquer this HHC climb, figuring that it would be easier than typical HHC climbs due to it being a Thursday. Instead, the course was harder than any previous HHC climbs, including events with Natalie Portman and Sarah Michelle Gellar. Only the fabled Spiderman 3 event ranks more challenging. m and kwc were forced to abandon after being told by referees that they were outside the time limit. With this surprising early defeat, m has already decided to forgo the KOM competition; kwc has yet to determine if he will have the legs to make a solo attempt on Friday or Saturday.

Panels

Team Uni regrouped at the Groo 25th Anniversary panel, which featured everyone who has worked on Groo, i.e. all five of them. parakkum's stage diary highlights some of the entertaining bits. I also enjoyed the banter between Sakai and one of the colorists (Colorist: "You could read the completed issue" Sakai: "But then the color would ruin it").

You can also read parakkum's diary to find out more about the Bill Plympton event.

Doping report

Overheard: Charles Vess remarking to his teammate, "I just had gummy bears, I can do anything!"

kwc has been suspiciously consuming packages labeled "doubleshot."

Tour de Comic-Con/Team Uni: Prologue

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Team Uni limped (literally) into the Prologue Preview Night: honeyfields is sporting a fashionable cane and kwc visited the team doctor this week to get his patella taped due to a problematic kneecap. The team scouted the very crowded Comic-Con Convention floor and scouted the offerings in the schwag competition: starter sets and booster packs from Wizards of the Coast appear to have the best $$$:item ratio and Harry Potter Deathly Hallows bags from Scholastic are of good quality.

m came through with passes to the Stardust screening Thursday night; kwc was five minutes too late, even though he showed up five minutes early. m was less lucky in obtaining a CC-exclusive Transformers Ford GT Rodimus for the CRAC (Credit Ruining Accoutremounts Classification), but he plans on going in an early morning break to attempt it once more.

Team rookie bleusky gave Team Uni its first points in the sketch classification, picking up drawings from Stan Sakai, the Flight folks, and Owly. The Stan Sakai sketches are rumored to be more difficult this year as Sakai and Aragones are unhappy with the eBay aftermarket, so it could turn out to be important as the standings shake out.

parakkum rode in the wind and carried hardcovers to protect honeyfields and they focused on heavy CRAC so they wouldn't have to carry it on the longer stages ahead. kwc had a similar strategy and picked up a limited-edition Scott Morse Scrap Mettle, RD8 Mimobot, Isadore Vimobot, Usagi Yojimbo Vol 21, Penny-Arcade Birds Are Weird and Armadeaddon poster, and CC-exclusive pink R2-D2 (R2-KT) (to add to his collection of R2s). kwc has never waited in line at for a CC exclusive before and was exposed to the troubling underbelly of Comic-Con: parents forcing their kids to go around the convention floor with them to pick up exclusives (to game the item/person limit) and schwag.

The early-morning Thursday gameplan for kwc and honeyfields is to pick up Harry Potter bags from Scholastic and possibly head over to Mimobot. kwc will head from there to pick up his Stan-Sakai-commissioned "Usagi Yojimbo on Bike" and to the Wizards booth to start collecting schwag points.

ota rejoins Team Uni today, straight out of a five-day stage race in Vancouver.

Off to Comic-Con

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With all that's going on, Comic-Con has snuck up on me -- but I leave for my flight in 5 minutes so I better get in that frame of mind. Off to San Diego!

Potter complete

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I finished the final Potter yesterday afternoon, finally allowing me to browse the Internet freely without fear of spoilage. I picked up a copy at Keplers at midnight and was among the hundreds, if not thousands of people present. Keplers sold at least 2600 copies, though I'm not sure how many were there to participate in the event.

There were employees and fans in costume -- some excellent Voldemorts -- "Hit the Snitch" batting cage, the Stanford Band, Cafe Borrone selling Butterbeer (root beer floats), and all sorts of Potter decoration (the information desk was Gringotts, the children's section had Hogwart's dormitory doors, etc...).

I haven't been to Star Wars premieres with that much costumage and fun. Hopefully a new book series will capture the popular attention in the future -- you don't need Save Keplers events if you sell 2600+ copies of Harry Potter at cover price.

Announcement II

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July has been a busy month, as always. d and I are still getting settled into our new place, my sister just gave birth to my niece, I've been waking up at 5am every morning for the Tour de France, and Comic-Con is less than two weeks away. But that wasn't enough, so I had to throw in one more move.

In August I will start my new job as an engineer at Willow Garage:

Willow Garage is a research institution dedicated to building prototypes of autonomous devices. We have an autonomous car entry in the 2007 DARPA challenge, and are also working on building a boat that can sail autonomously around the world.

Many of you are aware of my fascination with robots. bp will recall my constant planning for building a WiFi robot while I was at PARC, which fell through due to cost and broken laptop. Now I get to finally build that robot, except it will be... bigger. And I will get to do it while working with some old friends from PARC.

Although the combined move distance for both home and work is only about 2 miles, this caps a month of big changes for me that leaves me extremely excited. After working for two historic research institutions in the field of computer science, PARC and SRI, I'll get my opportunity to contribute to a brand new research lab.

Uncle kwc II

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I'm happy to announced that I am now an uncle twice over. I couldn't be there like last time but look forward to visiting soon. At 8lbs, 12 ounces, 20", my new niece isn't quite the heavyweight that my 10 lb, 23" nephew was, but she'll hold her own.

Photos of Mountain View Kwik-E-Mart

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Krusty O's and Buzz Cola are currently sold out, but the Mountain View Kwik-E-Mart was a fun visit. The whole store -- inside and out -- has been redone, and it should stay up through the end of the month. Maybe by then I'll be able to try some Simpsons merchandise, as the signs implore me to do. More photos if you're interested.

Mine

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Steve Jobs was on hand to bless the phones as we exited the store. Jobs wouldn't let me take his photo and an Apple store employee informed me that they wanted to, "protect his privacy," which seems odd given that he's Steve Jobs... at the Palo Alto Apple Store... on the day of the iPhone launch. There are better ways to protect his privacy. bp managed to snap a photo with one of the demo iPhones, except those aren't configured to send e-mail. So if you want to see a photo, check out the demo phones at the store ;).

I didn't get there until about 5pm and there were so many phones that I don't know if they sold out or not. One guy attempted to sell an extra phone to those in line at cost, which makes you wonder why he even bought the second phone to begin with. There was also an iPhone dissection that occurred in front of the store, which I may eventually post photos of.

Oh yeah, it's thinner than I thought it would be and Youtube looks better than Youtube. Now I just need to figure out the darn keyboard -- though I may have to wait awhile as this weekend in our move.

Robogames 2007 Videos Part II

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RoboGames.jpgSome more video from Robogames in San Francisco. This time around there's robot hockey, Crab-Fu's awesome steam robots, and an instance of Uncanny Valley

RoboGames.jpgSparks, shrapnel, robots sent flying, and smoke: keep reading if these interest you. I went to Robogames in San Francisco for the closing day and watched robots all the way from 1 pound up to 340 pounds compete. Robots were knocked out of the ring. One robot had all four of its wheel systematically sliced off. Others just battered each other repeatedly. Great fun.

TiVo Series 3: It's Here!

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tivo.jpgIt's definitely the most nicely packed TiVo I've ever received (similar to getting a MacBook). I rushed as quickly as I could through the setup process so that I could watch the NBA Finals in HD glory, and now there they are -- Tony Parker is kicking some butt.

  • New remote has a nice button snap and light-up buttons, but the shiny surface is a finger-/hand-print nightmare.
  • The new display with clock and recording info on the front of the TiVo is a very nice touch, as are the button controls so you don't have to find the remote.
  • Having a THX logo sequence at the end of setup is pretty cool.
  • Menus are much, much faster -- though I'm sure future TiVo service updates will slow them down.
  • Although it will play them, the Series 3 seems to have no idea what 7-1, 5-1, etc... (i.e. the HD channels) are on my analog cable. They don't show up in the channel guide and there is no program information. I hope this will change when I get CableCards, but, for now, recording channels is going to be a pain as I have to use the manual record options.
  • Comcast wanted $15 to come and install the CableCARDs now, but it's free if I wait three weeks: they waive installation fees when you transfer your service when you move. Go figure.
  • Comcast also wants $1.50/mo for the CableCARDs, which isn't much, but it's a bit of a crock as I am paying for their content protection.
  • Unanticipated cost: $50-100 for an HDMI switch as my TV only has one HDMI input.

We're moving!

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We just signed a lease on a house in Mountain View. We get to keep the location that we love but upgrade everything else: garage, yard, fruit trees, quiet, no smokers, and more rooms. I'm excited as I'll have more room for bikes (I've been eye-ing a new one) and we'll be able to fit some more bookshelves in for my double-stacked books.

Estate sales beware: d will be on the hunt for furniture again.

TiVo Series 3: ETA 3 days

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I gave in and bought a TiVo Series 3 from Amazon -- after rebate it should be $406.95. Why?

Plan A: Save up TiVo Reward Points and get a Series 3 for free. I already had 25,000 referral points, so I thought it might be a good bet. I started about a year before the Series 3 came out, expecting it to debut for about $500, but was blown away when it ended up cost $800. I was going to need a whole lot more reward points.

Plan B: Get more points. I figured it couldn't stay $800 forever and discounts were quickly showing up that priced it at $600. Eventually they would lower the number of reward points required, and whenever that was I would have even more points. TiVo did reduce the number of points required by 10,000, but then Plan B was shot: points expire after 2 years.

In all my patient waiting, I didn't notice that some of my initial 25,000 points were going down the tube. In the rewards e-mail that TiVo sends you, it reports # of referral points (A), # of credit card points (B), and total (C). Without taking the time to notice the total, everything looked normal. My referral points were stable, my credit card points were going steadily up, and within months I would have my Series 3. As it turns out, A+B is not equal to C. TiVo deducts them from the total without adjusting the other reports. By the time I had noticed, 10,000 points were down the drain. By the time I had built those 10,000 points back up, more than 10,000 would expire. In other words, Plan B failed.

Plan C: eBay! With the TiVo Series 3 available for $406, I can actually get one for 'free' by cashing in my reward points for other items. In fact, with the number of points I have, I can get two Bose Sounddocks and an iPod shuffle, or plenty of other items worth more than a TiVo Series 3. (many thanks to m for loaning me eBay Karma). If all goes well, I might even have some dough leftover, or I might keep one of those extra rewards for myself ;).

So, not exactly according to plan, but a long-held desire fulfilled.

Maker Faire: my perfect event

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I'll probably spend some more time at Maker Faire tomorrow, so I'll save the summary posts until later, but I wanted to point out how Maker Faire is a perfect convergence of my interests:

That's right: an event that can generate blog posts for my cycling blog, my MythBusters blog, and have plenty leftover for my normal blog is an event to behold (for people like me).

This t-shirt saved me $1600

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I won a copy of Adobe Creative Suite Web Premium (it has the super bells and whistles) for my t-shirt design above (top 2-3 designs every 4 hours gets the prize). Adobe's Experience Design (XD) group had a fun booth at Maker Faire where you could create your own stencil design on a computer, have it cut by a laser cutter, and then airbrush it onto a t-shirt. It was all great fun, though we had to wait two hours in line (many thanks to d who convinced me to keep waiting when I was on the verge of giving up).

d and I both made the cut for the top six, so we're feeling really good about beating out all the little children and grandmas we were up against -- there was an adorable design (also top six) where a girl held her stuffed dog up to the camera. I didn't win for my design as much as I probably won for creative use of their software. The stencil software was fairly basic: you could add a text layer, a drawing layer, or a B&W photo layer. Apparently I was the first person to figure out that you could stack photo layers on top of each other to create concentric outlines. My use wasn't that masterful, though: I didn't properly visualize the stencil process and ended up having to throw away portions of my stencil that were disconnected.

NOTE: this now counts as my second big prize win ever, following my laptop. Seeing as these will both be big tools in my freelance photography adventures, it shows that there is more than one way to run a business ;).

I went to the Barnes and Noble in San Jose tonight to listen to Michael Chabon read from his latest novel, The Yiddish Policeman's Union. Chabon followed his Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay with a young adult/children's fantasy novel, Summerland, and then a Sherlock Holmes homage, The Final Solution. His latest novel jumps into the hardboiled detective/noir genre with a alternate history novel that imagines that Alaska was settled as the new Jewish homeland after World War II -- something that was considered at the time. Chabon read us a chapter, intermixing yiddish crime slang (gun = shalom/peace/'piece') and channeling Raymond Chandler along the way (and doing his best to ignore the many Barnes and Noble interruptions).

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more photos

Introduction and Reading:

I took the Q&A as an opportunity to research parakkum's Chabon/Spiderman 2/Spiderman 3 theory. Chabon was a writer for the excellent Spiderman 2 but was absent from Spiderman 3 credits. I boiled this down to, "Spiderman 2: great movie. Spiderman 3: sucked... why didn't you save it?" To his credit, it sounds like Chabon saved Spiderman 2. Chabon mentioned that Spiderman 2 was originally going to have Doc Oct, the Lizard, Black Cat, and Harry Osborn/GG2 as supervillains. Chabon's draft focused it down on just Doc Oct. Chabon was eventually fired from the production, but they kept the focus on Doc Oct. If only they remembered for Spiderman 3 -- it was perhaps the pull of merchandising/Happy Meal tie-ins.

Q&A:

Q&A index: * "How long did he spend it Sitka?" * "Did he read a lot of alternative history?" (2:00) * "What's the status of the Kavalier and Clay movie?" (5:45) -- not quite as dead as vaudeville * "Does he know where his books are going when they start?" (7:00) -- not really * "What American crime writers inspired him?" (9:25) * "What was his inspiration to write Summerland for younger readers?" (11:00) -- he has four children * "Why did he choose the particular passage he read?" (12:41) -- he was tired of reading the other passages * "Did he use authentic yiddish words in his book?" (13:19) -- he had the idea of writing the novel in yiddish in his mind and simultaneously translating it into English (doesn't know why he thought he could do that). Shalom = peace = piece = gun * "How much research did he do for Kavalier and Clay?" (15:24) * "Why didn't he save Spiderman 3?" (17:04) * "How much of the character of Peter in the Mommy-Track Mysteries (his wife Ayelet Waldman's book) is him?" (19:27) * "What books has he enjoyed recently" (20:38)

Spiderman 2 vs. Spiderman 3 question:

Side note: tonight's event made me much more appreciative of Keplers and the like. Between the intercom interruptions, crying babies (it was held in the kid's section), flushing toilet, and employees accessing the stock room behind, it was hard to stay focused. I mentioned the Keplers sentiment to a fellow attendee on the way out -- he pulled back his jacket to show his Keplers' employee t-shirt beneath (FYI: Berkely Breathed will be at Keplers).

Spiderman 3 suuuuuucks

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I didn't expect it to be as good as the second -- I just wanted it to be as good as the first. But it's just bad. The whole audience bonded together as we struggled to make it through to the end.

CHI Wednesday notes

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CHI Tuesday notes

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CHI Monday notes

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APE 2007

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I try to make it to APE every year so I can buy some indie comics from the creators themselves and find stuff that would often fall below the radar at my local comic shop. There are panels -- this year included Art Spiegelman -- but I find that I really only have energy to do those once a year at Comic-Con. This mostly makes APE a shopping experience for me, so without further ado, here's what I shopped for:

Ancient Book of Myth and War

This was the only item I went in intending to buy. It is a themed art book that Pixarians Scott Morse, Lou Romano, Don Shank, and Nate Wragg put together. I had read about it on Scott Morse's blog and figured that at least Morse would be in attendance. It turned out even better than expected as Morse, Shank, and Romano were all on hand to do free sketches (in the case of Morse, a painting) in the inside cover. The result is pretty awesome:

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A great book and what you see above for only $20.

Kitosan Tea . an Eastern Beauty Tea Brewing Instruction Book

I know a fair bit about tea already, but this clever packaging of a tea bag was too good to pass up. Contained within is a single tea bag plus cute illustrations that take you through the proper steps for brewing tea, including how to brew the same leaves up to four times. I don't see how you can order them online, but I'm sure if you e-mail her arrangements could be made (only about $5). Afterworks 2 features the story of Kitosan.

Too Much Coffee Man

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Friends of mine are fans of the book and I couldn't go yet-another APE without buying an issue -- I was lured by the Too Much Coffee Man guitar picks.

Gallery Nucleus/Christopher Appelhans: Last of the Unicorns shirt

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Who knew unicorns could be so big, ugly, and cute? I picked one of these shirts up for d.

Super7 T-Shirt

Super7 had at least 3 t-shirts I wanted. I ended up going with an camo-silhouette of a AT-ST, Star Wars dork that I am (not listed on Web site right now). I almost got the Star Wars spaceship lineup or the Godzilla lineup instead (also not listed on Web site).

Kazu Sketch

left: APE 2007 sketch, right: Comic-Con 2007 Amulet sketch

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Kazu Kibuishi of Flight/Daisy Kutter/Copper fame does amazing sketches. I didn't buy anything this time around as I pretty much own everything, but Kazu was kind enough to do this sketch and also let me read through an Amulet draft -- there were some amazing pages in there (as expected). Amulet is an epic effort for Kazu. Book 1 will come out in Spring 2008 and will weigh in at 200+ pages. If I recall correctly, five whole books are planned, though Scholastic has only committed to two so far.

Bean's Song (Book 1)

This was one of those books that just caught my eye. Artist Travis Hanson was working on inking a print, it caught my eye, and next thing you know I have a book to read. It is an illustrated novel (think Stardust). Book 2 is coming out in a couple weeks, so if I like what I read I'll have even more to read. I was told by a Super-Con organizer that Travis Hanson will be there.

Good news (for me)

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crossposted from Spare Cycles

I just got confirmation that one of my Levi photos from the Tour of California will be on the cover of Road Bike Action issue 2. I also got several photos inside, including the Table of Contents. I don't know when the issue is coming out but I do know that it has gone to press.

With absolutely no conflict of interest, whatsoever, I encourage you all to become Road Bike Action subscribers (only $9.99).

Snorkelling with Sea Turtle

Swimming with a sea turtle ranks as my top moment from our Hawaii trip. There were many moments high on the list -- dolphins, humpback whales, pretty fish -- but its hard to beat having a sea turtle swim right past your face. We were already pretty happy after having seen a dozen or so sea turtles up on the North Shore, but the waters there were too choppy to get in. Having this little guy unexpectedly swim past us completed our sea turtle adventure.

Snorkelling with Sea Turtle Snorkelling with Sea Turtle

Underwater Camera 2 photos (more sea turtle plus unicorn fish and others)

Spinner Dolphins

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We took an fun (and complimentary) dolphin boat cruise off the coast of West Oahu. The dolphins came up right to the hulls of our catamaran and surfed the tiny wake before swimming off with a couple of spin-breach flourishes. Quite fun.

Spinner dolphins photos

Underwater photos 1

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Humuhumunukunukuapua apua'a

above: Humuhumunukunukuapua apua'a

d and I picked up some cheap disposable underwater cameras at Costco to use at the lagoons around our hotel as well as up at the North Shore. The photo above may not be the best off the reel, but Humuhumunukunukuapua apua'a (aka reef triggerfish) is too cool of a name and too cool looking -- it's also the unofficial state fish -- to not give some love to. I also managed to get some underwater takes to go with my previously Turtle Beach sea turtle photos.

Underwater Camera 1 photos

Turtle Beach, North Shore Turtle Beach, North Shore Turtle Beach, North Shore

Quick post from Hawaii

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IMG_3048Hawaii goes well -- our hotel room feels larger than our apartment and we're overlooking the beach. Today we went up to the North Shore and watched about ten different sea turtles feeding on seaweed. A very nice guy on the beach whose job it is to watch after the turtles told us a lot of interesting facts about them, from describing the satellite transponders on the backs of the turtles picked as most likely to visit the breeding grounds to anecdotes about having to free some of the smaller turtles that get wedged in the rocks. The turtles definitely need their hard shells to protect them against the crashing waves as we saw at least one turtle get flipped over. I'm posting photos of them from my digital camera but I'm hoping for even better from my disposable underwater camera.

On the way back we visited the set of Lost -- you walk down a public beach and there it is, a bunch of huts made out of airplane siding and bamboo. There was some Dharma Initiative food within grabbing distance, but I had no desire to outrun the security guard.

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Off to Hawaii

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I'm looking forward to finally learning how to surf.

My Tour concludes

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Today I hung out taking photos and getting autographs at the stage start in Santa Barbara. I thought I'd drive up Balcom Canyon after that to get some photos from the final climb, but the CHPs had the road blocked off. After hiking about a kilometer up, I decided to turn back because I had a photographer's bib (a bright yellow bib that says "photo" on it = all access pass) waiting for me at the finish line and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to take my first real sprint finish photo.

I drove like a madman to get to the finish line -- it's hard to stay in front of professional bikers -- mostly because I kept on making wrong turns. With all time I had to prepare, you would think that I would have printed off street maps.

I did get my first real sprint finish photo. It wasn't as good as I had hoped, but it was exciting to give it a try.

JJ Haedo beats out Paolo Bettini and Greg Henderson

Stage 6 Report: Santa Barbara - Santa Clarita

Awesome day

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Levi Leipheimer

Levi Leipheimer continues to put on a show for the fans and I've been having my best cycling+photography experience ever. Today I got to be a total fanboy + a "pro" photographer. Another photographer took time to give me advise on portfolio building, lenses, and submitting photos to magazines. People pay to have experiences like these and instead I'm being fed food and offered money for my photos. Armstrong, Ekimov, Julich, Cancellara, Hincapie, Danielson, Voigt, etc... I got near total access: Graham Watson and Casey Gibson stood behind me.

I even inquired about being a staff photographer. When I told the guy that I work as a software engineer, he told me to keep my job. Which only shows that not every dream should come true.

Now I'm tired. I woke up at 4:30am to drive down here and I need to go find somewhere to sleep. Good night all.

Sierra Road

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Top of Sierra Road Top of Sierra Road (Bobby Julich) Levi and Jason over the top, KOM

Lots to report from my Spare Cycles blog. I spent most of the day on Sierra Road: stage summary, diary.

I also got my very first press pass, which I haven't had the chance to break in yet:

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Crazy crash

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Levi on the ground

On a whim I decided to drive up to Santa Rosa to see stage 1 of the Tour of California. I normally ignore the sprint stages, but I figured with President's Day and all it would be worth a new experience. The Santa Rosa stage also has three laps on the finishing circuit, so there would be multiple chances to snap photos.

There were tons of people in Santa Rosa and I couldn't get a good spot near the finish line. I managed to convince someone to let me squeeze in but a half an hour later the media folk started setting up right in front of us, blocking our best views. I couldn't get good sightlines down the straightaway, which meant that the autofocus and metering on a lot of my photos were blown. It didn't really matter, either, because there were so many of the thin yellow thundersticks being waved around that half of my photos feature them instead. As it turned out, it really didn't matter what was going on towards the finish line.

After the riders passed on at the start of the penultimate lap, there was a loud popping noise. I turned around and saw bike after bike piling up. There were riders yelling at each other in anger, others were lazily getting up, and others seemed to be figuring out what damage they suffered. All the while, the forty riders who weren't involved in the crash raced away. It wasn't even until a couple of minutes later that I realized that Levi Leipheimer, who's in the overall lead, was involved in the crash. The race lost all organization after that. The announcers didn't know what was going on, the finish had to be reviewed on tape to see who won, the judges belatedly decided to neutralize the finish (award everyone the same time), and one of the riders failed to show up for the award's ceremony.

The photo above is my favorite from the day because it summarizes so much of the chaos. Off in the distance, the riders racing away. In the foreground, riders still piling up on top of one another. In the center, Levi Leipheimer. The Liquigas rider is kicking someone in the head and on the side of #118's right leg: a face (you have to view the full size to see it).

Team Uni branching out

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Team Uni was in effect yesterday. After much practice with the Tour de Comic-Con, it was time to branch into the cycling realm with the Tour of California. parakkum loaned the necessary video capture equipment, offtopicartisan shot the video and reconnoitered the course, and I shot photos.

The hardest stretch was when ota initiated the sprint from Telegraph Hill down to the Embarcadero so that we could catch the podium presentation. Or perhaps the hardest stretch was when we had to walk back up Telegraph Hill to get to my car.

2006: A Fun Year (in photos)

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One of the unintended results of uploading all my photos into Flickr is that I have had a blitz of 2006 photos flash before my eyes. I'm finally approaching 2005 with my uploads, but I've been overwhelmed with 2006. I thought I sat on my butt all year watching TiVo, but it looks like I actually got out and saw (and photographed) stuff. I know its more traditional to get all sentimental about the previous year around New Years, but I would like to say that 2006 was a fun year and thanks to all of you who shared in the many things below.

Trips: * Japan: Hakodate, Aomori and Nikko, Tokyo * Humboldt County, CA * Getty Villa * Rose Parade * DC * San Diego/Comic-Con '06 * Iowa/Puffer and Kelly wedding * Tahoe * Chicago

Book talks: * Neil Gaiman at Keplers * Neil Gaiman at SJSU * Douglas Hofstadter * Lemony Snicket/The End

College Football: * Rose Bowl (USC vs. Michigan) * USC vs. Arizona * USC vs. Stanford * Stanford vs. Navy

Cycling: * Tour of California Stage 3 * Tour of California Stage 2 * Tour of California Prologue * Levi at Lombardi Sports * Sea Otter Classic * Giro di San Francisco * Pescadero Road Race * Burlingame Criterium * Menlo Park Grand Prix

MythBusters: * Awning Fall * Encinal High Benefit * @Maker Faire

Other: * bp and joy wedding * Exploratorium: Reconsidered Materials and Magnitude X * Maker Faire * Great White at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Wii'd up

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I got my Wii, an extra Wiimote + nunchuk, WarioWare Smooth Moves, Madden 07, and (of course) Zelda: Twilight Princess. I played a game of Madden '07 so I could ignore the Saints being beaten by the Bears, broke-in my Mii on Wii Sports, and I played several crack-smoking levels of Wario -- odd(ly) fun(ny) is how I can best describe it. Zelda: Twilight Princess remains on the shelf -- I wish to savor it, much like how one saves the best part of a meal for last.

My Wii Code is 1418 3492 0962 8370. Get your own WiiBadge at WiiBadge.com!

FYI: Although it was not my source, I highly recommend Target for future Wii purchases (unless you're going for the $50 trade-in that Gamestop is offering). Targets in Sunnyvale and Mountain View had 70-80 Wiis. Best Buy had 30. Circuit City had 18.