Results tagged “trips” from kwc blog

Train Music Video, sans Music

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With the aid of an iPod I've found moments in life that sync up to a particular song. I like playing Pavement's Frontwards as the BART train makes the turn into SFO. There's something about the lumbering movement of the BART as it curves around and the buzz of the cars on the highway versus the activity at the airport that matches the semi-tuned music of Pavement. Then, of course, there's Dark Side of the Moon and Wizard of Oz.

I took this HD video with my new Canon IXY/ELPH as I was going towards Narita airport (higher res here). It seemed to match the mood of Radiohead's "Reckoner" quite well until I had the idea of playing Moray McLaren's "We Got Time". Perhaps it was the nature of the music video that helped it match so well, but there's so many beats that the change in scenery match perfectly. View from a train in Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus.

Due to my desire to not get sued, I present the video sans soundtrack, but, if you happen to have "We Got Time" (the full version, not the edited music video version), press play six seconds in.

Rose Parade Floats 2008

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Rose Parade Floats (19)
Rose Parade Floats (1) Rose Parade Floats (39)
Rose Parade Floats (24) Rose Parade Floats (44)
Rose Parade Floats (60) Rose Parade Floats (10) Rose Parade Floats (30)

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

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.

Off to Missouri

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tour-of-missouri.jpg

I'm headed for a journey across Missouri to follow the Tour of Missouri, then off to West Virginia to visit with family, and finally a quick stop off to say hey to bp in Pittsburgh.

Tour of Missouri, looking for free couches

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I've gone ahead and booked a ticket to Kansas City to watch the Tour of Missouri bike race (Stages 3-7). In the spirit of excellent planning, I haven't figured out any of the other planning. My tentative schedule is:

  • Sept 12th: Springfield/Branson
  • Sept 13th: Lebanon
  • Sept 14th: Jefferson City
  • Sept 15th: St Louis
  • Sept 16th: St Louis or somewhere closer to Pittsburgh

I'll be driving over to West Virginia afterwards to see my family. If you know of anyone near any of those locations who's willing to spare some couch space, it'd be much appreciated. I'll just need somewhere to crash between the end of one stage and the start of the next. My goal is to get as close as possible to breaking even on this by selling photos, though that is extremely unlikely.

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)

Off to Hawaii

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

Headin' to DC, West Virginia

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I'm off to Virginia. On Sat/Sun I'll be in West Virginia. I'll be in NoVA/DC the rest of the week until Saturday.

City grids rock

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The coolest fact I learned about Chicago during my first visit there last week is that it is on a grid system that would make a mathematician proud. The city is basically one giant cartesian coordinate system where the origin (0,0) is at the downtown intersection of State and Madison. From there everything is either addressed as being n units North/South, East/West, where every 800 units = 1 mile (8 blocks every mile, 1 block = 100 units). For example, I stayed near 1600N 1600W, which is about 4 miles from downtown origin (3 miles if you can find a diagonal street). 

This system works great for navigating. If I'm trying to get from 1600N 1600W to 2400N 800W, I know that it's about 2 miles away -- very useful if you're debating paying for a cab, walking, or taking the El. There's also very little problems with getting lost: you know exactly which direction you need to head and you know when you've gone too far.

From Wikipedia's entry on Chicago

The city’s urban context is organized within a grid pattern. The pattern is modified by the shoreline, the three branches of the Chicago River, the system of active/inactive rail lines, several diagonal streets (including Clybourn Street, Milwaukee, Lincoln, Elston, Archer, and Ogden Avenues), the expressways, and hundreds of bridges and viaducts. In addition, the baselines for numbering streets and buildings are State Street (for east-west numbering) and Madison (for north-south numbering). Street numbers begin at "1" at the baselines and run numerically in directions indicated to the city limits, with N, S, E, and W indicating directions. Chicago is divided into one-mile sections which ideally contain eight blocks to the mile, with each block's addresses ideally occupying a 100-number range. Even-numbered addresses are on the north and west sides of streets; odd-numbered address are on the south and east sides.

Driving to Humboldt

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Humboldt is home to every manner of redwood-tree attraction, from California's largest redwood state park, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, to the One Log Cabin to Confusion Hill -- it's the type of place photographed in old B&W California tourist photographs with cars driving through trees.

The best part about driving to Humboldt to go stroll among the redwoods, though, might be the driving. Heading north out of San Francisco you pass through the wineries of Dry Creek Valley (Unti is a favorite), Calistoga, and Russian River Valley. Then at Cloverdale you have a choice: north to Ukiah and the Mendocino Brewing Company, or east along 128 to the Anderson Valley Brewing Company and Anderson Valley wineries, or you could always head to Ukiah first and take the scenic route via 253 and do both. In Anderson Valley you might hear someone speak the Boontling dialect, which seems made up to attract tourists, but I haven't been yet to find out. If you headed out to Anderson Valley you'll eventually end up in the seaside town of Mendocino; if you take the faster route to Humboldt up 101 you'll pass through some more wineries in Hopland.

As you cross into Humboldt county you'll come across Benbow Lake State Recreation Area and the nearby Benbow Inn, which my dad and I had a good lunch at. Then you're in Garberville, last stop before the Avenue of the Giants and Humboldt Redwoods State Park.  Granted, with all the alcohol-related stops I mentioned above, you might not be making it that far without a designated driver or a spare liver.

What I learned about property in Humboldt

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I'm back from the end of my summer travels typing on my brand new laptop, which arrived just as I was taking off on this travel-ending trip to Garberville, right in the heart of southern Humboldt County, California. We were up there to visit a ranch that's been in the family since the late 1930s. I hadn't been there in about twenty years -- I believe I was six for my one and only trip -- so it was one of those trips where your brain tries to make sense of the memories of a small child superimposed upon what the adult brain feels like it is experiencing for the first time.

My last trip involved swimming in streams, running after a bull, and learning how to shoot a pistol; this trip was more business. The property has been abandoned for quite some time and we were there to ascertain its value and learn about the logistics of property ownership in Humboldt County from realtors there. Garberville held the title of "Marijuana Capital of the US", though we were told it was now something like 10th place. A thriving marijuana industry creates some interesting issues: someone might be growing pot on your land, someone might be defending that crop of pot, and some DEA agent may be trying to seize your land for that crop. So my dad and I had some open conversations with the realtors there about this issue and learned some interesting facts:

  1. Marijuana production has shifted from outdoor growing to year-round indoor growing operations. This has created a social tension between the off-the-grid environmental types and the marijuana growers. The indoor growers use diesel generators for power, which leads to pollution of the land and water. Water is perhaps the single-most important resource in South Humboldt as it's hard to come by -- make sure to look for water rights if purchasing property there -- so a lot of growers end up getting turned in by their neighbors either due to oily slicks showing up in the local drinking water or because of the loud annoying noise of the generators.
  2. There are rarely prosecutions in Humboldt County for marijuana. California's Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) program funds seizure of marijuana plants, but it doesn't provide any funding for prosecution. The police will come in, seize the plants and equipment, add it to their tally, and then leave. The federal government isn't as nice, but they aren't as involved.
  3. It is very easy to get legal work in Garberville -- it is far more lucrative to get $200 for cleaning a pound of pot, so there are plenty of job openings of the W-2 variety.
  4. There isn't much pot-related violence in South Humboldt. There used to be back in the day, but it has settled down, and the Mexican cartels haven't made it that far north yet.
  5. If you are an absentee landlord and need to cover your butt, you can probably just call the local sheriff's department and give them permission to search your property on a regular basis.
  6. The marijuana trade helps keep the property values in South Humboldt up. Many of the sellers will ask for 50% down cash for property ranging from $100K to $600K and will get it. You generally can't get a mortgage on a property without a house, so to protect against the risk of a buyer defaulting-by-jail, sellers ask for this higher down payment -- they also ask because they can.
  7. If someone is driving a brand new pickup with a diesel fuel tank in back, it's not because they are in the construction business.

Millennium Park

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Five things I really liked about Millennium Park in Chicago:

  • The Cloud Gate sculpture (i.e. metal bean): I had seen many photos of this, and I didn't quite get it; it just looked like a giant funhouse mirror. But today I stood next to it and realized that, standing in the right spot, you can get impossible views of Chicago that are wonderful to take in. You can see the skyscrapers to the east and north of the park lined up side by side as well as the architecture in the park itself, all from one vantage point. And it's fun to watch distorted images of yourself.

  • McDonald's Cycle Center: there's free bike parking in a very secure facility (bike cops use it) and for $99/year or $15/month you can get use of a reserved bike parking area, a personal locker, and use of showers -- it's like a club for bikers. There's towel service for $1/use and the whole facility is indoors. It makes biking feel very upscale and luxurious. I like.

  • Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion/Great Lawn: As I walked over to Millennium Park, I was noting to myself how cool the naked architecture of the El train system in Chicago is: every support beam and bolt is right there for you to see. When I got to Gehry's typical twisting and undulating metal sheets in Millennium Park, I thought it was a really great match:

    • From the front, you just see metal sheets, but walk just a bit to the side and you get to see all the support structure exposed.
    • The Great Lawn itself has this canopy overhead that is stripped down to just beams, speakers, and lights. There was a jazz ensemble rehearsal while I was there and I enjoyed listening to it as families played soccer and frisbee around me. The canopy of speakers just drops sound down on you so you feel properly immersed.
    • There is naked concrete (ala Ando) used for ramps, staircases and supports.
  • Gehry's BP bridge: this serpentine bridge is a great way to approach the Pritzker Pavilion -- too bad you're more likely to be leaving rather than entering on this bridge, as I really enjoyed how the bridge introduced the pavilion.

  • Crown Fountain: I could care less about the images of faces projected onto these two mini-towers, but it's fun to see families bringing their kids to play and run around in the fountains shooting off each tower. I was tempted to run around myself, but I didn't have a towel.

This does mean that I pretty much liked the entire park, though I did leave out the gardens, which I felt were impersonally wraped in metal, as well as the Wrigley Square area, which was overly classic that it just felt flat in that environment. It will be interesting when the Renzo Piano's Modern Wing addition to the Chicago Art Institute is done: part of the plan is to add a very long pedestrian bridge from the park to the new wing. The linkage, I hope, will add even more to the park.

Corollary: If you are in need of good California wine, simply hang out at the airport terminal on a day like today. With no liquids allowed, that means plenty of Napa and Sonoma visitors caught between ditching or chugging. I'm sure someone in TSA is partying tonight.

It wasn't actually as bad as I thought. The news crews filming us in line were annoying, but the lines moved fairly fast. TSA wasn't very good at informing people with carry-on luggage that that they best exit the line and go and check their bags: in the short time I spent checking my bag, two women frantically cut in front of me to try and check their bags after having sat through the entire security line. It was annoying that you pretty much couldn't even buy coffee inside the secure area to bring onto the flight, but the good news was that there was tons of room in the overhead bins.

The only real annoyance for me came as a result of the large amounts of misinformation coming via NPR radio as we drove to the airport. I decided it was best if I left my iPod and more expensive camera equipment behind as it was unclear as to what was being allowed in carry-on baggage, so I am now in beautiful Chicago without a good camera. It did rain today, though, so the pictures wouldn't have been good anyway (today, at least).

Off to Chicago

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Going to another wedding, but I'm taking a couple extra days to try and make this one a vacation (unlike the 30 hours I spent in Iowa).

Squid in Hakodate

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I saw plenty of squid in Hakodate: squid swimming in tanks outside of restaurants, squid on manhole covers, squid in the morning fish market. I probably won't get the chance to visit Hakodate again, so I'll have to miss out on their great squid yet: a $250,000 giant robotic squid.

Back from Iowa

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I was off in Iowa this weekend for a wedding. It was a bit of a blitz trip so it may not be fair to give my opinion of Iowa just yet -- according to my SFO parking garage receipt, I was out of the Bay Area for less than 1 day and 20 hours. I will say that I was pretty darn happy that the plane trip back took me on my favorite approach into the Bay: over the Yosemite Valley to San Jose and then up the Bay across the salt ponds. One-hundred-degree, hot-and-humid corn fields are pretty at sunset, but it looks like the weather here went somewhere nice while I was briefly gone and the Bay's looking beautiful as always..

Tour de Comic-Con: Back Gearage

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In parakkum's photo above you can see a shot of honeyfields and I walking the convention floor, which is deceptively clear of traffic. You can see honeyfields with Timbuk2 bag and me with backpack, poster tube, and camera strap. Next year I may switch to a setup more similar to honeyfields. The camera strap will stay but the poster tube and backpack will probably go. A backpack is hard to get access to, especially with poster tube and camera strap wrapped around your neck. You end up having to memorize an intricate order of strap removal in order to avoid strangling tangling. I've previously carried a Chrome messenger bag, which is a better than a backpack for breaking out the sketchbook, though mine is too big to easily swing around from my back to my front. I've wanted to get a medium-sized messenger bag for cycling, so now I will shop with Comic-Con also in mind.

Tour de Comic-Con: Saturday's Stage

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I spent most of the morning killing time until Quick Draw, which is really the highlight of every Saturday for me. More will come on the Quick Draw panel later, but for now I'll say that it was as fun as expected. A bit more repetitive than usual with the types of prompts, but this panel always delivers year after year.

Next up was the Brisco County panel. Due to poorly managed long lines I got into this panel late, but I got to see a lot of the Q&A with Bruce Campbell, Carlton Cuse, John McNamara, and Julius Carrey. There weren't as many entertaining verbal ripostes as the Bruce Campbell one-man Q&A show, but it was full of plenty of fun moments in the semi-reunion. I may actually try to get the DVDs, though $65 ($100 list) is a bit steep to try it out.

After failing to get into the Spiderman 3 session, the day ended with watching the Masquerade on the projection screen in the Sails Pavilion. I don't know who won, but I think our favorite was the Nintendon'ts, which featured humorous interactions between various Nintendo characters, punctuated by the decapitation of Pikachu in a Highlander showdown.

Inbetween this was the usual schwag and sketches, as well as my first big points in the Credit Ruining Accoutremonts Classification (CRAC). I got a doodle from Dave McKean and sketches from Chris Mitten and Ben Templesmith -- the Oni booth is always fun to stop by and dangerous on the pocketbook, as I picked up three more comics: Julius (Antony Johnston), Past Lies (Weir and DeFilippis), and Wasteland (Johnston and Mitten).

Team Uni picked up some of the last available Attack on Endor sets. After winning two in the morning, we went back to the booth in the afternoon to discover that the prize heap had been reduced to worthless figurines. We considered it a job well done, walking away with seven sets by my account, for a total retail value of $140.

The big CRAC points came from buying an Usagi Yojimbo original drawing that has Usagi jumping up into the air. Next year I might commission a drawing from Sakai as it's the same cost, though it's not very important as I'm really happy with what I have. I'll scan and post it in a later entry.

Tour de Comic-Con: Friday's stage

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I haven't really posted about yesterday's stage, but today's stage was so awesome that let's just leave it at my "Tired" entry for now and move onto this morning and afternoon.

Entertainment along the route picked up throughout the stage. After Snoop Dogg and Lando failed to show up for their session, things picked up dramatically with a rollicking Battlestar Galactica session. They probably gave away too many Season 3 spoilers, but Edward James Olmos and Lucy Lawless added a lot more entertainment to this year's panel. The day ended with the New Line Cinema event. Kenan Thompson was a hilarious host and things got great once the Final Destination 3 promo was done. They showed a clip from the upcoming Tenacious D movie (hilarious rock opera clip with a Meat Loaf and Dio) and then, what we were waiting for, Snakes on a Plane, featuring Samuel L. Jackson, live snakes (anaconda!), a 10-minute clip, and a hilarious mashup of some of the fan parodies. Samuel L. Jackson played his bad-ass part well, kinda like a Bruce Campbell session but with a lot more muthafuckas thrown in.

The schwag points in this year's Tour have been much more difficult to come by: the movie studios aren't giving away schwag at their presentations, there's a lot less t-shirts, a lot less posters, a lot less of everything, which doesn't make much sense as this is the biggest Tour de Comic-Con ever. Or perhaps it's so big that companies don't want to give out that much anymore. m and I are probably going to save some crucial weight tomorrow and leave our poster tubes behind as they are fairly empty.

Nevertheless, this year's Tour has some of the best schwag booths ever -- so good that I hestitate to call it schwag. After trying yesterday and only coming up with a Magic Booster pack, Team Uni got five Star Wars Attack on Endor sets that retail for $20 each. Team Uni also picked up three Boba Fett limited edition Bust-Ups, which non-limited versions retail for $4-5.

The sketches also went very well for kwc, who has been working since Thursday to get a Mignola sketch but has failed repeatedly. Today, success, as I now have a Hellboy sketch to add to my collection as well as a Stephen Silver sketch. honeyfields and my sketch books are much less full this year, but the focus has been much more on getting sketches from specific people and it has paid off. kwc has gotten sketches from Mignola, Kazu, Silver, Sakai, Guenoden, Kurtz, Aragones, and Gabe, which is a happy haul.

For both the schwag and sketch point competitions, this year's strategy has been much more in the style of Michael Rasmussen and Richard Virenque: ignore the piddling Cat 4 and Cat 3 climbs, go hard on one of the stages and take all the big climbs. Today's stage was that stage for us. With over $100 in retail with about an hour's effort each, Team Uni can coast to the finish, though we may pick up an extra Endor set or two just in case.

Tired

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I'm a bit too tired to do a full Tour de Comic-Con update today. I woke up at 4:30am today to watch the greatest ride I have ever seen. It was worth it, but it also drained me a bit for the huge crowds today. Every year is the most crowded year yet, but this is the first year where Thursday really lost the "laid-back" distinctness. Nevertheless, I summoned all the energy I could, walked the floors, and had fun. More later after I sleep, as two Tours await me tomorrow morning, one at 5:30am, the other at 10:00am.

Tour de Comic-Con: Prologue

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Team Uni bonked like Floyd Landis on the opening day of Comic-Con. m and I got off our Southwest flight and went straight to the convention center with parakkum and honeyfields. I thought of picking up a pizza in the airport feed zone, but I figured that we were taking an early dinner after and I could power through a light and easy preview night. Preview night is only open to pre-registered attendees, and as there is no actual programming and it only lasts three hours, the convention floor is fairly open and an easy course to manuever. We weren't prepared.

Every year attendance Comic-Con gets larger and larger, but for the past couple years the size of the venue has not. The number of people on the convention floor at this year's preview night was as bad as a Friday or possibly even Saturday of last year. Instead of a nice easy prologue stage to get the legs warmed up, it was hectic right out the gate, or rather, right through the double doors that thousands of people were squeezing through. I was dodging strollers, stormtroopers, and camera crews as I tried to swim like a salmon upstream to the Kinokuniya booth to buy a large sketchbook and then over to Mike Mignola's booth to grab a small Hellboy print and book of sketches. Mignola politely refused my request for a sketch, so my new sketchbook remains blank front to back.

We kept our run of the floor to a short one hour, but by the end I was exhausted, wishing I had carbo-loaded like I would on a regular stage. parakkum's parents treated us to Mexican dinner afterwards, which I gobbled like I had just ridden a stage through the Alps.

Take note Tour de Comic-Con riders: preview night is now just like any other day in the Tour. It may be shorter, but that just sends people flying around the floor faster. Watch your nutrition, stretch, and remember to draft to save energy. Luckily, this was just a prologue stage. My sketchbook may still be empty and I may have no schwag points, but I'm hoping for a nice easy start to Thursday's stage as a lot of people will be at work or in sessions instead of on the convention floor.

FYI: Samuel Jackson, Robert Rodriguez, Sam Raimi, Quentin Tarantino, Snoop Dogg, RZA, Edward James Olmos, Deepak Chopra, Bruce Campbell, Neil Gaiman, Nicholas Cage, and many others are guests this year. It's going to be crazy. Even Marvel put its name on a booth this year (shared with Activision), which is an odd move for them. It's a different event this year, but I'm looking forward to it.

Elsewhere on kwc.org (part 6)

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I've already done some Comic-Con prep posts here, but over in my cycling blog I wrote about how I'm going to attempt to watch the Tour de France remotely with my TiVo. It shows how TiVo doesn't quite have place-shifting down just yet, but it's mostly a backup plan as littlestar/parakkum have informed me that I should be able to watch the Tour on TV where we're staying in San Diego.

Back

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No time for full posts, but some random bits:

  • In a correction to my previous Japan trip log, I'd like to proudly state that I now have a DS Lite. ota, m, and I waited in line at the Ikebukuro Toys R' Us and were able to pick some up. I promptly bought a copy of old-school Dr. Mario, which doesn't use the capabilities of DS Lite in the least, but I'm looking forward to trying some other games out. I did pick up a copy of the 'America' travel assitant, which I will play around with to see if it is good enough for reverse English->Japanese usage.
  • Jangara Ramen in Akihabara/Omotesando makes me sad to eat ramen in the US again.
  • All-you-can-eat food in Japan is awesome. We had all-you-can-eat dessert at Sweets Paradise in Ginza for ~$13 and all-you-can-eat shabu shabu at Mo Mo Paradise in Shinjuku for ~$15. I suggest that you visit these places first when visiting Japan, as your stomach will start to shrink from the smaller Japanese food portions the longer you're there. I think I lost weight despite the constant consumption of highly sugared vending machine drinks.
  • I think I should have been using Japanese soap and shampoo my whole life. It's possible that it's the California desert climate, but my half-Japanese skin didn't feel the least bit itchy like it does with US products.
  • Is Karl Rove indicted, or no? I'm confused.
  • Lost is finally going somewhere, just in time for the season finale this week. It sure does make me think that the entire first half of the season was a waste.
  • TiVo let me down on recording the Giro di Italia. Bad TiVo!

Tokyo day 1+2

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This post should actually go before the previous, but it's hard to tell which way time is running when you're in Tokyo. Mike had to remind me that today is Monday, not Tuesday. Instead of returning every night to Saitama, where we're staying, part of me thinks that I should just stay on the Yamanote line, get off whereever I wake up, and repeat as necessary as Tokyo is already a blur linked together by the Yamanote circle. But Saitama is actually quite nice as Neil's friend has lent us an apartment, which gives us tons of space to recharge ourselves and our camera batteries. The slightly less dense neighborhoods in Saitama also ensure that the awesomely gigantic feeling of Tokyo is fresh every morning when we arrive.

On our first day in Tokyo, we managed to walk through Harajuku, Omotesando, Roppongi Hills, and Shibuya. We had very good guides, without whom we wouldn't have been able to see so many sites spread across Tokyo. Each of these spots was overwhelming in it's own way. Roppongi Hills was architecturally ginormous, Shibuya was super dense, and Harajuku had an impressive level of dress-up.

We struck out on our own on our second day using y's notebook guide, which so far has led us to delicious ramen (Jangara Ramen in Akihabara) and all-you-can-eat dessert (Sweets Paradise in Ginza). I highly recommend y's guide for those of you that can ask her for a copy ;). The Akihabara/Ginza/Tokyo area was much easier for us to cover on our own as we took it 'easy,' but we still managed to walk a ton. Sitting down for 90-minute-all-you-can-eat dessert and a kabuki play helped a bit, but exploring all the nooks and crannies requires a bit of legwork. I almost felt bad for nearly nodding off during the kabuki play, but then I noticed that many of the other theater patrons had already passed out -- a warm theater at 4:30pm is probably not the best audience to perform to. Kabuki was interesting, but I think it's probably too difficult to appreciate from the nosebleed seats as even the theater binoculars I purchased didn't help me see the performer's faces very well. Next time I'll probably shell out for the closer seats. I also want to figure out the performer's stage names so i can give a hearty yell of encouragement to keep the blood flowing ("Yamatoya!").

Akihabara is awesome

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... but if I lived there I would quickly spend all my money on every gadget and toy ever known. I visited both the old Akihabara with the various small shops with various specialties as well as Yodabashi Camera, which is pretty much Akibahara sanitized and compressed into a single giant building. My purchases were as varied as Akihabara: a SATA/IDE to USB converter, model Shinkansen trains, an LED light on a cellphone strap, a Godzilla toy out of a capsule machine, an R2-D2 bottle cap, and pixel blocks for recreating Nintendo sprites. Yes, a bunch of crap, but now I own it all. I would have bought a radio and hopups for my unfinished R/C car if only I had a bit more room and actually remembered what I needed.

One of the coolest things I saw was that they have video games where you use trading cards to control the action. In a military strategy game, you manuever and command your units by moving their cards across the table. In a soccer game, you control your lineup by positioning your player cards on the table. We tried one of the more boring card games that just involves sticking your cards into the machine, but we didn't get beyond the tutorial section -- that darn goblin just wouldnt die!

I also saw a Nintendo DS Lite for the first time. I would buy one if they weren't sold out everywhere. I didn't fully understand the coolness of that platform until y's sister showed me an America travel program that teaches American English. It fully utilizes the two screens of the DS. If you select a phrase to 'say' something in English, you can display that phrase upside down on the top screen so that the person you're talking to can read it. You can also use the touch screen to practice writing English phrases displayed on the top screen. There's currently programs for America, Germany and Thailand, among others, but that's not too helpful for me as they are all in Japanese. I wish that all of our Japan guides could be compressed onto a signle DS cartridge.

Mankai

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Sakura

Sakura Sakura Sakura Goryukaku Park Sakura

The cherry blossoms in Hakodate are finally full bloom (mankai). I've uploaded this small selection of unprocessed photos to Flickr (top photo is actually from Matsumae).

In search of cherry blossoms

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I'll be doing conference stuff the next couple of days but we are going to make a quick trip out to Matsumae to see how the 10,000 sakura (cherry blossom trees) are doing there. The sakura where we are staying in Hakodate are mostly closed still, but the blossoms aren't really the point. hanami (flowering viewing) is like the first day of spring at MIT: it's a good excuse to go out to a park with your friends and party. Even though the sakura weren't in full bloom in Hakodate, there were still tons of people partying and the grills and kegs were out in full force. We got invited over by a group to enjoy some kimchi ramen, rice, and lots of beer. One of the guys called himself "Japanese HG" (wikipedia entry on HG, aka Hard Gay) and there was even an HG costume in a bag. We played a gambling game where you stab swords into a barrel until a little HG doll springs out, but, alas, the HG costume stayed in the bag.

We're hoping for more sakura fun in Matsumae. The tourist office puts it at 50% right now, but they have more varieties of sakura there with different blooming periods. There probably won't be as much partying on a weekday, but who knows? I tried to find some news articles to find out how the blossoms are doing there, but this babelfish-ed article was all I could come up with:

Oshima inside of pipe Matsumae Cho on the fourth, declared the bloom of the Soviet May reed no inside the Matsumae park. On the fourth than the common year, three days than last year it was late, but inside the road it became the quickest declaration.

As for Matsumae park place of interest of cherry tree of road inflected finger.

Off to Japan

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Stage 1: AAMAS Conference in Hakodate, Japan

Stage 2: Fun in Tokyo

Stage 3: ?

There probably won't be a stage 3 as I don't imagine I'll run out of things to do in Tokyo, though I do have a hankering to visit more of the Kansai region, seeing as I have spent most of my time in Japan either on Kyushu or Okinawa.

I have no plans to post from Japan, but I should hopefully get some photos of cherry blossoms from Hakodate. pqbon was generous enough to lend me a wide-angle lens, which will definitely help with some of the shots I'm planning on taking.

Final thought before leaving: I think I spent more time making sure my TiVo would be okay while I was gone than I did packing.

I'm going to Japan!

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I've just sent in my registration for aamas-06: Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems as there is a paper that I wrote some paragraphs and did some UI designs for. The conference is in Hakodate, Japan, on the big island of Hokkaido. This will be my first trip to Hokkaido, so if you have any suggestions/recommendations, please send them along. We're currently figuring out how to make our way up to the Daisetsuzan national park.

I always comment on how I seem to visit the parts of Japan that no one else seems to visit (e.g. Sasebo, Okinawa, and now Hakodate), so I think I'm also going to take some time off and cruise down to Tokyo to experience the tourists' Japan. Suggestions for Tokyo are also welcome.

Photos: Sasebo Favorites

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I couldn't post all the photos I wanted to from Sasebo, so I'm limiting myself to two sets: one with my favorites and one from around the city center. I would have omitted the latter, but it wouldn't have been fair to the city to do so. When I first showed my mom the photos I was taking, she complained that I was taking "ugly photos." She wondered why I wasn't taking photos of the more beautiful areas of Sasebo, whereas my photos seemed to all contain rust stains and grime. This is a frequent interaction with my mom. Several years ago I was taking her around MIT, she made hardly a comment. Later in the day we visited Harvard and she immediately burst out with a, "This is so much prettier! Why didn't you go to school here!?!?"

It isn't that I find rust attractive. Sasebo is filled with so many textures and has such an overwhelming density of architecture. I can't help taking photos of parking lots on top of homes, rooftops that meet in anything but right angles, buildings that similarly lack right angles, a narrow sidestreet adjacent to bright shopping plaza, homes that rise up and up into the hillside, and stairways, stairways, stairways. Zen photos are fun, but it's just as fun to take a stroll around town.

Full photoset

Photos: Sasebo City Center

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IMG_1367_edited-1 IMG_1387_edited-1 Toy store in Sasebo

I've already posted some photos from the area around Sasebo, Japan, including spiders (kumo), 99 islands, and Braille-encoded city, but it's taken me quite awhile to start putting up photos of the city itself. I took hundreds of photos and I just want to post all of them with detailed explanations so that I could try to convey all the interesting aspects that I strangely find fascinating, like a shopping mall that could be Anywhere, US, a train tunnel through a shopping mall, four-way overpasses, and more. Neither you nor I really have time for that.

Full photoset

Favorite Christmas Moment

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Featuring my 11-month-old nephew and an 18-month-old girl.

Girl is playing with a toy. Girl offers it to my nephew, who takes it, shakes it, and is very happy. Girl is smiling ear to ear. Nephew offers toy back to girl. Girl reaches out to grab toy -- nephew pulls it back just as she lays her hands on it. Girl walks away dejected.

Apparently babies learn sharing somewhere between 11 and 18 months.

I'm happy because I have this all on video.

First place would have gone to a friend's 3-year-old toppling an entire Christmas tree by pulling on a single ornament (no injuries), had I actually witnessed the event or aftermath. My nephew can't walk yet, but I'm sure my sister and brother-in-law will use that story as a lesson for baby-proofing their house.

In DC...

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... thanks to susanne. Here is the summary form of our IM conversation last night at 1:00AM:

me : ping
susanne: pong
me : can I ask a big favor?
susanne: sure
me: can I get a ride to the airport tomorrow?
susanne: no problem. what time?
me: 6:30AM
susanne: yeah, no problem

Somewhere in there was an explanation about Caltrain sucking and no airport shuttles available. In otherwords, another shining anecdote of solid planning on my part.

Technically I could run downstairs in two minutes and open my presents, but I'd like to think I'm more mature than that. Instead I'm currently getting into the Christmas mood by listening to the 8bits of Christmas by 8bitpeoples.

Heading DC's way

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I'll be in DC from the 24th to the 30th. I'm free except for the 25th and 28th, so drop me a note if you want to hang out.

Photos: Nagasaki Peace Memorial

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Nagasaki Peace Memorial-21Nagasaki Peace Memorial-10The Nagasaki Peace Memorial in Japan is a newly built memorial to the atomic bomb victims and survivors in Japan. Much of the complex is underground, with the above-ground portion serving as a public space to walk around and explore. The actual memorial is at the heart of the underground complex. An antechamber with video screens lets you learn more about each of the individual victims before entering the main memorial hall, which has lighted pillars that lead to a skylight above. In a roped-off portion of the hall is a lone dark pillar that contains the registry of all the victims.

Nagasaki Peace Memorial-13I left with mixed impressions of the building. From an architectural point of view, it was disorienting for me. It looked much like a Tadao Ando building, including a staircase that emerges out of the center of an elliptical pool, yet enough elements were slightly different from Ando's style that I could tell that it probably wasn't. The exterior layout was somewhat haphazard with very little to draw the eye, the dome was oddly placed, and the grounds weren't very well kept. I was happy to learn it wasn't an Ando building because I have higher expectations. The one element of the building design I did like was the finish on the interior concrete: it was very porous, almost wood-like in feel.

Nagasaki Peace Memorial-14The memorial itself was pretty, but it felt lacking in humanity. The use of pillars was familiar from the Holocaust Memorial in Boston, but unlike the Boston memorial that allows you to read the names inscribed, the main pillar with the names is roped off from exploration. Rather than express the human loss, it conveyed the sense of a vault. The antechamber's tech-y video screens combined with the sterility of the hall made me think of scenes from tech thrillers where the hero must break into the vault to steal the McGuffin.

Flickr Photoset of Nagasaki Peace Memorial

Photos: Kumo (Spiders)

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Mt. Yumihari, which overlooks the town of Sasebo, is covered in spiders. Between a pair of trees you might see up to a dozen spiders hanging in mid-air. The top of the mountain was formerly a World War II outpost, but now all that is keeping watch are thousands of spiders and some feral cats. The spiders have some great designs on their bodies, with underbellies often resembling a demon mask.

Flickr Photoset of Spiders

Braille-Encoded City

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I noticed special tiles running along the sidewalks while I was wandering around the cities of Sasebo and Fukuoka in Japan. My mom explained that they help blind people navigate the city. With my mind now aware of these tiles and their purpose, they became a secret code for me to try and decode. Straight-lined tiles indicated a path to follow; dotted tiles could be arranged to flag a split in the path or a waiting point (e.g. crosswalk or bus stop). At the Fukuoka airport, the trail leads you through the automatic doors to a split: the side-branch takes you to a map of the airport. The secret codes also had their secret hiding places: tiny balled-headed pins were embedded in a railing, nearly invisible to the naked eye, which they are not meant for, but easily detected by anyone using the railing for assistance up the stairs. I wonder what the message is, something informative, "Ten paces to next set of stairs," or something cloak-and-dagger, "Secret meeting when the thunder whispers, follow the trail."

In the US, I've seen similar sorts of tiles to guide you from a Mountain View bus stop to the Caltrain station, but there is less code and the implementation is incomplete. I was able to wander most of downtown Sasebo by following the trail at my feet, though there are gaps and it will not get you far into the residential areas. At Fukuoka airport they lead you to a map, but inside the airport there is no guide on the floor to lead you; perhaps the map provided an answer I could not read.

Photos: 99 Islands

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My cousins and aunt braved the cold for me so that I could snap some sunset photos of the 99 Islands from the top of Yumihari Mountain in Sasebo. The city of Sasebo is busily spread out around the harbor along one side of the mountain, while, on the other side, things are mostly green and blue with ony the occassional settlement dotting the view. I'm not sure how one counts the 99 Islands, as there are many formations barely larger than a boulder, but by the official metric it is actually closer to 218 or so. At night you can see a string of lights snaking across the water between the islands as the squid hunters go out and try to lure their prey.

99 Islands Photos (9 photos)

Japan trip index

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2 more t-shirts

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Two more purchases from my Japan trip:

Adorable
Awesome

Only one star
I wish you every happiness
Queenly heart


Carifolnia
Sweet

We'll go rain or shine
Peace

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On my first full day in Japan my aunts took me to Dazaifu Station in Fukuoka. Dazaifu Station is home to Dazaifu Tenmangu, a Shinto shrine for Tenjin, as well as Komyozenji, a Buddhist temple with a Zen garden in back. Both are tourist attractions, i.e. they are not places for quiet contemplation, but they are very beautiful tourist attractions. In between our visit to the shrine and the temple we had lunch at Ume no Hana, a restaurant that specializes in tofu. Our lunch consisted of about fifteen courses, most of which I have photos of. Part of your meal price is the plates you choose to eat on, so thanks goes to my aunt for the nice plates you see pictured. I can't read our menu so I don't have proper names for most of the courses.

It was a little paranoia-inducing to see a photo of a bridge you just crossed at Dazaifu Tenmangu in a national newspaper the next day, but as it turns out the crown prince was in town.

All thirty photos from Dazazifu Station

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Four views of Mt Fuji

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Our pilot was nice enough to fly us past Mt Fuji on our route back. I love how Mt Fuji completely stands out from the surrounding landscape, leaving no doubt about its iconic popularity.

Tea, lots of tea, lots of tea tea tea

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teaI have returned from Japan with full suitcase. The suitcase was full because of the products pictured here: many packets of tea, multiple teapots, and a tea cup. I am a tea snob, expressing a strong desire for tea from the countryside near my grandma's home, and I've happily returned with much product to consume. It's also a medical necessity: I had a cup of hot green tea in front of me for nearly the entire ten days and I might go into frightful fits of withdrawal if I don't ween myself onto a more maintainable consumption cycle.

My Japanese has gotten a lot better over the past ten days. I'm now better conversationally than I was four years ago, though probably still not as good as I was about ten years ago. I'm still far from fluent. I was most comfortable conversationally when speaking to my eight-month-old cousin -- my shy three-year-old cousin ran verbal loops around me, leaving me too embarassed to continue speaking. I purchased a copy of The Wizard of Oz to translate but I've only managed six pages of partial translation in several hours of effort.

I credit much of my progress to Japanese: The Spoken Language by Jorden and Noda. I probably wouldn't have understood the textbook when I was studying in middle school, but despite it's strange romanization of Japanese characters I found that I understood the language constructs much better than before. However, my profession training has taken over the foreign language portion of my brain. I find that I'm comparing many of the language constructs to computer programming language constructs, with particles as defining transition states and verbs as stacks.

More later, but now back to clearing out my e-mail and blog reader.

Off to Japan (soon)

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I leave tomorrow morning for Japan to visit with family for ten days. I'm looking forward to spending time with my 100-year-old grandma and many aunts and cousins. My cousins are looking forward to spending time with me because it means that my aunts will break out the extra beer. My aunts may try to make up stage names for me; I believe that last one was a pun on poop, but not everything gets translated for me.

Four years is too long to have been away. Except for the fact that the country is designed for people a foot shorter than I, I am more comfortable with the streets, shops, and density there. There's always something to entertain and to explore (hidden stairways, alleys) and vending machines full of tasty refreshment are always just around the corner.

I'm not sure what the plan is just yet; most of the time I'll be in Sasebo but I'll probably make it over to Nagasaki for some sightseeing. There's a longshot chance I'll end up in Okinawa for a day or two to visit my old haunts and sit on the beach, but logistics make that one difficult.

Congrats Cyndi and Kenji

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Kenji and Cyndi got married on Friday and should now be off in Argentina somewhere unable to read this message, but I wanted to wish them congratulations anyways. Three straight nights of partying with them wore out my liver a bit, but I appreciate the exercise regimen. We (Kenji, Cyndi, myself, and the rest of you) should do it again come X-mas time when I'm in DC again.

I posted some photos on Flickr -- I can also post them elsewhere by request. I tried to push the limits of my new camera a bit and as you can tell from the photos I pushed the limits a bit too far. I believe 'cameraphone' comes to mind.

It was fun matching blogs and Flickr photos to real people. It gives hope that most of the Internet is not made up by some fifty-year-old bald dude sitting naked in his parents' basement, which I believe is the plot of the next Matrix movie.

I'm back

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I'm back from the East Coast, land of much rain but happy weddings. Also, land of slow dialup modem at parent's house, an experience that increases in pain as technology progresses. My time back in the West will be short -- I leave for the Far East this Friday, hopefully rid of this airplane-inflamed cold.

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October travels

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I'm about to fall off the blogging radar. I leave for Wednesday for Kenji's wedding, get back Sunday, leave the following Friday for Japan and get back ten or so days after that. I'm pretty sure my 100-year-old grandma doesn't have Internet access, so expect little until I get back.

I'll be meeting a bunch of people at Kenji's wedding that I only know through their blogs and vice versa. I'm skimming through Flickr to see if I can better matchup handles, names and faces. If you really want to screw with me and have me go up to novak and say, "How's it going Anne?" feel free to mess around with your photo captions. It may be to your advantage -- the person who best impersonates novak gets a Penny Arcade t-shirt and sketch.

Here's a photo of me dressed up as an even-toed ungulate. I promise to show up dromedary and not bactrian.

Best Comic-Con Costumes

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parakkum and I saw this costume walk by, we exchanged a laughing glance, and then chased down the three to ask to take a photo. As there was no other costume that caused me to run with my camera to snap a photo, I have to give this one top awards:

Best Comic-Con Costumes: Humor

Technical costume: General Grievous

This costume was amazing to behold. The creator actually entered two elaborate costumes in the Masquerade, with this my favorite of the two. He designed the costume so that he is standing inside the cape, with the Grievous appendages in front of him for that skeletal look. You can kind of tell from the people in back that the costume is also very tall.

Best Comic-Con Costumes: Technical

Like last year, Elvis Stormtrooper and Samurai Stormtrooper were present. I love those costumes, but as they're reruns I didn't snap any photos this time around.

I'm back

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I'm back. It's 2am. I arrived home about 4 hours ago. Since then I've watched three of the four Tour de France stages I've missed. One more stage and I'll finally be able to take the media blinders down.

Our Internet connection in San Diego ran out Saturday evening soon after we got back to our hotel room. You may have to wait a day or two for the dramatic conclusion to Tour de Comic-Con.

Tour de Comic-Con: Team Roster

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Team Uni's roster for Tour de Comic-Con:

  • parakkum: Tour veteran. He's been doing this his whole life. If there were a comparable cyclist, it would be Viatcheslav Ekimov, who has finished all 13 of the Tour de Frances he has entered. There isn't a curve or a bend in the convention floor he doesn't know, and his knowledge of Tour history will keep the Team Uni in the right position for the right opportunities. He'll be looking to ride well for himself in the writer's competition, but he'll also using his veteran skills to help his teammates ride high in their classifications.
  • kwc: This is his third year riding with Team Uni and he'll again be looking to collect the schwag points jersey. The need to avoid all knowledge of the Other Tour will put a burden on his fellow teammates to keep him protected. Last year's effort was ruined by an inopportune radio snippet, "..Armstrong in yellow..." This year's strategy will be to place a teammate between kwc and all newstands, TVs, and anyone wearing yellow. It's a 946 mile course, but hopefully he'll be able to finish this year's Tour without any mishaps.
  • honeyfields: honeyfields possesses multiple skills that will be crucial in keeping the pace high in this year's Tour. Her uncanny knack of befriending fellow artists, even the geeky antisocial ones, should make it easy to get good sketches and her ability to find parking spaces quickly should shave off minutes from their overall time. She's a proven ally of kwc in the schwag points classification, so look for good performances there as well.
  • jamesq: Tour rookie and designated penciler, he is Team Uni's Popovych. parakkum will be trying to help jn to ride into a good place overall in the artist portfolio review competition. His inking style is bold, the form is clean, he should do well in his debut.
  • ln m: Tour gearhead and new member of Team Uni. His nose for sushi and complete collection of Apple-emblazoned gadgets should keep Team Uni in good spirits. His impressive collection of Asian cinema will also be important at the Kung-Fu Extravaganza.
  • h.o.b.: He's a last-minute entry, a Tour veteran that's been away from the sport for several years. He and parakkum used to ride together and hopefully he can quickly come into form. With him and parakkum riding together again Team Uni should be unstoppable. He's a hometown boy, so he'll be looking to impress.
  • dlf: Recently back from several years in Japan, he's another hometown boy who should return from foreign competition with an edge in the Tokyo Pop and other anime-related courses. As a veteran of the San Diego Comic-Con, he should be able to pull off an impressive run.
  • nevertheres and tooches: They'll only be competing in a couple stages, which should make their efforts even more frenzied and impressive. The tooches will be arriving with the Tour bus which will hopefully provide Team Uni with some much needed rest.

Back from SoCal

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I had a good weekend with d down in LA, where we toted our twin Canon Digital Rebels around and snapped photos of everything vaguely building-like. From my previous entry, you can tell that I spent some time at the beach. We also spent part of the weekend watching a table 20 LA'ers go ga-ga over the new PSP, eating dinner with my Aunt and Uncle, and discovering that, contrary to common sense, other Yale women have dated MIT men (Friendster collision!).

Most of our weekend, though, had more of an architectural theme as we saw Gehry's home in Santa Monica and the Getty on Saturday. It was my first visit to Gehry's home, d's second; d's first visit to the Getty, my second. On Sunday we went to the Renzo Piano exhibit at LACMA, which should be there awhile considering how much money they raised to build Piano's future extension to the museum.

I just upgraded to a Flickr Pro account, which means I should have plenty of storage space to blog aplenty about Gehry's home and the Getty (no photos of the Piano exhibit allowed), but for now, the beach entry will have to do as I must find a way to sleep off my Red Bull and coffee.

Thanksgiving

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I had a great Thanksgiving. As I am prone to do, I will be backposting entries describing some of the things I did in more detail, but, in summary, I got to do nearly everything I consider worthwhile: spending time with family, eat lots of mashed potatoes, looking at Impressionist and Modern paintings, watching USC beat up Notre Dame 41-10, reading, and taking lots of photos.

As it often occurs with my reading, there were many coincidences surrounding my reading choices. I have been reading Umberto Eco's Travels in Hyperreality, which is a series of essays that indirectly reveals some of the genesis of Foucault's Pendulum. My aunt, out of the blue, handed me The Da Vinci Code, which is, in many ways, a light/pop version of Foucault's Pendulum. As we discussed The Da Vinci Code, she brought up the Glendale/Forest Lawn Cemetary, which has a stained-glass rendition of The Last Supper. This rendition, as well as the cemetary in general, are directly discussed in Travels in Hyperreality. In a bunch of clippings she was keeping with The Da Vinci Code, she also had a clipping with a photo of the glass Last Supper, which made the Eco essay easier to understand. All-in-all, it was a convergence that made the material easier to appreciate, though my paranoia wonders why these convergences so frequently center around the Templars.

I didn't have time to visit the cemetary on this trip, but there will be future opportunities.

USC/Notre Dame Homecoming

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I got to watch USC beat the crap out of Notre Dame for their homecoming. It was my first USC home game, and it was a whole lot more fun watching a game there than it is at Stanford, even if it was pouring rain on us most of the game. There's just a whole lot more going on when you go to a USC home game than there at Stanford.

It was a typical Pete Carroll game: USC looked terrible in the first quarter and a half, completely unable to stop the Notre Dame running game, then they made some adjustments and completely unloaded on Notre Dame. Leinhart racked up 5 TDs/400 yards, Reggie Bush had a great cut that lead to a 70 yard touchdown, Jarrett got a couple, Smith got one in his return from a broken leg, and a fake punt with seven minutes remaining got the Notre Dame staff pissed off as USC was already up 34-10 (and soon went to 41-10 afterwards).

LACMA fun

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I went with my Aunt and Uncle to see the "Renoir to Matisse: The Eye of Duncan Phillips" exhibit at LACMA over my Thanksgiving weekend. While I enjoyed the exhibit, I think I would have enjoyed it more if the title wasn't such a misnomer; it should have been titled "A Renoir to A Matisse, with stuff inbetween," as the exhibit only featured one painting each of its headline artists. If they used a more accurate title they might have also charged less and it would have been less crowded.

The Renoir was quite good, but the Matisse was not one of my favorites (I'm much more fond of the Red Fish from the Pushkin exhibit that LACMA held). There were several Van Gogh paintings that I liked (all three from the last two years of his life), including one of a grass field that I appreciated for the way it changed under different distances of viewing. There were two Klees that I liked as well (and two I didn't like), which is unusual given that, in general, I've never liked his stuff. Also in the collection was a Degas dancers painting that I liked much more than the ones at the Norton Simon.

After we finished the exhibit we wandered into the permanent collection, where they had displayed some Gaugins, Renoirs, and Cezannes that I had missed in my previous visit. In some ways, these were more interesting than the ones in the Duncan Philips exhibit, as some of them were outside their typical style (at least in my experience); there were also more of them than in the Phillips exhibit. I also took another look at the de La Tour Magdalen with the Smoking Flame painting to get some closer shots.

I've posted a photo gallery of the entire experience (only the first twelve are from the Duncan Philips exhibit, the rest are from the permanent collection). With some of the paintings I was diligent enough to snap a photo of the placard, but within the actual Renoir-Matisse exhibit photos "weren't allowed," so the need to be discrete overrode documentation.

Comic-Con '04 Backposting

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In order to keep my panel notes in semi-chronological order, I'm backposting them. I will keep track of the new posts here, in case you are interested.

Newest: * Stan Sakai

New: * Quick Draw Panel * Kung-fu extravaganza

Slightly older: * Mirrormask (Gaiman and McKean) * The Incredibles (Brad Bird) * Composition in Storytelling * Ray Bradbury * PvP/Penny Arcade (Added photo) * 24 Hour Comic Panel * Quotations * TnA report

Older: * Costumes * Buffy! * Schwag report * Summary and Advice * Queen and Country Sketches * Pixar/Incredibles/Brad Bird

The Quick Draw Panel page is likely to be updated when I exchange notes with honeyfields.

Comic-Con Quotations

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Ted Naifeh (approximate quotation):

I thought life would take me many places, but I never thought I'd draw a three-breasted woman

honeyfields seemed to like this one, which I gave in reference to the numerous, inexplicably long lines for collectible, expensive, merchandise:

A fool and his money should be parted swiftly, not slowly and painfully

Sarah Michelle Gellar, most popular excuse she gave for why she had never been to Comic-Con before:

There's not enough merchandise with my damn face on it

Sketches: Small Press

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We wondered around a bit in the small press section (small press as in, DIY, as opposed to Indy Press like Oni and Slave Labor). I got sketches from Art Baltazar (Wolf Boy) and James Burks (Martin's Misdirection). honeyfields fared even better and got those as well as a really awesome sketch from the author/artist of Horus.

James Burks was really nice to talk to. He had worked as an animator on the doomed Iron Giant project; he talked about how Brad Bird had described the final months of that project as being in an airplane and being able to see the runway, but you're out of gas so you have to start jettisoning items to try and glide the airplane in.

For his comic he combined his fondness for magic with his desire to draw comics; he also felt that was a rabbit was a perfect match for a comic about magic and was surprised to see that it wasn't being done.

Art Baltazar was cranking out sketches with the markers and the cartoons, in a sort of grown-up-imitating-a-child-drawing-superheroes style. He had a Havoc that strangely amused me. honeyfields got a nice sketch of the Grimm Reaper that I hope to add to this entry, in addition to her nice Horus sketch.

James Burks

burks sketch

Comic-Con: Ray Bradbury

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Ray Bradbury's session was mostly full of soundbites and anecdotes (which he was prompted for). I'm afraid that these notes are very accurate, but I am transcribing them for my memory anyway. For each of these stories there's a lot more to tell, and I'm fairly certain that they've been told before (as most of the stories were prompted), so I would Google for the whole story if you're actually interested.

Read on for my notes and a photo.

Panel: Quick Draw Improv

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This is one of my favorite Comic-Con panels. This year's panel featured Sergio Aragones (Groo), Jeff Smith (Bone), and Scott Shaw (Hanna Barbara master). For those of you not familiar with Quick Draw and/or Sergio, you should know Sergio draws obscenely fast, which will perhaps make some of the prompts and drawings make more sense.

Warning: really large download if you read on.

Ireland Trip Log

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I thought it would only take a week, but it's been ten days and I'm only halfway through. This entry sums up my progress: the entries that are unlinked are those which I still have to do, and some of those that are linked need a bit more revision, but if you've been dying to see my Ireland photos you can check them out.

I've mainly done the 'scenic' entries. Most of the Dublin/Galway nightlife stuff I still haven't got to yet, partly because I'm relying on ginfiend/wdj/psychoshepard to blog their recollections and save me the effort of recollecting.

May 29
Dublin I (St. Stephens Green, Trinity)

May 30
Dublin II (Chester Beatty, O'Donoghue's)

May 31
Dublin III (Jameson, Guinness, Temple Bar)

June 1
Dublin to Cork (Kilkenny, Cobh)

June 2
Cork to Kilkee (Ring of Kerry, Shannon Ferry, Kilkee)

June 3
Kilkee to Galway (Cliffs of Moher, The Burren, Doolin, Galway I)

June 4
Connemara (Connemara National Park, Kylemore Abbey, Galway II)

June 5
Galway to Dublin (IV)

June 6
Dublin V

Boston

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With all my posting of media related to my trip to Boston, I never took the opportunity to do a simple post on what I actually did, as opposed to what I saw.

The trip didn't start of auspiciously. United cancelled my flight and put me on one five hours later, and that flight was further delayed both on take off, landing, and during the taxi-ing to our gate, but my luck turned around as a nice person from Genentech gave me a ride from the airport to j and hogue's place. Among other things, we joked about the flight attendant who was more than a bit overzealous in her enforcement of emergency exit row qualifications and procedures.

The alumni party BBQ was fun; during the course of the weekend I found out about two babies on the way, caught up with a lot of friends, and saw the immense damage to one of the houses used to lived in. I also watched a lot of NBA playoff games, had some good serious discussions with friends, saw the tremendous changes to the MIT campus (Stata, Simmons, Z-Center, and toilet paper), and managed a couple of sinks during beer die (though I shamefully had to use proxies for defense).

My only disappointment was that this was one of the lesser turnouts for an alumni event that I had seen in the six-or-so events I had been to; most of my class was absent, pretty much no one from the previous three classes came from out-of-town. The low turnout was understandable: this year's event was much more low-key since our venus was destroyed, and next year's event will certainly offer much more interesting sights with a newly renovated house to gaze at. Also, I did manage to see a lot of this year's seniors (who were freshmen when I graduated) before they take off.

Fire ch-changes

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Following up on the theme of change, another big change had less to do with MIT, and more to do with a fire that started during a cold snap, which was followed by thousands of gallons of water that was used to put out the fire, which was accompanied by the gutting of walls and ceilings to contain said fire, all of which resulted in crispy wood encased in sheets of ice. The event I'm describing occurred in one of the houses I lived in during college that I got to tour while I was in Boston.

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The actual fire damage was very little, but the water and the gutting ruined most of the walls, floors, and ceilings, from the fourth floor all the way down to the basement. The biggest loss is the Lounge, which had accrued much of our culture over the years. When people move through a place at the rate of four years per stay, much of the memory of the organization has to be carried in the place itself. So, as much as the fire will provide a phoenix-like opportunity for rebirth/remodelling, it also represents cultural amnesia that the current members of the house will have to work hard to repair.

You can view more of the current state in the extended entry.

Back from Boston

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More entries await after I get more sleep...

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Off to Boston tomorrow

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Hopefully will have plenty to post when I get back.

X-mas day

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Burbank

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Happy Holidays

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My X-mas travelling starts in less than six hours. I should get to sleep. A photo of someone surfing the 'Net on a AOL+56K modem sits next to the definition of "masochism," so that and my wrist pain will be cause for me to stay off the computer. This may be my last entry for 2003, though I might squeeze in a couple before the New Year as my posts for December are way down. Depends on whether or not I get some do some cool stuff in LA/DC and/or get some cool gifts (Thanks honeyfields/cshell!).

FYI, I'll be in LA today, fly to DC on Monday, and return to SF on the 29th. I hope to see my VA friends while I'm out there.

Happy Holidays!

Update: thanks pqbon, who wrapped my presents in my bedding. I crawled into bed and said, that's strange, I don't remember reading my comics in bed recently, then saying, that's strange, I don't remember owning these issues of Usagi, ohhh.... excellent.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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I'm off to SoCal...

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

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LACMA has a permanent exhibit of Japanese art that is rather cool. They built a building specifically for it that uses fiberglass filters on the windows and running water to create the effect that you are in a Japanese country-side home surrounded by shoji screens. One thing that I thought was cool is they had a tiger/dragon scroll. You can click on the image to see a larger version that shows some of the brush detail - I think the dragon is particularly cool. In the extended entry I also posted some pictures of Bishamonten, the Guardian of the North, squashing a demon beneath his feet, and the Carefree Hotei, painted by Zen Monk Fugai Ekun.
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Posting madness!

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I just got back from Maui, so expect a ton of posts over the next day or say (at least until I start my new job on Thursday). Sorry for the old news links, but I like to use this blog to keep track of stuff for personal use... On the positive side, where will be a lot of cool photos I took in Maui being posted, on the negative side, there will be a lot of photos from Maui being posted (we took over 500 photos).

Comic-Con: Bendis, Oeming, Mack

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The Image booth was one of the first booth's I visited. Bendis, Oeming and Mack were all there. Bendis did a really funny drawing for pqbon, and honeyfields managed to talk to Oeming for so long (~30min+) that he broke out the brush and did a really cool Batman for her (I believe her request was for something "bad ass").

I didn't get a chance to talk to Mack until much later in the convention. We briefly chatted about his Alias covers (which I really like), and he ended up handing me a generous stack of his Kabuki works for free. I'm looking forward to reading the Kabuki works, because with the Alias covers at least, I've found his artwork to be a good transition from real world into the story itself. Also, unlike most comic books that feel like they take place in complete fantasy, his mixed media style makes you feel like you're in a slightly altered universe, only different enough to allow a fantastical story to take place.

Flying to Burbank

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... to visit my Aunt and Uncle

Tahoe/Kirkwood

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Went to Kirkwood with meta and Rich. There was great morning snow, 18" of fresh powder. The afternoon was a hurricane with 44-50mph winds. We were the 3rd to last up Cornice before the lift was closed at 2pm. Hottub with scotch in the snow was interesting. There would have been wine as well, but we forgot the corkscrew.

Day 7 of my snowboarding experience
- day 1-2: ASD trip
- day 3: Kirkwood trip w/ meta, Matt, bp and Brinda
- day 4: Day 2 of Jed trip (post concussion)
- day 5-6: opening weekend at Kirkwood