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Stuff related to various trips

San Juan to Dallas in-flight images

The following will probably only be of interest to aviation buffs--so if that's not you, you can stop reading now :).

My wife and I recently took a week to go scuba diving in Bonaire. I'll be posting more about that trip shortly, but getting to and from Bonaire from Portland, Oregon, isn't exactly simple. There's an overnight Continental flight that leaves out of Houston once a week, but neither of us enjoy such flights, so that was out. We wound up flying to Dallas (on an MD-80), then to San Juan, Puerto Rico (757-200WL), and then on to Bonaire (ATR-72). On the way down, we spent a night in Dallas, but coming home, we did it as one (long) 20-hour day.

While flying home, I snapped a number of pictures of the various islands we flew over--starting with the Turks and Caicos Islands and ending as we flew over the Bahamas. I found the mix of clouds, shadows, land, sky, and water to make for some very interesting images. None of these are award-winners (I was using my Canon 850is again, and there are often reflections in the window), but I just loved the colors.

As noted, more on Bonaire later--including a review of the island as a destination for scuba divers, as well as some of my underwater images from the week's dives.

More bad pictures

It was my birthday last Sunday, and my wife gave me a free pass to go out and about for a good chunk of the day while she watched the girls. So I packed up my new camera, and headed out to the Columbia River Gorge via the back roads. I drove a really big loop--about 250 miles total--up the Washington side of the Gorge on highway 14, then up highway 141 to Trout Lake. I followed 141 until the pavement turned into gravel, then turned around--my little MR2 is quite fun to drive, but "good ground clearance" is not on its list of attributes. Along the way, I stopped occasionally to snap some landscape photos.

Route 141 ends pretty much directly across from Hood River, and just down the road a touch is one of the more popular launching spots for Gorge windsurfers--as you can see by the number of vehicles in this Google Maps overhead view. So I took my camera and went and sat near the water's edge for a while, taking pictures of the action with the 300mm zoom. The Gorge is one of the most popular windsurfing spots in the country, and the wind was howling on Sunday morning--there must've been close to 100 windsurfers out on the water. I was hoping to see more freestyle wave jumpers, but alas, I only caught one shot of anyone in the air.

As you can tell by the images, I'm still pretty bad at this DSLR stuff. I'm having fun learning, but I just haven't had enough time to get out and shoot pictures while experimenting with the many modes the camera offers. At least we have some wonderful scenery around here that prevents the pictures from being completely terrible. (And next time, I'll remember to set the camera in RAW mode, so I can do more post-shot image correction when I get home!)

Free time at San Francisco International

747 approachingMy Friday flight home from WWDC (San Francisco [SFO] to Portland [PDX]) wasn't set to depart until 9:15pm, probably putting me in the door around midnight. In an effort to get home somewhat sooner, I headed to the airport around 5pm, as there was a 6:15ish flight to PDX, and I thought maybe I could get on that one instead.

However, when I reached their gate, the departure board indicated "delayed," and the estimated new departure time was 9:40pm--well after my booked flight's departure. With no pressing requirements for the next four hours, I made my way to the end of the C concourse, where I had a good view of the planes taxiing by--as well as a view, though quite far away, of landings on runways 28L and 28R.

Thinking simply "I wonder if someone will come question me about this," I got out the Nikon, attached the 70/300mm zoom, and started snapping pix. Amazingly, over the course of an hour's worth of picture taking, I was completely ignored by Homeland Security. (The first few images were snapped from a café near the international terminal, outside the concourse proper.)

The pictures may only be of interest if you're a true aviation nut; most aren't even that good. I do like, however, the nose-on shot of the China Airlines 747, which was snapped as it maneuvered on the taxiways just outside the concourse. It makes a most impressive desktop image when cropped to fit 1920x1200! (As always, if you ever want a full-size version of any image, just ask.)

Overheard on the street…

It seems that everyone walking around here in San Francisco is connected to something--if it's not an iPod, it's a cell phone (with or without headset). As I was walking back to the hotel last night, a sharply-dressed woman was walking towards me, talking quite loudly to someone via her cell phone's Bluetooth headset.

Her voice was loud enough that there was absolutely no way I couldn't hear what she was saying, in a most animated fashion. To the best of my memory, this is exactly what she said:

Listen Danny ... I said listen! ... they don't know about any of that, really! They can't. There's no way!
pause while Danny is obviously saying something
Oh Danny! Give it a break! You watch way too much CSI! They simply can't know...

And then she was passed and on her way, leaving me wondering just exactly what they had been discussing--a friend suggests she may have been rehearsing lines for a play or TV show. I'm going to go with that thought, as she clearly wasn't too concerned about anyone overhearing her conversation!

A different kind of paging…

It's Sunday morning as I sit here in this San Francisco airport café, having just arrived on my flight from Portland for this week's WWDC. The flight itself was fine--the air was smooth, the plane was lightly loaded, and I had an entire row to myself. Without being in first class, it just doesn't get much better than that!

However, just before we pushed back from the gate in Portland, I heard this on the plane's PA system: "Rob Griffiths, please press your flight attendant call button." Uh oh. Talk about a quick way to elevate one's heart rate--nothing like an on-board page to accomplish that! A sampling of thoughts that ran through my head: "Uh oh, what happened to one of our kids!?" ... "I bet I left something at home, like my luggage, and my wife is calling to let me know" ... "They figured out that their online check-in tool shouldn't have let me move from the cheap seats up into Economy Plus?" [I was able to jump from row 22 to row 8 without any trouble] ... "Was there something in my carry-ons that they've just now discovered to be dangerous?" ... "Someone saw me taking pictures of the airplanes from the concourse windows and called security" ... "I always wondered what happens when someone is asked to press their flight attendant call button; looks like I get to find out!"

After all that (and more) had run through my head for a couple of minutes, the flight attendant showed up and simply said: "Ah, thank you--we just wanted to make sure you were on the plane. Didn't want to leave without you!" Whew, no emergency, no trouble. But then I began to come they didn't already know I was on the plane? After all, I had handed them my boarding pass at the top of the jetway, they had scanned it through their boarding system, and I heard the thing go "beep."

The only thing I can think of is that by jumping from steerage into Economy Plus (or whatever my airline calls it), I somehow confused their system. Perhaps the gate agent did something special to let me claim my 'upgraded' seat--the flight was quite empty after all--and that somehow 'lost' me in the system? Whatever the reason, it was just a bit disconcerting to find myself 'lost' in an airplane despite having had my boarding pass scanned prior to boarding!

In any event, I'm here now, and have a free day to explore the city and its surroundings and take some pictures with the new camera. Tomorrow things get busy, with the (public) keynote talk in the morning and then a number of "state of the union" presentations in the afternoon, and a reception in the evening. I'm hoping that there are at least one or two real 'wow' secret features revealed in Leopard, as I'm not overly impressed at the moment (based on the features shown on Apple's OS X pages). We'll know one way or the other in about 24 hours!

Mac Mania VI / Aperture Aura blogs

Macworld logoI wrote a few weblogs for Macworld during our journey to Alaska last week. Here they all are, in order based on our cruise's destinations:

I had a lot of fun on the cruise, though I felt I didn't have as much to offer the attendees this time (as I couldn't discuss Leopard, which was the original plan). For anyone who might be contemplating one of these, I can say that they are quite a lot of fun, for two reasons. First, it's a great way to get some quality instruction in reasonably small class sizes. There's also a lot of out-of-class contact with the speakers, including dinner each evening. Second, the cruises themselves can be fun. I'd never been on a cruise ship before last fall's Caribbean excursion, so I'm quite new to the whole thing. I think cruises are a great way to see a number of places quickly and relatively inexpensively--which can help determine where you'd like to go back for a longer, more personal stay in the future.
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Home from Alaska…

Macworld logoAs some of you may know, I spent the last week on the Mac Mania VI Geek Cruise, cruising from Seattle to a few spots in Alaska (and one in Canada), and then back to Seattle yesterday morning. (You can read my blog posts about the journey on the MacMania blog page over at Macworld.)

Alaska picThe blog posts contain a few of the images from the trip, but given that I took over 700 pictures, and that our boat's connection speed was slow (and the cost was high), it wasn't feasible to run more than a handful or so in the blogs. I've now looked through the whole batch, and picked 55 that I felt were most interesting, and tossed them into this photo gallery. These are basically unedited images--I haven't done any cropping, color correction, or other such tweaks as of yet. I just thought it'd be fun to share a bit more of the Alaskan and Canadian scenery from the trip--even based on the limited experience one gets from a cruise ship, Alaska really is a most interesting state (this was my first visit of any sort there).

Click the first image to view the larger version of that slide, and you can then use the arrow keys to advance from one large image to the next. (You can also use the Index Page buttons at the bottom of the main screen to just view each of the three index pages.)

If you'd like a full-size version of any of these photos, just let me know the file name, and I'll send you the original (no watermark, either--I just put that there to stop the casual image lifters). My favorite shot is probably the orange sunset, though a couple of the glacier/ice in water shots are interesting as well.

I'm home for a week, then it's off to see what interesting things are revealed in the "feature complete" Leopard beta that Steve will (hopefully) be discussing at WWDC--and maybe we'll even see some cool new hardware, if recent rumors turn out to be true.

Ten things to do in the next twenty years

Over the weekend, I was thinking a bit about the next 20 years, and things I'd like to accomplish within that timeframe. Nothing practical like "preparing for retirement" or "funding the girls' college accounts" or even "remembering to mow the lawn weekly." No, it's always more interesting to think of the fun things one might be able to do in the future.

So here's my list, focused on those things I think would be the most fun or most interesting. As with lists of this type, there's a good chance that well over half my list will remain unaccomplished--family, work responsibilities, and economic realities always seem to get in the way of our dreams. However, I will do my best to check off at least some of these items while working within the confines of reality.
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A little (simulated) flying fun…

If you've been reading here much, or have ever seen me speak, you know that I'm somewhat of an aviation fan. I'm an instrument-rated private pilot (though not current, thanks to family, money, and Oregon weather!), and X-Plane is one of my favorite diversions. I love being able to pilot aircraft I'll never have the chance to fly here in reality, and to fly in weather conditions that I wouldn't dare to go near in a real airplane. X-Plane also features real-world weather, so I can fly around the Portland area in conditions that closely match what I see out the office window.

Yesterday, it was foggy here. Really foggy. Almost all day. So during lunch, I took the Nike LearJet (OK, the X-Plane version thereof) out from Portland International for a little spin. Take-off in foggy conditions is relatively straightforward--full thrust, max rate of climb, maintain runway heading (instrument departure procedure? Nah!), and I broke out into the blue skies above at about 3,500 feet above the ground. I flew off to a clearer airport for a couple touch-and-goes, then headed back to Portland. Given the fog, an instrument approach was definitely required. I chose the ILS for runway 28R, and maneuvered the plane towards the final approach course.

Then I got lazy, something I couldn't ever do when flying instruments in the Piper Warrior I trained in: I set up a fully-coupled autopilot approach, including auto-throttles. As pilot, my job was now reduced to system monitor--I only had to choose the desired airspeed on the autopilot panel, remember to drop the flaps and gear, monitor the system's progress, and then the autopilot would take care of the rest. Just for fun, I used SnapzPro to record the approach, from the ILS intercept to touchdown, and uploaded them in case anyone wants to see X-Plane, or what a really foggy approach might look like.
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Why I love air travel…

And before you ask, yes, there's a "Why I hate air travel" post coming. It's in progress on my home machine, though, so I thought I'd post this one first.

Early Sunday morning, Portland Oregon: The weather is abysmal. Winds are 20 to 30mph, the rain is falling lightly but continuously, getting blown sideways. It's not cold, but it's far from warm. Sunday morning traffic is light, and 30 minutes later I'm being dropped off at the airport, saying goodbye to the girls (always the worst part of any business trip...they seemingly change so much in a week!).

Although I checked in at home and have my boarding pass, I do have a bag to check (a larger-than-standard bag is requisite for Macworld Expo travel, in order to bring home any potential loot acquired at the show!). So it's off to the United counter, where the lines are non-existent. A few minutes later, I'm in security, where there are also, amazingly, no lines. The only hold-up here is that removing two laptops, coat, and shoes takes a while (two laptops because I need a demo machine in addition to my Keynote slides machine for my presentation; it's hard to demo a hint that requires a logout while running Keynote!).

Boarding starts on time, and I settle into my window seat in the workhorse Boeing 737 (a -300 variant this time). Yes, I know experienced travelers prefer the aisle, but not me--I hate having to stand up every time a "row mate" wants to get up for a restroom break, to reach something in the overhead, etc. I also love watching the world go by, as it makes the flight go more quickly, and there are often some wondrous things to see.
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