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Stuff related to various trips

Scuba diving photo albums

While on the MacMania V Geek Cruise last week, Macworld published a brief photo album of our scuba diving day in Belize. However, due to the connection speed on the boat, those images are both small and of low quality.

Now that I've had a bit of time at home, I put together some larger albums, with higher-quality 800x600 images. I created a separate album for each of our dive days along with a Google Earth placemark file that shows the approximate dive site for each day:

I've had a few emails asking to see more pictures, so here they are. Please keep in mind I'm a rank amateur at this--what you're seeing here are literally my second and third attempts ever at underwater photography.

A few people have asked about the technology for such images, which were shot at depths ranging from 30' to 90'. The setup is amazingly simple—I have an underwater housing, good to 100' or thereabouts, for our aging Canon PowerShot S30 (there's a shot of the housing in that review).

I use the built-in flash, get as close as possible to the object, and rely on the LCD viewer to frame the picture, as there's no way to use a viewfinder while wearing a dive mask. Bring spare batteries and an extra RAM card (change both between the two daily dives), shoot a ton of shots (as you can never be quite sure what you'll get), and make sure the flash is set to always go off.

The above 35 or so "best of" shots represent about 28% of the 125ish images I shot on the two dive days--ah, the joys of digital photography. There's no real "cost" for taking a bad shot, beyond a bit of RAM card space and battery usage.

Swimming pools, high winds, and waves

Ah, it's nice to be back home on solid ground again! After over 5,000 air miles and 1,800+ nautical miles in the last 11 days, I returned to Portland yesterday. All in all, I'd have to say my first cruise experience was more fun that I was expecting it to be, and it was great meeting a bunch of Mac users in a relatively informal setting (and in a small group, so there was lots of time to talk to everyone). You can read all about the journey on Macworld's MacMania blog page, where both Dan Frakes and I posted lots of text and images over the course of the week.

I thought I'd post a couple movies here, though, as they're not really part of any of the blog content we worked on for Macworld. During the last 30 hours or so of our cruise, which was spent crossing the Gulf of Mexico from Costa Maya back to Tampa, we were in some amazingly strong winds--over 40 knots coming from just off the bow! Couple that with 20 knots of boat speed, and the effective wind on the deck was about 60 knots. I walked to the rail on the forward deck at one point, and it was quite the experience (walking back to the stairs from the rail, with 60 knots pushing from behind, was most interesting).

But I thought you might find it interesting to see what that kind of wind (and the accompanying rough seas) did to the pools…

Despite how things seem in those movies, the boat was amazingly stable during the windstorm. You could feel it moving a bit, but there wasn't ever a point where I felt it was moving too much to walk around. It takes quite a lot to move 55,000+ tons of vessel enough to really disturb one's walk, it seems.

I'm signed up for another "tour" on MacMania VI, headed up the inside passage to Alaska from Seattle in late May of next year. I'll be talking about (at least) Leopard in a couple of sessions, and I'm really looking forward to it--although I doubt we'll be doing any scuba diving on that trip!

Geek Cruise: MacMania V

Macworld logoFellow Macworld Senior Editor Dan Frakes and I have just returned from a week on a Geek Cruise in the western Caribbean. We both wrote quite a lot, and took a bunch of pictures. So instead of linking to a huge collection of articles, I'll just link to the two relevant sections on Macworld's site, where you can find everything: the MacMania archives for October 2006 and November 2006.

Macworld's site has changed over the years, and there's no longer a section for each cruise. So here's everything from this trip that I was involved with:

Separately, I posted some of my scuba diving pictures from the trip here on

Roller coaster fun in Tampa

As the six of you who still read my too-occasional postings here may already know, I'm speaking on a Geek Cruise this week, on a ship sailing through the western Caribbean. When I found out that I would be doing this, my wife and I decided to try to turn it into a bit of a working vacation. We arranged to have our children spend the week with family, which let us book our first trip together sans kids in 3.5 years.

Marian and I are both roller coaster fans, and living in the Pacific northwest, we're frustrated roller coaster fans. There aren't any full-size amusement parks in Oregon, and precious few anywhere in the northwest. The closest "real" roller coaster park, at least by my definition, lies 600 miles south in San Jose, California. As such, it had been over six years since she and I had been able to go ride coasters together. But this Geek Cruise, which leaves out of Tampa, Florida, gave us the chance. Tampa is the home of Busch Gardens, Tampa, and they have six separate coasters.

So when we booked our tickets, we left a day earlier than necessary, using a vacation day yesterday to go ride the coasters at Busch Gardens. It wasn't a cheap day, given that we had to take a cab to and from the park, but since it will probably be another five years before this chance comes up again, that's OK. Overall, it was a fun day at the park, though we both felt that only three of the six coasters were worth repeat ride activity.
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A look at the near future of air travel?

As I'm getting ready to head home this afternoon, and with the events of yesterday, I started to wonder where this was all heading...

Air travel, circa 2008

Good morning, Mr. Smith, and thank you for choosing Luxo Air. Please place your checked baggage on the conveyor, and head to gate 23. You're all checked in.

'Thanks for the help!'

You're quite welcome, enjoy the trip!

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Strange things afoot at the San Luis

weird waterI was playing around with Google Earth (a recent Pick of the Week over on macosxhints) tonight, when I stumbled across the very odd image you see here.

For those of you who have Google Earth, here's a location file that will take you right to the spot. It's the San Luis reservoir, located in California off of highway 152, between Highway 101 and I-5. (I used to drive this road often when making the trek from San Jose to Los Angeles.)

The oddity is--what's with the bottom third of the reservoir? Has it really frozen solid along an arrow-straight line? Has it been converted into salt flats? Some strange cover to prevent the satellites from seeing what's hiding in the lake?

If you zoom in using Google Earth, you can see that the odd fill color runs precisely along the edge of one particular 'piece' of the overall image, so it's clearly just a glitch in the satellite or the software that processes the images. It definitely caught my eye, though.