Observing Weekend

This weekend I was pleased to have been invited with a few other people to go spend a night at the Manastash Ridge Observatory in eastern Washington.  It’s about a 120 mile drive away from my house, and we headed out from the Seattle area around 11am on Saturday. 

After arriving, we were treated to a great view of the surrounding hills, excellent brats on the grill, cookies at 1am for stargazing, and a great game of cards.  Unfortunately, the weather didn’t completely cooperate: high winds (I guess there’s a reason the Wild Horse Wind Farm (pics) is just about 15 miles away) and about 30-40% upper level cloud coverage made viewing conditions less than optimal.

I did finally get a chance to play with some wide angle sky photography.  I’m so-so about the results, definitely need to do some more practicing with this stuff:

Cygnus and Lyra

More pictures available on my Flickr stream here.

San Francisco for a Day

imageHad to run to San Francisco for a one-day work trip this week.  Luckily, my work wrapped up a bit early and I was able to go act like a tourist for a bit.  Took a drive up to the Golden Gate Bridge, drove and hiked around the Marin Headlands, and had dinner with some friends.  SF is a really beautiful and photogenic city.  Pics are online at my Flickr gallery here.

Amsterdam

image The last three days (including today) I’ve been in Amsterdam on business.  Very cool city – I wasn’t looking forward to this leg of my trip, but I’m glad I got the opportunity to come here.  More pictures from the trip can be found here.

While in town, I visited the Van Gogh Museum (neat), the Rijksmuseum (meh, old art), Anne Frank House (wow, talk about sobering), and just generally milled about the city.  Weather was great during my time here, and I walked about 25km (9km on day 1 and 16km on day 2).

While in town, I visited the Global Switch datacenter near the airport.  The most interesting thing about this facility is that it used to be an IBM Selectric Typewriter facility.  It’s peculiar that as the typewriter aspects of the building went by the wayside, some enterprising individual converted the building to a datacenter.  As one of my colleagues put it, “the computer replaced the typewriter not only on the desktop but also in the factory.”

AAL75, Seat 30F, 34,000 feet and bumpy

Well, I’m finally giving in to writing an offline blog post.  From a plane.  At the time of this writing, I’m somewhere over the eastern seaboard.

I’ve spent the last few days in the DC area on business, and got to meet up with a few good friends for food/drinks.  Karl sent me an IM on Friday just before I left to let me know that he had gotten a new job and had moved to DC, and to let me know if I ever made my way out there.  This was great timing, as I was able to respond: “How about drinks on Sunday?”  I don’t think he expected that.  Also got to hang out with Ben for dinner and Dan for drinks on Monday night.

The work I was doing took a lot longer than I anticipated.  I had hoped to visit the Smithsonian one of the days I was out here, but, alas, it was all work, all the time.  As a result of our longer than planned workday today, I wasn’t able to catch an earlier flight back to Seattle.

We were supposed to leave Dulles at 6:15pm, and then I was to have a 2 hour layover in LAX before heading home to Seattle.  Mother Nature had other plans:  just after we boarded the flight (15 minutes late, natch), the captain came on and told us that all westbound flights were on-hold due to weather.  I checked my smartphone, and sure enough, a line of red thunderstorms was just west of our location.  Then, I looked out the window and saw them.  Sign #1 you might be addicted to tech: you check the weather on your phone before looking out the window to see it.

We sat on the ground in the plane until about 8:30pm.  If you’re following along and doing the math, you’ll note that’s a 2.25 hour delay – and I only had a 2 hour layover in LAX.  This means, of course, that I’m going to miss my connecting flight, so I’ll be stuck in LA for the night.  The weirdest thing is that this is the first time I’ve ever missed a flight in all my travels.  And to be frank, I’d say I’ve traveled quite a bit over the course of my 29 years.  Sure, I’ve gotten bumped on standby plenty of times – but never missed a connection.  Until today. Oh well, it’s a first.

So, we’re now cruising along somewhere around mach 0.82 (we’re probably going at just the right speed that’ll make me miss my connection) at 34,000 feet.  It’s turbulent, and I’m surrounded by an army of high-school kids on their way back from a class trip to the east coast.  I’m also cranky: I haven’t eaten since lunch, and that was (*checks watch, calculates time zones*) … 10 hours ago.  The flight attendants are coming by soon, though, so I’ll be sure and snag a $6 turkey sandwich.  Did I mention that American Airlines doesn’t even serve peanuts anymore?  I remember laughing at Southwest Airlines a few years back cause that was all they served.  Times have changed. 

Ok, turkey sandwiches were sold out, so I ended up with the last sandwich on the plane – a $10 chicken sandwich.  The lady in seat 30C is now scowling at me; I guess she wanted a sandwich, and now she’s stuck with potato chips, cheese, and crackers.  I avoided the temptation of staring at her and chewing with my mouth open to make a point: the last sandwich is mine. 

The nicest thing about our flight so far is that we’re chasing the sunset.  I’m sitting on the right side of the plane, so I’m being shown a beautiful display: for the past hour, I’ve been watching the sun set.  It’s dropped a bit, but I can still just see it.  That in and of itself isn’t so neat, but the fact that the duration of the sunset (due to our westward travel, of course) has been so long is awesome. 

Two hours into the flight now, and the sun has set.

Well, I think that’s it for now.  It’ll be nice to get back on the ground in Seattle sometime tomorrow, and I’m not going to complain about the cold/damp weather Seattle’s having for quite a while.  If I’ve learned one thing on this trip, it’s that I’m no longer built for 100+ temperatures.

Guess I’m going to power down since I’ve got nothing else to do on here.  I’ve replied to a bunch of emails (which will send when I connect), reviewed some documentation I have been meaning to review, and that’s about the end of it.  I’m now mad at myself for not prefetching RSS feeds in FeedDemon.

Oh well, nap time.  3 hours of flight time left.

San Francisco Radio: Turning up the Suck

brownamp As you may have surmised from my previous post, I’m in California for a few days this week on business, and more specifically, in the San Jose / Mountain View area.  I drove in to San Francisco last night to grab dinner and drinks with an old classmate of mine (Hi, Lauren!).

It’s a surprisingly long drive, considering I think of Mountain View as a suburb of San Francisco…  Took me about 50 minutes to get up to there.

While driving on the stretch of 280, I decided I’d need some music.  I turned on the radio, and scanned through the whole series of stations twice.  Nothing but "teh suck".  Not just "teh suck", but "teh suck" turned up to 11.  Tejano music or crappy stuff.

San Francisco: you’re supposed to be a great city.  There’s music written about you.  Why don’t you have a decent radio station?

Labor Day Weekend Roadtrip

Rather than firing up the Big Green Egg this Labor Day weekend, Diann and I decided to take a bit of a roadtrip to the western part of Washington – the Olympic Peninsula.

New Dungeness Lighthouse Our weekend roadtrip started at 6:30AM on Saturday to head to Edmonds, Washington, to catch the 7:50AM ferry to Kingston.  From Kingston, we headed out towards Highway 101 and then drove to Sequim (that’s pronounced "skwim" for you non-northwesterners).  Sequim is in the Olympic Mountain range rainshadow, and actually gets less than 15" a year of rain.  This isn’t really what most people think of when they’re thinking of western Washington.  Just past Sequim lies the unincorporated community of Dungeness, home to the Dungeness Spit.  I decided that we should make the jaunt out to the lighthouse at the end of the Dungeness Spit, which is a 5.5-mile walk.  Each way.

I didn’t really appreciate just how long an 11-mile walk is.  Heading out to the lighthouse took around 3 hours as we were frequently stopping to take pictures of the wildlife and various scenery.  We got to the lighthouse, made the climb to the top (73 steps, beautiful views), and then started heading back.  It’s about this time that my calf muscles started burning.  Walking 5+ miles in sand and rock really takes its toll.  I was quite miserable and cranky when we finished the walk, and I’m surprised Diann put up with me the whole time.

After we wrapped up at the Spit, we drove into Port Angeles and set up our camp site for the weekend.  Since both of our legs were a bit sore, we drove into the Sol Doc Hot Springs area in the Olympic National Park, and soaked in the hot springs for an hour or two.

Hurricane Ridge The next day, we headed up to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park.  We did a brief hike (I’ll post more details about the hike later) at Hurricane Hill.

After this hike, we made the three hour drive down to the other end of Olympic National Park to the Hoh Rain Forest.  It’s amazing to me that within the span of a 3-hour drive you can go from near desert conditions (in Sequim) to a temperate rain forest.  The Hoh Rain Forest gets up to 200" per year of rain, compared to Sequim’s 15".  We did some brief walks around the visitor center, and I’ll post more on those later.  After touring the Hoh, we drove back to our campsite and threw together a little campfire for the night.

Monday morning arrived, and we packed up our campsite.  We drove east towards Kingston, but took a brief detour to check out Port Townsend.  Port Townsend was a really quaint town with a great little downtown area.  We did some shopping, checked out some art galleries, and had some great pizza and locally-brewed beer.  Time had come to head home, and we drove to Kingston to make the hour-long wait for a ferry.  Ferry traffic can be a beast at the end of a holiday weekend, so I’m glad we got to the terminal around 2:00PM, before the traffic got really bad.

Random cool new Web 2.0 thing

So I was reading Techcrunch today, and it seems that Farecast has gone into a public beta period. While beta software has been around for years and years, tagging a new product beta seems to be all the rage among Web 2.0 sites (Yes, Windows Live and Google, I'm looking at you guys).

Anyway, Farecast is an innovative little site that predicts airfare prices for trips you want to take. Basically, you plug in where you're leaving from (current limitation of the beta is they're only doing this for Seattle and Boston), plug in when you want to be there, and Farecast will tell you whether or not it thinks ticket prices will go up, based on some magic-Internet-pixie-dust (I'm guessing they've got historical data; these things are fairly cyclical, I expect). Best quote from the Techcrunch article:

It's nice to see data mining applied to more than watching you and me, for a change.

Overall, it's very cool. Great use of AJAX throughout the site. Brilliant idea, let's see if the major travel sites come up with a response.

G’Day from Down Under!

In keeping up with my posting about my travels for work, I'm actually in Adelaide, Australia at the moment doing some work.

Adelaide is a pretty cool town, around a million Aussies call it home. Tons to do around town, during our off-days we got to see the McLaren Vale (known for it's wines), Kangaroo Island, the Cleland Wildlife Park, and a host of other things around town. Good food here too.

Pictures will be forthcoming on my return stateside.

Incidentally, this is a monumental post: first one from the Southern Hemisphere and the 200th post overall on the blog.