Grab bag

It’s grab bag time! First up, I went to LA in early May to get training on a Lustre color grading system. I also hung out with Merry, who I knew in college and who had been drawn to the bright lights of Hollywood to be an assistant director. At the time I visited she was working on CSI:New York, and she let me hang out on the set for a day. Luckily the crew was really cool and had no problem with me being there — in fact I got mistaken for working there at one point :). Merry said there are other shows that are strictly locked down and would never have allowed outsiders to sit in video village with the director and screenwriter.

We also went to see Ironman at the Arclight, which features seat reservations. Yes! Why don’t more theaters do this? I would gladly pay a premium every time I went to the theater if I didn’t have to show up 45 minutes before showtime just to guarantee myself a decent seat.

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“Actual suit worn by Robert Downey, Jr. in Ironman”

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Merry and me at the Geisha House

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On the set of CSI:NY

Here’s some other selections from the past few months. I keep forgetting my camera or not
bringing it with me to places. This must change!

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Char and I went on a bike ride with Dad. You may be able to see him in the reflection of our glasses.

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When we go for a bike ride on the Cape we often stop at this marsh

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Berry picking in Ipswich

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We made sure not to over-pick, unlike last year
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Grand Canyon Vacation

This year I went again to NAB, the annual convention for tv, film, and radio. Since Las Vegas is warm and sunny, Char thought it’d be fun to come along and take some vacation time while I checked out the show floor.

For this trip I did not bring my Thinkpad, opting instead to bring just my olpc. Although Char complained about the spacebar (fixed in b3, Char!) and its slowness (also fixed, Char!), it performed phenomenally. It easily picked up all the access points I needed and connected to them quickly. The web activity also handled any accesspoint payment sites perfectly. On one occasion when our cheap(er) hotel didn’t have free wifi, I was able to connect to the Best Western two buildings over and use theirs instead. It must have been 1000 feet away and still the signal was strong. Bravo olpc!

After I filled my brain with details about Final Cut Pro upgrades, digital asset management software, and other expensive new stuff, Char and I drove out to Arizona to go camping at the Grand Canyon.

Camping was cold, but we were prepared for it. The next morning we woke up and saw some very tame deer strolling through the campground

We had a whole day to spend at the canyon, so we donned our boots (Char bought hers a few days before) and took a hike. Interestingly, by default the Park Service does not provide very accurate maps which discourages morons like us from making up our own routes and getting in over our heads. Instead they offer a few basic trails with regular checkpoints to keep it nice and easy. I’m glad we talked to the park service lady, she recommended a very good hike.

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It is big

The Grand Canyon is incomprehensively big. There’s just no reference to get any sense of scale, and because the opposite wall is 10 miles away you can’t see any other angle of it because you can’t get any paralax. It’s just huge and unmoving.

It was also eerily quiet. Char and I were trying to figure out what we expected to be hearing other than the grandiose symphonies and echoing eagle calls heard in gift shop videos. Although the day before had gusts up to 50mph there was very little wind when we were there, and because there are so few trees (it’s mostly shrubbery!) there was no rustling of leaves. There were also hardly any songbirds twittering away. Most of the birds were gigantic crows that wanted to eat our food.

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Other people help provide scale

The trail we hiked was also used by mule trains which, according to my ear, nose, and throat doctor, carry supplies down to Phantom Ranch in the canyon. The men leading the mules were totally cool and legit. Real cowboys. Or I guess muleboys?

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Mule Train

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Char likes mules

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Note the smoke

As you can see in the above photo, there was some smoke drifting out of the depths of the canyon that didn’t look right. Someone on the trail asked one of the cowboys what he thought it was, and he chalked it up to the park service “doin’ a controlled burn, and they lost control of it.” I am not doing the accent justice here. Try to imagine what Dubya wishes he sounded like when he clears brush.

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Char makes a friend

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Critter surveys the scenery

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Char prepares to crush an enemy

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I ponder bigness

Our descent ended when we could finally see the river for the first time near the omniously-named Skeleton Point.

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Yes that is the river down there

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I got there too

After eating our lunch, we started on the way back. There are not many pictures from the way back, not only because it was the same view, but because hiking back up 1800 feet is hard work! As we neared the top, though, another hiker pointed out a few condors hangin’ out on the rocks

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The one on the right is labelled “99”

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There was another one further away

As we got back, we realized if we camped again that night we would not have a chance to shower again for the whole trip. This would mean we’d have to drive back to Las Vegas smelly, see Bill Maher perform at the Hard Rock the next night smelly, stay up all night and wait for our flight smelly, and then fly home smelly. Also, it was supposed to be 22 degrees that night. It was only 30-35 the previous night, and that was cold enough, so we bailed and got a hotel. It was the right thing to do, especially since we were only out 18$ for the campsite. A shower and a good night’s sleep were greatly appreciated by all.

The next day we visited the Hoover Dam, but those pictures will have to wait until tomorrow.

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Amsterdam Photos

Amsterdam photo time!

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Pedestrians, bikes, trams, cars

Char and I had a lot of fun in Amsterdam. She did a lot of shopping, and I did a lot of World Cup-watching.

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shop shop shop

Amsterdam is a maze of twisty little passages, all alike. Often there will be multiple instances of a chain store on different blocks, adding to the disorientation. Luckily all roads lead to Central Station, so it’s easy to get lost but also easy to find your way back

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little public art

Early on I saw the Heineken experience by myself (Char was shopping at the time). I knew it would be dumb and expensive, but I didn’t realize just how dumb it could get. The beginning of the “Experience” is a museum-like area that tells the story of how Heineken was founded. It has the letter the guy sent to his mom (zing!) saying he had bought a brewery, and the marble cornerstone of his first brewery… Except that the letter is a xerox, and the cornerstone is a plastic cast! Totally low-rent.

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this is funny, through

The Experience was about twice as long as it needed to be. Half way through you get your first free beer, but then it’s off to more horrible branding experiences. The movie presentation of a first-person view of a bottle being filled with beer was a notable low point. About the time I got to the Pod People section of the Experience, I couldn’t take the horrible green branding of it all and had to leave. Yes, I turned down more free beer!

Near the Heineken brewery is a Pancake restaurant in an old carousel. They had kept a few of the horses, but despite the good pancakes I would have preferred a carousel.

Char and I did some Geocaching in Amsterdam. I had printed out some caches before I left for Europe, picking three caches with increasing levels of difficulty. The first cache was a simple one that led to an interesting point in Amsterdam — a copper plate from which everything is measured. I’ll let this informational sheet explain:

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Amsterdam Marker Explanation

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Char Touches the Bronze Knob

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Water level indicators

I was “warned” before I went that Cafes and Coffeeshops are different things in Amsterdam. As it turns out, there’s no way you could mistake a coffeeshop for a place that serves coffee. The odor and clientele should be enough to clue in even the cluelessest foreigner.

One thing I noticed was that many of the coffeeshops are blatant trademark violations:

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The blur is on purpose, folks

Other coffeeshops included The Doors Coffeeshop, The Pink Floyd Coffeeshop, Popeye’s Coffeeshop, Hill Street Blues, and many others. I’m surprised that they are allowed to exist, considering that a big company probably wouldn’t want their “properties” associated with drug use. Yet, there they are.

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Char has the munchies 😛

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There are cars of all sizes in Amsterdam. I even saw a Hummer

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Char poses in the ‘d’ of a large “IAMSTERDAM” logo

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logo in back

And of course our favorite sign, which introduced us to a new Dutch word:

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Let op! Drempels!

Drempels!

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Our Summer Vacation 2006

Char and I went on vacation to Paris and Amsterdam for two weeks this summer. Here are a lot of pictures:

We stayed at a really nice place called Swell Apartment Paris. It’s basically a little apartment in Montmartre with a bedroom, living room, and kitchen, and you can stay there for a week and pretend you live in Paris. We probably wouldn’t have stayed there if I hadn’t gotten my currencies confused. I thought we were paying in Euros, but it was actually Pounds. Oops.

The room didn’t come with internet, but if I put the laptop on the desk I got a signal from an unsecured network called THOMSON. I don’t normally steal internet, so I connected only when I needed to to look up maps, check schedules, or get a weather report. It was really nice to have, but I knew I couldn’t expect it to last. Indeed, on the last day THOMSON had suddenly become a secured access point. THOMSON, sorry I caused the trouble, but thanks so much for letting me in as long as you did.

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The guest book records the incidents when these letters have fallen off the wall

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Amazing props that wouldn’t look good anywhere else

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There was construction going on every morning, but you can’t win ’em all

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Char wakes up

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Little but very functional kitchen (with washing machine!)

The first thing we did was check out the cemetary at Montmartre. Some awesome monuments here.

There was also a cute cat who had made its home in the cemetary

Next we walked over to Sacre Coeur. It was very crowded and hot, and we had forgotten our sunblock. Luckily we came through relatively unscathed, although Char was extremely close to burning.

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Char at Sacre Coeur

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Owen in the same place

We saw some obvious sites, like the Arc de Triomphe,

l’Hotel de Ville,

Notre Dame,

and the Eiffel Tower (although we are on it in this shot

We also visited Le Jardin des Plantes, and saw the zoo there. The zoo’s primary residents were birds and hoofed mammals, but they also had some reptiles and one big cat (that exhibit was under repair).

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Frog not in the zoo

Outside the zoo we set up the camera and took the only shot of both of us for the whole vacation. I too paranoid to lend anyone my camera, so I needed a relatively secluded area where there was a platform I could place the camera upon. Thankfully the photo is excellent.

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One of the many small hoofed creatures in the zoo

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Another cute hoofed thing

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Sleeping, not headless, owl

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Evil-looking vulture

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Another evil bird

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Both Char and I think this bird looks straight out of The Dark Crystal

I finally meet the elusive cassowary, which I learned much about in Australia. There’s a section of the rainforest in the Northeast that seems to revolve completely around the cassowary. For instance there’s a tree that makes a nut so poisonous nothing can eat it — except for the cassowary. And that tree survives because the cassowary eats it and drops it somewhere else. There were at least five or six examples of this type of symbiotic behavior.

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Char meets a very stately individual

There was one big cat at the zoo, a Jaguar. It was pacing around its cage when we saw it

Later on it got all tuckered out

Pandas! Although the non-giant kind. They were being fed just as we got there. That certainly woke them up.

A misc shot:

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Pompidou

The illusion. I found out about this online, and used google maps to pinpoint the exact location of this particular curiosity. Let’s say, however, that you stumbled upon the following stretch of road without knowing what was going on:

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Hm… grafiti perhaps?

Want to know what it is? Take a guess and then click through to see the answer!

Since this post is damn long, I’ll be posting Amsterdam photos tomorrow.

Continue reading “Our Summer Vacation 2006”

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A one-minute vacation

This is my own one-minute vacation, which is about the part of the vacation most people don’t focus on. I recorded this inside the gate at Las Vegas airport where you can hear not only the regular boring airline announcements, but also the soft, comforting plinking of slot machines.

Las Vegas airport.ogg

This is a binaural recording, and is best heard with headphones.

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