Category Archives: Travel

Wildflower Superbloom in Anza-Borrego (Photos)

Anza-Borrego Wildflowers

The kiddo had a day off from school in mid-March, so I took a vacation day and we all drove out to the desert to see the spring wildflowers. After the endless suburbia of Los Angeles, northern Orange County, and Corona, we drove past hills green from the winter rains, then into the similarly-endless suburbs of Temecula. It’s been years since I took Highway 79 south, and the city has grown a lot, but after a few miles the strip malls and housing developments disappeared, the road shrank to two lanes, and we drove through green hills with oaks, bushes, and the occasional patches of poppies, mustard and lupins. Fences, dirt roads and gates indicated ranches and wineries. Continue reading

WiFi is the new Color TV

When I was a kid, motels still advertised “COLOR TV!” on their signs to entice weary drivers to choose their facilities over the next one down the road. I’m pretty sure color TV was standard by then, but the signs remained.

These says, every motel I drive past has “Wi-Fi” on the sign, for the same reason.

Except it’s not quite the same. I mean…can you imagine if color TV was included with every room at the Motel 6, but you had to pay extra for it at a business class or nicer hotel?

That would be kind of silly, wouldn’t it?

Hotels and the Illusion of Simplicity

Hotel bedsManeuvering around toys on the living room after four days by myself in a hotel got me thinking about clutter. Traveling forces you to pare down your belongings for the duration of the trip. What fits in the suitcase. What’s easy to pack up again (if you’re going to more than one place). But it’s really an illusion enabled by two things:

  1. At the end of the trip, you go back to your life. Anything you leave behind is merely deferred, not eliminated. Which is good, because even if you have extra stuff, you probably don’t want to be reduced all the way to a suitcase for real.
  2. The travel economy enables you to skip a lot of things that you’d otherwise need supplies (and time) for: cooking, cleaning, repairs, etc.

Yeah, it feels like you’re simplifying your living situation for a few days…but that’s because you’re paying for someone else to do all the maintenance work.

Airplane, leaving me to my own devices

I started writing this on an airplane about to take off. In the time between my outbound flight and return trip, United took advantage of new FCC rules to draft a new policy allowing passengers to continue using (if I can remember the phrasing) “lightweight personal electronic devices set in non-transmit mode.”

I did have to stop as a matter of practicality during the takeoff itself, and being in a window seat I spent a lot of the next few minutes staring out the window.

Something I found interesting on the way up is how similar open space and water look at night from far enough up when you’re near a city, especially if the city just stops…especially at a natural boundary like a range of hills. In both cases you have a brightly lit region next to completely dark area. It’s only when you can identify patterns like docks, or roads through the empty space, or occasional lighted areas (though they could be boats) that you can really tell.

If you’re low enough, you can sometimes see the reflections of lights in the water. That made for an interesting illusion on the flight in. I’m not sure which bridge it was across the San Francisco bay, but it’s lit by regularly spaced white lights underneath the roadway. For some reason it looked like the lights were moving along the bridge as I flew past it, like the pulses in  a Mac progress bar.

Something else that struck me: most areas along the California coast, seen at night, appear as darkness with islands of light. Greater Los Angeles is light with islands of darkness.

No wonder I can hardly see any stars these days.

Nighttime HDR Test: Yerba Buena Gardens

It’s looking more and more likely that WonderCon will be staying in Anaheim again for 2014. That makes it easier for me to attend, but I still feel like the show’s out of place. I’d like it to return to the Bay Area even though it means I’ll have to travel.

I’ve been in San Francisco this week for a training course. Tuesday night after dinner I wandered down Market St. until I recognized the pedestrian path that led toward the Yerba Buena Gardens, Metreon mall, and Moscone Convention Center. I had to look.

There was an art installation in the path, a set of benches including an open-air whisper gallery. The church nearby was covered with scaffolding. The nearby buildings were lit up, as was the Martin Luther King, Jr. waterfall at the south end of the park, and I decided to try taking some night photos with my phone. HDR mode surprised me by turning out astonishingly well for a phone.

MLK Waterfall at Night

Compare that view of the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial waterfall to this daytime shot from 2010:

Waterfall

And here’s a look at the buildings on the east side of the park:

Yerba Buena Gardens at Night

Would I have liked to have a better camera with me? Sure. But the software did a great job of counteracting my jittery hand and the low light level. It probably handled the image stabilization better than my camera would have.

I walked on across the bridge to check in on the convention center itself, for nostalgia’s sake, and noticed for the first time the children’s museum and playground in the same block. If WonderCon ever does make it back to San Francisco, we’ll have somewhere to take our son in the middle of the day. Though the way things are going, by then he’ll be old enough to enjoy a full day at a comic con anyway!