Category Archives: Travel

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!

I Survived Comic-Con 2013!

And this year, that’s saying something. (I’ll get into that later.)

Gru's Floating Minion

Sometime Thursday afternoon or Friday morning I concluded that we’d remember this year’s trip more for the circumstances around it than for the con itself. I had no idea.

For starters: We had tickets for Thursday and Friday, and planned to drive into town Wednesday afternoon and drive home Friday evening. Sure, Comic-Con is stressful, but we always used to drive home Sunday evening and I was fine.

Of course, most of those times we weren’t bringing a toddler along.

Under Pressure

Comic-Con is a stressful, high-pressure, taxing experience. Vacationing with a small child is also a stressful, high-pressure, taxing experience. And so many little things went wrong the first two days: Leaving the stroller behind and having to buy a cheap one on the way, the leg cramp in stop-and-go traffic, having to search for outlets to plug in the lamps in our hotel room (and having to unplug them in order to charge more than one phone at a time), the fit at dinner that had strangers commenting on how J must be tired (actually, ma’am, he acts like this regardless of sleep quotient). Getting out too late to take the shuttle back and having to take the trolley instead (though that actually worked out fine, as J loved the idea)…at which point we learned that the routes had changed since we last rode the trolley, and we got off one stop too early to make the transfer.

Thursday morning we had everything planned out: We’d go to breakfast at Broken Yolk Cafe, then pick up our badges, then I’d take J around while Katie tried to catch the first big panel of the day. So what happened? We missed the shuttle because they moved the stop from where it had been last time we stayed on this route. Then I ordered blueberry crepes and managed to spill them on my shirt and shorts. They went into the con while I went back to the hotel to change clothes and try to rinse out the blueberry syrup before it stained.

And the first taste of Comic-Con is always overwhelming. Always. Add in these circumstances and you won’t be surprised that when I finally caught up an hour and a half later, Katie was ready to swear off ever coming back.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Always bring spare clothes. (Done, fortunately.)
  2. Don’t start the con with a breakfast that might stain if it spills.
  3. If you’re bringing a small child, find some way that you can start the con without them, then bring them in later.

Overheard: “It was! It was! It was Reptar!”

Settling In

Fortunately, things improved over the course of the day, and the rest of Thursday actually went pretty well. Friday, on the other hand…well, we’ll get to that.

Continue reading

Going to the ER at Comic-Con: Not the Peanuts I was Expecting

Wristband vs. Heart MonitorI’ve been attending San Diego Comic-Con for more than 20 years, but this was the first time I left the con in an ambulance.

I’m OK now. Though I might not be when I see the bill.

It started at lunchtime. We went to New Break, an independent coffee shop near Ralphs, which we’d been to before. They were offering samples of a blended peanut butter banana coffee drink, and while I really wanted to try their blended mint mocha, it was safer to skip something made on the same equipment.

What I decided on was a Mexican Mocha. Generally, these add cinnamon, maybe nutmeg or chili powder. I’ve had drinks with that and similar names, and Mexican hot chocolate, plenty of times. I didn’t ask what was in it, but I had just told them I was allergic to peanuts when I decided to skip the blended drink.

I considered getting it iced, but there was some confusion as to what was included in the lunch deal, so I got it hot instead. That turned out to be a wise decision, since I probably would have started out chugging a few ounces of a cold drink.

Two sips in, the back of my throat and my lips started tingling — a bad sign. I stopped, flagged over one of the baristas, and asked whether there were any nuts in the drink. She didn’t think so, but said she’d check.

I pulled out my emergency kit, took my Benadryl and Pepcid, and set my Epi-Pen on the table in case it progressed. I probably should have just taken it right then, but who wants to spend the afternoon in the emergency room instead of Comic-Con?

Meanwhile, the coffee shop staff had been unable to find ingredients for the mix, and had to call the owner to confirm that yes, there were peanuts in it.

Great.

Over the next hour, it felt like the reaction was under control, so I figured we could return to the convention center. Unfortunately, anaphylaxis can take several hours to run its course, and medication can wear off before it does. Continue reading

Recent Links: Geography, Internet and Comics

A few interesting links that I’ve been meaning to post for a while now.

Geography and History

Using and Building the Internet

  • Warren Ellis has given up on Facebook and Google+ because it’s just so hard to reliably reach or listen to people. Think of how many posts in your news feed you miss each day just by not being online at the right time, never mind the pre-filtering Facebook does to the firehose.
  • Page Weight Matters – an engineer at Google led an effort to cut Youtube’s bandwidth requirements by a factor of ten. Strangely enough, when they started a live test, average page load time went up. It turned out that people on low-speed connections had found out about it and started using it even though it took two minutes to load where they were…because even that was still better than the 20 minutes they’d been stuck with before. (Via Raymond Camden)
  • If you run an email newsletter, keep in mind that many of your readers will try to read it on a phone. Keep that in mind when designing your format. Giant images with no text aren’t going to be too helpful.
  • How to keep electronics going when you lose power for days: Generators, batteries, car chargers, solar or kinetic chargers, etc.

Comics

  • Some of the earliest UNIX daemon art was drawn by none other than Phil Foglio of Girl Genius fame.
  • Saturday Morning in Front of La Salle De Justice is a painting by Rey Taira in DC Comics’ gallery show, inspired by Seurat’s famous painting Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (the painting at the center of Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George), but recast with the Justice League and other DC Comics heroes. It’s making the rounds again now, but I first saw it on Firestorm Fan a few months back.