Recently in Travel, Conferences, and Meetups Category

Never mind what I've written here recently. These three pieces are far more fascinating, so read them first:

  • Neal Stephenson (via Kottke) reveals why we're still using rockets to send things into space, when more efficient ways could be developed. (Quick summary: blame Hitler.)

  • John Baez (also via Kottke) discusses four great and important catastrophes in the history of the Earth: the formation of the Moon by a collision with another planet 4.53 billion years ago; the Late Heavy Bombardment of the Earth's surface, probably because of gravitational interactions between Jupiter and Saturn between 4 and 3.8 billion years ago; the poisoning of our atmosphere by oxygen after plants evolved photosynthesis 2.5 billion years ago; and the "snowball Earth" global glaciation 850 million years ago.

  • Pioneering podcaster Doug Kaye visited Egypt as a tourist and just got back: somehow he and his wife just threaded the needle of having a completely uneventful Egyptian vacation and being embroiled in the current political turmoil. They witnessed quite a bit, without being in danger themselves. It's quite a story.

Back in November, I published a couple of posts about my favourite places that I've visited around North America. I haven't traveled especially extensively around the rest of the world (I've never been to any part of Asia, Africa, or South America, for instance), but I have seen some of it, including a few amazing things, mostly in Italy, but also in a few other places. In rough order of when I visited them, here's my last batch of favourite places:

  • Charing Cross London UndergroundThere are vast and impressive underground rapid-transit systems in many cities around the globe, but the London Underground (a.k.a. "The Tube") was the first. It was also the first to use electric trains, has more stations than any other, and includes more track than any but Shanghai's. The Tube has been around so long there are dozens of abandoned stations, some many decades out of use. It also inspired one of the world's truly great maps, and even several typefaces. Personally, on my one visit to London in 1985, it simply amazed me how easy (though disorienting) it was to be in one place, descend under the city, take a train, and end up somewhere else.

  • Red Square - MoscowMoscow's Red Square really is something. Outlasting both the czars and the Blosheviks, it has been the city's hub, from which the spokes of Moscow's roads emanate, for more than 500 years, centuries before the Soviets put Lenin's Tomb on one side. I visited not long after Mikhail Gorbachev took power in the U.S.S.R. (again in 1985), so Red Square was still the hub of world Communism. But standing in it, despite the indelible images of huge military parades in my mind, it transcended such a narrow focus. The fantasy onion domes of St. Basil's Cathedral, the imposing facade of the GUM department store, the Kremlin wall—history mashed itself together while I stood in the gigantic cobbled space of the Square itself. There was no doubt: I was in Russia, dammit, and it was a genuine, historic place, not simply the domain of Red Scare boogeymen.

  • File:HermitageAcrossNeva-2.jpg
    My school group took an overnight train 400 miles from Moscow to St. Petersburg (still known as Leningrad at the time). That city is as close as I've ever come to my maternal grandparents' home country of Finland. My key memory of Leningrad is really the bone-chilling winter wind across the Neva River, but the place that made the biggest impression was the Hermitage Museum, which encompasses six huge buildings along the riverbank, and contains the largest collection of paintings in the world. It is the stereotype of what you think of as a classical museum: room after ornate room of sculptures, pictures, jewelry, antiquities, and more, stretching beyond your ability to comprehend. We had merely part of the day to see a fraction of the Hermitage, and I was a somewhat-skittish teenager, so I didn't pay as close attention as I should have. Still, I haven't forgotten it.

  • Looking up - in RomeThe most peculiar thing about Rome is that you can be walking down a modern, bustling city street, like you might see in any city, then turn a corner and confront any number of huge ancient marvels, right there in the middle of everything. The Pantheon is one of those. First you see the ranks of stone columns holding up the entranceway. Then, go inside and you stand under what is still the world's largest unsupported concrete dome, constructed in honour of the bustling throng of ancient Greco-Roman gods, and lit by daylight streaming through the central oculus at the apex. It is a masterpiece of architecture and engineering, still astonishing for its beauty and symmetry: the crown of the roof, for instance, is 58 m above the floor, and the dome is exactly the same diameter. It would be an amazing achievement to build today; the Romans made it almost 2000 years ago.

  • St. Peter's Baldachin Altar and DomeIf you want evidence that the Dark Ages really were a stagnant time, go across town in Rome to the buildings of the Vatican. It took a millennium and a half for architecture and art to surpass the achievements of the Roman Empire, so these magnificent structures are mere youngsters compared to the Pantheon or the Colosseum. Michelangelo painted the dome of the Sistine Chapel 500 years ago, and the dome of St. Peter's Basilica was finished even more recently, in 1590. St. Peter's itself is awe-inspiring, but also overwrought: every interior surface is festooned with gold, marble, reliefs, sculptures, relics, tombs, and intricate tile work. However, I was able to walk up the many, many steps to the top of the dome (still the world's tallest) and look out over the magnificent city—well worth the climb. And despite seeing it long before the most recent restoration, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the wall featuring Michelangelo's "Last Judgment" were still mind-blowing—especially knowing some background about their controversies, then and now.

  • Duomo di Firenze ~ Florence, ItalyWhat? Three Italian domes in a row? Okay, I know it's a bit ridiculous, but each has its place in history, and its own appeal. The Piazza del Duomo (a.k.a. The Duomo) in Florence is probably the prettiest from the outside, with the dome's distinctive white marble sides and red top matched by its bell tower. The dome was created by Brunelleschi, the tower in part by Giotto. Together they were the nucleus of the Renaissance beginning in the 1300s, where artists finally figured out how to paint with realistic perspective by rendering the buildings of the Duomo on canvas. In my brief school tour of Italy in 1986, the historic centre of Florence—with red tile roofs as far as the eye can see, surrounded by Tuscan hills—was my favourite part.

  • Atop the Leaning Tower 1986The Leaning Tower of Pisa has always leaned. In fact, if there hadn't been a hundred-year war-driven interruption in its construction (which let the soil settle), it likely would have collapsed before it was finished, so flawed was its original design and placement. And if the tower were entirely leveled out, it would still curve a little to one side, because its floors were constructed asymmetrically in the 13th century to try to compensate for the tilt. However, it no longer leans as much as it used to, and it's no longer tilting further all the time: restoration and counterweighting completed in 2001 have stopped it. But when I visited, it was still moving, and leaning about as far as it ever did—about 5.5°. My friends and I scaled the steps to the top, which I believe you're now allowed to do again. It's worth doing, because the tower is such a cliché on so many badly-painted walls of cheap Italian restaurants and pizza joints around the world. But it's real, and yes it does lean like that.

  • Gondole e colori..Our last stop in Italy might be the most amazing: the City of Venice. How did it ever get built, a whole city that seems afloat, but is instead inundated by design (though the Venetians of the past didn't count on rising sea levels), and that even today houses 60,000 people living on deep-driven piles on the surface of the sea? The old city is Europe's largest car-free area—unique, beautiful, filled with fabulous architecture, art, museums, restaurants, stores, bridges, cobbled walking streets, and canals, of course. (It can be smelly too.) I was heavily overcharged for a simple Coke in the Piazza San Marco, ostensibly for the tunes played by live musicians between outdoor tables at our restaurant. But I didn't care. There is no place else like it.

  • Sydney panoramicLet's cross several oceans and continents to the other side of the globe. I've never been to Sydney, Australia—I merely stopped over at the airport on the way to and from the Melbourne Music Festival with my band in 1995. Yet the city left a lasting impression because of the aerial view I had of Sydney Harbour, the largest natural harbour in the world. As we descended, I marveled at the intricate convolutions of the submerged valleys that form Port Jackson, and suddenly the worldwide beach-going reputation of Sydneysiders made sense. I wanted to come back and see the place from ground level, but I never did.

  • The EspyMy final favourite place on this list is more prosaic than the rest, and rather newer. Unless you know about it while driving by, you might not necessarily notice the Esplanade Hotel (a.k.a. The Espy), across from St. Kilda Beach in Melbourne. But it is the oldest continuously operating live music venue in the country, originally built in 1878. Numerous attempts to redevelop the site have met with furious protests from residents of the city, because The Espy is legendary. In 1995, my band The Flu took out a loan to fly to Australia to be part of the Melbourne Music Festival, and The Espy was one venue we played, as well as seeing several other acts there during the month we were in town. I recall it as a building where I've had some of the most fun in my life. If The Flu had become the international pop-rock phenomenon we were trying to be, I would identify this as the place where that really got started. Since it didn't happen, I think of The Espy as the place where that could have gotten started.

Had I been to more places around the world in my life, I'm sure this list and its two predecessors would be different. But these are the places I have seen, and liked. If you choose to go to any of them, perhaps you will too.

ARGH!While my wife and I have had the occasional difficulty with it over the years, I like our credit union, Vancity, quite a bit. But I really have to question the competence of the people they work with to create some of their online services, especially those associated with our Vancity Visa credit card.

Take this problem I had more than six years ago. In short, trying to use my Visa to pay online, I ran into the wonderfully annoying Verified By Visa program. It wouldn't let me register because (it turns out) the online form wanted the birthdate of the primary account holder, who is my wife. But the error message said it wanted my Social Security Number, which (a) we don't have in Canada (it's a Social Insurance Number here), (b) the form hadn't asked for, and (c) is not something I'm comfortable giving out willy-nilly online. That led to a wild goose chase until I figured out the solution by trial and error—while Vancity and Visa's customer service reps were no help whatsoever.

Six years of not solving a problem

Vancity and Visa have spent the last six years not solving that issue. In fact, on another website, they've exacerbated it. This time the resolution was better, but the problem was even worse, because if I hadn't been on the ball it could have cost me almost $500, maybe more. Let's follow the steps:

  1. I wanted to redeem some My Visa Rewards points to book a hotel for a three-night stay. The site where you check your account balance, including points balances, is However, you can't redeem points there. And there's no link to the site where you can, or indication of what it might be, as far as I could tell.

  2. The Vancity website (different from the MyVisaAccount site) has a link to redeem points at the website. But guess what? That link is broken, because you have to use the—if you omit the www, as Vancity itself did on its own corporate website, the link won't resolve, even though pretty much every website in the world (including mine here) lets you use the www or not, as you choose. Professional!

  3. Once you get to the rewards site, you have to set up an account or log in using your Visa card number. But, just as in 2004, I had to use the card number of the primary account holder (my wife). I couldn't use my card number, even though my card charges the same account, and accumulates points there too. So I had to call her and get the info, including expiry date and three-digit safety code, since she was at work. Oh, and the login form (like most) refuses to process card numbers entered with spaces—even though that's how they appear on the card for readability. As a sometimes–web developer, I know it's rather simple to have a computer skim a series of numbers and strip out excess spaces or dashes. People should be able to enter their credit card numbers however they want, but almost no e-commerce site does that, Vancity's included. They all piss me off because of that, and this was no exception.

  4. Once I found the hotel I wanted and had selected the dates and room and everything, I had to fill in another form with contact information. Some of it was helpfully filled in (with my wife's data, of course), but some, including our city, province, and postal code, and my wife's birthday, were not. Here's the fun part: the birthdate (like the account number) must not include spaces, but the postal code must include a space. Other variations fail, even though those requirements are opposites, and again, they're programmatically trivial to deal with however people choose to type them.

  5. The site asked me how many points I wanted to redeem, but while the My Vancity Account site and other pages on the rewards site displayed my points balance, the form itself did not, so I had to check in another window.

  6. Nowhere on the booking form does it indicate how much points are worth. So were my nearly-60,000 points enough to pay for the nearly-$500 hotel bill? I had to guess. I tried 50,000, but that was too much. The form did tell me that I couldn't over-redeem (i.e. couldn't use too many points) by more than 100 points, and I had to use 100 point increments. It did not have a way to fill in the point amount automatically, based on my total planned purchase. And rather than tell me my mistake when I guessed and then clicked the (unsurprisingly useless) Calculate button, I had to submit the form and then have it rejected because I was trying to use too many points.

  7. Fortunately, it let me try again without starting over. (If I had used too few points, would it have gone on happily and simply charged the balance to my card for me to pay in real money, even though I had more points to spare? I don't know, but at this point I suspect it would. Small mercies I didn't have to find out.) And I still didn't know what 100 (or 50,000) points were worth. I guessed wildly once more, and thought 100 points might be a dollar, so I entered 48,400 for my $483.50 bill. Bingo! $484.00—I had spent a mere 50 cents too much.

  8. Home stretch now. My transaction was processing. (Incidentally, there was no final confirmation screen where I could confirm I had the right hotel, or that my dates were correct, or that I really had booked a suite as I intended to. It just started churning on the booking.) Then what did I get? I am not kidding about this, I got a Generic Error Page. That was the title, and the headline, in big blue letters. In case you don't believe me, here it is:
    Generic Error Page

  9. So, had my purchase gone through or not? No idea. I had to assume it had failed, since that's usually what "error" means. So I went back all the way to the home page and found the same hotel, same dates, same room selection, same price, same points, and tried again. You guessed it, "Generic Error Page."

  10. Then I noticed something. My points balance had dropped by 48,400, so in some way the transaction had gone through. There was no confirmation page to say so, no hotel booking page to print out, no email to say the hotel was happy to come have us visit. But something had transacted, somewhere.

  11. One helpful thing is that there's a toll-free phone number at the top of each page on the rewards website. I called and got right through to Marcie, who was everything the website wasn't: helpful, friendly, quick, knowledgeable, and able to get me what I wanted in short order. (I should have used the phone to start with. But that's no excuse for the moronic website.) Anyway, after Marcie confirmed I was who I claimed to be, she discovered that yes, both bookings had gone through, though no, confirmation emails hadn't been sent out to anyone.

  12. Of course, to the My Visa Rewards computer system, it seemed perfectly logical for someone to book two identical rooms, with the same number of guests whose children are miraculously the same exact ages, for the precise same dates, purchased four minutes apart. So the first booking had used my points, and the second one (for another nearly-$500) had been charged to my (wife's) Visa, and had I not called we might have had to pay for that. Marcie arranged to cancel the double, and even called the hotel to make sure they had the bookings and knew that one would be revoked because it was a mistake.

  13. In the end I got the booking I wanted, for the dates I wanted, at the hotel I wanted, in the city I wanted. I think. Yay. But the confirmation email still hasn't come (well, I don't think so—of course it has to go to my wife's email address, as the primary account holder, so she'll need to check again in the morning when she wakes up). I don't yet have a confirmation number for the hotel, or know for sure that the points will be used to pay for the proper room, and that the mistaken second room will be refunded. Marcie gave me confidence, so I expect so, and I'll be watching like a hawk until all the various flying bits and points and dollars resolve themselves. I'll phone the hotel myself to triple-check our booking.

  14. Finally, the My Visa Rewards site does now show the purchases in my redemption history, but only in the most generic possible way. Here, look:
    Transaction History
    It tells me that I've booked a Redemption Type of "Travel" at a Component Type of "Hotel Online." No hotel name or city, no booking dates, and the Points Redeemed field is blank for both transactions. I don't even know which one will be voided and which will use my points. But they've been processed! Thanks!

UPDATE Dec 9, 2010: Yay, we received the official confirmation email. Just one, which is a good sign. I've contacted the hotel to verify everything. I expect our booking is all good, but I'll let you know either way.

What would normal people do?

Imagine, if you will, that I were not a guy who's been building websites of my own for 13 years. Someone who hasn't worked at commercial software companies and is not familiar (as I am) with how the architecture of both the Web and credit card processing works. Someone who hasn't also worked in the entertainment and hospitality industries, and who does not (again, as I do) have some idea about how hotels interact with external travel agents and online booking services. Someone who isn't on medical leave with terminal cancer (sorry, had to get that in), and who doesn't (as I do) have the spare time—since I happened to feel well today—to power through this process, making educated guesses along the way, and then write it all up in a ranty blog post.

Imagine if I were a normal person, in other words, not a freaky nerd who has an interest in the usability of web applications. A normal person might have given up at any of the many initial roadblocks and never booked the hotel (or, sensibly, might have tried the phone first). Or he might have gone through the process and then given up at the Generic Error Pages, not realizing that his points had been used up and his card had been charged another $500 for a duplicate room he didn't want. Or she might have never taken the trip, only to discover next month on her credit card bill nearly $1000 of mysterious hotel bookings for dates now several weeks past. Or, worst of all, he might have booked and paid for another hotel, not using points, and then later discovered that (a) he'd wasted his money, and (b) the original hotel was cheesed off because two sets of guests had been no-shows!

On their own, each of these design problems, errors, and pointless requirements is a small thing. Together, though, all in a row, they are a spinning fan just waiting for the shit to hit it. The websites are not pure chaos, like Microsoft Research's mercifully long-dead Wallop social networking site of five years ago (a sort of proto-Facebook snuffed out in infancy, for good reason). But that makes them even worse, because the Vancity Visa sites look like they know what they're doing, only to reveal themselves slowly as death by a thousand cuts.

My questions for Visa and Vancity

Did the teams who built this system include any qualified interaction designers? Did they do any usability testing with real people using real credit cards trying to do real things, typing in numbers the way real people might wish to do? Did they consider any edge cases at all, such as a married couple who have separate cards on one Visa account (something Vancity encourages), where the non-primary account holder might want to redeem points as easily as he or she can buy things to accrue points?

I can only conclude that no, they did not. Vancity is one of the largest credit unions in Canada, larger than many banks. Visa Inc. is a member of the Fortune 500. That they could, together, construct such a house-of-cards online system for something as apparently simple as redeeming bonus points is shameful. Incompetent, really.

So many other companies manage to get online commerce much more right, so it can be done. In the end, I'm glad I got what I wanted. (At least, I think I have.) I'm not angry. Marcie on the phone was a great help. But I'm sad that the process revealed how little Vancity and Visa seem to think of their shared service on the Web, and the customers who want to use it.

Easiest vacations ever

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Since even before we had children, my wife Air and I have enjoyed booking the occasional night at a fancy hotel in downtown Vancouver, just for the hell of it. We did so again this evening, so we had only a short trip after Navarik's annual staff Christmas party to a comfy bed at the Sutton Place Hotel. The kids are at home with their grandparents and the dog.

Some people find it odd that we spend money to sleep in a strange bed in our own city, but that's why we choose only the nicest downtown hotels. It's a relatively cheap luxury experience, where we can order room service, soak in a hot tub, have a maid clean our room, and get easy access to city-centre shopping, while minimizing travel time and hassle. (I even rode the SkyTrain down to check in before Air met me after work.)

A few years ago, our friend Tris pointed me to the then-new, which offers superb (but non-refundable) deals on hotels, plus the sometimes-fun bonus of not knowing the name of your hotel until after you book it. It becomes a mini-vacation with a bit of lottery unpredictability built in—except, since any four- or five-star hotel downtown is great (especially for less than $125 a night, as little as a third of the standard price), there's no way to lose.

If the concept of a stay-home trip seems odd or a waste of money to you, I recommend you try it. It can actually be less expensive than a fancy dinner and a show (though you could add those too), and often feels like a longer getaway than it is.

Plus: mmm, room service breakfast.

Here's a second blog post about some of the places I've been that I recommend—some natural, some artificial, in rough order from nearest to farthest from my house. Go back to read part 1 or check out part 3 if you like.

  • Surf Babies 2My wife introduced me to Cannon Beach, Oregon in the 1990s. Near the northwest tip of that state's famous Pacific coast, it's a somewhat pricey tourist town for a good reason, with a long, stunning sandy beach punctuated by offshore seastacks and the imposing monolith of Haystack Rock. We've taken the kids there on family summer vacations four times since they were born, starting when our younger daughter was only a few months old. From Vancouver, we can reach it in a day by car, either via Portland or via the Columbia River and Astoria—in many ways it's easier to get there than to the also-wonderful Long Beach near Tofino on Vancouver Island, since there's no ferry and better roads. I hope we can visit Cannon Beach at least once more, like we did Tofino last year.

  • Rogers Pass summitTake the Trans-Canada Highway or the Canadian Pacific Railway east from Vancouver, into the Selkirk Mountains, and you reach the Continental Divide at Rogers Pass. Depending on the weather, you might not see much, or you might gasp at the peaks overhead. Whether going by road or rail, you'll pass through tunnels and snowsheds, and by train you'll cross over deep gorges via astonishing bridges. In winter, the pass region features one of the most extensive avalanche control programs in the world, where Canadian military guns blast dangerous snow accumulations off the slopes to prevent deadly slides. Even if you're passing through on the way elsewhere, don't forget to look up.

  • Sand Creek CanyonConversely, if you drive west across the northern U.S. along the I-90 freeway, there is a point in Wyoming where the Interstate veers north, skirting the Rocky Mountain foothills. Near Ranchester, you can leave the I-90 and take Highway 14 west again into those foothills, and then up the steep, imposing escarpment beyond Dayton, where the switchbacks take you from 4000 feet of altitude to 7500 feet over only a few dozen miles of road, between Steamboat Point and Horseshoe Mountain. (Make sure your car can handle it.) From time to time, roadside signs tell you the age and type of rocks you're driving past, and you can stop at occasional pullouts to admire the view of the parched landscape you just climbed out of. When I read those signs in 1991, I noticed something: as my friend Andrew and I drove higher and higher in my parents' borrowed station wagon, the rocks were getting younger. In forming the Rockies and more over tens of millions of years, geological processes have not only thrust up the huge mountain ranges of western North America, in the process they flipped the land over like a continental omelette. Holy crap.

  • Bison at Grand Prismatic Spring Yellowstone National Park WyomingKeep following Highway 14 and you'll climb up over 9000 feet above sea level, then down, then up again, along valleys and canyons until eventually you reach the remarkable caldera of Yellowstone National Park. You might feel a bit nervous knowing that you're standing on a potential supervolcano, but you'll also be seeing stuff you don't anywhere else: not only the famous geysers, hot pools, prismatic springs, and ever-changing hydrothermal formations, but also abundant and often fearless wildlife (including bison, bears, moose, elk, cougars, and wolves), and forest ecosystems recovering from recent fires. At night, as at Crater Lake in Oregon, the altitude and distance from cities give you an extraordinary view of the starry sky.

  • Grand Canyon National Park, ArizonaI've written before about the appeal of the American Southwest deserts, and their focus is, of course, the Grand Canyon. Some places are less impressive than legend makes them out to be (giant Redwood and Sequoia forests in California, for me, since they're much like groves I can walk to from my house), some are exactly as you might expect (Mount Rushmore, which was pretty much as big as I thought, but no bigger), and some are far more impressive than you can imagine in advance. The Grand Canyon is one of those. Yes, that's a cliché, but because it's true. You won't get an idea of the place until you go, and you should. While you're in the area, visit Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park in nearby Utah too—wonderful and beautiful in their own way, but not on the same scale.

  • Carlsbad Caverns Lunch RoomNo doubt there are more impressive caves in the world, but one amazing talent of Americans is making natural features accessible to regular people, and Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico demonstrates that genius. You can, and should, hike into the massive cavern complex using a reasonably easy paved trail with railings, lighting, and benches to sit and rest. Or you can simply take a high-speed elevator 750 feet down into the Earth from the flat New Mexico desert (parking nearby)—at the bottom there is a restaurant and even a post office where you can mail letters to your friends and family from deep underground. Some of the Big Room is wheelchair accessible. If you did hike down, the elevator makes returning to the surface a breeze. Yet that doesn't detract from the spectacle of the formations, which are enhanced by coloured lights and explanatory plaques. I've been spelunking in less-developed caves, with flashlights and hardhats, and that has its own rewards. But at Carlsbad Caverns, you'll wonder at both the stalactites and the engineering effort that went into making it easy for you to see them.

  • Too Much FunSince the jet-travel revolution of the 1960s, Hawaii has been a favourite destination for Vancouverites. In five hours or so, we can go from a wet and cold Vancouver winter to a tropical volcanic Pacific paradise that's still part of our neighbour the U.S.A. Yet I never visited it until 2006, when I was 37 years old. Hawaii includes many wonders, but I missed some of the most spectacular, such as eruptions on the Big Island or the crater of Haleakala—my family and I only saw Oahu, and even there the surf wasn't particularly large on the legendary North Shore. However, Pali Lookout was still something else. We have mountains here in British Columbia, and sometimes crazy winds, but they don't come together like they do at Pali, a cliffside perch overlooking Windward Oahu on the east side of the island. A natural wind tunnel, it is one of the breeziest places I've ever been, yet the blast is warm, not freezing as it would be at home. The nearby sheer mountainsides are unlike anything in my home province, striated as they are by deep tropical erosion gullies and entirely coated in warm-climate vegetation. Despite its precarious spot, Pali Lookout is easy to drive to in a car or tour bus, being just off the Pali Highway.

  • CN Tower from CBC TallThe CN Tower in Toronto was never the tallest artificial thing in the world, but for more than 30 years it was the tallest freestanding structure—one that doesn't need guy wires or the buoyancy of water to keep it up. It's still taller than any occupied building in the Western Hemisphere. Given the rate at which new supertall buildings and towers are now being built, it's unlikely any of them will hold the title for that long. The CN Tower is not an especially pretty thing, especially close up with its vast buttresses of concrete, but it has an Apollo-era Tomorrowland rocket vibe that newer competitors don't emulate. While visiting my parents in Toronto when they lived there, I once went to the bar and ordered a 7-Up, which came in an appropriately tall and skinny glass. From the Sky Pod observation deck you can look out more than 100 miles over the flat expanse of Greater Toronto and across Lake Ontario to the United States. You can also visit the glass floor to look down at the city below your feet, and the outdoor observation deck to feel a high-altitude wind that only birds felt for millennia.

  • Chrysler building by nightI never went inside the Chrysler Building during my one visit to New York City ten years ago, but that's no matter. Its gleaming metal spire with nested arches and triangle windows, Art Deco retro yet still vibrantly modern, "always looks like the future," in the words of Salon's Stephanie Zacharek back in 2002. Thankfully, no one so far has ever considered renaming it either. You can stand near the Empire State Building, like the CN Tower, and look up, saying to yourself, "Man, that's tall." But with the Chrysler Building, night or day, you say, "Man, that's beautiful." I wish Vancouver had even one skyscraper so pretty. Then again, even Manhattan has only the one.

Next time, we'll go overseas.

Given the severity of my cancer, it's unlikely I'll be traveling all that far from now on, no matter how much longer or shorter I live. I have been fortunate enough, however, to have visited a few of the world's spectacular and famous places. Since I live in beautiful and spectacular British Columbia, some of them are quite close by.

This is the first of a series of blog posts about some of the places I've been that I recommend—some natural, some artificial, in rough order from nearest to farthest from my house—see part 2 and part 3. Many are popular tourist attractions and are quite easy to reach for nearly anyone with just a bit of money and time. That's fine by me. They deserve the recognition:

  • The ChiefThe Stawamus Chief, a ridiculous sheer cliff face just south of Squamish, is a short drive from Vancouver on the Sea-to-Sky Highway. It's our local El Capitan, and I've never even thought of climbing it, but my wife has hiked up the back side with school groups a few times, and once I rode by its rear base at the start of an adventurous mountain biking trip. The Chief itself is over 700 m (2300 ft) high, a grey granite slab rising almost straight out of the ocean. Even if all you do is stand near the bottom and watch cliff climbers through binoculars, it's worth the trip.

  • Whistler 2010 - Smoky valleyThe world's longest and highest cable-car gondola isn't in the Alps, but another hour or so north of the Chief, above the ski resort in Whistler. It's the new Peak2Peak Gondola. In the middle of the span between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, as you cross above Fitzsimmons Creek, you are more than 430 m (1400 ft) above ground. The 10-minute ride is smooth and safe, but no matter your feeling about heights (I love them), somehow the trip still seems more appropriate for a helicopter or a small plane.

  • mossy giantsPeople from Vancouver think we know old-growth temperate rainforests. We have Stanley Park and the North Shore mountains, and dozens more parks and watersheds full of immense trees dripping with moss, right within our metropolitan area. But you need to take a ferry to Nanaimo, drive north to Parksville, and then go inland so you can reach Cathedral Grove. The highway to Port Alberni slices right through it, so like the Chief and the Peak 2 Peak, it's easy to reach. But unlike most of B.C.'s coastal old growth, it's never been cut down for lumber, and is a prime example of a rich rainforest valley bottom. There are firs and cedars and spruces hundreds of years old, larger and taller than anything you'll see without an arduous trip to distant B.C. wilderness, or to California's Sequoia and Redwood preserves. Personally, I think B.C.'s trees are prettier, especially in the snow.

  • Broken Island Group Near UclueletSome claim that the world's largest tide pool is on an island at the tip of the Broken Group in Barkley Sound, off the West Coast of Vancouver Island in Pacific Rim National Park. I've seen it, and I don't know if it really is the largest, but regardless, it didn't blow me away. That's because most of it is pretty barren of life, not chock-full of it like so many tide pools in this area. I don't even know exactly what mini-island it's supposed to be on—maybe Wouwer or Howell—but if you find it (you require a boat) and venture to its exposed southwest coast, then instead of looking down, look up to the horizon. Massive basalt sea stacks offshore look like railway cars crushed into the ocean. Waves that have crossed the Pacific explode into them, and you can feel the collisions in your chest, even from far away. And then think about where you're looking: directly south, beyond those sea stacks, there is nothing but Pacific Ocean (no people, no islands) until you reach Antarctica, 9000 miles away. My band wrote a song about it once, in which I called that spot the most beautiful place I'd ever seen.

  • First 747-8 in Factory With EnginesIt's not easy to watch big planes get built. Military contractors are expectedly secretive, and if you want to visit the Airbus factory in Toulouse, France, you need to confirm in writing at least 45 days in advance, with the waiting list still months long. Plus, you have to find your way to Toulouse. Much easier is a trip to Everett, just north of Seattle, Washington. If it's not the busy summer season, as it wasn't when we went in May last year, you can walk right up to a ticket counter at the Future of Flight museum, and be inside the Boeing Everett Assembly Building in half an hour. You're prohibited from taking photos, or even bringing anything resembling a camera with you, but then you have more attention to turn to the activities within the most voluminous building in the world. The new Boeing 787, the long-haul 777, the transatlantic champion 767, and perhaps the world's greatest aircraft, the Boeing 747, all come together inside this single structure. It is a marvelous testament to what people can do—and it's absolutely goddamn huge to boot.

  • Crater LakeThe Cascade Volcanoes are fearsome and beautiful, forming a chain of smoking peaks from B.C. to northern California. My favourite of them, however, is extinct: Crater Lake in southern Oregon, formed from the carcass of Mount Mazama, which erupted so violently a few thousand years ago that it collapsed on itself, leaving a basin to be filled with rain and meltwater (no streams run in or out). At its deepest it reaches nearly 600 m (2000 ft), making it the ninth deepest lake in the world, and by far the clearest. The blue colour of the water is unlike any you'll see anywhere else. The rimside lodge is spectacular. The views from anywhere around the lake are astonishing. And a trip on a tour boat across the lake or onto Wizard Island is remarkable. Because of heavy snowfall, the season is short, but try to make a visit happen.

  • Lunar Exploration Suit - JPL c.1959Greater Los Angeles has Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm, and Magic Mountain. It has Beverly Hills and the Hollywood sign, as well as the La Brea Tar Pits. It has an unbelievable tangle of freeways, and miles and miles of famous surfing beaches. I do not know if it surpasses Rio de Janeiro for plastic surgeries per capita, but I do know what L.A. has that nothing else does: the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), near Pasadena. Open houses happen only once a year, but I was able to take a private tour with my dad (through his connections in the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada) almost 30 years ago, around the time JPL was processing data from the Voyager 2 probe as it passed Saturn. JPL is an unassuming place, nothing spectacular to look at. It's an academic campus in the foothills, but it's where people have revealed some of the first close-up images from our solar system. When you hear the names of interstellar probes like Mariner, Pioneer, Viking, Voyager, Galileo, Cassini-Huygens, and the Mars rovers, JPL is where they came from, and where they've been piloted and run. Plus the people who work there get to say, "Yes, this is rocket science!"

Next time, a wet windy lookout, the Grand Canyon (of course), and a not-especially-tall building.

Mountain faces

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Mont Blanc du TaculI have a peculiar fascination with mountain climbing. Peculiar because I've never done anything like it, not even on local peaks like The Lions or Black Tusk. The most I've done is go from the ski area parking lot to the top of Mt. Seymour, which is a hike, not a climb. (Like The Lions, I can see the summit of Seymour from our front window.)

Maybe that's what interests me. Like Antarctica or outer space, high mountain peaks are somewhere I'll never go. I've written about how dangerous high-altitude mountaineering is. As a child, I was fascinated by TV documentaries on mountain climbing (I vividly recall a sherpa falling into a mud sinkhole on the way to Everest, before the team had even reached snow). Jon Krakauer's 1997 bestseller Into Thin Air riveted me from the first sentence:

Straddling the top of the world, one foot in China and the other in Nepal, I cleared the ice from my oxygen mask, hunched a shoulder against the wind, and stared absently down at the vastness of Tibet.

It remains one of my favourite books. Today another one of those scary mountain stories bubbled up, via Jason Kottke: a Vanity Fair tale of two young British men who died last year falling thousands of feet down part of Mt. Blanc. Because it's easy to access in the centre of Europe, but remains treacherous with difficult slopes and unpredictable weather, Mt. Blanc kills more climbers than any other peak in the world. Rob Gauntlett and James Atkinson, the climbers who died, were far from inexperienced.

A couple of years earlier, Gauntlett and James Hooper, both then 19, had become the youngest Brits ever to climb Mt. Everest. They followed that expedition with a trip from the northern geomagnetic pole to the southern one, from North America through South America to Antarctica—without any motorized power. At Mt. Blanc, Hooper and another school friend, Richard Lebon, had decided not to follow their colleagues up the mountain that day, and survived.

Even out my front window, I can see places (or at least, the tops of trees near places) where people wander off well-trodden tourist trails, get lost, and never return. Often in the summer. Once, a plane crashed on one of those slopes and wasn't found for decades. Mountains are beautiful and alluring, but fickle, and can be deadly.

Tigh-Na-Mara and the Salish Sea

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View from our balcony at Tigh-Na-Mara Resort in Parksville, B.C.

This is where my wife Air and are spending the weekend. This evening we're off to the Grotto Spa. A huge thank-you to my cousin Tarya and her husband T.J. for sending us on this jaunt across the Salish Sea, as a thank-you gift for taking photos at their wedding a few weeks ago.

I don't believe in karma, but sometimes what goes around does come around.

P.S. Portions at the resort restaurant are ridiculously large. I might have been able to finish my delicious steak last night if I hadn't ordered what turned out to be a huge (and also delicious) Caesar salad first. You've been warned.

Unclear on the concept

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A few weeks ago, while we were in Disneyland, I saw this sign in the Downtown Disney shopping area:

Disneyland day 2 - Unclear on the concept

Yeah, it's obviously supposed to be a play on "Strawberry Fields Forever," but did no one notice the conflict in the message?

The Gnomedex Song 2010

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So here's the song I sang yesterday, updated for 2010 (sort of like "Don't Stand So Close to Me '86," I guess):

There are also a few photos of the experience around. Notice my Seattle-approved lumberjack shirt:

The Last Gnomedex Song

My original recording of "Tell Me About Gnomedex" (a.k.a. "The Gnomedex Song") from 2006 is still online too.

And here's the last day:

  • 1:30 p.m. - Melissa Pierce (@melissapierce): Maker of the film Life in Perpetual Beta, funding crowd-sourced from people on Twitter and elsewhere, then via Kickstarter. How do we process information coming into our brains? How does text become context? And are we now in a contextual revolution? Revolutions include the American, French, Industrial, Russian, Chinese, Iranian. Even postal mail revolutionized the world. So did vaccines. Paper cups. Email. Twitter. The one thing that's creating our contextual revolution is access: to information, to ideas, to other people. We went to the Moon using protractors and slide rules, now we hardly cross the street without a GPS. Every click is a creative act.
  • 2:00 p.m. - Violet Blue (@violetblue): Time for some sex talk. We can't make stable or sustainable online social media models for sexuality. Culture and media talk about sex in increasingly problematic ways: either as a bad and scary thing, or as something that doesn't exist. Abstinence education caused spikes in STDs, unplanned pregnancies, and more, for instance. A sex-positive approach is descriptive, rather than proscriptive, and applies principles of harm reduction to sexuality. Understand what consent is, how safe sex works, and so on. Started podcasting in 2005, first female podcaster—but there was a backlash when iTunes started podcast support, and Violet was the top podcast. Another example of building a sex-positive community and then having the rug pulled out. If you want to see where things are most fragile, and where people are most hypocritical, start talking about sex. In social media now, we're swimming through an ocean of bullshit and snake oil. Facebook is Wal-Mart for your communities. Why do Terms of Service vaguely exclude sex, and get used to shut down sex talk online? Do 500 million Facebook users never have sex? We need a harm reduction approach to social media. Gatekeepers shouldn't decide what's okay and what's not okay to talk about. Sexuality is not a drug, not an illegal substance. It's something that keeps us connected to our bodies. It's beautiful, and gatekeepers can't keep telling us it's not.
  • 2:25 p.m. - Jason Barger: "Step Back From the Baggage Claim." Traveled to seven cities in seven days without leaving any airport or plane. How do we choose to move with each other in the world? Do we all crowd against the baggage claim, consumed in our own entitlement? Small moments of behaving better can change the world in aggregate. 90% of our interactions with others is negative, 80% of our internal dialogue is also negative. How do we reframe that, giving ourselves space to think about why we do what we do, and what we want to put out into the world?
  • 3:00 p.m. - Steven Fisher and Michael Dougherty: Browncoats Redemption is a fan-made Serenity full-length followup film for charity. I missed most of this talk, so that's all I'll say.
  • 3:45 p.m. - Tim Hwang (@timhwang): Playing databall: online influence and the future of social hacking, Analytics, how things move, how online communities work. Founder of ROFLCon, worked at the Berkman Center, Web Ecology Project, the Awesome Foundation. Inspired by Moneyball: as in social media, strategies were vague and value was hard to assess. Social wargaming: get teams to compete trying to influence a group of people online, who don't know they're part of the game. What gives you online credibility? How can you figure it out by analyzing data about people's online behaviour. Figuring out how to manipulate that behaviour and then doing it on a large scale with bots could make interesting things happen. And people can also defend against those attempted influences. Another rise of the quants. Could even use such analysis to hack the legal system, putting certain inputs into lower courts to maximize the chance of reaching a certain high court and attaining a certain result. But what are the ethical implications? Sleeps well at night—for now—knowing that the vast majority of bots online are extremely stupid.
  • 4:30 p.m. - Matt Inman (The Oatmeal): The Oatmeal is about a year old, and it's doing really well. Started with a dating site, viral-marketed with blog posts, comments, etc. that strike at the heart of geekdom. Quizzes worked even better ("How many cannibals could my body feed?"), with result badges that linked back to the dating site. Next moved on to comics, fake Zombie dating sites, etc. And they made the dating site outrank, eHarmony, etc. The Oatmeal followed after that, as a site just for the funny stuff. The formula: articulate a gripe, pick things everyone can relate to, create stuff that's easy to digest, create an infographic, talk about memes and current events, and incite an emotion.
  • 5:00 p.m. - Seattle Wine Gal: How to taste wine. Look for clarity, smell it, then taste it. Only take it as seriously as you want. Take a medium-sized sip, hold it in your mouth, suck in a bit of air through pursed lips, swish it around, then swallow. Think about what the "finish" is like to you. Avoid wearing scents. You don't need a new glass for each pour. You don't need to drink everything. Slow down, ask questions, feel free to try again.

Chris's entire family came up onstage to look back on 10 years of Gnomedex, featuring his parents speaking about what it's accomplished and where we can go from here. And then I sang a little song, and Chris thanked everyone, and we had a party with trapezes. The end.

  • 9:05 a.m. - Bill Schrier (Seattle CTO): Chief Geek of City of Seattle. Current mayor used social media to help win his election. Always innovative in Seattle: carbon-free electric utility, Boeing, Starbucks, Microsoft, Amazon, and newer startups. A Seattle company powers and But that's just data: how do we turn it into information? That's what the Open Government Hackathon/Tinkerstorm will help today. Because governments shouldn't be the ones building applications with the data.
  • 9:15 a.m. - Amy Karlson (Microsoft Research): MR works like a big Computer Science department, Amy in the visualization and interaction field specifically. How do people interact with their different devices (e.g. mobile phone and desktop PC)? What are the time relationships, the changes of context, what tasks do they perform, and so on? Different people use their devices differently, but tend to be consistent in their own behaviour day to day. Web and email remain the dominant activities right now, frequently moving back and forth between them. Handing off activities from phone to PC to phone, etc. It looks like the activities on the two types of devices are similar and related, but the devices don't necessarily take that into account. We might not expect enough from them, because people have some synchronization, but not true continuation of tasks between devices. 75% of the domains people visit on their phones are the same as those they look at on their PCs. Our devices can be smarter about that, but it's not a simple problem making it a good experience. For instance, often we'll read an email on our phone but forget to follow up with it on the desktop, and that's a failure of design. Desktop and mobile apps designed similarly don't reflect how mobile and desktop computing are fundamentally different experiences, with different sources of interruption. How do users work around that (e.g. Mark as Unread, Save as Draft)? Interruptions can include network problems (no connection), output problems (small screens, rendering issues), input problems (too hard to type, certain input not possible), missing features (different mobile functionality), environmental distractions, cost-benefit tradeoffs. Some of these can be improved, but some are simply inherent in mobile computing, all of them are independent of the specific tasks involved, and each has its own level of frustration (e.g. network problems are more frustrating than most environmental interruptions, mapping and media problems are more frustrating than email problems). Interestingly, following up on the same device can be more frustrating than switching to another. Even with email, which works fairly well between devices, people are hacking together workarounds that computing systems should handle automatically. Tasks do span devices, so we need to design for migration between them. Mobile task interruptions are inevitable, so we need to design to resume those tasks. People deliberately suspend tasks, so we need to design tasks to be broken into travel-size chunks that are still productive. State syncing is not enough, because where things happened first are important. The cloud is the right away to go, but it doesn't solve all the problems.
  • 10:00 a.m. - Shauna Causey and Melody Biringer (@TechMavens): Women in top technology positions. Melody has been dealing with small women-run businesses where there's a lot of fear about technology and the online world. By contrast, Shauna has always worked with big companies, and was often the only woman at tech events. Working together with a team, they won first place at Startup Weekend. Decided to write a book, and asked people online for nominations of trailblazing women in technology. Tech Mavens was born, at least as an idea: a non-profit organization focused on women doing amazing things in tech. Women dominate on the social web, and own 40% of small businesses, but only 8% of venture-backed firms. Need a set of role models, which is what Tech Mavens can be. Launching the website right now, this second! Take a look to see what the current ideas are.
  • 11:00 a.m. - Larry Wu (SmartCup): Assembling trends into interesting food products. How do I think about product development? Society, Technology, Environment, Economic, Political (STEEP) factors influence behaviour. For example, the trend of humanizing pets leads to pets controlling human behaviour, and yields ideas for food for pets. You can trigger human behaviour around products if you understand what's driving it. Some trends today, for instance: artisan products (food, furniture, housing, etc.), cultural fusion (food and music), fingerprinting (personalization), health monitoring (self treatment using "light," "anti-oxidant," etc.), hyperlife (multitasking everything), memory marketing (retro cool, nostalgia), merit badges (collecting experiences like bungie jumping), ready-set-go (innovation met with convenience). Can you trigger more than one macro-trend with your product or service? Giving people something they don't know they want yet.
  • 11:30 a.m. - Scott Draves (@spot): Artist with a Ph.D. in computer science. Computer art, Electric Sheep screen savers, and beyond. Working on computer art since the '70s, showing us examples from 1991 of "patch-based texture synthesis," available at Flame is an open-source visual language that initially took hours to render one frame with millions of variables, trying to make computers do unpredictable and surprising things: creates organic images, now used by amateurs, professionals, and even filmmakers. Bomb was an interactive visual-musical instrument 1995-2000, using audio and instrument input to create interactive music and visuals. Started commercializing artwork after that, which became Electric Sheep starting in 1999. Abstract animations based on the Flame code, working as a distributed supercomputer with other Electric Sheep users a la SETI@home, votes (yes or no) drive a genetic algorithm that evolves via Darwinian-style selection (adapting to please people), and which can also be edited manually. But bandwidth was a limit on resolution, it was taking too much time to maintain, and flashy-trashy sheep tended to win out over genuinely beautiful ones. Scott has now extracted, improved, and enhanced ones he considers beautiful and is selling them. Over time, his artwork has been getting slower, more like painting than television. Relationships (or mergers) between people and machines, but not necessarily negative ones. What is the source of creativity? It can be collective instead of solitary.
  • 12:00 p.m. - Alex and Scott Mueller: Sorry, missed this one.

The coupon code "Gnomedex" works at Throwboy, ThinkGeek, and Hover for discounts, contest entries, etc.

  • 1:45 p.m. - Tom Nugent (LaserMotive): An invisible extension cord... TO SPACE! People were excited about space in the '60s and '70s: what could you do with lots of people in space? But we need cheap, fast launch capability. Right now it's $5,000-$10,000 per kg into orbit. Does the launch capability or the market for it come first? A chicken-and-egg problem. What about a space elevator? Might happen eventually, but not for some time. The two main problems are (a) strong and flexible materials, and (b) power transmission for propulsion (onboard fuel is extremely inefficient). Microwaves were an early idea, but lasers are more effective, and are becoming more advanced in part because of laser hair removal (no really). First attempt in 2007 for a NASA-sponsored robot cable-climber contest failed—but so did everyone else's attempt. Time for testing and iterating designs is very, very important. In 2009, tried again, naming the climber "Otis" in honour of its elevator heritage. A strange combination of components from off-the-self consumer electronics parts, military supplies, space-grade solar panels, eBay, industrial auction sites, etc. Simulated climbs in the lab using a "cable treadmill," and even cooked hot dogs in the laser beam (which still took 4 minutes, so it's no death ray). And, when the competition came, the climber made it 1000 m and 3.8 m/s: success! Tried again by removing everything they could to reduce weight, but other technical problems and sleep-deprived mistakes prevented it from reaching the second-level prize of 5 m/s. Next round should be in 2011. But there are ways to use power beaming on Earth, and those can even make money: drone aircraft; disaster relief; rocket launches without explosive onboard fuel (inert gases instead) and small redundant systems instead of single massive motors. Eventually, those sci-fi orbital power stations may be feasible.
  • 2:15 p.m. - Todd Welch (The Trust Tour): Thinking about Integrity and Trust: "IT." Integrity is within you, trust between you and someone else. Maybe we should treat the "trust space" between each other as an ecosystem, which needs to be nurtured and maintained, avoiding corruption and pollution. Trust relies on integrity, which means "to be whole." Perhaps lack of trust is the #1 problem of our time—and maybe of all time. So, Todd's 1000-day Trust Tour around the world. Examining trust in business, in medicine, in athletics, in entertainment, in nuclear energy, in the military, in mental health. You don't have to agree with someone to trust them: you just need to know where they stand, and respect each other. Really notice the lies (even the little ones), the corruption, the pollution, and resolve not to be a part of it. Be a filter in that ecosystem, instead of contributing to the mess. Strive to have integrity, to be honest, to be trustworthy. We need to do better.
  • 3:00 p.m. - Willow Brugh (@willowbl00): Transhumanism: the grey area between human and posthuman, the conscious evolution of humanity via technology. I'm very careful about my capitalization because I read a lot of weird poetry as a kid. Not life extension, youth extension. We use all sorts of technologies, from eyeglasses and laser eye surgery to cochlear implants. But what about artificial oxygenation of blood, modafinil to stay awake longer, prosthetics (some DIY) that work better than our natural parts, memory- and productivity-enhancing drugs, magnetic-sensing implants, interactive tattoos, implant hacking? Biology vs. machinery? What can our genomes and brains handle? Will people with more money be more transhuman than others? How does this reflect the way humans have always used tools to change our relationship with our environment? (We die in car crashes because we're not evolved to go that fast and then stop suddenly.) If you're upset that you can't run three miles, then isn't the best approach to go try, not to wish you had robot legs?
  • 3:30 p.m. - Johnny Diggz (@johnnydiggz): Tropo and Geeks Without Borders. (UPDATE: See Pat Luther's comment on this post for how the Geeks Without Borders name has actually been in use by an unrelated organization since 2002. Whoops!) Went through a whole bunch of different communications startups and projects since the early '90s. Geeks Without Borders started with the idea that "Doctors [Without Borders] need to look shit up too." Intended to help people whose survival is threatened by lack of access to technology and communications. Need to create a communications hub that can work with all different methods of transmitting information (landline, mobile, SMS, IM, Skype, Twitter, social media, voicemail, smoke signals...). Also backpack networks: mini hubs in a backpack via satellite or other IP uplink. Applications that work with the hub based on simple development tools to local people can build what they need to on top of it (e.g. "Is there water in the well today so I don't have to walk five miles unnecessarily?"). Launching in some formal way on October 10, 2010 at 10:10 a.m. (10/10/10 at 10:10). Having a "Tinkerstorm" (hackathon) at the Edgewater Hotel next door over 24 hours from 5 p.m. Saturday (tomorrow) till 5 p.m. Sunday.
  • 4:10 p.m. - Darren Barefoot ( Open-source activism. Worked with the tcktcktck initiative trying to get a "fair, ambitious, and binding" climate change agreement in Copenhagen last year. A radically open approach to campaigning (anyone from an individual to Greenpeace could participate, with a simple universal message), quite a contrast to the traditional NGO structure. took the idea and ran with it. Alas, the desired result didn't come about, but the structure turned out to be useful. Roll out the resources and assets and then let them go so the world can create your movement.
  • 4:20 p.m. - Kyle: How social media are affecting the volatility of decision making. After the Challenger shuttle disaster in 1986, Morton Thiokol stock stopped trading after falling within minutes (and years of investigating showed that Thiokol was indeed to blame). After the 2010 Apple iPad launch, reactions are all over the map, with stock prices fluctuating by the second during Steve Jobs's speech. Our decisions have become much more volatile and instantaneous. The VIX "fear index," invented in 1993, has become something people care about in the past five or six years.
  • 4:30 p.m. - Frank: Why is my digital privacy (i.e. my personal information) a marketable commodity? Coca-Cola basically invented marketing in the 20th century. We've always been willing to give up our personal information for free shit. We're always evaluating that tradeoff. There's no way to get free stuff without consequences. Anyone who thought Facebook would be free forever with no personal downside is deluding themselves, for instance. We have cognitive dissonance about that: we want openness, but we want privacy too. Your privacy is a currency. Make sure you're getting your money's worth.
  • 4:35 p.m. - John Donnelly: Geeks have been cool for quite a while, and non-geeks need help to get a clue. I can't read well (dyslexia), I have no website, I'm not good at explaining myself. ("My daughter's calling, hang on. Ig-nore.") For me, Twitter makes people like the collective intelligence of an anthill. Why would geeks want someone with so few geek skills to be part of the anthill? They have skills outside that geek domain. How do we bring them in?
  • 4:45 p.m. - Rob Knop (Seattle Repertory Theatre): "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," April-May 2011. A play about the rise and fall and rise of Steve, with background information from Foxconn, with the agony of our relationship with globalization.
  • 4:50 p.m. - Omni Tech News Crew ( Why kids should be in social media. Kids aren't participating in social media as much as you might expect, but they'll be part of the future of the online world. Kids have fewer of the limitations an inhibitions in their ideas than adults, so they're where some of the best new ideas are going to come from.

And hey, I just won a free night at the Hotel Max! Yay! Looks like Air and I will be coming down to Seattle again sometime soon...

Gnomedex 10 day 1, the morning

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Point-form notes? An attempt at completeness or accuracy? Bah! Here's what I've got, typed up using Elements for iPad. There is also live streaming video at

  • 9:15 a.m. - Brian Solis ( You have the right to post whatever you want to Facebook, Twitter, the Web, whatever. But no one has to give a shit. Just because you can tweet doesn't mean it's automatically interesting. Still, social networks are reducing the distances between people, say from six degrees of separation to four. And they're increasing our Dunbar number from about 150 to several times that number, because each niche has its own context for you. You're in control of your idea of celebrity and relevance and how long you're famous for. Audiences have audiences with audiences. You have a public life, and a private life, and a secret life: which one are you putting online? Influence is not popularity. And women are both the majority and the most influential on social networks. Anyone who says they're a social media expert is fucking lying to you.
  • 9:40 a.m. - Trish Millines Dziko (#trishdex): Public schools need some help. While at Microsoft's high-school outreach, discovered that people of colour and low-income people were not getting access to information technology. The brightest students in the U.S. are still near the bottom worldwide in measures of student achievement, especially in math and science, even though they think they're near the top. 48% of people entering college in Washington need remedial classes. Kids in communities where parents and families can make up for public underfunding do much better. You can have a small class with a crappy teacher in front of it. Those with less education are not only more likely to be incarcerated, more likely to be poor, and so on—they're more likely to die. And each high-school dropout costs $200K in public assistance over a working lifetime. You can't create a new society without a proper education. So what works? Raised expectations, leadership at every level (in school, in class, etc.), measurement, etc. Projects include TechStart, TAF Academy, Teach21, and Community Learning Space. Download "A Right Denied" and devour the data. If kids could vote, we would have a better public education system. Unlike in other countries, the U.S. does not honour teachers, doesn't pay them well and doesn't support them, and as a consequence, those who get teaching degrees are in the bottom 25% of SAT scores. Legislators and public servants have absolutely no backbone, and in some cases have no power to have backbone. Brick walls are most often made of flesh.
  • 10:50 a.m. - Charles Brennick ( Reusing old computers around the world. In South America, 8% of people have home computer access, 1% in Africa. But they still want access to the communication, education, job skills, support, health information, news, and entertainment that computers provide. 14 million PCs discarded every year, and at least half can be reused. InterConnection has a facility in Seattle that refurbishes PCs (wiping or destroying the hard drive for data security), training people in the process and getting them free computers, and recycles ones that can't be reused. Distribution of refurbished machines throughout the world, focused on South America and Africa—and recipients are checked to see that they have power and Internet to make the machines useful. Computer donations can be made by mail (primarily laptops), by U.S. nationwide pickup (mostly corporate or enough to fit on a pallet), local drop-off in Seattle. Starting to get into smartphones too, partnered with Datadyne for software: much more promising in areas with little electricity or connectivity. Contest for an Xbox Kinect: send business leads to or donate a PC. Older computers like 286 and 486 machines are worth more for recycling because they have more metal in them (gold!).
  • 11:20 a.m. - Austin Heap (@austinheap): Censorship Research Center. Recently helping Iranians access the rest of the world. There are cycles of how information flows around, out of, and into countries with repressive regimes. Text, email, phone cams, YouTube, mainstream media, rebroadcast via pirate radio, and now Twitter. But Twitter isn't going to overthrow a government. The tools don't matter, it's the people that matter. Still, tweets managed to find free flights, contacts at the UN, a big law firm to work pro bono, and even a leaked document showing how Iran's entire filtering system worked—so it's insanely valuable. Haystack is a tool to bypass that filtering, which encrypts data and then obfuscates it to make it looks like Iranians are visiting innocuous websites. But making it available contravened U.S. sanctions against Iran! Unfortunately, the ragtag team that went to Washington, D.C. was naive (and sometimes dumb and inappropriate) when dealing with legislators and regulators. Eventually became the first-ever U.S. organization licensed to export anti-censorship software to Iran, and hopefully soon elsewhere. That happened fast by D.C. standards, but that's still very slow in real-world terms. Iran is 70 million people who are exactly like us: now have made a film for HBO about Neda Agha-Soltan, including 15 hours of interview footage with her family, who were willing to take that risk. Made it available online in various languages and formats (including 3GP for phones), and even illegally broadcast via satellite into Iran—which seems to have prompted a power shutdown in Tehran. Online piracy sites also re-ripped the DVD format for distribution, even though it was already available as a torrent from the legit site. 35% of the Internet is under some form of government restriction, so this is not a problem that's going away or getting better.

Happy anniversary from afar

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One big clubhouseToday, August 19, my wife Air and I celebrate our 15th anniversary, but I'm in Seattle for Gnomedex (we had dinner and a movie last night). I'm pretty sure it's the first time we haven't been at home or travelling together on our anniversary.

So to my wonderful wife, I toast a margarita, on the rocks, from afar in the bar of the Pan Pacific Seattle. Mwah.

P.S. I ate a bit of a clubhouse sandwich too, as you can see.

Green and orange

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Grand Canyon & Painted DesertMost likely, I love the American Southwest for a simple reason: while not especially far away, it is so unlike the Pacific Northwest where I've grown up and lived my whole life. That, and it was the setting for the Road Runner and Coyote cartoons I loved watching with my dad as a kid. (Bonus: they're making new ones.)

Here around Vancouver we have magnificent trees in lush forests, towering mountains, beautiful oceans, snow and glaciers, sun and rain and a distinctive kind of slanted sunlight that helps those in the know identify movies and TV shows that are filmed here. We are a wet and green place.

In contrast, much of eastern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and Nevada is dry and orange. (Colorado and Wyoming are sometimes included too, though look at a map and they're not very south and not especially west in the U.S.A.) There are canyons, hoodoos, pueblo architecture, sagebrush, cactuses, and often relentless heat. I've travelled through much of that area, including the Colorado River a mile below me, Santa Fe, Meteor Crater, Zion National Park, Las Vegas, Carlsbad Caverns, and El Paso (which was, to be honest, a pit). I even saw a Space Shuttle land on the dry lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base near the wonderfully-named town of Boron, California.

When I think about that vast dry Southwest, I remember dust devils swirling across the Interstates; watching "Beavis and Butt-Head" on MTV for the first time in a motel on Route 66; the Hungry American Texas Pit Bar-B-Que in Roswell, New Mexico; a squirrel stealing food during my lunch break hiking part-way into the Grand Canyon; saguaro cactuses growing around the University of Arizona the way Douglas firs grow here; a rainbow made up only of reds, oranges, yellows, and browns in the sediments of mesas and escarpments; and the blast of hot air when opening the door to get out of an air-conditioned station wagon at each fuel-and-snack stop.

Of course it also evokes images of cowboys and miners, freight trains and wagon trains, nuclear tests and UFO sightings, the Navajo and Hopi and Zuni and the extinct Spanish Empire. It is both a new and modern place and an ancient one, sculpted by wind and heat and sand and eroding rivers in a different way than our Northwest landscape carved by the Ice Age, rainstorms, our own big rivers, and vegetation.

The last Gnomedex?

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ChairsSince 2005, I've been going to (or at least involved with) Chris Pirillo's annual Gnomedex conference in Seattle. A couple of weeks from now will be Gnomedex 10, and from the sounds of it, that will be the last one.

I hadn't planned on attending this year: it's been a busy summer, and my wife Air and I didn't quite have the budget to go. (Plus the first night falls on our 15th anniversary.) But now, hearing that this pioneering leading-edge nerd-fest might soon be over, and being on a break from chemotherapy, I'm seriously considering booking a last-minute ticket for myself and driving down for that weekend—like last year, Air and I can celebrate our anniversary a day early, perhaps.

It's hard to describe what gives Gnomedex its mojo: while it is irredeemably geeky, and often covers trends in technology and society before they hit the mainstream, it's neither a dry technical meeting nor a science-fiction con. In a way, it's like an annual online-community family reunion, except all you need to do to join the family is show up. I've made lots of friends and deepened other friendships there. It's where I finally understood podcasting, jammed with one of the Presidents of the United States of America the same night I saw an original Monet "Water Lilies" painting, and stared in awe at a photo of the Earth from the surface of Mars while listening to a talk by one of the people who helped take the picture.

With luck, I'll get myself together enough to go, and see Gnomedex out in style. If this is the final one—which will be a pity—it will still have outlasted its (satirical) namesake COMDEX by seven years.

Mellow, with smoke

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I'm up in Whistler for a few days. Don't think I'll be writing much when there's a pool to hang out next to:


It's sunny and very warm (28°C) here. The weather also includes the risk of a few light showers and, unfortunately, lightning strikes, which might trigger more forest fires in the area. Whistler itself is so far largely unaffected, except for some haze from the Jade Mountain fire not all that far away. A large firefighting helicopter flew over about an hour ago on the way there.

Thanks to my aunt and uncle Christine and Norbert for use of their condo while we're here. It's become a rather nice tradition—although this time my wife Air stayed in Vancouver with our dog Lucy, and our friend Leesa from Australia has joined us to visit this resort town, which happens to be chock full of Australians all the time anyway.

Flying at 1000 mph

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After yesterday's big bummer post, let's go back to something lighter and more fun. During our flight home from L.A. on Monday, I took a couple of videos using my Nikon D90 SLR, one on takeoff and one on landing. Now I've combined them and sped them up eight times:

The apparent speed of the plane in the video (our WestJet Boeing 737-700) is more than 1000 mph, which is why the landing seems a little rough. The sounds are sped up too, so the squeaky noises on takeoff comprise the flight attendant's announcements. Both parts of the flight are looking north from row 5.

Eight days of photos

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I've now posted a complete set of photos from our trip to Southern California last week:

Disneyland day 1 - Miller girls on plane Disneyland day 1 - Derek on plane Disneyland day 1 - WestJet Disneyland day 1 - volcanoes Disneyland day 1 - Crater Lake Disneyland day 1 - fields
Disneyland day 1 - staying occupied Disneyland day 1 - irrigation Disneyland day 1 - Lolo and Dad Disneyland day 1 - Bunny Disneyland day 1 - Marina Miller Disneyland day 1 - LAX bus stop
Disneyland day 1 - The sprinkler Disneyland day 1 - Highway Disneyland day 1 - Sleepy Lolo Disneyland day 1 - Marina and Derek at Bubba Gump's Disneyland day 1 - Air and Lolo at Bubba Gump's Disneyland day 1 - Flashy glasses
Disneyland day 1 - Lolo in the A Disneyland day 1 - Girls on the L Disneyland day 1 - Mulholland Madness Disneyland day 1 - Evil Lotso Disneyland day 1 - Air on the barfy Ferris wheel Disneyland day 1 - Air and Lolo and the evil wheel
Disneyland day 1 - Sugar insanity Disneyland day 1 - Bug flyer Disneyland day 1 - Lady bug spinner Disneyland day 1 - That's it Disneyland day 1 - Professional sprinkler dancers Disneyland day 1 - Bridezilla
Disneyland day 1 - Award Wieners Disneyland day 1 - Muppet Beatle boots trunk Disneyland day 1 - 3D family Disneyland day 1 - Dinner at dusk Disneyland day 1 - Sundown Disneyland day 2 - Castle Inn
Disneyland day 2 - Shuttle buses Disneyland day 2 - Air and Lolo Disneyland day 2 - Pirates Disneyland day 2 - Who did it? Disneyland day 2 - On the train Disneyland day 2 - Fan time
Disneyland day 2 - Conductor Disneyland day 2 - Pleiosaurs Disneyland day 2 - Triceratops Disneyland day 2 - Train seats Disneyland day 2 - No boogie allowed Disneyland day 2 - Heavyweight
Disneyland day 2 - Bend the bars Disneyland day 2 - Hat sew 1 Disneyland day 2 - Hat sew 2 Disneyland day 2 - New hats 1 Disneyland day 2 - New hats 2 Disneyland day 2 - Fire 1
Disneyland day 2 - Fire 2 Disneyland day 2 - Space Mountain Disneyland day 2 - Autopia driver Disneyland day 2 - Hi Mom Disneyland day 2 - Hi Lolo Disneyland day 2 - Main Street
Disneyland day 2 - Matterhorn Disneyland day 2 - Bubbles 2 Disneyland day 2 - Wet grizzly run 1 Disneyland day 2 - Wet grizzly run 2 Disneyland day 2 - Wet grizzly run 3 Disneyland day 2 - Wet grizzly run 4
Disneyland day 2 - Wet grizzly run 5 Disneyland day 2 - Wet grizzly run 6 Disneyland day 2 - Wet grizzly run 7 Disneyland day 2 - Wet grizzly run 8 Disneyland day 2 - Stormtroopers Disneyland day 2 - Potato Head parts
Disneyland day 2 - Darth Tater Disneyland day 2 - Lolo and N Disneyland day 2 - Lego Darth Disneyland day 2 - Marina and Lego Disneyland day 2 - Lego concentration Disneyland day 2 - Unclear on the concept
Disneyland day 2 - Lego construction Disneyland day 2 - Pirate in the pool Disneyland day 2 - Floor plan Disneyland day 2 - New bears Disneyland day 2 - Rainforest Cafe Disneyland day 2 - Fish and chips
Disneyland day 3 - California Screamin' Disneyland day 3 - New toys Disneyland day 3 - The puker (a re-enactment) Disneyland day 3 - Ferris wheel view Disneyland day 3 - Mouse ears Disneyland day 3 - On the rocket 1
Disneyland day 3 - On the rocket 2 Disneyland day 3 - On the rocket 3 Disneyland day 3 - On the rocket 4 Disneyland day 3 - Caught Disneyland day 3 - Marina is a record catch Disneyland day 3 - Lolo is also a record catch
Disneyland day 3 - Space Mountain load in Disneyland day 3 - Space Mountain Disneyland day 3 - Marina drives Disneyland day 3 - Marina turns Disneyland day 3 - Air's the passenger Disneyland day 3 - Lolo drives
Disneyland day 3 - Big Thunder Mountain Disneyland day 3 - Big Thunder arrives Disneyland day 3 - Holy rollers at the gate San Diego - Surfers at La Jolla San Diego - M and L at La Jolla San Diego - Just Air and me
San Diego - Derek and Air San Diego - Surf or swim San Diego - Scripps pier San Diego - Lifeguard hut San Diego - Aquarium van San Diego - View of downtown La Jolla
San Diego - Palm trees San Diego - Mom at the beach San Diego - Marina and palms San Diego - Margarete and the rabbit San Diego - Yard bunny San Diego - Zoo map
San Diego - Marina and parrot San Diego - It's 24 years old San Diego - Peccary San Diego - Balboa Park tower San Diego - Lioness thinks we look tasty San Diego - Lazy lioness
San Diego - He's got a mane San Diego - The big guy San Diego - Getting food San Diego - Llama San Diego - California condor San Diego - Meerkat sentry
San Diego - Hyena San Diego - Wallabies San Diego - Sleepy grizzlies San Diego - Giraffe San Diego - Giraffe chews cud San Diego - Marina gorilla
San Diego - Marina koala San Diego - Funky skull San Diego - Duck and ducklings San Diego - Balboa tower, dome, jet San Diego - Mini-deer San Diego - Resting
San Diego - More peccary San Diego - Hi there gazelle San Diego - Gazelles and tower San Diego - Kudu San Diego - Lolo reads a book San Diego - Ride the polar bear
San Diego - Snoozing polar bear 1 San Diego - Snoozing polar bear 2 San Diego - Marina's helicopter San Diego - Lauren's helicopter San Diego - Marina bear San Diego - Marina in pith helmet
San Diego - Civilized zoos sell beer San Diego - Riding the American lion San Diego - Marina and mammoth San Diego - Underfoot San Diego - Air and elephants San Diego - Girls with tusks
San Diego - Ouch San Diego - Meet the sabre-tooth cat San Diego - Marina rides a cat San Diego - Food toy San Diego - Lolo face San Diego - Marina face
San Diego - Trucking for food San Diego - By the bars San Diego - Giant raptor and Lolo San Diego - Giant raptor and Marina San Diego - The elephant wall San Diego - One to stay one to go
San Diego - Lolo and elephant San Diego - High steppers San Diego - Camel San Diego - Two elephants and Marina San Diego - California condors San Diego - Wingspan
San Diego - Elephant sculpture San Diego - Atop the bus San Diego - Rhinoceros San Diego - Crazy bus party San Diego - Lolo on the bus San Diego - Whee
San Diego - Flamingo San Diego - S curve San Diego - Wild hog San Diego - Hungry panda San Diego - Ready to eat San Diego - Munch
San Diego - Aboard the escalator San Diego - Sleepy Lolo San Diego - Fast divorce San Diego - Les girls nude San Diego - In-N-Out Burger San Diego - In-N-Out interior
San Diego - Double double combo San Diego - Millers and Sandstedes San Diego - Triple open San Diego - Freshly opened blooms San Diego - Leaves San Diego - Garden decorations
San Diego - Hedge and flowers San Diego - Sunny blossoms San Diego - Dove San Diego - Bike San Diego - Grownups talking San Diego - Blue blossoms
San Diego - Glow disc closeup San Diego - Siesta San Diego - Giant blossom closeup San Diego - Mom's coat Relax day - rental Sentra Relax day - Lolo at Original Pancake House
Relax day - Wading pool 1 Relax day - Wading pool 2 Relax day - Wading pool 3 Relax day - It's a secret Relax day - It's a secret, don't tell! Relax day - Sisters in the big pool
Disneyland day 2 - Castle Inn panorama Disneyland day 4 - California Screamin' Disneyland day 4 - View from the Jellyfish Disneyland day 4 - Marina and Lolo on the Jellyfish Disneyland day 4 - Swingin' Symphony Disneyland day 4 - Around
Disneyland day 4 - And around Disneyland day 4 - And around again Disneyland day 4 - Splash Mountain Disneyland day 4 - Space Mountain Disneyland day 4 - Secret passageway Disneyland day 4 - Behind the scenes
Disneyland day 4 - Paradise Pier Disneyland day 4 - Mickey Disneyland day 4 - Zephyr lights 1 Disneyland day 4 - Zephyr lights 2 Disneyland day 4 - Zephyr lights 3 Disneyland day 4 - California Screamin' and Maliboomer
Disneyland day 4 - World of Color 1 Disneyland day 4 - World of Color 2 Disneyland day 4 - World of Color 3 Disneyland day 4 - World of Color 4 Disneyland day 4 - World of Color 5 Disneyland day 4 - World of Color 6
Disneyland day 4 - World of Color 7 Disneyland day 4 - World of Color 8 Disneyland day 4 - World of Color 9 Disneyland day 4 - World of Color 10 Disneyland day 4 - World of Color 11 Disneyland day 4 - World of Color 12
Disneyland day 4 - World of Color 13 Disneyland day 4 - World of Color 14 Disneyland day 4 - World of Color 15 Disneyland day 5 - Paradise Pier Disneyland day 5 - California Screamin' Disneyland day 5 - Screamin' faces
Disneyland day 5 - Speakers everywhere Disneyland day 5 - Tower of Terror boiler Disneyland day 5 - Tower of Terror basement Disneyland day 5 - Tower of Terror outside view Disneyland day 5 - Tower of Terror crowd shot Disneyland day 5 - Crazy snacks
Disneyland day 5 - Indiana Jones line Disneyland day 5 - Splash Mountain Disneyland day 5 - Big Thunder Mountain fossil Disneyland day 5 - Teacup Disneyland day 5 - Autopia Disneyland day 5 - Monorail
Disneyland day 5 - Submarine 1 Disneyland day 5 - Submarine 2 Disneyland day 5 - Space Mountain Disneyland day 5 - Aboard the Monorail Disneyland day 5 - Lolo and Air discuss photography Disneyland day 5 - Lolo pose
Disneyland day 5 - Lolo and Air Disneyland day 5 - L and L mugs Disneyland day 5 - Lolo and Lego Disneyland day 5 - Lego Woody Disneyland day 5 - Lego Star Wars characters Disneyland day 5 - Lego Death Star
Disneyland day 5 - Lego Darth Disneyland day 5 - Lego Architecture Disneyland day 5 - Lego Fallingwater Disneyland day 5 - Lego giraffe Disneyland day 5 - Monorail arrives Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 1
Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 2 Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 3 Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 4 Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 5 Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 6 Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 7
Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 8 Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 9 Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 10 Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 11 Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 12 Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 13
Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 14 Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 15 Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 16 Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 17 Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 18 Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 19
Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 20 Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 21 Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 22 Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 23 Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 24 Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 25
Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 26 Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 27 Disneyland day 5 - Fireworks 28 Anaheim - Statues Anaheim - New shoes Anaheim - Bowling at 300 - 1
Anaheim - Bowling at 300 - 2 Anaheim - Bowling at 300 - 3 Anaheim - Bowling at 300 - 4 Anaheim - Bowling at 300 - 5 Anaheim - Bowling at 300 - 6 LAX to YVR - Never meant to fly
LAX to YVR - Our WestJet 737 LAX to YVR - Marina at charging station LAX to YVR - At gate 22 LAX to YVR - Refuel LAX to YVR - Waiting at the gate LAX to YVR - Ground crew dude
LAX to YVR - Southwest over In-N-Out LAX to YVR - Virgin Airbus LAX to YVR - TACA Air France Aeromexico LAX to YVR - Southwest posse LAX to YVR - Shoreline at takeoff LAX to YVR - Jet over Los Angeles
LAX to YVR - Shore and mountains LAX to YVR - At the seaside below LAX to YVR - Smog and sprawl LAX to YVR - Arid hills LAX to YVR - Hilltop LAX to YVR - Dam number 1
LAX to YVR - Dam number 2 LAX to YVR - San Andreas Fault LAX to YVR - Erosion LAX to YVR - Farms and foothills LAX to YVR - Forest fire LAX to YVR - Another Southwest jet
LAX to YVR - Lolo and Potato Head LAX to YVR - Potato Head in new garb LAX to YVR - Moonrise LAX to YVR - Moon and wing LAX to YVR - Mount Adams 1 LAX to YVR - Mount Adams 2
LAX to YVR - Mount Adams 3 LAX to YVR - Mount Rainier 1 LAX to YVR - Mount Rainier 2 LAX to YVR - Mount Baker and Bellingham suburbs LAX to YVR - New Westminster
LAX to YVR - Burnaby LAX to YVR - Vancouver and Grouse Mountain lights LAX to YVR - Vancouver-Burnaby border

In addition to pictures from Disneyland, the San Diego Zoo, and elsewhere in the vicinity, I got some nice shots yesterday from the plane home.