Saturday, June 28, 2008

Trail's End - Literally

Turns out that the hike we did a couple of months back in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park was smack in the path of the large wildfire burning south of Big Sur. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the fire has closed the cove, burned right up to the Ventana Inn and torched the hillside across from the Nepenthe. There's now also a risk that this fire will link up with the Indian fire burning to the south. Combined, these blazes would span 68,500 acres, itself a sizeable percentage of the over 300,000 acres burned or burning in California over the past few weeks, caused in the large part by dry lightening strikes last weekend.

Thanks to all the associated smoke, air quality has been very poor over the past week or so but for us at least the strengthening breeze off the ocean is starting to clear things out. The only consolation has been some beautiful sunrises and sunsets thanks to all the smoke/fog/smog in the air, especially first thing in the morning.

There's supposed to be a risk of more electrical storms this weekend so we may yet still have even more to contend with. Fire-fighting resources are completely overwhelmed even with help from the National Guard. Oh, and in some places in the state they are still selling fireworks for the upcoming July 4th celebrations, which of course makes perfect sense ....

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Music Of Jah People

Yup, J&S are exodus'ing off to Africa. We'll be there for 10 days in July primarily to shoot animals, but you can all rest assured that we'll be employing digital bullets only, fired from a Canon EOS!

We are very much looking forward to being there but not at all to the journey, which involves flying from SFO to LHR to Nairobi to Kilimanjaro just to get this all kicked off. Thanks to a BA schedule change, just travelling there will span three days.

In browsing some of the hotels we'll be staying at I was surprised to see mention in at least one of them that Internet access was advertised, so hopefully I'll be able to post at least a note or two while we are gone. Frankly, I do have to remain skeptical until I see for myself whether or not it actually works when we get there, but at least it holds out promise.

In anticipation of some great photo opportunities - I mean, they arrange for the animals to be delivered and posed ready for snap-happy tourists, right? - I'm renting a Canon EOS 1d Mark III for the trip. Whilst I couldn't justify dropping the required $4k in order to buy one, I could however just about convince myself that $600 for three weeks rental was acceptable, so I went ahead and made the booking. Will let you know how it turns out and what the learning curve is like.

To be going on with, therefore, you can all amuse yourselves by trying to figure out where Tanzania is on the above map. I failed miserably you'll be unsurprised to hear!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Opening Doors

Masonic Door Handles, Stockholm

While in Stockholm I had a couple of hours free so I took off round the old town on Gamla Stan. Going past a large church (the name of which now completely escapes me) I found these masonic-motif handles.

They say being a member of the Masons helps open doors but I don't think this is quite what was meant ....

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Nice Cup Of Tea

Chinese Workers Memorial, Murphy's, CA

Even in the U.K., getting home to a nice cup of tea is something to be appreciated. Getting a good tea flavour is very sensitive to the water used, its temperature, length of steeping and, of course, the kind of leaf. This all means that the maxim "there's no place like home" goes double when it's paired with a decent cuppa.

Alas, when travelling here in the USA you can basically forget it anywhere except at home. Time and time again, in hotels the notion of "hot tea" is something completely alien to all those involved. The water delivered to your table is anything but hot - and most certainly not boiling as it needs to be - and likely as not is served in a jug that's held coffee on 99 out of 100 previous occasions. When I first moved here I tried pointing this out, only to be met with a blank stare, a shrug or a "never thought of that" response. Sigh.

Given the long history of Asian influences in the Bay Area I had rather hoped that hotels round here would have figured this all out, but alas not. Peet's, Starbuck's etc. seem to do OK but then given what they charge one might hope so.

Therefore, I've basically given up, closing my eyes and drinking anyway whatever is dumped in front of me. On the plus side, at least it gives me something else to look forward to about getting home.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Fire #3: Watsonville

Once again, another fire was clearly visible as I drove home, and once again people we know are impacted. The Trabing fire started just north of Highway 1 right by Watsonville airport, and immediately homes in the area were being evacuated. Fortunately, there is little or no wind blowing, but as I drove home temperatures outside showing on my car thermometer hit 112 degrees. Reports say it's currently 93 degrees where the fire is but that humidity is a desert-like 12%, a figure which makes fire-fighting even more difficult.

TV pictures are showing homes and other structures have already burned and unfortunately this area is more densely populated than was the case in the other two. Our friend had to organise to have his dog evacuated because roads round there were closed as he tried to get home.

I've certainly not seen anything like this in the 10 years we've lived here and sounds like no one else has either. As posted before, it's going to be a long, long summer ....

Back To It

After what feels like an age but really was just 10 days, I finally made it back home to the Bay Area. And once again it's hot here, something that I got at least somewhat acclimatised to in Orlando where I stopped off to attend a trade show enroute back from Europe.

Flying into the airport there the pilot had to take a very circuitous route in order to make it in under and around a very large storm cell. Thankfully, we landed ahead of the weather but while taxiing to the gate you could see the rain sweeping-in across the airport boundary. Alas, it made it to the plane before we made it to the terminal. The heavens opened and and lightning started to crackle.

Doubtless in a sop to good Floridian labour relations, the airport doesn't allow ground workers out on the apron while lightening is striking the ground within five miles of the airport, so as a consequence of this rule we were stuck within, er, striking distance of the gate for close to an hour while the weather crossed over. The rain was extremely impressive (the news later reported rates in excess of 4" per hour) and there were some very obvious and very large strikes hitting all around us. All aircraft ground movement was shut down as visibilitydropped to almost zero at times under the barrage of rain and wind buffeting the airfield.

When all was said and done, I didn't in fact mind the wait too much as I had plenty of time before my first meeting, and in California we mostly miss out on light shows like the one the whole plane was treated to Monday afternoon. However, I was glad to be safe inside in the dry, and subsequently I was very glad to be heading away from the humidity of Florida on Thursday morning and back to the equally hot-but-much-drier-climes of San Jose.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Pioneer Spirit

As I mentioned, we were off at a family reunion last weekend that took place close to Murphy's in the Gold Country in California. On the side of one of the downtown buildings is a collection of ceramic plaques commemorating significant people, places or things tied to the founding and development of this area during the gold rush.

The particular man shown here commemorated in this way was Jedediah Strong Smith, and I quote:

"A great mountain man and trail blazer. He was the first white man to cross the Sierra Nevada range. In 1827 he and his men trapped in the general Mother Lode area - along Lone Tree Creek, the Calaveras, the Mokelumne and the Consumnes Rivers."

Hard now to imagine what that must have really been like ... except that there remain great areas of wilderness up there, and every year hikers get lost, and sometimes perish still, out in these mountains. To therefore have been the first non-Native American to cross the Sierras from the East, to have survived that ordeal and indeed to have flourished once reaching the other side is a truly impressive feat. Never was a man better labelled than to be given the middle name of Strong.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Martin Fire

The Martin Fire Taken From Our Back Deck

Sorry to state the obvious, but it's going to be a long and difficult fire season this year. Got a message from home that another fire has started in our area, this time over towards the ocean. As you can see, this incident is even closer and more visible to us than the last and although is smaller (so far) it nevertheless threatens more homes.

Cal Fire seems to have marshalled resources very quickly to get on top of this one but once again strong winds are making early containment difficult. No word on the cause but you have to believe it's either the carelessness or stupidity of one individual that's to blame.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Completely Snowed

As foreshadowed a couple of weeks ago, things are ridiculously busy and so available cycles to post stuff have become increasingly hard to come by. Not that I don't love you all dearly, because I do, but something has to give.

I'm on the road today through Thursday week, starting off in Europe and returning home via Florida for a tradeshow and customer meetings. Will post where and when I can. I have a couple of things to put up from the weekend so there's stuff to do, it's all a matter of time.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Worst. Internet. CEO. Ever?

According to Silicon Valley Insider, that title is held by Terry Semel and was earned when sitting in the big chair at Yahoo! They give some robust arguments as to why, all of which are hard to rebut, especially so when viewed with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight (but then let's face it, most arguments are!)

Harsh? Perhaps, but when catalogued like that it does seem to be a remarkable string of missed opportunities and blown chances. Along the way they seem to have been offered gifts galore, including the right to buy Google for $3bn, the spurning of which is surely a gaff that is right up there with deciding to pass on being the 5th Beatle.

The next page in this saga will get written on 1st August when the shareholders meeting is set to take place. Documents came to light this week that show Yang tried to create a poison-pill defence that would have caused all outstanding options to immediately vest on acquisition - the so called "double trigger" - that would not only have added $1.5bn to the price but also meant that there would be zero incentive for any employee to hang around post close. Icahn is using this as clear evidence that there was never any "good faith" discussion around the Microsoft offer, further sharpening his case for the removal of the board.

You can't make up stuff this good.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Chimney Of Light

Chimney Of Light, Antelope Canyon

Had a few hours spare yesterday evening so did some more processing of shots from the Antelope Canyon trip. This is a 5-frame HDR shot. Not 100% sure it's quite there yet as I'm still figuring out how to best process these things. Definitely an interesting approach in the right situation though.