Riding the Segway

While visiting with Darlene’s family in Wisconsin/Minnesota, we went for a Segway ride and tour in La Crosse this past Sunday with Shel, Dan, Kathy and Shelly.  It was my first time trying one and it was a lot of fun.  The handling is very intuitive and responsive – to the point of being a little addictive!  If you have yet to try one, look for a tour or rental in your area (like La Crosse Segway Tours) – it’s definitely worth it!

Click through for the full gallery of pics and video:

  

A short, 75-second video montage from our Segway ride in La Crosse, WI.

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“Have you played Atari today?”

A little while ago, after reading “Ready Player One” again (Spielberg is making a movie!) and after seeing a couple of tech talks by old Atari game programmers, I was lamenting that I sold my old Atari VCS so many years ago.  Well, Darlene jumped on this comment, found a bundle someone was selling on eBay and surprised me with an early birthday gift.  Yup, an old Atari VCS/2600 (four switch version), a set of controllers and a bundle of game cartridges. Sweet!  (I think my brother and I actually had the six-switch, Sears-rebranded version, but still very cool!) Thanks, Darlene!

I immediately had to go fill out the set of 40 cartridges with a couple of other games I remember us playing a lot.  Of course then was the challenge of hooking it up: the Atari outputs an analog RF TV signal… on an RCA-plug cable.  Okay, can use an adapter to go RCA to coax-TV cable but tough to find any analog TV tuners these days except in old TV’s and VCR’s.  But then, rather than pulling a VCR out of a box in a closet, I hooked it up via my old USB EyeTV tuner/video converter to my MacBook – success!

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Yeah, you can play any of these games via emulation on a modern computer, or even a smartphone/iPad, but there’s something very different about jamming the physical cartridge into the old physical console and handling that classic Atari joystick.  (And having to use cotton swabs and alcohol to clean the contacts on all of the Activision cartridges to get them to work again!)

It’s been fun to pick these up and rediscover old visual/procedural memories, like the admittedly-simple path through the Adventure maze.  Some titles are only vaguely familiar until you plug them in and see the game again and then go “aha!!”

So… to paraphrase Atari’s old marketing… have you played your Atari today?

to_be_continued

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Bay to Breakers

Darlene’s hometown friends, Vicky and Diane, joined us this weekend to participate in San Francisco’s “Bay to Breakers” run and craziness, plus a little sightseeing….

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Into the Ventana Wilderness

Pictures from a four-day backpacking trip last week with Darlene, Laura and Rachel into the Ventana Wilderness, south of Big Sur and below Cone Peak – click through for the full gallery:

  

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Wait But Why

I haven’t posted an external link in a while but this is a great recent find I wanted to share: Wait But Why.  Tim Urban puts together some really brilliant, fascinating and in-depth posts about a myriad of topics.  I stumbled on it by way of his amusing post about his unexpected call from (and subsequent visit/tour/lunch with) Elon Musk (“The World’s Raddest Man“).  I later found myself up late, still caught up in his fascinating, two-part exploration of the current state (and potential, future existential threat) of artificial intelligence.

There’s an archive of posts to explore and upon subscribing for updates, you’ll receive an enticing list of popular articles to sink your time into, including these on “Science, Philosophy, Space and Anything Mind-Blowing”:

The Fermi Paradox – “The mind-twisting discussion of whether alien life exists and why we’ve never seen evidence of any. The post I get the second-most emails about.”

The AI Revolution – “A long, two-part post that took me six weeks to do—a full overview of what everyone’s been talking about with AI and the reasons I believe this is the most important topic in the world right now.”

Putting Time in Perspective – “An infographic that starts with today and works its way backwards, in increasingly large time increments, all the way to the Big Bang. Good way to put all of history in perspective.”

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Birthday in Banff

For Darlene’s birthday last week, I took her on a ski trip to a surprise destination: Banff, in the Canadian Rockies!  We stayed for five nights and skied at Sunshine Village and Lake Louise. We also spent a little time exploring the national park: hiking in Johnston Canyon to see the ice falls, up to Lake Louise to walk out on the mostly frozen lake and out to Lake Minnewanka.  We were super lucky to decide to go revisit Lake Minnewanka after dinner on our first night because not only were the skies clear but the aurora borealis made a pretty good showing that night.  It also happened to be the first time either of us had ever seen an aurora in person!

Aurora Borealis over Lake Minnewanka, near Banff, Canada.

Click through to see the full gallery and video montage:

  

Short video montage of our trip.

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Colorado Ski Week

Pictures and videos from a week of skiing (and tabletop gaming) in Colorado at Breckenridge, Vail and Keystone with Jon, Bill, Stan, Rick, Jim, Lewis and Tom:

  

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A Kayaking Initiation

Darlene invited her cousins, Travis and Dylan, to join us for their first kayaking adventure and we took them down to the Elkhorn Slough today.  It was a pretty windy day – lots of extra paddling required but they got to see lots of sea otters, sea lions, brown pelicans, white pelicans, cormorants, canadian geese, snowy egrets, blue herons, godwits and curlews.

Click through for the gallery of pictures and videos:

 

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Return to Kauai

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Darlene and I just spent twelve days in Kauai, my favorite of the Hawaiian Islands.  There’s just so much to do and explore there – you can never have enough time! Twelve days was still not enough for everything we wanted to do. I last visited Kauai about eleven years ago on an REI Adventures trip.  And, as I found with the extra days after my REI trip last time, I highly recommend Andrew Doughty’s The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook to making the most of your time in Kauai.

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We stayed four nights in the southwest, in Waimea, and did a bunch of hiking in Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Park. Our first full day was along the Awa’awapuhi Trail – out and back only as the Cliff Trail is currently closed due to cliffside collapses.  Another day was the Pihea Trail through the Alaka’i Swamp to the wonderful Kilohana lookout and another day for the Cliff Trail to the top of the Waipo’o Falls.  Every trail was more than the usual adventure (and slow-going) due to all the clay, mud and severe trail erosion, particularly along the Pihea Trail.  Finally, we also explored a little bit in the south near Po’ipu along the beaches and cliffs.

We found ourselves getting a late start on seemingly every day-long excursion so that we were always the last ones out of a given location, which was pretty cool for feeling like we had the place to ourselves and getting pictures without anyone else present.

Our next four nights were at a rented condo in Princeville, overlooking the ocean and we were thrilled to be able to watch the lengthy parade of humpback whales blow and breach right from our lanai.  The super dark night skies here were also fantastic for star watching.  From here, we visited the Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge, hiked the Kalalau Trail through the start of the Na Pali Coast to Hanakapi’ai Falls, checked out a couple of the wet and dry sea caves (including swimming into the “blue room”), watched the winter storms pound the coast around Hanalei Bay and at the “Queen’s Bath” and kayaked one evening up the Hanalei River. (And unexpectedly met Josh, my guide from my previous Kauai trip eleven years ago, who now owns a kayak rental/tour outfit of his own in Hanalei: Napali Kayak Tours.)

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Our last four nights were spent at a hotel on the east side in Wailua.  From here, we rented kayaks and paddled up the Wailua River and then hiked the remainder to “Secret Falls”.  (This is a very popular and well-known kayak/hike outing.  They’re anything but secret!)  We also visited Wailua Falls and hiked our way down one of the very unofficial trails to swim in the large pool of the falls. Another long day was spent trying to hike into the center of the island and the crater of Waialeale.  Once again there’s no real dedicated trail: it’s more about repeatedly finding and following and re-finding hunters’ trails to make your way as far as you can.  And of course we encountered plenty of mud along the way! We got further than I managed the last time I was here, despite having to hike the road a couple of miles due to fallen trees blocking our rented vehicle.

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We made a few attempts over the trip to get in some snorkeling from various beaches but were repeatedly thwarted by high surf conditions due to the winter storms and/or too-shallow sheltered waters in low tides.  We finally squeezed in a little snorkeling at Lydgate Park by ignoring the protected but shallow fish-feeding/snorkeling pool and swimming out what seemed like nearly a half-mile on a relatively calm evening.  (We had to go that far out to just get like a dozen feet of depth and find some fish.)  On some future trip I still want to set aside a few days to go out on a boat for scuba diving.  We ended our trip like my first one with a spectacular helicopter tour around the island.

Click through for the full gallery or below for a video montage from the trip:

(5-minute video, 71 MB download)

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We’re Flying on Air!

As an almost-surprise gift this year, Darlene signed us up for a pair of “flights” at the indoor “skydiving” facility iFly in Union City, CA.  Glenn and Michele came down from Portland for the weekend to give it a try with us along with several friends in the area: Martha, Dave, and Greg as well as Darlene’s 79-year old aunt Betty and her two young charges, Travis and Dillon.

After a bit of instruction on how to hold your body, we each got two one-minute “flights” in the vertical wind tunnel with our iFly instructor, Charlie.  As beginners, we were all just learning how to hold a more-or-less steady hover in the 110-145 mph winds.  (They adjust the wind speed on-the-fly for the size of the person.)  Everybody had a blast and opted for the “fly high” option on our second flights where the instructor takes to the air with you and carries you aloft spinning up and down the shaft.

Click through for pictures and videos:

  

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