More Fresh Powder in Tahoe

I joined Resi, Troy and Aiden for a ski weekend in Tahoe (at Homewood) in early April and we lucked out with lots of fresh powder both days.  Click through for pictures and video.

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Darlene’s Family Comes to Visit

In celebration of Darlene’s 50th birthday, Alice, Kathy, Shel and Vicky came to visit and we gave them a tour of some Santa Cruz sights:

          

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Darlene’s Almost Nearly 50th

Click through for pictures and video from Darlene’s almost nearly 50th birthday party!

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A Gray Whale Threesome

Darlene and her mom and I took a whale watching tour out of Santa Cruz on March 23rd with Stagnaro Charters.  (I didn’t know whale tours were available out of town here in Santa Cruz – super convenient as opposed to driving down to Monterey.)  We were very lucky to get to first come across a threesome of gray whales in the midst of their courtship/mating – something that apparently gray whales do in groups of three or more:

What appears to be mating, however, is simply an elaborate courtship in which two males can be seen attempting to mate with a female.

Christopher Fitzsimmons, an education specialist at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, explained that mating in pods of three, with two males and a female, is entirely common among gray whales.

“This rolling and rubbing we see is believed to be the whales familiarizing themselves with one another and making sure the female is receptive to mating,” said Fitzsimmons.

Gray whales engage in often elaborate courtship practices before mating. Males will use their pectoral fins to coerce and align females into mating positions. Females have even been observed avoiding the attempts of males for days.

And then later we came across four more gray whales, one of whom did several breaches in front of us. All very cool!

    

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Little Tikes in the Snow

    

Darlene and I spent the weekend with Resi and Aiden, and Greg, Erin and Merritt as their kids made their first visits to Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley – on the road to their future Olympic Winter Games!  We also met up with Colin, Richard and Jennifer at Squaw.

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Ski Utah!

      

Here are the pictures and video from our annual week of skiing and tabletop gaming, this year back at the Cottonwood Canyons in Utah with a full house: Jon, Jim, Stan, Lewis, Tom, Bill, Kat, Darlene and myself. We were fortunate to get quite a heap of fresh snow early in the week and sunshine for the rest as we visited Alta, Snowbird and Solitude over five days.

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A Flying Camera

2.9 minute video demonstration of the Mavic Pro (223 MB)

This is a short little video montage of my first few flights around my house with DJI’s Mavic Pro – a fantastic, compact little flying camera platform.  This thing folds down to about the size of a quart-size water bottle, weighs only 2 lbs with a battery and flies for about 25 minutes per charge.  It’s got a tiny gimbal-stabilized 4K camera that can capture up to 4096×2160 video.  (The video above is downgraded to 1280×720 but here’s a short snippet of 4K footage.)  The Mavic Pro has lots of sophisticated smarts on board too: automatic return to home, obstacle avoidance, vision positioning system, object tracking/following/circling, etc.  It maintains a live high definition feed to your phone/controller wth a range of over 4 miles, though FAA rules require that you maintain visual line-of-sight and stay below 400 ft from ground level at all times.  (Also, drones and other remote-controlled aircraft cannot be used in national parks, wilderness areas, ski resorts, around crowds or events, etc. without special permission.)

The Mavic Pro is very fun and easy to fly and it’s amazing how clear and stable the video footage is, even enough to use it as a flying tripod or do time-lapse photography.  Best of all it folds down so nicely to fit easily into a small backpack or carrying case.  It’ll be fun to bring this along on some hiking and biking trips.

Here’s some additional footage – the first from nearby Wilder Ranch State Park, including trying out the Mavic’s “Active Track” flight mode and the second from just north of Pescadero Beach while looking for whales:

Wilder Ranch (50 seconds, 59 MB)

Near Pescadero (85 seconds, 110 MB)

Here’s one of many reviews about DJI’s Mavic Pro, if you’re interested in more detail.  I’d recommend buying DJI’s “Fly More Combo Pack” which includes the Mavic Pro but also two extra batteries, two extra propellers, the four-battery charging hub, a car charger cord, an adapter for charging your phone or other USB device from a battery pack and the DJI  carrying case/shoulder bag.  You’ll also likely want to get a lens shade as the Mavic’s camera tends to easily catch sunlight even when not pointed at the sun.  This one works well, while this one is too fragile and breaks easily just mounting it.

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Five Days on the Sonoma Coast

Here’s some pics and video from our longest run yet with the cats in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle – five days on the Sonoma coast from Bodega Bay to Fort Ross, coming back home on New Year’s Day.

Click through for the full gallery:

      

After another rough start with the cats (they still aren’t too keen on being trapped in the big, noisy moving house) and after cleaning up a messy episode with Pan, they eventually settled down for the journey.  We spent a couple of nights at the Bodega Dunes campground exploring the area on foot and finding a few geocaches by day.  On the following day we only ventured up the coast a few more miles and overnighted in an overflow area at Wright’s Beach.  We then continued on to visit Goat Rock to watch the crazy surf, check out the harbor seals at the mouth of the Russian River and hike out to the mammoth rubbing rocks.  We got to Fort Ross just before closing on New Year’s Eve and slipped in the exit gate to run around and check it out before they kicked us out.  On New Year’s Day, we started making our way back, watching for whales far off-shore as we made leisurely progress heading home via the Russian River valley.

The cats seemed to be doing well with slow speed travel and frequent stops and they definitely enjoyed a nice, extended lunch stop off-leash on some empty, grassy school grounds in Santa Rosa.  After five days in the traveling cat adventure vehicle, it was really going well and seeming like this was ready to work for extended trips.  Unfortunately, we had a bit of mishap just before getting home.  One of the solar panels came loose and started smacking around on the roof before we realized what was happening.  It broke free before I could get off the freeway and we ended up pulling over to assess the damage.  Before I knew it, Darlene was off running across the freeway to retrieve the lost panel and then we attracted a highway patrolmen who came over to scold us (and see if we needed assistance).  The noise and drama was all quite traumatic for Pan and a lousy ending to an otherwise promising start to future extended traveling cat adventures.  (And of course now I need to redo the solar panel installation.)

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The Mighty Roar of Pan

 

Beware the mighty roar of Pan!

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Seven Years of Pan’s Antics

I’ve finally edited together numerous videos of Pan’s antics, dating back to June of 2009.  Enjoy!

Pan’s Antics (3.7 minutes, 75 MB)

If you need to see more of Pan (and who could blame you?), here’s some early photos and video of him from his first few months with me.

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