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2016/08/09 7th anniversary dinner at Saison in San Francisco
π 2016-08-09 00:00 in Dining
Jennifer found this 3 star rated michelin restaurant in San Francisco, and got us a reservation for our anniversary dinner.

We got a nice table with view on the open kitchen, which was nice:



They also had a very impressive wine list, with some wines that were over 80 years old, at prices that were related to the age :)

$14288 bottle of Château La Mission Haut Brion 1929
$14288 bottle of Château La Mission Haut Brion 1929

The tasting menu was not showy but was quite tasty:






the wild strawberries 'fraises des bois' were very good
the wild strawberries 'fraises des bois' were very good


The the food quantity was enough, but not as much as some of their competitors, the quality was very good, the only issue was the bill, which we mostly knew was going to be steeper than any restaurant we've ever eaten at around the world, but the mandated 20% tip, being no tip anymore but just an extra 20% charge on top of the bill, left a bad taste in our mouth. For comparison:

  • French Laundry: $295 (tip/service included), $325 with tax
  • Joël Robuchon full tasting menu: $320 (tax and tip included/service)
  • Saison: $398 (before tax and required 20% service not included), $517 with tax and tip/service
  • This is another way to say that Saison was 60% more expensive than 2 other excellent competitors which both had around 50% more courses in the meal.

    We got to see the bay bridge lighting on the way home:


    If you care about a longer review, here's what I posted: Sadly, I have to give this 2 stars described as "I've experienced better" when you factor in that this costs twice as much ($510 per person with tip before wines) than the nearest competition that is also extremely good .

    I'll start by saying that I've eaten in about 20 restaurants like this one around the world, including Joel Robuchon (full tasting menu), The French Laundry, and Alinea in Chicago
    Saison had very good well presented food in a casual atmosphere, but all 3 restaurants I just listed had food that was just that good, or better, and more courses. Saison was still quite good, if you have quality, you don't need quantity on top, except when the bill for the tasting menu alone is $398 per person.
    The very good wine pairing was $298 for just one person (!) and not that many dishes and pourings. The wines were well chosen and the pours were not stingy, but on top of being the most expensive tasting menu, it was also the most expensive wine pairing we've had.

    While we knew the price when we went, I think what tipped it over was:
    when we got the bill (for 2 people) a 20% tip was included on top of the entire bill (including the wine pairing), which added another $109 to the bill, just for tip. But if it's a required 20% tip, it's not a tip anymore, it should be part of the original bill, and actually some competitors already include service in the bill because it's the French way.
    So let's compare: French laundry is $270 with service included, Saison is $510 per person before wines, and don't despair, your bill has a handy line where you can add an additional tip (which I found insulting at this point).

    This is regrettable because the food was good, the service was good, but the meal was not a huge meal with so many courses you can't even count them anymore, and you turning away the dessert cart after you've already had 2 prior desserts. Charging about twice as much as the competition with a mandatory 20% tip that includes the price of alcohol just cancelled out what would otherwise have been a good experience.
    For what it's worth, we enjoyed our table that was facing the open kitchen, and again all the staff did a very good job.

    2016/08/01 Brotronics PowerTowerRX Documentation for Pin Mapping
    π 2016-08-01 00:00 in Rc
    After trying and documenting the Brotronics Broversity RX, I tried out a Brotronics PowerTower Rx. While the github page has schematics, sadly it does not even include a clear labelling of each pin, or the fact that output 5 seems not to be wired to a pin at all.

    You would buy the PowerTower Rx because you want a lipo backed up receiver which will sound an alarm on a loud buzzer (that you provide) once the signal is lost. It will also switch to transmitting a distress find me beacon after signal has been lost for 45 seconds, so you can use the radio signal to go find it, even if your main battery has been ripped out after a crash (happened in all my crashes).

    For more details on how that works, see my post on Brotronics Broversity RX, the missing manual.

    This receiver is more compact, cheaper, but does not have diversity RX, which is likely ok for most uses. But as I mentioned, it comes with 0 documentation, and not even a proper pin mapping. I ended up documenting this in this rcgroups post, but I thought I should make a proper page here with that info:


    There are 8 outputs in the RX configurator, but I believe only 7 are wired (#5 seems to be going nowhere?)
    If you use the buzzer for loss signal and loss model finder (you should) and don't solder to use RX/TX, you're really only left with 3 servo ports since #1 is used for PPM to your flight controller
    Port 2 can be connected to directly and 3 and 4 (RSSI and SCL) need to have a custom cable made because the layout did not include enough pins to just replicate Gnd/Vcc in the right places.

    Here are the outputs and where they are:

    1. PPM
    2. labelled SDA, can be analog
    3. labelled RSSI on board, can be sending different signal to lbeep pin if you solder a jumper
    4. labelled SCL, can be analog
    5. may not be wired anywhere
    6. link loss indicator (buzzer port, labelled BZ+ BZ-)
    7. RX
    8. TX

    The labelling on the board is pretty poor though. Here are the pins:

  • Pin1: PPM (port #1)
  • Pin2: Vcc (+ on the board is not aligned with it)
  • Pin3: Gnd (not labelled at all)
  • Pin4: Gnd (labelled -, off center a bit)
  • Pin5: RSSI (port #2)
  • Pin6: lbeep (I believe it's also port #2 and activated by a soldered jumper)
  • The wiring does allow to plug a servo cable directly into PPM on one side and Gnd/5V/SDA on the other side.
    This means you can connect to port #1 and port #2 directly with a servo cable.

  • Port #3 require that you route your own wires to make a servo cable out of pin 5 inthe back, Vcc and Gnd
  • Port #4 is the same with SCL, you have to make your own cable and route Vcc and Gnd
  • Port #5 does not seem to exist on the pins I could find
  • Port #6 is nicely wired with Bz- and Bz+, you just connect a 2 pin powered buzzer there
  • Ports 7-8 for RX/TX are on the other side of the board, you have to solder on them for some reason.
  • The battery port is also missing a header, but at least it has holes to add one. To be honest, I have no idea why anyone would buy this receiver if you're not going to use the battery backup. There are otherwise some cheaper or better wired ones you can buy (I did buy it for the battery backup which I think is a fantastic idea)

    2016/07/27 Japan 2016, Trip Wrapup
    π 2016-07-27 00:00 in Japan2016, Trips
    This trip to Japan was the 5th one for me, and 4th yearly trip in the last 4 years. By now, we've seen a fair bit of Japan, even if there is more to see still, but at least I feel like we've gotten a good overview, from Yonaguni, to Okinawa, Hiroshima, Osaka, and all the way to Aomori which I saw 20 years ago, along with Hakodate, and Sapporo.

    As for how this trip went:

  • Weather was hot and sticky/wet as expected, but we didn't get too much rain, it was just humid most of the time (and thankfully or not, after going to Singapore, Japan summer didn't feel _that_ uncomfortable)
  • We got super lucky with the weather when we did the Japan Alpen route. While in hindsight we should have spent all our time at the top and done more hikes there, it was still a great day
  • We got to stay in 3 ryokans, and while they were all different, we enjoyed them all. Not surprisingly, the one in takayama was the most authentic.
  • Seeing 3 different (and big) summer festivals in Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Osaka in fewer than 2 weeks, was a real treat, and we managed to get good viewing for all of them (except for the fireworks at Osaka). Advance planning definitely helped.
  • My week+ of advance planning yielded good results. Most everything we saw was well worth it, and the timing worked pretty well almost everywhere. There is only a complicated (and confusing) train connection we apparently missed between tateyama and takayama, costing us 1H, and for the rest, everything worked great. We did have to take a couple of Nozomis even though they were not part of our JR pass, mostly because I was not willing to needlessly arrive 1H later with an allowed train. This did mean we used non reserved seats on most trains, but because we were taking them from their first stop, getting a seat was not a problem.
  • Probably the only thing we could have done was spend one more hour in Shirakawago which was a bit rushed in 2H, but the bus schedules made it difficult to do otherwise, and I was happy not to have to worry about driving.
  • Speaking of driving, we ended up using many more cabs this time, but they did save us multiple hours of waiting for non frequent busses, and were well worth the money. In Takayama specifically, using taxis to go to the far away museums worked great, although in Tsumago, we almost missed our train because there were no taxis at the taxi stand and had to find a local to go call one for us.
  • As always, we've met many nice and helpful Japanese people, including some very nice good will guides (typically retired people who enjoy spending time out with foreigners to share their culture and practise their English). Thanks to them, we had guided tours at the Matsumoto Castle, Kanazawa Castle, a half day tour of Kanazawa, and a guided tour of the Hiroshima Peace Museum.
  • It was great to have been able to see more of Central Japan like Tsumago-Magome, Takayama, and Shrakawago, as well as hike to the top of Tateyama (3003m) during our traverse of the Japanese Alps.
  • This was also our first time with the chance to see Japanese Festivals during the summer season, and we got lucky to be able to see 3 of them:

  • Gion Matsuri in Kyoto (impressive, but many many people)
  • Hiroshima Fireworks on my birthday (we got lucky to find a good viewing spot without too many people and a very good view)
  • Osaka Teijin Festival (not too busy during the day, but super packed in the evening, we barely got to see the fireworks)
  • On the lowlights:

  • The JR pass continuing stupidity in restricting all nozomi trains makes no sense. Worst case you pay a surcharge to get on one, and require reserved seats so that you don't displace commuters in unreserved seat cars. We ended up taking a few nozomis anyway, because in some places the "legal" train only came once an hour, and was of course slower once you were on it. In other places, if you were lucky, like the Sakura from Hiroshima to Osaka, runs every 30mn (still not enough, but better) and travels as fast as the Nozomi you're not supposed to take. In our case, but random luck we were able to get on that Sakura, but otherwise I definitely would have taken the next Nozomi (we barely arrived in Osaka on time for the Tejin Matsuri as is)
  • Our guide in Hiroshima pointed out when I asked him that sadly the still current conservative government tends to ensure that a pro-japanese view of history is shown in museums and textbooks (although apparently the teacher union is able to fight that somehow). I think many countries (including my own) have done bad thins in their past, but I think each developed country has a duty to recognize its past mistakes and remember them as a way to not make the same mistakes again.
  • But definitely a low light was some of what written in the Yūshūkan War museum by Yasukuni Shrine. Making excuses for the nanking massacre where over 200,000 non fighting Chinese were killed and calling it the "Nanking campaign" with explanation why a few civilians were killed (alledgely because they were soldiers hiding as civilians) is definitely shameful to say the least. Thankfully most Japanese people I talked to, do not agree with what's in that Museum. Since it's state sponsored, hopefully enough people will eventually be able to vote for a government that will not give such an untrue and offensive image of part of Japanese's history (SEALDs is such a group|http://sealdseng.strikingly.com/]). Other countries would be much less upset if Japan simply recognized where it has done wrong, apologized for it, and moved on, like many other countries have done. Hopefully this will happen in some not to distant future.
  • The last one is a persisting annoyance: too many museums, or even castles, do not allow taking pictures inside them.
  • Obviously I still believe virtually all the Japanese people I've met are good people who ask for nothing more than being helpful, and work with an honor code that many countries could learn from. Japan is not perfect, no country is, but all in all, I still think they're doing quite well, and it was a pleasure to be able to see more places we hadn't had the chance to visit so far.

    I'll end with more funny signs I found:




    poor phone, it looks very sad if you're about to cut its line :)
    poor phone, it looks very sad if you're about to cut its line :)

    fish is sad
    fish is sad

    even the aluminum can is sad :)
    even the aluminum can is sad :)

    the onsen guides make sense, but they're funny :)
    the onsen guides make sense, but they're funny :)

    Oh, and turns out it's also legal for cars to watch TV while driving. Mmmh, not sure how I feel about that, especially in a taxi:


    Also, I feel better seeing that the cigarette vending machines now require a card that proves that you're not a minor:


    'till next time.

    See more images for Japan 2016, Trip Wrapup
    2016/07/26 EAA Airventure 2016
    π 2016-07-26 00:00 in Flying

    It had been 3 years since my last trip to Airventure, and this time I went with Daniel. We both flew to Milwaukee (direct via Southwest) and then drove the last bit with a rental car (1h30 each way, not too bad). I was actually flying from Osaka to SFO that day, and arrived in time to connect to our Southwest flight and arrive tuesday evening around 22:00 at our hotel. This time I picked the AmericInn because it was walking distance from one of the gates (still had to take a bus/shuttle, but it only took around 20mn once on the bus, so not too bad).

    Nice to see the heat concentrator during the flight, again
    Nice to see the heat concentrator during the flight, again


    This year, I probably went to too many talks, so even though we had 4 days, I didn't have the time to see all the expos carefully enough once you add watching at least one airshow in the afternoon. I could have used 5 days, or next time I'll need to cut the airshow (sad) or just see fewer talks (although at least half of them were quite worthwhile, so it's a tough call).
    Here are pictures of various parked planes, and warbirds:









    that is a _very_ long nose
    that is a _very_ long nose

    Airbus had a hybrid-electric plane that could burn fuel to recharge batteries if needed
    Airbus had a hybrid-electric plane that could burn fuel to recharge batteries if needed



    and this
    and this




    an experimental heli trainer with a single seat? mmmmh...
    an experimental heli trainer with a single seat? mmmmh...

    prop and engines that retract back inside the glider? cool...
    prop and engines that retract back inside the glider? cool...



    And then, there was this beast with a big turbine engine. The video barely expresses how loud this plane was:


    Center stage had interesting planes on display every day:














    Then, we had warbirds:



















    I didn't have/take/spend enough time to go see the multiple booths and tents, but here are a few pictures anyway:


    very cool, sky surfing behind a tow plane, what could possibly go wrong ;)
    very cool, sky surfing behind a tow plane, what could possibly go wrong ;)


    augmented reality glasses would be great if the technology was ready
    augmented reality glasses would be great if the technology was ready

    in the meantime the made up demo looked cool :)
    in the meantime the made up demo looked cool :)



    Lots of other tents, with random plane bits to buy, or other things:


    this one will buff right out :)
    this one will buff right out :)

    you can learn how to build your own plane
    you can learn how to build your own plane


    I was even able to get my global entry card fixed, sweet! :)
    I was even able to get my global entry card fixed, sweet! :)



    Our 2nd morning, we got up early and showed up at the museum to do a heli ride at 08:00 and avoid the long 1-2H waits later in the day:














    A few pictures from the museum, they seem to change their displays:








    Next, time to mention the many talks I went to, some were quite good:

    I've seen Dick Rutan talk several times, but enjoy it each time
    I've seen Dick Rutan talk several times, but enjoy it each time






    a U2 landing on an aircraft carrier, madness...
    a U2 landing on an aircraft carrier, madness...





    pilot of the original U2 vs the newest glass cockpit U2
    pilot of the original U2 vs the newest glass cockpit U2

    Patty, nicely signing autographs
    Patty, nicely signing autographs

    Dick Rutan
    Dick Rutan

    And last, but not least, pictures from the airshows: prop planes, jet planes, and a long demonstration from the canadian snowbirds. Then we also had the night airshow and the fireworks:






    tora tora tora, attack from the Japanese planes
    tora tora tora, attack from the Japanese planes


















    lucky us, we got a U2 overfly
    lucky us, we got a U2 overfly




    The snowbirds were awesome:


















    And then came the night show and fireworks:










    with a wall of fire as finale
    with a wall of fire as finale

    This was a good time as always, even if I'm a bit sad to have missed the olden days when you could see an SR71 flyby, or a concorde doing a touch and go in front of the audience :)


    See more images for EAA Airventure 2016
    2016/07/26 Two Cat Cafes in Osaka: Cat Tail and Neko no Jikan
    π 2016-07-26 00:00 in Cats, Japan2016, Trips
    For our last half day in Japan, Osaka, we went to a couple of Cat Cafés in the Namba area. We started with Cat Tail, where I had not been before:


    we got a nice welcome :)
    we got a nice welcome :)

    that cat was definitely happy to see its first customers of the day :)
    that cat was definitely happy to see its first customers of the day :)

    Jennifer then found a nice cat (a Russian blue)
    Jennifer then found a nice cat (a Russian blue)

    who found Jennifer's lap quite to her liking and spent the next 40mn there :)
    who found Jennifer's lap quite to her liking and spent the next 40mn there :)

    While Jennifer was busy renting her lap to the sweet russian blue, I went to check the other cats:


    poor thing, looks sad :)
    poor thing, looks sad :)


    weird those cats that keep their ears down
    weird those cats that keep their ears down

    usually, it means they're sad/unhappy, but I guess not with those breeds
    usually, it means they're sad/unhappy, but I guess not with those breeds



    the cat carrying a cat, is carrying a cat :)
    the cat carrying a cat, is carrying a cat :)

    in the meantime, Jennifer was still busy with her cat :)
    in the meantime, Jennifer was still busy with her cat :)

    After almost an hour, we moved to another café: Neko no Jikan. I had been there before, but only a mere 12mn just before they were closing, so it was nice to spend a bit more time. They definitely have very exotic cats, but they are not super friendly, even to their first customers in the morning:




    lion cat
    lion cat



    another lion cat :)
    another lion cat :)




    It was fun to see those cats before having to go back to the airport.

    2016/07/26 Japan Day 15: Half Day in Osaka
    π 2016-07-26 00:00 in Japan2016, Trips
    For our last half day in Osaka, in hindsight, we could have stayed at the hotel and used their onsen as Jennifer's ankle was not happy after the lot of fast walking we did the previous evening during the Tejin Festival to find a fireworks viewing point.

    I had a quickish look at the local museum of Natural History and Botanical Garden attached to it:








    The botanical garden was probably ok, but it was raining pretty hard, so that made it less interesting:




    We then went back to Osaka Namba and walked to a couple of Cat cafés before going back to Namba for an express train to the airport:



    More pictures of two cat cafés
    See more images for Japan Day 15: Half Day in Osaka
    2016/07/25 Mazda Museum and Factory Tour in Hiroshima
    π 2016-07-25 00:00 in Cars, Japan2016




    nice new miata
    nice new miata






    Sadly the museum is inside the factory, so you cannot visit it at your own leisure, and we were rushed through it. I had to take pictures of the displays to read them later, kind of sad.



    the original miata, I had the second generation of this
    the original miata, I had the second generation of this


    The RX7 gen2 was a beautiful car
    The RX7 gen2 was a beautiful car




    Mazda is of course famous for using rotary motors in several of their cars
    Mazda is of course famous for using rotary motors in several of their cars


    I didn't know about lock up automatic transmission
    I didn't know about lock up automatic transmission



    Then, we got a tour of the assembly line, where as usual no pictures were allowed, and on the way out, we got to see a few technology demo cars:


    dual fuel: hydrogen and gasoline, interesting...
    dual fuel: hydrogen and gasoline, interesting...

    dual fuel system
    dual fuel system

    hydrogen RX8, cool :)
    hydrogen RX8, cool :)






    And after 90m, the tour was over. It was a nice visit, even if (again) it was a shame that the museum tour was rushed due to being part of the guided tour where you wouldn't wonder off or stay longer:


    2016/07/25 Japan Day 14: Hiroshima Mazda Factory to Osaka for Tejin Festival
    π 2016-07-25 00:00 in Japan2016, Trips
    After spending the night in Miyajima, we had breakfast in our Ryokan and bid the island and its deer, farewell:



    we took a ferry back to Hiroshima and went directly to the Mazda Factory in Hiroshima:


    We then took another Sakura train (a rebranded shinkansen), and go to Osaka as quickly as with a Nozomi:


    the front row is nice, good tables and 3 power plugs :)
    the front row is nice, good tables and 3 power plugs :)

    but catching pokemon from that fast a train, was not possible :)
    but catching pokemon from that fast a train, was not possible :)


    We then checked in our hotel and went to the Tejin Festival by Tenmangu Shrine, just next door to our hotel. There were multiple mikoshi (portable shrines) carried by hand by a lot of strong men, and they were mixed amongst other parades with colorful costumes:



    Tenmangu Shrine was a bit packed
    Tenmangu Shrine was a bit packed














    Parade highlights:

    After the parade had gone by us, we went to walk to the river where the parade would end up and start boarding boats. They each loaded their mikoshi, portable shrines:





    it's kind of cheating if they use a crane now :)
    it's kind of cheating if they use a crane now :)

    Boat loading highlights:

    Up to then, everything had been great, there were that many people being that it was monday afternoon, so I put my guard down and we didn't leave early enough or walk quickly enough towards a good viewing point for the boats going by and the fireworks. By the time we got there, the bridge I was aiming for was totally packed with people and it didn't look like we'd be able to get on it (although maybe we could have), and sadly I chose to try to get to the shore in places where the police nicely closed off all access. The next hour was a clusterfuck of us trying to get to a point that wasn't closed off and from where we could see the fireworks. Eventually after walking way too long and high pace, we got on the other side of the river at a place where we could finally access the river. The viewing wasn't great, but it was viewing at least, so we caught the last 30mn of the fireworks:

    we walked by Tenmangu
    we walked by Tenmangu


    this very nice bridge was entirely closed off :(
    this very nice bridge was entirely closed off :(






    A few fireworks bits:

    From there, we walked to the nearest train station that got us back to our hotel pretty quickly (thankfully we didn't have to do the long walk in reverse, and getting/using a cab would have been hopeless):

    the train was busy, but not horribly packed
    the train was busy, but not horribly packed

    2016/07/24 Miyajima Aquarium
    π 2016-07-24 00:00 in Aquariums, Japan2016
    While in Miyajima, we went to visit their small aquarium there. It actually wasn't bad in content, the highlight was by far the spitting fish that could target bugs on a board up in the air and with a precise single water spit, use that small water jet to hit the bugs, make them fall in the water, and hit them:


    Watch the video to see the water jets:

    The very big lowlight was how small the very small tanks that many of the animals were in. That really looked wrong. Those poor mammals, part of the whale family, were in a super small tank where they could just swing around aimlessly :(



    Some other random pictures:










    See more images for Miyajima Aquarium
    2016/07/24 Japan Day 13: Miyajima
    π 2016-07-24 00:00 in Japan2016, Trips
    After a half day in Hiroshima, we went to Miyajima, a small island about 30mn away and easily accessible by Ferry:



    Miyajima is famous for its famous tori gate in the water, as well as semi wild deer, which are very nice and not trying to beg for your food:




    There are lots of things to see there, more than enough for a full day:



    Itsukushima Shrine os the main attraction on the island, a very nice shrine with its floating tori gate in the water, depending on the tide. It's not like quite Mt St Michel in France, but the tide goes pretty far in and out:










    Lots of wildlife happy fishing in the marsh sands during half and low tide:




    Mid vs high tide:



    The tori gate during mid and high tide:



    During low tide, the whole temple was on stilts without water underneath anymore:


    We went to the treasure museum:





    Then, we went to visit Tomyoin temple:




    Next, we went to Daishoin, which was super nice and well worth a visit:












    there was a half hidden entrance to a pitch dark tunnel under the temple
    there was a half hidden entrance to a pitch dark tunnel under the temple

    the dark tunnel had a few dim lit figurines
    the dark tunnel had a few dim lit figurines

    From there, we took a hiking path to the bottom of the ropeway up. Sadly, by then it was 16:00, which I thought was fine, but turns out in a great moment of stupidity, they close the top observatory at 16:00, and the rest of the temples close at 17:00 (not as bad, we had time to get there before then). We took the ropeway and the following gondola to the top, and had just enough time to see the temples at the top before they closed. We then made out way to the very top, where the observatory was closed, but somehow I slipped, fell, and found myself on the other side of the closed fence, talk about luck... Since I was on the other side, I went to the top to get nice pictures :)



    the temples at the top were still open for another 15mn when we arrived
    the temples at the top were still open for another 15mn when we arrived



    closing the free observation point at 16:00, what stupid idea is this?
    closing the free observation point at 16:00, what stupid idea is this?

    when the view was quite good from it
    when the view was quite good from it

    We eventually hiked back down (1.5h or so, ok but not great hike), and went to see the great Torii gate at low tide:








    and got a few more pictures at night
    and got a few more pictures at night

    nice dinner in our ryokan
    nice dinner in our ryokan

    See more images for Japan Day 13: Miyajima

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