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2006/08/25 Getting ready for burning man
π 2006-08-25 10:18 by Merlin in Bm

The last two days, I just spent a lot of time gathering and packing stuff for burning man, including getting two bikes cleaned up and geared up for the desert (with repair kit, and night lights), I had some 11th hour finding stuff and packing yesterday, and eventually dropped down the boxes (including Jen's stuff) and helped load a big truck that left for burning man today.
This will allow us to fly in a Cessna 182 next week without having to carry a lot of extra cargo.
Boy, I'm always happy when that part is over :)
(the other fun half is getting your stuff back after the event, and having to clean up all your gear)
2006/08/18 Geek Apparel: ScotteVest and Thinkgeek
π 2006-08-18 10:06 by Merlin in Public

I recently did a little online shopping, at ScotteVest , where I got a few multi pocket pants, the nicest ones being the hidden cargo pants with 11 pockets and compartments, as well as the 237D 3 season 33 pocket jacket :)
Needless to say that I like them very much :) I was also going to write that I stopped short of buying the solar panels so that I didn't look like a total geek, but after looking at the page again while linking to it, I thought they were too cool not to buy (and would come especially handy at burning man if I can't secure reliable electricity)
As for their pricing, while they don't give any of their clothes away, they are priced quite favorably compared to half decent stuff you'd find in stores.
Code   Name                             Price
LNG-BK  SeV Lounge Pants Black          $79.99
        . Size: S:S
HCP-B   Hidden Cargo Pants Black        $79.99
        . Size: 3234:3234
HCP-S   Hidden Cargo Pants Stone        $79.99
        . Size: 3030:3030
HCS-S   Hidden Cargo Shorts Stone       $49.99
        . Size: 32:32
UCP     Ultimate Cargo Pants            $99.99
        . Size: 3030:3030
237D    237D                            $159.99
        . Color: O:O
        . Size: L:L
CMLBK   Camelbak 35 oz Omega Reservoir  $21.99
Tie     Gadget Tie (Special Offer)      $9.99
MFL-CA  Microfleece Pullover Camo       $39.99
        . Size: L:L




For Thinkgeek , I did my bi-yearly visit for new toys, and sure found nice ones
 Item                                               Qty         Price
----------------------------------------------------------------------
 Caffeine Candy Sampler v6.0                        1          $13.82
 Laserpod                                           1          $53.90
 Si-Link FM Transmitter                             1          $15.40
 The Bionic Wrench - 6-inch                         1          $19.11
 The Bionic Wrench - 8-inch                         1          $21.75
 Levitating Desktop Globes - 8 Inch Globe           1          $55.00
 ROMP (Random Oscillating Magnetic Pendulum)        1           $7.42
 Floating LCD Clock and Shuttle - Base w/Clock      1          $55.00
 Flexible Shaft Ratcheting Screwdriver              2          $13.19
 Soldius 1 Solar Charger                            1          $64.06
----------------------------------------------------------------------


/me <- happy :)
2006/08/14 Zero-G Part Deux
π 2006-08-14 22:49 by Merlin in Flying

(title is only funny if you know the hot shots movie)

In a rare moment of scheduling luck, after having checked if their Las Vegas operation would be ready in time for my dad's visit (answer was no), Zero-G announced that they were doing another flight in San Jose, just during the 2 days that my dad would be visiting.
Long story short, it was another fun flight. A few pictures are below, and a shaky video here , and the rest of the pictures there









2006/08/11 Vegas Trip
π 2006-08-11 23:26 by Merlin in Trips

It had been 9 years since I last visited Las Vegas with my dad, and 7-8 years since the last worthwhile comdex I went to, so it made total sense to go meet my dad in Vegas when he came this year, and spend a few days with him, there.
I'm not a gambler, so my main goal was to see the new decors and shows, and that we did.
I flew in sunday afternoon, and we did:
  • Sunday: Penn & Teller at the Rio
  • Monday: Rick Thomas @ Stardust, Carrot Top @ Luxor, and Rève @ Wynn
  • Tuesday: Dirk Arthur @ Flamingo, Zumanity @ New York, and Lance Burton @ Monte Carlo
  • Wednesday: McKing @ Harrah's, Blue Man Group & Phantom of the Opéra @ Venetian
  • Thursday: day flight to Grand Canyon (no afternoon show), KA @ MGM, and Love @ Mirage
  • Daily Morning Buffet, Cab to North Las Vegas Airport, and flight back to Palo Alto









The Rève cast was nice enough to pose for pictures before the show started


Zumanity


Blue Man Group


The chandelier in Phantom



It was a lot to see in a short amount of time, and in a nutshell, among my favourites were:
  • KA, which was just a very well done spectacle, visually, and technically, even if you're better off not trying to understand/follow the storyline.
  • Rève was nicely done too. I didn't see it as a O knockoff, and much enjoyed it
  • Zumanity was somewhat amusing, but not great
  • BMG, I had seen in New York already, so it was nice to see in a bigger room, but the NY show was more complete
  • Phantom was well done, and had nice decors compared to the original version I saw eons ago in London
  • Love was well done, but I just didn't appreciate it as much, not being a Beatles fan
  • In the magic shows, Lance had the best traditional one, Penn & Teller had the fun and unconventional one, and Dirk Arthur is probably your best Siegfried and Roy replacement (his show has been going on for many years too)

You can look at pictures of different shows


Outside of shows, as a start, you can go to the top of the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Hotel. I didn't know that it is actually at 50% scale, and offers quite a nice view from the top.






For Vegas itself, what hasn't changed is the perpetual tearing down of stuff to build new hotels in place. There is still however a dead spot between the MGM and the Paris hotel, but I'm guessing they'll take care of that sooner or later :)

One big change was obviously the Monorail that was installed and goes down from the Sahara, up to the MGM (and there is a private one across, from the New York, to the Mandala Bay). On one side, it's nice, but it's a little bit out of the day, especially if you happen to be or go across the strip.




Also, as my dad remarked, because they removed the public Cat busses that used to go up and down the strip, the monorail has effectively killed everything north of the Sahara, including all of the old downtown.
However, what is left is indeed still very pretty to visit, be it the nice Parisian streets with French Pastry in the Paris, the cool atmosphere in the Venetian (and gondola rides if you so wish), and nice displays like the fountains from the Bellagio, or the inside roman fountains and show inside the Caesar's.
















What was also nice were the hotels that had custom displays, like the still running and most complete ever Star Trek expo (and now two rides) at the Hilton








or classic and sports car shows at the Imperial Palace and the Caesar's








or Madame Tussaud's wax statues at the Venetian






Also, let's not forget the hotels that had entire animal habitats inside, which while wasteful energy and water-wise, were still nice to see (I guess it wasn't nearly as bad as the Casinos running air conditioning full tilt while the doors were all wide open, and spewing the cold air into outside 40 degree weather (>100F for you yankees))














and while you can look at all the pictures from Vegas , a few more are below













2006/08/10 Grand Canyon Flight
π 2006-08-10 23:01 by Merlin in Flying

While I was in Vegas, the plan was to fly my dad and myself east, towards Hoover Dam. Unfortunately, checking the weather forecast every day showed low ceilings and on most days thunderstorms.
After delaying to the last possible day, without any weather improvements, I ended up flying on that last day, fully prepared with turning around eventually, as I knew we'd likely not make it to, and land at the Grand Canyon airport (KGCN).
Flying to Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam was nice, and we got to see a good portion of the Grand Canyon, even if eventually we did have to turn around.
This is where the G1000 came in quite handy, as I was able to do real time checking of weather thanks to XM weather in the G1000. The one drawback is that the maps it had didn't show any of the no fly zones in the Grand Canyon area.

Anyway, even if I had to turn around, it was still a nice flight, and I was able to use the track saved by my backup handheld GPS to map the flight on google earth, and generate the nice pictures shown below.
You can look at the rest of the pictures of the flight to the Grand Canyon

You can also download the Garmin GDB GPS track , or the Google Earth KML file for viewing over satellite images



























2006/08/06 Flight to North Las Vegas
π 2006-08-06 23:42 by Merlin in Flying

Since I was going to meet my dad there, it felt like a great reason to fly there myself, and go visit the Grand Canyon while I was there.
I used the opportunity to try some new (for me) flight planning software: Voyager from Seattle Avionics

While I've been having a few problems with it, which their support folks are looking into, it looked kind of slick, and its main feature for me was to have a chart with restricted zones, MOAs, and allow me to plot a few waypoints and routes through that space. Similarly, I was planning on flying a couple of corridors in the grand canyon which aren't very wide and easy to fly without exact GPS coorrdinates. In this case, it's a lot easier to set all those waypoints on a computer beforehand, and upload them in a handheld GPS (Garmin Etrex Vista Cx in my case).
This was all nice and good, but unfortunately, my Garmin Etrex died soon after I landed in Vegas, so I was never able to use the navigation routes I planned for the Grand Canyon. For the rest of the flight, it didn't really matter because the charts in the G1000 that the C182T I was flying, had, were more than good enough for precise off-VOR flying.

Anyway, I selected North Las Vegas airport instead of the closer Mccarran which can sometimes be too busy and would have delayed both my takeoff and landing, possibly by hours (I've heard that some days they only handled IFR traffic, even in VFR conditions). Since I flew there on a sunday, I was able to cut through the MOAs, and restricted zones, and didn't even have to tip toe around the Trona corridor. In a C182T-G1000, the flight was still slightly over 3H due to 20 knot winds going the opposite way (and incidently, I also had winds against me on the way back).

I used the dead time during the flight to play with the G1000 avionics, setup waypoints on the map, and flight plans while listening to the XM radio :)

Below are the few of the pictures of flight from Palo Alto (KPAO) to North Las Vegas (KGVT)











The flight back, I did have to fly around the military and restricted zones as they were hot on a friday, and I don't feel too bad about it anyway because the shortcut area was having some mild precipitations, and 20 knot+ winds over the mountains, which would have made for a bumpy flight.
The entire flight was otherwise uneventful, and Garmin took care of doing pretty much all the flying :)

You can look at the few pictures of return flight from North Las Vegas (KGVT) to Palo Alto (KPAO)



2006/08/05 Roomba Patch
π 2006-08-05 17:06 by Merlin in Public

My roomba was having problems vaccuming, with no good reason, so I called Roomba tech support and they sent me a firmware upgrader by mail. It's kind of strange that they just didn't use a normal serial port and computer software, but in the end, what mattered was that their little gizmo upgraded the firmware, and my Roomba is happy now. Both cool and weird :) (a few other pix here )



2006/08/05 Baylands Biking
π 2006-08-05 00:58 by Merlin in Exercising

It had been a while since we had biked around the Baylands, so we went back. One moment was funny because of the birds that circled around us because of their kid that was still on the ground, closeby, and unable to fly
(a few other pix here )





2006/08/04 San Francisco Midnight Rollers
π 2006-08-04 22:27 by Merlin in Exercising

As a surprise, Jen took me for crêpes in San Francisco, and we went to the weekly SF midnight rollers ride, which was indeed a nice ride around San Francisco. The ride was 17 km for 1H40 of actual rollerblading (and good breaks in the middle, giving a ride from 21:30 to midnight)














The rest of the pictures are here

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