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2010/11/30 Flight Las Vegas back to Palo Alto
π 2010-11-30 00:00 in Flying
After 3 days in Vegas, it was time to go home. It was an uneventful flight with pretty nice views.

Takeoff from McCarran was pretty simple, go up, turn right and get out of their airspace :)
This allowed for some nice lower altitude pictures though :)



This airliner had to hold for me to take off. I got out as quickly as I could :)
This airliner had to hold for me to take off. I got out as quickly as I could :)














2010/11/30 Google Earth Render of Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon Flight
π 2010-11-30 00:00 in Flying
I made a few shots of the GPS track with Google Earth. The Las Vegas ones are very nice, although it's interesting to see the absence of smoothing of the GPS data and resulting staircase effect (they should probably fix this).

overall view of full flight
overall view of full flight

overall view of Las Vegas to Grand Canyon
overall view of Las Vegas to Grand Canyon

Las Vegas McCarran takeoff (blue) and landing (red)
Las Vegas McCarran takeoff (blue) and landing (red)


Other shot from the strip showing the first overfly on the way to GCN in pink
Other shot from the strip showing the first overfly on the way to GCN in pink

interesting staircase effect (I wasn't flying that way :-D)
interesting staircase effect (I wasn't flying that way :-D)

Grand Canyon Airport and South Rim
Grand Canyon Airport and South Rim


A quick loop around Grand Canyon West and the Skywalk
A quick loop around Grand Canyon West and the Skywalk

Hoover Dam with newly constructed bridge
Hoover Dam with newly constructed bridge

Here is the gps track and Google Earth kml track.

2010/11/27 Flight from Grand Canyon to Las Vegas
π 2010-11-27 00:00 in Flying
After getting up around 06:00, packing tent, hiking up 11 miles and 4500ft up back to the top of the Grand Canyon, and waiting for a stupid taxi for almost 1H, we left the airport just in time to get some nice before sunset views on our more direct and faster flight to Vegas, escaping the bad weather that was coming the next morning.

We got out just in time, and landed at McCarran with sunset. The approach in McCarran was a piece of cake except for the part where I couldn't see Vegas or the runway for the longest time because the sunset was blinding me. I was vectored to the Stratosphere above 3500ft, and then right turn straight in to 19R, and right turn right into Atlantic Aviation. It couldn't have gotten any easier.



The views on that flight were really nice with the sun setting, although it was a bit harder to take nice pictures without an SLR camera.














follow me van from Atlantic Aviation
follow me van from Atlantic Aviation

Landing on runway 19R with taxi to Atlantic Aviation
Landing on runway 19R with taxi to Atlantic Aviation

2010/11/26 Backpacking the Grand Canyon: South Rim to Phantom Ranch, Indian Garden, and Back
π 2010-11-26 00:00 in Hiking
After a Nice flight from Palo Alto and Sunset and Sunrise viewing from the South Rim, it was time to start our hike.

The trail was slightly snowy at the top, but became good very quickly, with smooth sailing/hiking all the way to Bright Angel. The only hard part for me was going down with over 50lbs on my back (a bit hard o ny knees).



Here is a picture of what the hike looked like:





Day 1: South Kaibab Trail

After hiking the Rim trail at sunrise, we went backpacking down South Kaibab Trail to Bright Angel Camp.








This crow came hoping to get fed
This crow came hoping to get fed















Day1: Phantom Ranch and Bright Angel Camp

After a relatively easy 8 miles and 4h30, we got down to Phantom Ranch and setup camp at Bright Angel Camp. The Camp was pretty busy, but eh, you can't expect otherwise around thanksgiving.
After setting camp and saying hi to the local deer, we went to Phantom Ranch to listen to a ranger led presentation.






We got to learn about rocks :)
We got to learn about rocks :)


Night got pretty cold (freezing)
Night got pretty cold (freezing)

Candle Lit dinner
Candle Lit dinner

This shows the hike back up:




Day2: Bright Angel Camp to Indian Garden

The original plan was to hike around the canyon bottom on the second day and sleep at Indian Garden. Unfortunately, the weather forecast was for bad weather the next day (rain and snow, which wasn't great for hiking, and not great for flying out either if the plane is iced up and the runway snowed in).
So, we elected to get out early and go through Indian Garden directly back to the top.




still had my great ski hat :)
still had my great ski hat :)

this looks the way to get up :)
this looks the way to get up :)

we trailled and passed the mules a couple of times
we trailled and passed the mules a couple of times

Old mine shaft
Old mine shaft


Jennifer's boots were not water proof
Jennifer's boots were not water proof



the mules beat us there by a little bit :)
the mules beat us there by a little bit :)



Day2: Indian Garden to South Rim

We took a break at our supposed camp site for the night, Indian Garden, since we had reached it by 11:00.


After the quick lunch at Indian Garden, we pushed for the top (4500ft climb total and 11 miles up in 6h30):














back to the top, in record time!
back to the top, in record time!

After getting back up by 14:45 or so, we cleaned up quickly, and got a cab to the airport to fly to Vegas before sunset. If it weren't for the cab almost taking an hour to show up (!), everything else was perfect.

Georef Map

If you wish, here is a link to a big georeferenced map of Vegas/Grand Canyon Trip.
2010/11/25 Flight To Grand Canyon Through Las Vegas
π 2010-11-25 00:00 in Flying
Jennifer setup a backpacking trip for us over thanksgiving, and going there by "regular means" would have been a flight to Vegas or Pheonix, and a 5-6 hour drive after that (probably 10 hours door to door). A less than 4H direct flight to Grand Canyon airport sounded like a much better idea (not counting much more scenic when overflying Vegas, the Hoover Dam, and the Grand Canyon, so there we went.

You can see this page to read about the trip to Vegas and the backpacking to the bottom of Grand Canyon.

I was able to rent a very nice turbo SR22, which gave us more options to cross the Sierras at high altitude if need be, de-icing just in case, and a chute in case things really went wrong (not that I would plan for that, but it doesn't hurt to have).

Thankfully the weather was actually perfect that day, which was far from being a given over thanksgiving.



The Sierras were already quite nice and snowy:



almost crossed to hwy 395
almost crossed to hwy 395



Bishop Pass trail to John Muir Trail?
Bishop Pass trail to John Muir Trail?


The flight is in pink
The flight is in pink

Eventually we made it to Vegas:

Vegas Suburbs, including a new one being built
Vegas Suburbs, including a new one being built



McCarran Airport
McCarran Airport


Then, I went for the Hoover Dam:

the new bridge is completed
the new bridge is completed




Google Earth already added the new bypass bridge
Google Earth already added the new bypass bridge

And finally I had a GPS plotted route through the Grand Canyon (which is actually fairly tricky since it's filled with no fly zones if you're below 14,500ft).

The flight is in pink
The flight is in pink

Grand Canyon West with the Grand Canyon Skywalk
Grand Canyon West with the Grand Canyon Skywalk

Skywalk
Skywalk

Flight over The Skywalk
Flight over The Skywalk




I had a follow the magenta line GPS track plotted to get in the hard to follow corridors
I had a follow the magenta line GPS track plotted to get in the hard to follow corridors



I then crossed to the higher altitude North Rim which was snowed in
I then crossed to the higher altitude North Rim which was snowed in

North Rim road was snowed in
North Rim road was snowed in


Grand Canyon Airport
Grand Canyon Airport



It was a great flight, fantastic views and weather for November.

2010/11/25 Trip to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas
π 2010-11-25 00:00 in Trips
Jennifer and I flew to the Grand Canyon via Las Vegas (which we overflew on the way there, and stayed at a few days on the way back). Below I have pictures and links to the flights we did, the backpacking, and pictures of Vegas.





Here's a quick overview:

  • Flight from Palo Alto to the Grand Canyon
  • Arrival at Grand Canyon South Rim, Sunset
  • South Rim Sunrise
  • Backpacking down and back up
  • Flight to Vegas
  • A few days in Las Vegas
  • Flight back to PAO
  • Georef Map


  • Flight from Palo Alto to the Grand Canyon

    Trying to fly over thanksgiving was going to be the luck of the draw, but thankfully we got great weather for flying to the Grand Canyon. We got there in less than 4h, including some slower flying and scenic loops (otherwise it would have been about 3H). The best part outside of the view, was of course not having to deal with all the TSA shit and being able to fly with gas canisters (which are disallowed both as checking or carry on, on airlines).
    Here is a link to the Flight to the Grand Canyon through Las Vegas.



    Arrival at Grand Canyon South Rim, Sunset

    Jennifer got us a room at the Bright Angel, and right after checking in, we took the bus to Hopi Point on the South Rim Ridge to see the sunset:



    Plateau Point, with view on the river
    Plateau Point, with view on the river






    my nice google ski hat :)
    my nice google ski hat :)


    and we went for a nice dinner after that :)

    just the dessert I needed :)
    just the dessert I needed :)



    South Rim Sunrise

    One good thing about going during the winter was that sunrise was at a very reasonable 07:12, so we went to see it (on en prend une du lever, une du coucher, et on se casse :) ).





    Bright Angel Lodge
    Bright Angel Lodge

    Bright Angle Trail going down
    Bright Angle Trail going down




    Backpacking down and back up

    I have a different page you can read for Out Backpacking down the Grand Canyon and back up.



    Flight to Vegas

    Then, I have yet another page with pictures of our flight from the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas.



    A few days in Las Vegas

    Once in Vegas, we spent 3 days there to see some shows, enjoy food, and we used the time left over to visit some hotels and see what's changed. Below are a few choice pictures:




    A few night shots:





    The Wynn's decor is really nice
    The Wynn's decor is really nice

    shot from the Effeil Tower
    shot from the Effeil Tower

    shot from the Effeil Tower
    shot from the Effeil Tower

    shot from the Effeil Tower
    shot from the Effeil Tower

    shot from the Effeil Tower
    shot from the Effeil Tower

    We also had a look at the Mandalay Bay Aquarium:





    We also went to see one show every night (choice was limited due to sunday and monday being dark for most shows).
    We first saw Criss Angel. The show wasn't bad, but it didn't feel grandiose either (and a bit expensive considering).


    The next day, we went to see Le Rève. That was much better. I had seen it before, but Jennifer hadn't and we both quite enjoyed it.



    And the last day, we went to see Penn and Teller. Their show was stilll really good and they get points for chancing their tricks over time, so that you don't see the same show every time.




    Last, but not least, let's not forget about food. Jennifer tried to practise her buffet restraint skills. She's still working on it :)
    We tried the Aria the first night, the Wynn buffet the second night (2 best buffets in Vegas), and we had the tasting menu at the Effeil Tower restaurant the 3rd night. All 3 were really great :)

    We had just climbed up from the grand canyon that morning, flown to vegas, and seen a show Jennifer was hungry at the Aria ;)
    We had just climbed up from the grand canyon that morning, flown to vegas, and seen a show Jennifer was hungry at the Aria ;)

    The Wynn buffet's King Crab legs also 'got it' :)
    The Wynn buffet's King Crab legs also 'got it' :)

    And our tasting menu at the Paris was both good and reasonably priced considering.
    And our tasting menu at the Paris was both good and reasonably priced considering.




    Flight back to PAO

    After 3 days in Vegas, it was time to fly home, a nice scenic flight past Bishop.



    Georef Map

    If you wish, here is a link to a big georeferenced map of Vegas/Grand Canyon Trip.
    2010/11/19 Jennifer's Birthday at Manresa
    π 2010-11-19 00:00 in Dining
    For Jennifer's BD, we first had a low key dinner where we tried some US farmed caviar I had bought some time ago (note caviar means sturgeon eggs, any other fish eggs is NOT caviar).


    To be honest, we weren't overly impressed with it. While I had gotten the premium farmed caviar, Oeufs de lompe which can be had for $5 a container had more taste IMO.

    Sunday, we went to Mansera for a nice tasting menu meal (7 courses plus desert) with premium wine pairing.




    soup with foie gras
    soup with foie gras

    Cake, pour moi? :)
    Cake, pour moi? :)

    The bathroom had some nice menus the restaurant's chef gathered in top European Resatuarants:


    It was a good dinner, although a bit slower than expected (4H). Manresa's slight shortcomings in my opinion were that the chef's tasting menu is just whatever he decides to do that day, and you can't know before getting the plates. It's also more expensive compared to other similar restaurants with good tasting menus (although it offers a few more smaller dishes).

    All that said, we did have a good dinner, and Jennifer was happy, so that's what matters :)

    See more images for Jennifer's Birthday at Manresa
    2010/11/15 FOG Tour of San Francisco Tower
    π 2010-11-15 00:00 in Flying
    Dan Dyer nicely organized a tour of the SFO tower for a small group of us (limited by space in the tower itself), and I was able to get a spot. It was kind of weird to drive to SFO, find myself among travellers, go through 'secret doors' and find myself within the FAA facility and then the SFO tower, which hardly anyone else gets to see otherwise.

    Greg, who was our host, took some time to introduce us to the workflow at SFO, and answer some of our questions for almost an hour, and then took us to the tower itself.
    If you've never seen the SFO runway configuration, below is what it looks like. There are 2 long runways (NW-SE) for heavy takeoffs and landings, and two shorter runways for takeoffs. In the ideal configuration, winds permitting, planes land from the water and take off towards the water for noise abatement.


    On a normal day, it works with just 4 people, and one is a supervisor who looks over everyone else to make sure nothing gets missed. It's also a lot more quiet than one would imagine, no people running around and screaming :)

    The view is pretty fantastic and the job can be very challenging in days of bad weather. The day we came was an easy day where they were running all 4 runways at once in their usual configuration: the long runways for landings and the occasional heavy takeoff, and the shorter runways for takeoffs towards the bay.

    note a bad office view :)
    note a bad office view :)

    this is a clearance takeoff strip with assigned runway and initial altitude restriction
    this is a clearance takeoff strip with assigned runway and initial altitude restriction



    the weather computer runs linux
    the weather computer runs linux

    planes and arrival scope
    planes and arrival scope

    planes arriving almost side to side
    planes arriving almost side to side

    the taxi map tracking planes landing and ready for takeoff
    the taxi map tracking planes landing and ready for takeoff

    solar panels
    solar panels

    See more images for FOG Tour of San Francisco Tower
    2010/11/06 Babylon 5
    π 2010-11-06 00:00 in Public
    So, I saw B5 back when it was showing on TV now almost 15 years ago. I remember enjoying it back then and had fond memories of it. Recently one of my coworkers was selling is DVD boxed set and I figured it would be a good idea to just pick it up and watch it all over again. Note that I'm a good public, I forget stuff quickly, so I mostly rediscovered the show after having mostly forgotten everything that happened.

    After just starting 2 months ago, Jennifer and I just finished watching Babylon V, all 5 seasons and movies: that's 110 episodes and 6 movies (not counting the Crusade ones that come after the timeline as shown in this episode list). In the process I also read all the comments and episode details on the midwinter site, which definitely takes a while, but add dimention to the episodes.

    Sleeping in Light, the last episode of the Series was just gut wrenching. I had seen it before but it's been 10 years so I had forgotten by now. I don't typically get emotional when watching TV/movies, but this one really got to me again.

    Those who know me will probably get tired of my saying it, but I haven't seen a SciFi show that has been as good since then, and I'm not sure I'll get to see one now, as JMS mentions TV studios just make it near impossible for good writers and producers to have their way (that's apparently also why he stopped his spinoff crusade half way through). Unfortunately that's what happened to the Spinoff Crusade: JMS cancelled it after the TV network started messing with it/him too much.

    It's a damn shame if you ask me, because almost all SciFi TV nowadays has been crap compared to this (Caprica, I'm talking to you, but you're not the only one).

    The highlights that still make B5 the best SciFi TV show today:

  • While the first 1.5 seasons were a bit slow, once the arcs got going, I really loved the suspense and developing story back in the days where most other shows just reset to zero after each episode
  • The CGI wasn't great at the beginning because the technology was just starting to be usable then, but it got spectacular in the 3rd and 4th seasons. I still really enjoyed the beautiful battlescenes with ships, and colors and in all directions, they're just spectacular.
  • Chris Franke's music was and still is awesome. There isn't anything else to say about that. I have his works that came out on CD, they make great listening.
  • JMS's writing and planning of the show 5 years ahead was just spectacular. I remember the first episode I happened to catch on TV being the war without end #2 (i.e. when they find B4 and a lot of stuff started 3 seasons earlier all ties in together). It was a big WTF at the time, it was only later that I got to appreciate how skillful it was when I saw it in sequence later.
  • Anyway, I both really enjoyed this, and I'm also saddened that it's over again and that nothing close to be comparable has been shown since then (Battlestar Galactica wasn't even close in my opinion, portions of Stargate came closer, but never as good with vision years ahead and impressive cross-references. Firefly could have been good had it been given the chance, but just like Crusade it was killed by stupid studio executives as part of a power play :( Heroes was better, but it was still written mostly one season at a time).

    I re-watched 'the lost tales' that came out in 2007 and according to wikipedia, even though the sales of the direct to DVD were not bad, it happened around the writers strike and then Warner Brothers just refused to put up more than a measly 2M for the next episode, and it therefore never happened (the first one had awesome CG, but you could totally tell there were no sets at all and it was all green screen due to lack of budget).

    Oh well, I should instead focus on what was done, and how enjoyable it is, even if it's hard to forget how networks and executives have done a lot of damage to B5 and other shows.

    2010/11/03 Garry Kasparov visit at Google
    π 2010-11-03 00:00 in Google
    Garry Kasparov came for an interesting talk about Chess and Politics:


    See more images for Garry Kasparov visit at Google

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