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2013/02/27 Private Track Day With Coworkers
π 2013-02-27 01:01 in Cars
Ryan setup a private track day for a few of us at the end of February. It was a gamble since february is typically snowboarding season more than track season, but that's also why you can get TH for reasonably cheap. I'm glad we got lucky with unseasonably warm weather.

Dragan nicely drove my car there the previous day, and I flew in that morning. Perfect weather, uneventful flight:


The first day, 3 of us took the skid pad with Ric McCormick to learn or relearn the basics.

this is how you get out of a spec miata :)
this is how you get out of a spec miata :)

skid pad work.
skid pad work.

It's hard to say how much I learned/fixed that first day, although I do think learning left foot braking was definitely a very good thing.

Unfortunately, I had just gotten a pretty potent cold 2 days prior. I did my best to take care of the cold, and I was almost ok the first day. That night though, I was so congested that I didn't sleep well, making day #2, the actual track day, much harder.


Drivers Meeting
Drivers Meeting



Also unfortunately, I had some new, not as good tires, so I just won't know how much better I did after Ric's advise. Also, my driving was clearly uneven, likely due to the cold and lack of available concentration. All that said, I do think I was a bit faster, and I'd love to go back with my usual Pzero Corsas to see what lap time I get now.

In the morning, I had a pretty interesting off, due to getting too close to the right side and dropping a wheel under braking (you can skip to 3:45 for the conclusion. If you can't scroll to that offset, click on the youtube icon on the lower right, and try again in the real youtube interface).

After that, I realized that my brakes were misbehaving after 4 laps or so, and even though I was getting a very hard pedal instead of a spongy pedal, I figured I must have boiled the brake fluid. While checking everything, Arnaud pointed out that my rear pads were very low, and they were. They don't wear as quickly, but it was clear that between the fluid problem and the pad replacement which takes close to an hour, and my feeling more tired and sick, it was just best to call it a day.


I flew home ok, and then just rested for the rest of the day.



Here's a short video of my greaser landing at PAO (albeit a bit long, since I was very light and floated longer as a result):

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2013/02/27 Do Not Buy From Rotor Concept or Patrick Le
π 2013-02-27 01:01 in Rc
After 3 months, I finally got my money back through my credit card.

So, Patrick Le, aka patrickle168@yahoo.com, aka rotorconcept@hotmail.com, (626) 448-8888, 2646 Durfee Avenue, #188, El Monte, CA 91732, http://www.rotorconcept.com goes to tradeshows, like aviation tradeshows, and demos reasonably cool RC helis or quadcopters.

They sell things like ID1-SWAT COAXIAL HELICOPTER or the Rotor Concept HPQ1. When I ordered the latter, this is what happened:

  • I was overcharged $486.13 for a $300 show special + tax + lighting kit which definitely wasn't > $100.
  • I only got part of the quadcopter (no remote, no receiver).
  • Weeks later after more Emails, and phone calls, Patrick finally bothered to send me the missing pieces, but with absolutely no instructions on how to connect them.
  • After another 2 weeks lost, I finally got wiring instructions, and the quadcopter was never stable. It flew, but it wobbled
  • Patrick offered a couple of suggestions but none worked, and when I asked that he take back the pieced up model and send me a fully assembled and tested one, which is what I had paid for, he stopped replying.
  • Along the way, he did mention that he was going for a trip in China, and he'd be gone for 6 weeks (yes, that means not answering to any customer phone calls or Emails, because those don't really matter to him once he got the money).
  • I don't think Patrick is a crook per se, but he clearly doesn't care about doing his job right, charging the correct price, shipping what he sold to customers, fixing his own mistakes right away (not three weeks later), or doing timely customer support.

    Long story short, he's a disgrace to the RC community, if my review didn't convince you, got read other reports on better business bureau: http://www.la.bbb.org/business-reviews/Toys-Retail/Rotor-Concept-Inc-in-El-Monte-CA-100105435

    In my case, I called my credit card to dispute the entire charge and get a full refund since he failed to reply within 3 months, which hardly suprised me.

    2013/02/23 FC Drivers Skyline to the Sea Loop
    π 2013-02-23 01:01 in Cars
    Since weather has been way too nice for snowboarding, I got invited to an impromptu drive around skyline, and figured why the hell not?

    It was a nice little loop and group of folks.






    We made it to the sea:







    I have a few vids of one of the drivers (yes, it's a bit shaky, sorry) :)

    2013/02/20 Half Powder day of February
    π 2013-02-20 01:01 in Snow
    Sadly, the last powder day that Arturo and I got was in December of last year. It's been quite dry this season. Finally, we got a hint of a powder day.

    Unfortunately, the 14 to 17 inches turned into a mere 4-8 inches, we got a bit unlucky. But eh, it's still fresh snow, and it was almost enough to cover the iced up crud that was under it in some places.

    Long story short, it wasn't epic, but there were enough spots where we did a good job powder hunting.

    drive up was early but pretty easy
    drive up was early but pretty easy







    Chicken! Turn!
    Chicken! Turn!



    Arturo took a few pictures of me too:




    Weird thing: I actually found a snowboard on the slopes with 2 broken bindings:


    boarding with that board that was catching wind was 'interesting'
    boarding with that board that was catching wind was 'interesting'

    All in all, not fantastic, but definitely good enough, and better than being at my desk for today :)

    Mountain Dynamics/Snowranger track

    See more images for Half Powder day of February
    2013/02/17 Biking through sunnyvale to the Bay, around Moffett, and back
    π 2013-02-17 01:01 in Exercising
    This was our first bike ride after Jennifer's ankle surgery last year. On the way, we went by the Sunnvyale Heritage Museum, which I had never heard of. Unfortunately, the museum isn't open very long, just 12 hours per week, but it was nice to see the displays showing when Santa Clara County was mostly farming land:








    I wondered if someone abandonned their turtoises there, I wonder how they eat
    I wondered if someone abandonned their turtoises there, I wonder how they eat


    We then biked north to the bay:






    It was a long bike ride for Jennifer who will need to rebuild her muscles, but she powered all the way through.

    2013/02/11 Sydney
    π 2013-02-11 01:01 in Google
    I had been to the prior Sydney office across from Darling Harbour and while the new one is a bit further to get to, it still has great views of the harbour.

    Since we where visiting sydney for a day before going home, we stopped by.

    The buildings themselves were quite nice too:


    not a bad desk view
    not a bad desk view

    SREs, hard at work
    SREs, hard at work

    Duncan and Lees were nice enough to have us for lunch:


    Kangaroo, yummy!
    Kangaroo, yummy!

    Not a bad patio to eat on
    Not a bad patio to eat on


    After lunch, I went around to get more pictures of the floors:


    Jennifer would have been happy to stay there and miss the flight
    Jennifer would have been happy to stay there and miss the flight




    SREs don't screw around with bars, it's serious business
    SREs don't screw around with bars, it's serious business




    Maker desk
    Maker desk



    We then went to see the secondary office on the top floors of the maritime museum:






    Please mind your roaming elephants
    Please mind your roaming elephants


    That was a nice little visit. From there, we had to hurry to the airport to catch our flight home.

    See more images for Sydney
    2013/02/10 Sealife Sydney Aquarium
    π 2013-02-10 01:01 in Aquariums
    Sydney has a smallish aquarium in Darling Harbour, so we went to check it out while we were there:





    nice pincher
    nice pincher

    the battle of the lobsters
    the battle of the lobsters

    The Australian Dugong sure looks like a Manatee, but it lives in salt water only
    The Australian Dugong sure looks like a Manatee, but it lives in salt water only





    See more images for Sealife Sydney Aquarium
    2013/02/10 Sydney in a Day
    π 2013-02-10 01:01 in Australia, Trips
    Because we were coming back from a small island with uncertain flight service, so we opted for flying back home from Sydney a day later. As a result, we had a day to spend in Sydney, and since we had already been there in 2007 (and in 2001 for me). Turns out while we had a pretty full 24H, there was actually a lot more we could have seen :)

    Still, we did a good job. First a few pictures from the plane:






    I picked hotel by Darling Harbour, so this is where we started from, just next to Chinatown:




    it was chinese new year that weekend
    it was chinese new year that weekend


    We then went to visit Market City, it's huge:



    giant mango!
    giant mango!

    that would add nicely to the collection :)
    that would add nicely to the collection :)

    We then went towards the gardens:















    From there, we continued to a vista point for seeing the Opera and the bridge, and went through a park where you could feed wild cockatoos. They sure were more fun than pigeons, Australia rocks!





    We eventually got to the peak where we could take pictures:






    And we headed to the opera house itself via the government house gardens:





    circulair quay
    circulair quay


    We finished the evening at the rocks, before it started pouring rain:






    Since the weather had turned to crap, we went to see Sea Life Aquarium by Darling Harbour. Honestly I really expected the place to be kind of a tourist trap, and it was actually quite good, especially considering the constraints of the location. It definitely beats the aquarium by Pier 39 in San Francisco:





    nice pincher
    nice pincher

    the battle of the lobsters
    the battle of the lobsters

    The Australian Dugong sure looks like a Manatee, but it lives in salt water only
    The Australian Dugong sure looks like a Manatee, but it lives in salt water only



    By then, it was late, we were exhausted, and it was pouring rain, so we went back to our hotel:



    The next day, we had the morning to spend, before having to go to the aiport early afternoon:

    view from our hotel
    view from our hotel

    not a bad window view
    not a bad window view

    We went to check out the Darling Harbour zoo, which was also much better than planned:



    pretty birdie
    pretty birdie


    cute tasmianian devil :)
    cute tasmianian devil :)



    wallaby
    wallaby


    those remind me of what I've seen in Jurrasic park :)
    those remind me of what I've seen in Jurrasic park :)


    even their pigeons are colorful
    even their pigeons are colorful




    this really is a beautiful bird too
    this really is a beautiful bird too


    I tyipcally never get the tourist trap pictures in those places, but they so exceeded my expectations, that I gave them the money:





    and after that, we headed towards google, to go check it out and have lunch with friends:




    nice view from the google patio
    nice view from the google patio

    You can see more pictures of the Sydney Office.

    After lunch and fun at google, we went back to the airport, for Jennifer to enjoy her first class seat, and me my business one. We stopped by the airline lounge on the way there:



    Jennifer doesn't know the difference between lounge and wine testing :)
    Jennifer doesn't know the difference between lounge and wine testing :)

    business was not bad either, almos tas good as 1st class IMO.
    business was not bad either, almos tas good as 1st class IMO.

    See more images for Sydney in a Day
    2013/02/03 Diving Lord Howe Island
    π 2013-02-03 01:01 in Diving

    Since we had already been to the Great Barrier Reef (trip 1 and trip 2) as well as Heron Island, as explained on the visiting Lord Howe Island page, thanks to Dirk, we had heard that there was another interesting place to go dive at when in Australia: Lord Howe Island. Since we were going to be flying by Sydney anyway, we thought we'd do a small detour on the way back :)

    We didn't quite luck out with diving. The best dive sites were very weather dependent, and we had too much wind every day to go see the better ones in the 7 days we were there. We still got the chance to go diving out of the lagoon eventually, but even that took several days.

    The diving we got, was not bad, but it wasn't fantastic either. Temps were 24C, which was borderline cold for a 5mm full suit for me, and vis was from good to decent enough in the sites we were able to go to. Fish life was a bit different from the GBR due to the lower temps.

    Thankfully Brian, who runs Howea divers, knew the weather and local conditions very well, and made sure to get us the best diving possible for any given day over better dive sites where conditions would have been too bad to enjoy the site.

    The first day, all we could do were 2 very shallow dives off a sheltered beach:



    octopus
    octopus

    Linus and Dirk
    Linus and Dirk

    Ride back from the beach
    Ride back from the beach


    A funny thing was this little fish that kept trying to scare us off by pretending to attack us. I've had some come straight at my face and look like they were going to head butt me :)


    After that, we were able to do boat dives, first in the Lagoon, and then a bit farther where diving was a bit more interesting:



    grr!
    grr!



    Eel snake or snake eel?
    Eel snake or snake eel?











    this snake skinned eels are huge teeth
    this snake skinned eels are huge teeth






    there were many many fat lobsters :)
    there were many many fat lobsters :)


    I also loved this colorfull fish:


    These sea snails were cool

    Unfortunately, wind and surf never died down enough for us to be able to dive their better sites. It's hard to say how much better it would have been, but with what we had, I'd say the diving was ok, but somewhat inferior to Heron Island, and definitely inferior to the great barrier reef.
    All that said, diving was still decent, and if you are diving in Lord Howe Island, I'll definitely recommend Howea divers over Prodive, which seems to just be a second choice if Howea is booked out.

    See more images for Diving Lord Howe Island
    2013/02/02 Visiting and diving Lord Howe Island
    π 2013-02-02 01:01 in Trips
    Thanks to Dirk, I had heard that it was in an interesting place to go dive at when in Australia. Since we had already been to the Great Barrier Reef (trip 1 and trip 2) as well as Heron Island.

    So, Dirk, Linus, Jennifer and I booked a week at Lord Howe Island just after Linux.conf.au 2013 in Canberra where I spent a week (canberra's diving isn't known to be the best :) ).

    Picture of diving are on the Diving at Lord Howe Island page.

    Our first plane wasn't big, but still decent:


    Our 2nd plane to the island, was a Dash 8-200, currently the only plane that can fly that distance and back on full tanks (in case it can't land and has to go back to Sydney).



    the runway is just about 3000ft, enough for a small prop plane, but nothing else
    the runway is just about 3000ft, enough for a small prop plane, but nothing else



    We stayed at the Leanda Lei, all in all a nice place with one bedrooms, and the staff was as helpful as they could be. Unfortunately, the internet provider, clearnetworks.com.au, had failing equipment (router kept rebooting due to failing power supply according to my voltmeter) and couldn't be bothered to give a rat's ass and fix it durign the entire week. In the end, I wipped out one of my own wireless routers, and setup a wifi network that we were able to use for the rest of the week.

    geeks getting much needed internet :)
    geeks getting much needed internet :)


    Our one bedroom was nice:


    the island had big spiders everywhere
    the island had big spiders everywhere

    Unfortunately, we arrived in the middle of not so good weather. It wasn't pouring rain, but the winds were very high and the better dive sites are in locations that you just can't dive when there is too much wind. The first day, we just didn't dive at all (well, Linus and Dirk did, and saw very little due to stirred up water). Jennifer and I used the opportunity to go hike the island instead.



    with surf like that, diving wasn't worth it
    with surf like that, diving wasn't worth it

    so we went climbing
    so we went climbing

    got some nice views
    got some nice views




    Eventually we made it to the top of Malabar Hill:









    And from there we hiked down to North Beach. It was filled with mutton birds that weren't very good at walking and flying in high wind :)








    those birds were very funny :)
    those birds were very funny :)

    Later, we went to the gulch:






    Unfortunately the island had a plane crash at night many years ago, it just clipped the top of the hill, and you can still see parts of the wreckage along the trail we took:



    While Heron Island had more birds, there were plenty of fun birds to see on Lord Howe too:



    Oh, right we were talking about diving. I put this on the Diving at Lord Howe Island page.





    Dirk and Linus had to leave 2 days earlier than us, so we had a self-assembled dinner together before they left:


    And before we knew it, after 6 days of diving, it was over.
    The last night, we signed up for 5 course sunset dinner at Pinetrees:







    And the next morning, it was time to go back:




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