The highlight is the underground river tour, which is known as one of the 7 new natural wonders of the world. It's a 2H+ van ride to Sabang, where we then wait in line to take a boat to another nearer location where you finally take the paddle boat to the cave.
We then stayed around Sabang, and saw some water monitors:
They had a long zipline over the water, which sounded cool, but the idiots set it up wrong, and sent us all backwards, making the arrival dicey. Sadly Jennifer arrived backwards and hit her neck on the tires supposed to slow her down :(
we all ended up backwards
that's where Jennifer got hurt, being sent backwards
After taking Jennifer to the ER to get her checked out and get her pain and anti inflamatory drugs. Thankfully the drugs did wonders and she mostly recovered by the next morning. That evening we did make phone calls to our doctor to get his suggestions and making sure we took the best steps for her. Due to the time difference, we had to wait until 23:00 though, so while she rested in the room, I went to the firefly watching tour that Arturo had already booked. Taking pictures outside of the sunset was almost impossible though, small dots of light from a moving boat is kind of mission impossible:
wonderful pictures of fireflies...
The next morning, Jennifer was doing a lot better, so we went on a city tour. Puerto Princesa is full of tricycles that can actually take up to 5 people (although not in comfort). Some are quite nicely decorated:
they had packed vans acting as busses
and those tricycles were everywhere
We went to a local cathedral:
We then went to a couple of WWII sites, where general McArthur came back and liberated the country from the Japanese. Sadly the Japanese killed untold people on their way out, including faking an air raid, having the POW go in a trench, and then setting the trench on fire, shooting people who jumped out :(
this photo is a bit funny because it had to be staged twice (i.e. it's entirely fake)
And that was it for Puerto Princesa, we then went back to our hotel to board our liveaboard.
in Arduino, Clubbing, Electronics
After I figured that my previous shirt was getting a bit stale, I wanted to design EDM Party Shirt v2, which both had to be easier to wash (the previous one had LED strips all over it that were too much work to remove, making the shirt not really washable), and I also wanted it to be more special.
I had been playing with Adafruit::NeoMatrix and figured it would be cool to have a NeoMatrix on my shirt (also it would be easier to remove a whole panel to wash the shirt).
So, in the great tradition of yak shaving, I first decided that I should be able to use FastLED instead of Adafruit::Neopixel. This was mainly at the time because FastLED allows parallel output and therefore allows updating a screen by segmenting it in smaller pieces that are updated in parallel. With Adafruit::NeoMatrix, my 768 pixel panel would have taken about 30ms to refresh, or only 33 frames per second, which is not a lot. With FastLED, I was able to trivially segment it in 3 and get 10ms/100fps, which is a whole lot better for animations.
Turns out, switching to FastLED also gave me access to LEDMatrix, an alternate library which while lacking Adafruit::GFX primitives, offers another nice API including better text and basic sprite support.
So, I started a port of Adafruit::NeoMatrix to FastLED and wrote FastLED::NeoMatrix. It was actually a non trivial port, which took much longer than I thought, but I got it working in the end:
by then I was already able to display with 3 data lines, one for each 32x8 panel
In the process, I managed to plug the wrong power into the panel and blew a pixel. Thankfully I was able to borrow another pixel from a strip and soldering it in place to fix it:
Once the port was done, came time to get the panels together. Wiring was a bit challenging because I had to ensure that power was injected at a mostly equal value in 9 different points (3 per panel) due to voltage sag at higher amps. I then quickly found out that with 3 data lines at high frequency, there is cross talk between the wires, so I switched to a CAT-5e cable where each data line is twisted with its ground and the remaining 2 wires are used to bring VCC (5V). Technically my 3 panels can use up to 60A at 5V at full power. Obviously many things will melt before that, and I'm using a power converter that tops out at 10A. Even 10A is too much for the wiring, but thankfully my displays don't use that much brightness (it would be blinding to people):
two 5Ah 16V lipos give about 160Wh, just enough to run 2 panels 10 to 12H
the fancy energy meter keeps track of how much time I used and how many Ah came out of the batteries. Useful to know how much time I have left. The blue meter is amps at 5V (after the power converter) and the red one amps at 16V (straight from the battery)
on the right, I have a backup ESP8266 if the main one fails, a backup BEC (5V converter) that's technically 10A capaable but not meant to do more than 5A continous, and bottom right is my older 3A BEC with in line amp meter
the new tobsun 5V converter is bulky but does 10A without issues
For the back of the shirt, I got some fabric and created an inside pocket to hold the panel:
it then mirrors the front
All this crap goes into a fanny pack, and gets wired to my shirt, pants, and glasses:
the cool part is that my back also has a panel inside the shirt that uses the shirt as a diffuser
Ok, Aerospace is pushing it a bit, it has one replica of a space capsule, but otherwise it's mostly a small collection of planes related to the PAF. It's funny because many planes looked like they were USAF, and US got erased and replaced with Philippines :)
The Museum is a fair one at best, but then again it costs a whole 20 cents to get in. It's a 10mn walk from terminal 3 without luggage, and a bit farther than you'd want to walk if you do have luggage.
The indoor collection is a few planes and pictures, while the outdoor collection has a few planes and helis. It takes about 1H to get through it:
This was our last museum in Manila on our way to the airport. While the building looked quite big at first, a lot of the exhibit floors are not open yet, so we actually got done in 30mn or so when we had 1h. Still what we saw was quite good, although it lasted about as long as the painful line to get in:
line for the security check, then line for signing in, and then line to check in your bag
The Filipino president does not actually live in the palace, so it is open to tours. To the local population, it is an honor to be invited to visit (it is by invitation only). We applied before flying in, and were accepted without problems. After a 20mn wait to account for people arriving on "Filipino time", we were given a briefing, and the tour started around 09:30, 30mn after our appointment time.
Our guide was quite good and gave us good explanations of each room, as well as how the republic, worked.
one year, the independent candidate got 0 votes, he apparently forgot to vote for himself :)
Due to our Corregidor Island tour getting cancelled that day, we had to look for another tour for that day at the last minute, and we settled for Taal Volcano. It's a cool place, crater lake within crater lake:
We went with Bryan Malvataan, +63 917 203 2792, https://www.facebook.com/ilovetaalvolcano/ and he took good care of us, as well as found a driver to get us from/to Manila to his location at a much much better price than we would have gotten from a tour operator.
It's a 2H-ish drive from Manila, then a boat ride to the first island. From there, you take horses or hike up (not a very difficult hike, maybe 30mn if you're in good shape, 60mn if not), and then you ge the view of a crater lake while being on an island that is itself in a crater lake. Not bad :)
Huge crater lake
you then get the boat
we took the horses for fun, but Jennifer didn't get the pink one :)
they gave us bigger hats
very light volcanic activity
on the way back, we got a juicy coconut
After lunch, our driver took us to Picnic Grove. It had a so so nature trail with a couple ziplines and a very small animal interaction place that wasn't the best we've seen, but it was super cheap, so that was hard to argue :)
Google actually has 7 offices in Manila, after landing there, Jennifer, Arturo and I went to see 4 of them. The contrast was pretty interesting between the GOGO (Google Owned, Google Operated) building and the GOVO ones (Vendor Operated).
We went to see NETP (2 buildings), WCC, and UBT1 which had 10 different floors. The facilities folks were super nice and helpful, they answered my questions before arriving and recommended which buildings to visit.
The vendor buildings were interesting in that they had nap rooms apparently due to staff being there 24x7 to do support, and they also had lots of lockers maybe due to vendors not allowed to bring recording devices inside the building (which includes phones), they were probably also helpful for people who bring scooter helmets which may not fit at their small desk.
We went to see NETP (2 buildings), WCC, and UBT1 which had 10 different floors. The density was also quite high, but when we came to visit not too many people were working, it was probably a quiet time.
Since we were going to the philippines for diving, we started with a few days in Manila, our port of entry to the country.
Our hotel was adjacent to a casino and was in a really pretty building. The breakfast and dinner they had were both fantastic, however they made us go through a metal checker and bag search every single time we got back to the hotel, which was a giant pain in the ass (they claim it was for the security of the casino, but that's a bad excuse).
After arriving, we had a visit of the Google buildings, and went to see the nearby Mind Museum and Ayala Museum:
then, let's go to random pictures taken in Manila. The US Army sold all their transport jeeps for $1 each when they left the country as a temporary solution for the transport infrastructure that had been destroyed. Sadly, that solution is still in place today, although the vehicles look cool :)
cabs can have TV inside to break the boredom of horrible traffic
We saw a bunch of museums, most have their own page, but here are a few left over pictures:
from the japanese occupation
Arturo and I walked through Luneta Park, between our hotel and the state museums:
How Rizal, the Filipino (manufactured) Hero, was executed
small Chinese garden
On Monday, we were supposed to go to Corregidor Island, but sadly the boat broke down and our tour was cancelled. We ended up substituting this for Hiking Taal Volcano (on its own page).
On the 3rd and 4th days, we went to Intramuros, the old town contained within the city walls. We started with St Agustin:
Next, we walked to Manila Cathedral and onto Fort Santiago:
Part of the tour was with the walk this way tour, which was given by a local, and quite fun. He gave his colored version of history, which definitely was interesting.
There was a shrine to Rizal, a local marthyr who was shot for campaigning against the Spanish occupation and power of the catholic church. Others claim that he was manufactured as a local hero/marthyr by the Americans during their occupation (in the process they also introduced some dollars that looked surprisingly familiar, a national holiday on July 4th, and some other US "stuff").
We then walked around the city walls back towards the Natural History Museum:
"After the Natural History Museum, we took our luggage, went back to the airport, and visited the Philippines Air Force Aerospace Museum:
I can't believe it was already my 4th EDC. Time flies... Thankfully Insomniac moved it one month earlier this year, so it wasn't as damn hot as last year where some people actually died of dehydration, some apparently waiting in lines that were way too long in the hot sun :( I remember one night where it was 95F/35C all night and some stupid high temperature during the day.
This year, I got to beta test my new and improved Neopixel shirt, which is now a dual NeoMatrix shirt. Sadly, one of the 2 panels shorted by day #2 (build issue which I was only able to fix after getting home), so I was running in degraded mode with only the front panel for the last 2 days. Still, people loved the shirt :)
like pokemon, you gotta collect them all :)
met some fellow Trance Family SF on day #3
If you'd like see the different animations from the shirt, you can find them here:
I was able to try a very cool VR drumming game. It was very well done:
Now, I was not the only person to be shiny, which is one of the reasons I love EDC and Burning Man:
While I didn't find anyone who was able to put that many neopixels in their shirt (to be fair mine require non trivial amounts of power for something wearable). A few people had cool displays on poles with a big lead acid battery:
this one the only neopixel based one I found
an interesting hat
cool head gear
multiple pole based ones
the 2nd fanciest ones I found were these, but based on a thick panel that requires constant refresh (also too thick to wear)
the pitch is much better though, allowing for better writing than I can do on mine
sadly the refresh rate is too poor for pictures
the fanciest pole was this one, with remotely addressable neomatrix text scrolling display
Good job Afik
Other signs and people:
not the first time I saw this one, but still hilarious
Now, you don't have to be an engineer to be shiny (although it does help :) ). Plenty of stuff you can buy (just not my shirt, sorry ;) ):
just go to the aptly named 'shiny things' store
and if you're into drum and bass, they have you covered too ;)
Anyway, let's look at EDC as a whole this year. Maybe I got lucky with my shuttle stop didn't have a wait that wasn't as terrible as last year. The ride was still closer to 90mn, later in the evening, which sucked somewhat (still about 2h30 from hotel to festival)
hilarious. Yes, we were ready... for the great event :)
The VIP area had a swimming pool (no good with my electronics), a ball pool, and video games:
oh yeah, even a maze
Some decors were straight out of burning man:
first saw this at burning man years ago, super fun, especially if you're on something
you could use diffraction glasses if you were sober
Let's not forget art cars, all of which I've seen at burning man:
They had even more fair attractions this year:
Let's not forget about bad ass fireworks every day:
Now, the music sets I saw on Day #1:
Drum and Bass was fun to listen to for a while,
they had awesome visuals
I'm a big pendulum fan
stargate visuals, well done
Of course, Trance, trance, and more trance :)
fancy control console
ok, using the 'help' output of the DOS box on windows, was a bit lazy :)
Day #1 Summary:
Now, we can move to Day #2:
Circuit Grounds had Hardwell and Armin Van Buuren that night:
Drum and Bass DJs definitely like to stand on their DJ table :)
Let's finish with a sunrise:
Day #3 Summary:
I won't go into how hard it is to timeshift 12H overnight (I got up at 06:00 the previous day to go to a racetrack and went to bed at 07:00 the next night. That was tough.
Insomniac did a great job with the lineups, definitely more trance now compared to the first year I went. I was not a huge fan of the way quantum valley looked, it sure was hard to get good pictures through all those metal stands. I'm also under the impression that at least on the first day, they cranked the bass way up, maybe in a misguided attempt to compete with drum and bass across, to the point that you couldn't really hear much of the music anymore. Thankfully it was a lot better by day #3.
The shuttles worked a bit better this year, although the premium shuttles were kind of a joke. You were supposed to tell them months early what time you were going to go and come home, and have that be the same every day, not that you had lineups with times anyway. I ended up taking the standard shuttle most days, which sadly got moved farther away from my hotel I had already booked. I don't understand why they simply don't have VIP lines for the standard shuttles and be done with it. Having 2 different shuttle systems with different locations and less flexibility on the premium ones, makes no sense at all.
Thanks to Insomniac for the event and lineups. Also, thumbs up to anyone who came with costumes and tasteful totem poles (sadly, there are some really crappy ones too, which sometimes end up being right in the front stage, ruining all the pictures I was trying to take).
It had been a while since I last went to Dallas, Jennifer went the last times while I wasn't home. This time we were both able to go, and it was for her mom's birthday, which almost coincided with mother's day, so she got 2 for the price of one :)
Oh yeah, there was food, lots of it :)
They added a slick track where the karts have little traction and you can practise drifting. That's actually a lot of fun, and not something I've done anywhere else.
Their main kart track sadly got toned down a lot, to the point that it was boring and pointless. I was a full gas the entire time, never had to brake.
the 2 person kart was more powerful and more fun thankfully
They added electric karts that were also underpowered and had no lap times.
The dragsters were still there, but sadly I kept coming 2nd to dragster #1 because even though I got off the line at full speed every time, the other one was just faster and would first catch up and then pass me, disappointing.
While in Dallas, I went for quick visit of the Google Dallas-Addison office. It's pretty small, two portions of floors in two different towers, but what it lacked in size, it did not lack in spirit or decors :)