Entries Filed Under "Travel"

August 16, 2010

Comic-Con 2010 Day 2

Filed under Travel


The bags at Comic-Con are ginourmous. Bags were bigger than some of the attendees.


Big ad for the sci-fi movie Skyline.



Patrick Duffy: Man from Atlantis/Bobby from Dallas.


P1030627The cast from The Guild…missing one very important member…



…my nerd crush Felicia Day. She’s so cute!


My buddy Trey asked me to get his book Ramayana: Divine Loophole autographed by the author/artist Sanjay Patel (has worked for Pixar for 13 years). Sanjay was very nice and spent time making each autograph a unique work of art.P1030633

Gil Gerard from Buck Rogers talking to the original Boomer from Battlestar Galatica.



Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi!


Then I saw a large orange windup fish…


I knew exactly what this was for…Rango! I asked the girl working at the booth, “This is for Rango, right?” And she gave me a puzzled look. “This is for Mr. Timms.”


Ok, whatever. I know what is going on. They had Mr. Timms shirts and I wanted one. To get one, you get three ping pong balls. Throw them into Mr. Timms mouth and the balls will come out one of 4 tubes that determine what prize you get: a shirt, a windup Mr. Timms, a pen with a floating Mr. Timms, or a Mr. Timms coin holder. Get all three balls in and you get to pick your prize.P1030654

I said, “Ok, I’m ready.” The girl replied, “Then you need to go to the end of the line against the wall.”

There was a line about a block long for Mr. Timms! I spoke to people in the line…nobody knew about the connection to Mr. Timms and Rango. The little girl behind me was jumping up and down because she was so excited about Mr. Timms. Amazing.

While we were waiting in line, a guy told us that he is introducing Mr. Timms to America and how amazing Mr. Timms is.

When I finally got to try my luck with the ping pong balls, I got 2 of 3 in…no shirt! I said “I have to have a shirt!” They said I would have to wait in line again. I said, “I will stand in line all day…I’m not leaving until I get a shirt.”

I guess it helps being loud, because when I got back in line, someone from the booth came to talk to me. She saw that I worked at ILM (I had an Iron Man crew shirt on). She said I wasn’t the first person from ILM that was determined to get a shirt. Rather than make me wait in line all day, she said she would see what she could do.

I said, “While you are seeing what you can do…”large” would be nice!”

She came back and announced, “I’m giving out a shirt to a random winner in line…and it goes to…*YOU* sir!” Very cool! I got my shirt!


P1030645Not sure what she was supposed to be…but it works.


I am a huge LOST fan…so I had to get my picture with a cast member: Nadia.P1030646

Seeing bare ass gets my attention…I didn’t know who she was at the time. It’s Cammy White from the video game Street Fighter.P1030649

Nvidia had a setup where you could get your picture taken with some World of Warcraft girls in 3D. I think seeing the picture in 3D was supposed to be the draw…but I doubt anybody cared about the 3D.

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I wanted to get was a TRON shirt. I asked at the TRON booth if they had any. They said the shirts they were wearing were the only TRON shirts available, and were exclusively provided by a vendor on the show floor. I picked one up on my way out.


While walking back to my hotel…guess who I ran into? The Old Spice Guy!P1030656


Comic-con was a blast. For me, two days was the perfect amount of time. Any more and I would have OD’ed. It was a good time…would definitely go again.

August 11, 2010

Comic-Con 2010 Day 1 – part 2

Filed under Celebrity, Movies, Travel

I found out the Flynn’s Arcade would not open until after 1, so I went back to the convention center for a bit.

It is amazing how many costumed cute girls there are at Comic-Con. It may be the best people watching ever.



Fox promoted the October 26th Alien Anthology Blu-ray release with a working(?) hibernation chamber from the Nostromo (from the original Alien).



Lucasfilm had 30 slave Leia’s on display…always a crowd favorite.



Ran into my pal Mary Franklin at the booth…the only time I see her now because she is always traveling.



Impressive Iron Man costume…not so impressive Black Widow.


Big ads are everywhere around the convention center. Movie Battle:Los Angeles and video game Red Faction: Armageddon below.



Scott Pilgram vs. the World


To get into Flynn’s Arcade, you had to wait in line for a ticket…



Yes! Got a ticket!


…which lets you wait in line to get in.P1030519

Once inside, I was given a bunch of token with logos from various TRON video games.



I figured you would use the tokens to play the games in the arcade…nope. All the games were on free play (and super easy mode). The vending machine was giving out free Cokes, too.

The place was loaded with games from the early 80’s…

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I got first place on Ms Pac-Man.


There were a few “Space Paranoid” games (from the original TRON). Play Space Paranoid online here.



There were some Xbox 360’s, PS3’s and Wii’s showing off upcoming TRON: Legacy video games.

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I heard there were going to be clues inside to something special. I noticed many of the neon signs were partially lit so I took many photos just in case I needed to recall which letters were lit. They did an excellent job of decorating this place (which is only temporary…completely cleared out after Comic-Con).

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One video game wasn’t playable…



The TRON game eventually slid over to reveal a walkway to Flynn’s lab.

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And a digitizer…facing the desk? Seems like that might be a problem.


Here is the digitizer in action.

After the gun fired off, we walked down a hallway to enter the world of TRON - The “End of Line” Club. It was amazing…best moment of Comic-Con.

A bunch of videos of the bar to help capture the moment

The music by Daft Punk was so powerful. I’m definitely picking up the soundtrack as soon as it comes out (heard November).

A light cycle suit mannequin on display.


The real/live TRON girl was stunning. She actually lit up!



I had to get a photo with her.


How do you cap an experience like that?

Watch the late night screening of “Mega Piranha” hosted by 80’s pop princess Tiffany and my geek crush Felicia Day.


Mega Piranha is a mockbuster by The Asylum of the upcoming movie Piranha 3-D. It was bad, and not “so-bad-it-is-funny-bad”…just sleep-inducing bad.

June 13, 2010

Recycling Done Right

Filed under Travel

Saw this in the Atlanta airport…


Here is the concept: You put garbage in a trash can. Then someone goes through the trash and sorts it into recycling and landfill.

  • No confusion over what goes where…only one trash can.
  • Everybody recycles…you can’t opt out.

Unfortunately, it does not do composting.

More info here.

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April 4, 2010

CityCenter’s Aria

Filed under Reviews, Travel


The past weekend I stayed at Vegas’ latest super casino: CityCenter. The hotel we stayed at in CityCenter is called “Aria.”

CityCenter is made up of 5 towers and a mall called “Crystals.” imageThe 5 towers are:

  1. Aria: hotel and casino
  2. Vdara: hotel and condo
  3. Mandarin Oriental: hotel and condo
  4. Harmon: hotel
  5. Veer: condo

Aria’s rooms are the best Vegas rooms I have ever been in. First of all, the key card to open the door works by being close to the door…no need to insert it in a slot. That means you can just leave the card in your wallet and wave your wallet in front of the door to open it.

When you walk in for the first time, the room is completely dark with the curtains drawn. The lights thoughout the room slowly ramp up to full brightness as the curtains automatically pull back to reveal an amazing view. Then the HDTV turns on with your name written on the screen. There are two remotes: a standard remote and a touch screen that stays by your bed. Both remotes use RF instead of IF, so you don’t have to aim them. The remotes lets you control:

  • TV
  • Music
  • All the lights
  • The curtains
  • Alarm clock
  • Temperature
  • Privacy indicator outside your door

It is very slick.

The room has audio/video inputs so you can easily hook your laptop/mp3 player to the TV. Two powered USB ports allows you to charge your devices without using an AC adapter…nice!

Here are some pics of our room on 54th floor…






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View outside our room…



The sports betting area of Aria is amazing. It has the best/biggest HDTV I have seen (actually, two) if you take the one at Cowboy Stadium out of consideration. First drink is on the house here! I would *definitely* come back just to watch a basketball/football game here. Here is some video to give you an idea how big (and bright!) the screens are.

The next smaller TV’s are ~60”…and they look great, too.

Overall, I’m impressed with Aria. It is very different from typical Vegas casinos…but I enjoyed the change. The food was great, but our service at The Buffet and Cafe Vettro were sub-par. For example, I finished my meal and left The Buffet and never got the Diet Coke that I requested *twice* (the first request was before I went to get my first plate of food).

I still enjoyed my stay and would go again. It is an amazing structure and worth checking out.

Some photos from around Aria…





Mandarin Hotel @ CityCenter…







Crystals Mall at CityCenter…








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July 26, 2009

Pixar Visit

Filed under 3D, Animation, Travel

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I’ve been trying to get a tour of Pixar for quite a while now.

And I finally did…thanks to my buds Rachel and Jason.

Visitor Badge

I met them for lunch on Thursday. We grabbed some Mexican pizza from Cafe Luxo and ate outside.



Front desk


Open area in center of building P1020627 
Pixar has an art exhibit featuring work from various stages of development of their last project. Up! was on display when I visited. There is a lot to see…I wish I could have spent more time looking at this.

Pixar is filled with the characters from their movies.

Luxo Jr.

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The Incredibles


Finding Nemo



Monster’s Inc.


Cars (on the right)


They have “hidden” rats drawn in various places…


My last stop was the company store.


I got a few new work shirts for me…


   …and some shirts for my nephew and niece.



Thanks again to Rachel and Jason! They were great hosts…now it’s my turn!

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June 20, 2009

GoCar Tour of San Francisco

Filed under High School, Travel

P1020572Saturday, I biked the bridge with Delia and family. Sunday, we did a GoCar tour of San Francisco.

The cars are 3-wheeled, gas-powered (1 gallon tank for 70 miles, they say) 2-seaters. The only way to go backwards is to get out and push the car.

They come with a “GPS,” which is a bit misleading. As long as you follow the route map (which is attached to the dashboard), you get an audio tour of your surroundings via a CD in the CD player. The tour gives you directions, but it is easy to miss a turn. Once you make a wrong turn, the “GPS” won’t give you any instructions again until you get back on the route.

Lesson learned: study the map before venturing out…you can’t rely on the GPS to keep you on the path.

The cars are considered motorcycles and thus can park easily almost anywhere in SF.

The maximum speed of a GoCar is 30 Mph…so they can’t go on any highways (and the GPS will bark at you if you try).

Here are some pics I took along the way.

I saw a lot of things I had never seen before on this tour. It is a fun way to see the city in an unusual vehicle. Highly recommended.

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Bike The Bridge

Filed under High School, Travel


Delia Flores Salazar and her husband John and daughter Sydney came to SF last weekend. I went to high school with Delia and haven’t seen her in 20 years. We’ve actually become better friends than we ever were in high school because of Facebook…weird!

There is a ton of stuff to do in SF. I’ve done a lot of it, but there is a surprising amount I haven’t…including riding a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. Delia and Co. wanted to bike the bridge, so I tagged along.

We rented our bikes from Blazing Saddles in Fisherman’s Wharf at the Hyde St. location. We rode along the bay to Fort Point, crossed the bridge, and stopped in Sausalito for lunch. We took the ferry from Sausalito back to the Ferry Building in SF, and the rode back to the Hyde St. location where we started. Total trip was about 8 miles.


Here are some photos I took along the way.

If you get the chance…you *must* do this…it is an amazing way to see the sights and get some exercise as well. *Definitely* bring sunscreen (I didn’t and my arms got fried).

October 8, 2008

Vegas Trip: Fremont Street Experience

Filed under Photos, Travel, Video


My favorite attraction in Las Vegas is the Fremont Street Experience (FSE).

I saw this once before soon after it opened in '96...it still gives me goose bumps.

Fremont Street is located downtown, away from the The Strip. It has a very different vibe than the The Strip...it is more intimate and classic. The FSE is a canopy that runs for 5 blocks down Fremont St. The canopy is a ginormous video screen that shows amazing 10 minute videos after sunset on the hour until midnight. We caught two shows: American Pie and Tribute to Queen.

I love how all the casino lights go out just before the show starts.

The sound system rocks, with speakers everywhere that allow the sound to follow the images across the screen.

Here is some of American Pie...


Here is the tribute to Queen...


October 6, 2008

Vegas Trip: Hoover Dam

Filed under Architecture, Photos, Travel

A short 30 minute drive from Las Vegas is Hoover Dam, probably best known as the structure built to contain Megatron.

We drove out to the dam and I walked across it. It is amazing and worth the trip.

The drive out to Hoover Dam...







A casino in the middle of nowhere



The descent towards Hoover Dam



Power lines from Hoover Dam


New bridge to bypass Hoover Dam







Lake Mead side of the dam




A giant spillway for overflow




The other side of the dam




Arizona side









Nevada side





Trip back to Vegas (strip can be seen in background)





September 28, 2008

Take Me to Butter

Filed under Reviews, Travel


I went to a (new to me) bar this past Friday called "Butter."

Any place that serves deep fried Twinkies and deep fried P. B. & J is alright by me...especially if it is from a trailer (they have a trailer in their bar)! I actually had a deep fried Twinkie...unbelievable.

The drinks were awesome! How about a tangtini? I think I got Tang in several of the drinks I tried. My favorite specialty drink name..."Bitchin' Camero."

The DJ was spinning Southern Rock mixed with Hip-Hop...all stuff you'd recognized, but a little bit different.

Here is the write-up on Yelp.

This is going to become a regular stop for me...next visitor to SF...we are going to Butter.

July 19, 2008

Memphis Minnie's

Filed under Reviews, Travel

imageI met up with some friends yesterday for dinner at a place called "Memphis Minnie's."

A barbeque place in SF? No way!

It's a small place that is overflowing with character and good/unique food.

I ended up having a little of everything:

  • BBQ Seasoned Fries (*really good*)
  • BBQ Pork Rolls
  • Fried Cheese Grit Sticks
  • Corn Bread Muffin
  • Pecan Pie

Everything was yummy...definitely will have to go back to this place.

Here is the Yelp page with more info.

Big ups to Yung for the hookup. And ladies...he's single.

March 26, 2008

Wave Organ

Filed under Travel

I found the "Wave Organ" today. I jog past it all the time, and I had no idea it was out there. You have to walk to the end of a thin jetty to find it. You get nice views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge from the Wave Organ.

What is it? It's a sculpture made up of pipes that create sound as the tide comes in and out. It reminds me of something out of Myst. It's an interesting concept.



Mom listening to the Wave Organ

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Pipes that let sound out (you can see them continue into the water)

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More Pipes!


Alcatraz from the Wave Organ


Golden Gate Bridge from the Wave Organ


January 19, 2008

Wanted: Somebody That Works At Pixar

Filed under Animation, Travel


I stopped by Pixar today. The above picture is about all you get to see if you aren't a guest of a Pixar employee.

I *really* want to see what their studio looks like inside, but I don't know anybody that works there.

If you know somebody that works for Pixar that wouldn't mind showing me around, please let me know. In exchange, I'd be happy to show them around our campus.

December 2, 2007

India Trip Part 5

Filed under Celebrity, Travel

The last day of my trip.

I arrived at Bangalore's Hindustan Airport (BLR) ready to finish my trip around the world and return to San Francisco. I was leaving India for Singapore. From Singapore I would switch planes and head to San Francisco with a stop in Seoul, Korea.

That didn't happen.

At the airport, I was informed my reservations had been canceled. There was room to put me back on the flight to Singapore. However, the flight from Singapore to San Francisco was completely booked.

My best option was to fly to Singapore and take the next available flight to San Francisco, 14 hours later with a stop in Hong Kong. There was also a chance I could get back on my original flight via standby.

Why were my reservations canceled? Apparently the travel agent had me booked twice...once for a Friday night departure (in case I wanted to come home early) and also for Saturday night. Singapore Airlines noted I did not show up Friday night (I never planned to), and it is their policy to cancel all reservations if you miss one. The travel agent was not aware of this policy.

I probably should have been furious about all this...but I was actually excited. I get to spend a day in Singapore!

The only bad part: I missed out on a night of sleep. I left India Saturday night (11:10pm) and arrived in Singapore early Sunday morning (6:05am). I had almost no sleep since the flight was about 4 hours long.

There was a chance that I could get on my original flight as a standby. I had to hang out in the Singapore Airlines Silver Kris Lounge until my original flight left to have a chance to board as a standby. The lounge has free food and drinks. I had about 2 hours to kill so I had some breakfast and cleaned up in the showers.


While I was waiting in the lounge, I saw some Asian girls checking out some guys. The girls were tracking their every move and trembling in excitement.

I noticed the guys had several security guys with guns surrounding them. I asked the girls who the guys were.

They were *shocked* I asked such a question! "You don't *know* who they are?!?!? They are FAHRENHEIT!"


Above is a picture of Fahrenheit in the corner of the lounge. They are a new boy band that is big in Asia. I'm usually up on my celebrities...so it was bizarre being one of the only people in the lounge that had no idea who these guys were. I tried to get a photo with them, but security would not let me approach them.

My original flight took off totally full without me...so now I had 12 hours to tour Singapore. I asked information if I would have a problem visiting Singapore for the day without a visa, and they said I would be fine with my passport. I bought a Singapore guide book and headed out of the airport on a train.


The train seemed like one unit instead of individual cars. You could easily walk the length of the train while it was traveling. When the train turned, you would lose sight of parts of the train that were bending around the corner. It was an odd effect. I took some video of it:

My first stop: find the new Lucasfilm Animation Singapore studio. I found it, but it was closed (it was Sunday) and my badge didn't let me in. :(


The lobby with a Yoda statue from Clone Wars


Exterior of Lucasfilm Animation Singapore

I got back on the train and headed towards downtown.


Civilian War Memorial

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Singapore Flyer (above two photos) will open in early 2008 and will be the largest/tallest observation wheel in the world.

I spent some time walking around the beautiful Raffels Hotel.

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A Toyota Mark X parked in front of the hotel...never heard of this car before.

I grabbed lunch at Seah St. Deli (part of Raffles Hotel). I was *really* craving a burger, fries, and a milkshake...and this place does a nice job of mimicking an American deli.

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After lunch I decided to try a famous drink invented at the Raffles Hotel called the "Singapore Sling". It was great...tasted a bit like a Pat O'Brien's Hurricane.


I returned to Singapore Changi Airport to prepare to head back to the US. This airport is amazing. It has an enormous shopping mall, a movie theater that is free...


...a spa...


...free internet terminals, free Xbox 360 kiosks, a sports bar with enormous TV's, and nice fish ponds...

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If you are going to be stuck in an airpot...this is the one to be stuck in!

The last thing I did was exchange my Singapore Dollars for US currency. Here is what their money looks like:

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I was impressed with how clean and advanced Singapore is. I plan on going back when I have more time to enjoy it!

November 11, 2007

India Trip Part 4

Filed under Travel

The last day in India we got to be tourists and check out the sights.

We started at the ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) temple. I took this picture from the parking lot. We weren't allowed to bring in cameras and we had to remove our shoes and socks before we entered.


Their web site has some nice photos of the temple.

We were told that normally it takes hours of waiting in line to see the inside, but we were spared the wait because we were there so early (around 9am).

Seeing the Main Temple Hall was quite an odd experience...I knew nothing about these people and what they were chanting about.

Our guide, Rashikesh, was nice enough to buy me a book on the subject.

When we left the temple, we got to put our clean socks back on our filthy black feet. Felt disgusting at first, but you quickly forget about it.

Next stop: Bannerghatta National Park!


Before we started, I needed to test the restroom. You had to pay the bathroom attendant to use it...I'm not sure how much, because Rashikesh took care of it for me. The urinals were normal, but the toilets had *no* toilet paper...just a water hose! And the part that shocked me the most...there was no soap or a sink to wash your hands!


We started with a bus tour through a lion and tiger reserve.

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We had to stop abruptly because some wild elephants were too close for comfort...


To scare the wild elephants away a safe distance, some park workers set off several loud explosions. The park workers rode on an elephant to make sure the wild elephants were gone.


Once we got along on the safari, we got *very* close to tigers and lions...

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India is a lot more relaxed than the US when it comes to rules and regulations. The great part about that is you get to be really close to lions and tigers. The bad thing about that...lions and tigers are really close to eating us. I couldn't help but think about this scene from Jurassic Park when we were in our bus surrounded by tigers...what happens if the bus breaks down (it was barely running as it was)? Cell phones don't work out there and nobody had radios, so how do you get help? It's dangerous...but that was part of the fun!

Next, we toured the zoo. Our guide showed us a cage of geese. He thought these were amazing creatures and encouraged us to take pictures of them. I told him we see them all the time in the US.

Next, he showed us the pigeons...


I *did* take a picture of the pigeons, because I couldn't believe you would have these at a zoo.

BUT then, we saw the *best* animal yet at the zoo...a monkey!


We were so excited we started taking pictures. The monkey was out in the open just sitting on top of a fence...he wasn't in a cage. Our guide was annoyed and said we needed to hide our food and walk quickly away from the monkey. We wanted to stay and take pictures but our guide insisted we need to move now. As we left the monkey, I noticed there were monkeys all over the trees above.

I explained to our guide that of all the things we've seen at the zoo, the monkey is by *far* the coolest!

He didn't understand. "You don't have monkey's running around San Francisco?"

He explained that monkeys will come in your house and attack you to get your food. They are not afraid of humans. I guess his reaction to monkeys would be like our reaction to rats.


Next up: Lal Bagh Botanical Garden.


The main thing we wanted to see was the Glass House...

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This is the view looking away from the Glass House...


I thought the signage on trash cans was interesting...


The rules of the garden were not something I'm used to seeing either:


The last thing we did was go to M.G. Road to go shopping before heading to the airport.


On my way back to the US, I exchanged my Indian rupee's...here's what they look like...


India Trip Part 3

Filed under Travel

We stayed in a 5-star hotel in Bangalore, India called The Windsor. That sounds really impressive until you learn that they also have 7-star hotels in India. I don't know how a 5-star India rating translates into an American rating...but The Windsor was very nice.P1010175P1020618













November 1, 2007

India Trip Part 2

Filed under Travel

Probably the most unbelievable aspect of my trip to Bangalore, India was the insane traffic.

Here are a collection of short clips I made during one commute across town...

As the crow files, it wasn't even 9 miles from our hotel to our destination...but it took over two hours to make the journey on average. Our fastest time was just over an hour. Our longest time was when it was raining...more than 2 and a half hours.

There is a lot of honking going on...but it isn't from irritated drivers like we have in San Francisco. It's "polite" honking to let people know that you are near them. Most of the trucks have a sign on the back encouraging honking so the driver won't run into you. Here is an example sign on a truck that says "Horn OK Please"...


The honking really is necessary based on how packed the roads are.

I was amazed by how many motorcycles were on the road. I'd guess that for every one car/truck there were 10 motorcycles...just about the opposite of the USA. Some people use their motorcycles like a minivan. I saw a family of four traveling on a motorcycle. I missed my chance at catching that on film, but I did get this family of three...


The streets are filled with yellow taxis. But these taxis are a bit different than the ones we have in the USA, they are called "Auto rickshaws."


Cars drive on the left in India...mostly. Many of the roads have no lanes or people just make their own lanes...which means you never know if you are going to play chicken with someone...


Another popular vehicle that I've not seen before were the Maruti Omni Microvan. These vans look about the size of a golf cart, but seat up to 8 people (crammed in...I saw one fully loaded). Below is a Maurti Omni on the right side of the picture...


Tata makes many of the vehicles in India. Here are a few...




I saw several *tiny* electric cars called "Reva"...

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There were a lot of cows on the road in the middle of the city...something I'm not used to seeing! There are cows in each of the next pics...some might be a bit tough to see until you zoom in.



We actually got hit twice during our 5 days in Bangalore. Each bump was minor. With cars driving so close, bumping each other is fairly typical ("you *only* got hit twice?!?!?!"). After a car hits another, you just keep moving along...nobody pulls over to inspect the damage, trade insurance, or call the police...it is just part of driving in Bangalore! The damage is usually pretty light because the traffic keeps you driving under 15 mph.

Another big difference...no road rage! Americans would go on a killing spree if they were dealing with traffic like this. The Indians were extremely patient and calm...even after somebody bumps their car.



October 29, 2007

India Trip Part 1

Filed under Travel

I was in India for the past week. My trip took me around the world. I started in San Francisco and changed planes in London Heathrow before continuing to Bangalore, India. On the way back, I went via Singapore and Hong Kong before returning to San Francisco.

I left SF on Sunday @ 4:50 pm PDT (Pacific Daylight Time) and arrived in Bangalore on Tuesday @ 6:00 am IST (Indian Standard Time)...more than a 24 hour trip.

To prepare for the time zone change, I stayed awake for the trip to London (10 hours 10 minutes). I slept for the 2nd leg from London to Bangalore (9 hours 25 minutes). When I arrived it was 6 in the morning, so the timing worked out well because I was ready to wake up.

I traveled on British Airways business class. The flight from SF to London had a really nice seating setup. You could raise a window between you and the person next to you and then it felt like you were in your own private area.

Here are some pics from the London flight on a 747-400...



October 21, 2007

Dad Visit

Filed under Travel

My Dad and his wife Rosie came to visit me in San Francisco this weekend.

They aren't leaving until Tuesday. I have to leave today (Sunday) for India for a business trip. I decided to take Friday off so I could spend more time with them before I ditch them in San Francisco.

I've already given them the Presidio tour (home of ILM and LucasArts). So this time I took them to Skywalker Ranch (home of Skywalker Sound). We had lunch out there and then explored the area. It is a really beautiful and amazing place.

When we got back to town, we grabbed some grub at Asqew and watched Transformers.

Saturday, I took them wine tasting. We started at Gloria Ferrer (in Sonoma Valley) and tasted Champagne.

Next, we went to Napa Valley. I like Napa better than Sonoma...it is more picturesque. The grape vines are turning fall colors now.

We stopped at Robert Mondavi's winery. You get 2 tastes for $10 and you get to keep the Robert Mondavi labeled wine glass. Additional tastes are $3. This place is beautiful. Definitely worth checking out.



For dinner, we ate at a garlic restaurant in San Francisco called "The Stinking Rose." The food was great, with interesting atmosphere (garlic hanging everywhere).

Sunday we met for breakfast at Noah's Bagels. I forced them to watch "Death Proof" and then I dropped them off at Monaghan's for Bloody Mary's and NFL football while I got ready to head to the airport.

Great visit...thank you guys for coming out to see me!

October 3, 2007

Vegas Bound

Filed under Travel


I'm getting packed now for a 4 day trip out to Las Vegas....leaving tomorrow morning. I'm meeting my old high school buddy Chris Franka out there to celebrate our birthdays (this Saturday). We have the same birthday...but I'm exactly one year older.

Any suggestions on what to see or do? Post away in the comments. I haven't made any plans yet.

September 26, 2007

iPod classic 160 GB

Filed under Gadgets, Movies, Music, Travel, Video Games


I'm going to spend quite a bit of time on an airplane soon, so I wanted to find something to keep me entertained.

I initially thought about getting a Dell XPS M1330 laptop. I was actually one click away from buying it today when I realized the ship date was after the bulk of much of my traveling.

I'm actually glad I didn't get the laptop. I don't travel very often, so the laptop would probably sit unused most of the time.

So the next best thing...an iPod. What I like about the iPod over the laptop...

  • Much cheaper ($350 vs. $2,500)
  • Much better battery life (7 hours vs 3 hours for watching movies)
  • Much smaller (can fit in my jacket pocket)
  • Much lighter
  • Fast charging (about 2 hours for 80% capacity)
  • Less concern about theft
  • Should arrive next week

I figure I will load it up with...

  • Season 5 and 6 of 24 (from iTunes)
  • Several seasons of South Park (from iTunes)
  • A few movies I haven't seen (from iTunes)
  • Some audio books (from iTunes)
  • The 3 video games iTunes has (Ms. Pacman, Tetris, and Sudoko)
  • My music collection

Putting everything on the iPod means I don't have to worry about bringing a bunch of DVD's with me.

I decided on the 160GB over the 80GB because of battery life...the 160GB can do 7 hours of video watching on a charge verses only 5 hours on the 80GB.

There are two color choices, black or white. I went with black.

Any suggestions for good audio books, TV, or movies available on iTunes are welcome!

July 9, 2007

Texas Visit

Filed under Travel


After five months in California, I'm making a quick trip back to Texas.

I can't technically take vacation yet, so I'm only going to be able to visit for a weekend.

I'm *really* limited on time, and I want to see a bunch of people, and I like to hang out in bars, so here's the plan:



Saturday July 28th, 2007


Come out and join me for a drink and some (pretty) good bar food. You can park for free in the parking garage.

Hope to see ya there!

July 8, 2007

Alcatraz and Angel Island

Filed under Travel


Today I visited Alcatraz and Angel Island. Photos are here.

I got my ticket from this web site. I bought my ferry ticket 5 days in advance. The only option that wasn't sold out was the 9am tour of Alcatraz and Angel Island. The ferry returned at 2pm. Cost: $51.

We left pier 33 and went to Alcatraz first. The ride was about 15 minutes. The ferry to Angel Island left at 11am, so we had about an hour and a half to explore "The Rock." We did the free audio tour, which was about an hour. You could start or stop the audio as you pleased so you could spend more time in an area than the tour permitted.

Next, we went to Angel Island, which is about a 20 minute ride from Alcatraz. We rode a free 1 hour tram tour around the outskirts of the island. Afterwards we had lunch at a cafe near the ferry dock and then returned to pier 33.

The views from Alcatraz and Angel Island are spectacular. I doubt I'll want to do the tour again...but it is certainly worth doing once.

July 1, 2007

Chris Franka Visit

Filed under High School, Travel


My old pal from high school came over to visit me last weekend. The photos are here.

I gave Chris the traditional tour of ILM and then we went bar-hopping off Chestnut.

Chris had been to San Francisco before...so I needed to come up with something to do that would be new for him and me. He hadn't been to Silicon Valley before, and we are both big nerds, so we went on a tour of corporate campuses. We saw...

Here is a map of where we went.

Next we toured the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. It is a beautiful mansion that was under non-stop construction for 36 years, 24 hours a day, year round. It features bizarre designs like doors and stairs that go to nowhere. The mansion had 40 bedrooms, even though the owner, Sarah Winchester, never had any guests.

June 24, 2007

Jessica's Visit

Filed under Travel


Jessica came to visit me a couple of weeks ago. She brought a great Texas-attitude to San Francisco that I really missed and appreciated. The pictures from the weekend are here.

We crammed a lot into a weekend visit. I took her on an ILM tour first (of course). Then I forced her to walk up Lyon street to see how serious the hills are in San Francisco (your calf's will be begging for mercy). We walked around Pacific Heights checking out where the rich people live before returning to the Marina.

On Saturday, we headed to the Francis Ford Coppola winery in Napa Valley, Rubicon Estates. For $25 a person, you get to try 5 wines and get a tour of the winery. The tour included a visit to the wine caves. After the fact, I learned I get to bring a visitor for free with my Lucasfilm ID...oh well. We had lunch across the street at the Rutherford Grill, which was great.

When we returned to San Francisco, we did the 49 Mile Scenic Drive, which gives you an amazing view of many facets of this city.

On Sunday, we had clam chowder at Tarantino's in the Fisherman's Wharf. We had a great view of the ocean, but we spent most of our time watching the World Famous Bush-man scare people. Last thing we did was visit the seals on Pier 39.

June 18, 2007

49 Mile Scenic Drive

Filed under Travel


This weekend I did the 49 Mile Scenic Drive around San Francisco.

I noticed the "49 Mile Scenic Drive" signs around work, so I looked it up on the Internet to find out what it was and where it went.

I haven't met a single person in San Francisco that has driven the 49 Mile Scenic Drive. Most people didn't even know what I was talking about! That's a shame because it is an amazing drive. Highly recommended!

We tried to use this map combined with the street signs to navigate.

The map is terrible. Many of the streets are not labeled. It does not have enough detail to help in some of the more twisty areas. Some of the map is just plain wrong if you follow the street signs.

Not so fast street signs, I'm not done with you! The street signs are hard to find because most of them are washed out and non-distinct. They are also missing in many key intersections.


I created a new map for the 49 Mile Scenic Drive using Google Maps that is much better. It has all the detail you need and it is in agreement with the street signs.

There are lots of sights to see along the way. Here are a list of 49 points of interest to see along the route. The crummy map mentioned earlier has the 49 points labeled.

When I go again, I'm going to use my map for navigation and the crummy map and the points of interest list for seeing the sights.

If you want to take a "virtual" drive on the 49 Mile Scenic Drive, try the new Google Street View. I'll get you started...click here to begin at the Civic Center. You can actually follow the entire route and look around along the way. It is more fun in person, but this gives you an idea of what to expect.

Here are some of the sights brought to you by Google Street View:

May 7, 2007

Wine Tasting

Filed under Travel


This weekend I went wine tasting in Sonoma Valley and Napa Valley, which is just 45 minutes north of San Francisco. We didn't have much of a plan...just randomly picked places to stop.

The first place we went was Gloria Ferrer Winery. It featured sparkling wine and a fantastic view. Of the three places we visited, this was my favorite. Next, we stopped at Nicholson Ranch and then we finished at Merryvale.

You can see the pictures here.


April 23, 2007

First Visitors

Filed under Family, Travel

I had my first visitors to San Francisco last weekend: my Dad and Rosie.

They came in on Saturday morning and left on Tuesday morning.

On Saturday, we had lunch at Mel's Diner, which was attached to their hotel, The Opal. Mel's was featured in American Graffiti...it has a bit of a toned-down cheesy-Planet Hollywood feel, but the food is OK.

After lunch, we walked around the Marina where I live. We walked to the Presidio and saw the Letterman Digital Arts Center, where I work. Then we headed to the Exploratorium.

I had never been to the Exploratorium before. It is amazing! It reminds me of the Emerging Technologies/Art Exhibit at SIGGRAPH, only about 10 times bigger. We only had about an hour an a half to explore, and that wasn't enough...definitely plan on going back to this place.

For dinner, we had good steaks, slow service at Izzy's in the Marina.

On Sunday, we drove down the crooked Lombard Street (my first time seeing it).

Then we headed across Golden Gate bridge to visit Muir Woods...one of my favorite destinations.

Next, we took in a great view of the city from Conzelman Road, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Even though I know he didn't want to, Dad was a good sport and had sushi with me and Rosie for dinner. On Sunday night, the two sushi places I knew were closed, so we went to Ace Wasabi's Rock-n-Roll Sushi. I don't think either of them had sushi before. They seemed to enjoy it...or maybe it was the large amounts of Sake consumed...either way it was a good time.

On Monday, I had to go back to work. Dad and Rosie met me for lunch at ILM. I had no problem getting them in. I took them around the buildings, showed them several movie props and matte background paintings used in movies. We ate in the cafeteria and then went to the company store to get some ILM/LucasFilm shirts. I took them around where I worked and showed them the concept art for the Star Wars game that covers our hallways.

Pictures of our weekend are here.

Thanks Dad and Rosie for the visit!


March 27, 2007

Conzelman Road and Muir Woods

Filed under Travel

I ventured across the Golden Gate Bridge for a second time to do a little sightseeing. The first place I went was the 2nd exit after you cross the bridge, Conzelman Road. It takes you very high up and gives you a great view of the bridge and the city.

Next, I went to Muir Woods. This is my favorite place I've seen in San Francisco so far. It is unbelievable. The Redwood trees are ginormous and take away almost all sunlight. Even though it was a warm day, once we got into the woods it got very chilly...a drop of 10 degrees if I had to guess. The ground is covered in lush ferns with crystal clear creeks flowing between the Redwoods. It has to be seen to be believed.

I was in such a rush to leave my apartment that I forgot to bring my good camera. So the pictures I took are pretty lame because they come from my camera phone. The pictures are here.

Google has much better pictures from Conzelman Road and Muir Woods.

I'm definitely going to go back to Muir Woods. It will be high on my list of things to show people that come visit.

February 19, 2007

Coit Tower

Filed under Travel

Today I walked around the North Beach area of San Francisco. Here are the photos.

Coit Tower is on top of a serious hill. What a workout just climbing the stairs to the top of Telegraph hill. Once you catch your breath, you get some great views of the city.

Next, we went to Pier 39 and the Fisherman's Wharf.

The World Famous Bushman caught me off guard. He has a writeup on Wikipedia, so I guess he is world famous.

The line to ride the cable car was *long*. I think we waited at least 45 minutes to get on. Here is a tip I learned...don't wait with the tourists to get on at the beginning. Instead, walk about a block away to the first cable car stop. There was *no* line and people just jumped on. You pay $5 after you get on.

February 17, 2007

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Filed under Travel

I checked out the Golden Gate National Recreation Area today. This is about 5 blocks from where I now live. See the photos here.

February 16, 2007

1849 Miles

Filed under Travel

I made my journey from Dallas to San Francisco...a total of 1,849 miles. I did it over 4 days with stops in Odessa, TX; Tucson, AZ; and Los Angeles.

I got a new camera for the trip, a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX07. The main reason I wanted a new camera is my previous camera took blurry pictures in low light conditions. This camera has image stabilization, which should help reduce blurry pictures. It also does wide screen video, which could be fun to play with. So far, I really like it.

Here are the pics from my trip. Thanks to Mike & Alan and my Grandma for letting me crash at their places along the way.

I saw three different wind power farms along the way. One outside of Abilene, one near Palm Springs, CA and the last just before I arrived in San Francisco. Here is some video (116 MB) I shot of the wind mills near Palm Springs. Photos don't do the wind mills justice...and I wanted to see how my new camera does widescreen video.

September 4, 2006

MINI Takes The States: Dallas to Memphis

Filed under MINI, Photos, Travel


Today's leg of MTTS traveled from downtown Dallas (2 blocks from my apartment!) to Memphis. We all gathered in a large parking lot at 8am and left around 8:30am.

I picked up a cool MTTS shirt...although it certainly is not $36 cool.

Wired provided a bus with free WiFi access. I'm not sure how accurate their tally (see picture) was, but they did update it frequently.

I got in a convoy with 3 other MINI's. Alas, it was not meant to be. After only 30 minutes of motoring, the cops pulled over our leader. One of the other cars pulled over and waited. That left me and one other MINI. Not much of a convoy...so I drove slow and waited for another group.

The next group had 4 MINI's in it. One of them was Gary from MC2 Magazine. We stopped at a gas station and took some pictures of our cars. 4 of the 5 MINI's were red, so we lined them up for some photos.

Once we got back on the road, we hooked up with another 4 MINI's to get our convoy to 9. The first official stop was just after the Texas/Arkansas border. One of the red MINI owners (Toby) said he was turning around at this point and heading back. I decided to join him. We had our own 2 car convoy back to Dallas.

The pics are here.

MINI Takes The States: Amarillo to Dallas

Filed under MINI, Photos, Travel

MINI Takes The States (MTTS) is a two week trip setup by MINI starting on the West Coast and ending on the East Coast. It would have been a blast to do the whole thing, but I am out of vacation days for the year. I drove to Wichita Falls to meet up with the inbound MINI's and drove to Dallas with them. I met up with my co-worker Steve Baker at a Wendy's in Wichita Falls. We stopped once at a MINI rest stop that provided free ice cream. Once I got to Dallas, I went to get a free car wash, courtesy of MINI. I had dinner at Razoo's with the Metroplex MINI clan. Then I went to the Gypsy Tea Room for a MINI private party featuring free drinks and a couple of comedians and a couple of bands.

If you click on the Amarillo to Dallas leg of MTTS, and then go to "Details & Photos", then click on "Photos", then go to the 14th picture down, you can see a picture of me on the MINI website! I am the only guy with a red shirt sitting up near the front row with comedian Jay Davis on stage. Appearance on MINI website: check!

Here are the pics.

August 23, 2006

Walking Tour of Boston

Filed under Photos, Travel

Here are some photos from my trip to Boston. I spent a day walking around the city and taking in the sights with my buddy John Verostek as my guide.


About Travel

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to David's Blog in the Travel category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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