This past Memorial Day Weekend, Melanie and I took a trip up to Savannah, Georgia. We stayed in the heart of the historic district in what is probably the nicest Holiday Inn Express on the planet. From the rooftop pool there were great views of the city and the Savannah River, through which some impressively large ships travelled. The historic district was amazing; it is a huge area filled with 22 parks and all kinds of neat old homes, churches, and buildings. Although a bit touristy at times, the city has a very unique feel to it, and was a lot of fun to visit.
My favorite photos are in the Gallery.No comments
Click to see the photo gallery!
One of the fun things about living in a different state is all of the new travel opportunities. Not only are there tons of fun road trips to be had, but a lot of interesting places are now a lot closer and cheaper. So when we found a killer deal on tickets to Costa Rica for spring break, we jumped on it. We had to drive four hours south to Miami to catch a plane run by some airline that we’d never heard of (TACA, the national airline of El Salvador), but doing so saved us a bunch of money… and we made it back in one piece!
We rented the cheapest 4×4 we could find, a tiny little SUV called a Suzuki Jimny. It turned out to be perfect as it had just enough room for me, Melanie, and our luggage. While gutless and bumpy, it always made us smile with its Tonka truck looks.
First we headed up to a town called La Fortuna (map) near the Arenal volcano, pictured above. The volcano is fairly active but not TOO active; we saw a bit of steam in the day and some brief lava flows at night. There was a ton of stuff to do in this area, and we chose some more adventurous options including whitewater rafting and ziplines. Both were amazingly fun. We also went on a really nice walk at Arenal Hanging Bridges, which has a series of trails and suspension bridges through the rain forest. We saw all kinds of flora and fauna, including a sloth and monkeys. The place we stayed, Hotel El Silencio de Campo, was excellent as well. We would have liked to stay a lot longer, but we also wanted to include the beaches in our trip, so we headed off after a few days.
Our next stop was an overnight in Jaco (map), which is a touristy and Americanized town on the Pacific. We stayed there just as a halfway point to our final destination and didn’t do anything in the town, but we really liked the place we stayed, Aparhotel Vista Pacifico. It is perched up on a hill overlooking Jaco and the Pacific, and had a really nice vibe to it. It was really cheap as well.
After Jaco we headed through palm orchards down to Dominical (map), where we stayed a few nights and enjoyed the beaches. Not only was the sand soft and the water bathtub worthy, we had the beaches pretty much all to ourselves. Unfortunately the waves didn’t make for very good swimming or snorkeling, so don’t count on Costa Rica for those activities. But we still had a lot of fun walking, wading, finding cool sea shells, and seeing crabs, birds, lizards, and spectacular views.
The town of Dominical was small and quiet, which we liked. Just enough stuff, like a grocery store and a burger joint, but not touristy or crowded. We stayed at another excellent place, Shelter from the Storm. (Thanks TripAdvisor.com for helping us find all these great places to stay and things to do.)
Overall this was one of our favorite vacations; the country was beautiful, the people friendly, and there was lots of adventure to be had. Just be sure to avoid touristy areas like Jaco and Manuel Antonio (Quepos). We felt very safe the whole time we were there, had no problem driving around the country with a good map, and language was not a barrier as everybody we encountered spoke at least a little English.
Click here for the photo gallery. The video is below. (After you press play be sure to pick 720p or 1080p if your computer/connection supports it!)No comments
Back in 2008 I wrote that DSLRs were starting to include video features and that these new cameras were set to be hugely popular with the movie-making crowd. Well, it turns out I was right. Indie film makers everywhere are making amazing films with DSLRs, and the professionals are starting to take notice. For example, the upcoming season finale of the Fox show House was shot entirely with a Canon 5DmkII. Yep, that’s right, a major television network used a DSLR camera to film one of their top shows. Pretty incredible considering video on digital cameras started off as more of a “gee-whiz” toy feature than a serious tool.
Last year I was watching this trend develop and watching my old gear collect dust, so I sold most everything and waited for the prices on the new generation of “hybrid” DSLRs to come down. In March I had waited long enough and finally got my brand new toy, a Panasonic DMC-GH1. While Canon’s 7D and T2i were appealing options and are very popular with film makers, I settled on the GH1 because its video is as just as good as any of the Canons, but it also has some very user-friendly features that the Canons are lacking, such as a tilt/swivel LCD and a viewfinder that works while recording videos. It also comes with a video-optimized lens that has silent autofocus and a stepless aperture, which can be very important features when trying to shoot video in the real world rather than on a set.
So far I’m really enjoying the camera. It’s so nice to be able to seamlessly switch between taking photos and shooting video, and I love the flexibility of the camera. The Micro Four Thirds mount means that it can use just about any lens ever made via an inexpensive lens mount adapter. My parents were nice enough to give me some old Canon FD lenses they had sitting in the closet, so I’ve been playing with those and getting some nice results.
The movie below was shot early one March morning in my backyard using the FD lenses as well as the kit lens. The shallow depth of field and fine detail rendered by these lenses makes for some darn nice video. I’m currently working on editing footage from my recent trip to Costa Rica, so stay tuned!No comments
I decided to spend some time fixing up Seansense this weekend. I’ve you’re into geeky WordPress website stuff like me, read on! If not, check out one of those other posts.
In addition to fixing broken links and general maintenance, I also thought it would be a good idea to make Seansense 100% iPhone and iPad compatible. Previously the site was a bit of a mess when viewed on an iPhone, with broken Flash video all over the place and formatting issues everywhere. I fixed all this by playing with CSS style sheets and HTML5 video. Keep reading after the break to learn more.No comments
Click to watch the video!
In October I moved from California to Florida, where my wife had been working since August. Before the move I spent a day filming myself doing a few of my favorite California things, then I took various clips and photos of my trips to Florida and the move. What you see here is the result.1 comment
Recently the stars aligned and my cell phone contract expired just as Apple unleashed its latest and greatest, the iPhone 3GS. The bump in features and memory was enough to finally push me over the edge and into iPhone ownership. One of the things that differentiates this model from the previous 3G is the new 3 megapixel camera with video recording capability. Maximum photo resolution is 2048 x 1536, while maximum video resolution is 640 x 480 (VGA). This thing is no HD camcorder or DSLR, but for a cell phone these aren’t bad specs.
It got me thinking… Given the best conditions, can a cell phone video camera and some basic editing with iMovie ’09 make a decent video? I took a stroll along the San Diego harbor this afternoon to find out. I’ll let you be the judge, but I’m pleased with the results.
The only hitch I ran into throughout this process was that I imported the videos via iPhoto, but for whatever reason iMovie didn’t list the movies in the “iPhoto Movies” area of the event library, so I had to reimport the clips. This seems like a weird hiccup for Apple, as media integration is usually their forte.
Overall the iPhone makes a great camera and camcorder when the lighting is good and you’ve left your fancy equipment at home. The hardest part was keeping the video stable, but fortunately iMovie ’09 includes an post-processing stabilization feature that actually worked quite well.
I’ve also put together a gallery of photos I took with the phone. Honestly would you guess these were taken with a cell phone if nobody told you? I’m quite impressed.
Last month Melanie and I took a weeklong trip to south Florida for Mel’s spring break. After flying into Fort Lauderdale, we stayed in Boca Raton at the Renaissance Hotel the first night. Tired from traveling all day, we started to settle into our room, but we were disturbed by an odd buzzing noise. We searched all over the room for the source before finally concluding it must be coming from an adjacent room. After a while we decided the buzzing was too much to bear, so we went back to the front desk and complained. They very politely gave us a new room, but on the way there we still heard the noise! Fearful that we were going crazy, it finally donned on me that the noise was coming from my suitcase. Immediately I knew what it was; my electric toothbrush had turned on and was making a racket in my bag. Oops.
The next day we hopped in our bright yellow Pontiac G5 coupe (which seemed appropriate for Florida and was actually a pretty nice car, if a little gutless… RIP Pontiac) and headed for the Florida Keys. It’s a fascinating drive. First there’s Miami, filled with huge condo high-rises and crazy traffic, then the suburbs, then open land, then marshes, then the bridges start. Some are short, some are long, and one is seven miles long. They string together the keys all the way to Key West. As is typical with Florida, there are some really beautiful parts to the keys and some really trashy parts, but overall the experience is totally unique. We drove about halfway down the chain and stayed a couple of nights at the Continental Inn, which was a little dated but nice and in a great location. While there we visited the Bahia Honda State Park, which is a beautiful place, and also went to Key West for a sailboat snorkel/kayak tour. The snorkeling wasn’t great, especially with Portuguese Man o’ War in the water, but the kayak trip around a mangrove island was a lot of fun. Key West itself is a huge tourist trap and we didn’t stay long.
After our stay in the keys we headed up to the Everglades National Park. Like most national parks, this was an amazing place. There are many diverse ecosystems, from marsh to swamp to river to lake to hardwood hammocks (islands in the marsh basically), and so much wildlife to see. I’ve seriously seen less animals at a zoo than I did in the everglades: osprey, huge fish, turtles, herons, anhinga, alligators, oh my! Just an amazing place.
After our visit to the Everglades we stayed in a Travelodge in nearby Florida City. It was the quintessential cheap motel experience, but to their credit it was clean. That’s about all than can be said.
For our last night we went 180 degrees from Florida City and stayed at the Highland Beach Holiday Inn, which is in very fancy area near Boca Raton. There we met up with some friends of Melanie’s and spent some time relaxing at the beach and checking out the area. The next day we played some mini-golf and ate PF Chang’s with our friends then headed back home. All in all a great trip!
Check out the photo gallery.No comments
Back in February Melanie and I took a quick trip to Las Vegas. I’ve posted a few pictures to the gallery from this trip. Once again all pictures were taken with the Panasonic DMC-LX3. This is a great little camera.
While there we stayed at the South Point hotel, which is really a great deal if you don’t mind being a 10 minute drive from the strip. The place has nice rooms and fun stuff like a huge bowling alley. We also saw the Titanic exhibit at the Luxor which was simply amazing and is very highly recommended to anyone remotely interested in the Titanic. Well worth whatever it was we paid.1 comment
Wow, it really has been a while! I took a bit of a hiatus from Seansense, but I’m back. I’m working on quite a few updates about the various things I’ve been up to for the last few months, but I thought I’d start here since it’s simple. Back in March, Melanie and I needed a quick escape so we took a road trip to the Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. I only took a few photos, but I think they turned out pretty well. All are handheld with my Panasonic DMC-LX3. Gotta love 24mm and f/2.0 in a cave! Check out the gallery.No comments
Below is some amazing footage of the US Airways 1549 crash and subsequent rescue effort.
As a private pilot and aerospace engineer, I have been captivated by this story. I know that when things go wrong in the air, everything usually goes much worse when the airplane reaches the ground. Aircraft need to be light. Their structures are only strong enough to resist the forces encountered during normal takeoffs, flights, and landings, plus a relatively small safety factor. Unlike automobiles, aircraft just aren’t designed to crash. Instead you could say that aircraft are designed to not crash. Every critical system on a commercial aircraft is present in duplicate, triplicate, or more. Extensive design and testing goes into making sure that if one or two things fail, the airplane keeps flying right along.
In the case of US Airways Flight 1549, the redundant system was the aircraft’s engines. If one engine goes out, the second engine has enough power to bring the aircraft safely back to the airport. Due to the high reliability (and costs) associated with modern turbofan engines, aircraft manufactures and the FAA have decided that two is enough. Even the 368 passenger, transcontinental Boeing 777 gets by with just two engines. The probability of them both failing simultaneously is extremely low. Turbofan engines can suck up all kinds of junk and keep running. In fact, manufactures do a lot of testing to make sure this is the case:
However, engines have their limits, and those limits were exceeded on Flight 1549, probably by a flock of Canadian Geese. The geese can weigh 14 pounds or more, which is too much for an engine to withstand. The impact probably broke several fan blades. With the fan spinning at several thousand revolutions per minute, the vibration likely cause a complete failure of the engine. The extremely unlucky thing is that it happened twice to Flight 1549.
Large, heavy commercial aircraft don’t fly very well without their engines. While a sailplane can have a glide ratio of around 60, meaning for every foot of altitude it loses it can travel forward 60 feet, an Airbus full of passengers and fuel has a glide ratio of maybe 12. If the aircraft lost power at 3000 feet, it could glide up to 6.8 statue miles under ideal conditions. This wasn’t enough distance to return to LaGuardia. There was an airport in New Jersey that was close, but probably not close enough, and near heavily populated areas. Keep in mind that the aircraft was probably traveling at 130 to 180 miles per hour, which gave the pilot only 2 to 3 minutes to make a landing. He had to make a quick decision under amazing pressure, and he the right thing by choosing the river.
Not to say a water landing is without risk. A lot of force is involved in hitting water at such high speeds. It is amazing that the aircraft didn’t cartwheel or break apart. While the aircraft appears to be intact in the video, this new photo of the plane being pulled from the river shows extensive damage to the underside:
Michael Appleton, New York Times
Just as oil floats on water, an airplane full of jet fuel is fairly buoyant, which is lucky for the passengers given the frigid temperature of the water. The fast response of the ferry boats is also extremely lucky and amazing. The boat captains did an excellent job of reaching the aircraft and maneuvering their vessels as the plane drifted downriver. The compassion of the ferry passengers is also heartwarming.
Overall it’s just so nice to hear a big news story with a happy ending, as that doesn’t happen very often these days.
If you want to read another story of inflight engine failures and amazing heroism, but with a less happy ending, look up United Flight 232. I was very priveledged to hear Captain Haynes speak at my school many years ago, and his story is another example of how well some people can perform under extreme pressure.No comments