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Travel

Updated Portfolio

Recently I submitted some of my photography to a stock footage website to see if I could get published. (Of course the extra cash couldn’t hurt…)

You can find a link to that album here.

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Google Maps – Public Transit Mode

The other day I tested out Google Maps’ Public Transit mode. It told me it was going to take 9 minutes to get to Grand Central and that there was a train at 9:31, 9:37, 9:43 and 9:49. Sure enough one showed up at 9:31.

Google Train Time 1

 

And it took exactly :

 

Google Train Time 2

How flippin’ spot-on is that?!

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An Inspirational Letter

West CoastAbout ten years ago (my God), one of the most influential Guidance Counselors I’ve ever had handed me an envelope with a note and $100 in it. On the face of the envelope were doodles of a road lined with Redwood Trees, the Oregon shoreline, the Seattle Space Needle, and other prominent features of the West Coast. (The $100 was a loan which she never allowed me to pay back.) She told me to take time during our three week break and travel, because she knew that’s what I needed.

It was a phenomenal trip. I drove from Los Angeles to Whistler, Canada which is a town right above Vancouver. On the way I also stopped by San Francisco and Sacramento, drove through the Redwood Forest, visited Portland and Seattle, and even drove up Mount Saint Helens.

My pictures don’t do it justice because at the time I was experimenting with just taking video, and using still frames from it as pictures, so the quality is not that good. But recently I discovered a roll of film, tucked away in my draw for over 10 years, that I never had developed. The film contains some pretty bad pictures. Some are just horribly taken, and others may have just degraded over time, but one stood out to me though:

Drive Thru Tree

This is the Chandelier Tree, named for its distinctive limbs at the top that bear resemblance to a chandelier. Found in the town of Leggett, Northern California, it’s a 315 foot tall Redwood tree so large that you can drive a car through it. The base measures 21ft in diameter and has a 6 foot wide by 6 foot 9 inch hole at the base that allows cars to drive through it.

The trip was my second major solo adventure of significant length, but the one that spurred many more to come, and I have to thank my former guidance counselor for that.

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FitBit Force Review

For my birthday Kay bought me the new Fitbit Force. If any reader is unfamiliar with “Tracking” devices for exercising or health monitoring, most of these you wear clipped on your clothes, as a bracelet, or armband. The Fitbit Force this a very sleek looking bracelet that monitors your movements throughout the day, and even night.

 

When using the phone App, the home screen will look like this:

Within each individual category are more specific stats. Here are a few:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And in Sleep Mode it can tell if you’re Awake, Restless, or Asleep.

With the above pictures, each one was assigned a Goal such as taking 10,000 Steps, Burning 2,500 Calories, or being Very Active for 30 Minutes per day. Through the iPhone App (or on the web) you can even input the water or food you eat and the amount of calories you’re ingesting. You can even type in “banana” or “potato chips” and it’ll provide estimates of calories for those items.

The bracelet syncs to your iPhone via Bluetooth fairly seamlessly. Since I keep Bluetooth Off, I’ve noticed I have to have the App closed, turn Bluetooth On, then open the App for it to sync. (The App cannot be opened first.) You can set it to sync every time you open the App, or in the background periodically if you keep Bluetooth On. The overly-cautious person that I am is a little worried about wireless waves and radiation this close to me, so I turned that off. I did a little research online and found that the Fitbit emits radiation 10 times less than that of a cell phone. Unfortunately it does this via Bluetooth every minute (although cell phones do it with stronger wavelengths every few seconds.) One commenter in a forum calmed me a bit by mentioning that the radiation emitted is less than the typical amount of radio waves “floating” through the air everyday anyway.

I’ve contacted costumer support with questions and they’ve been very helpful. I actually wrote them on their Facebook page twice and received detailed responses very quickly.

Overall I really like the Fitbit Force. I’m a little over a week in and very interested in improving the amount of time I’m active and decreasing my restlessness during sleep. Hopefully a device like this can help, and it looks like it will.

The Blaze

It’s been awhile. Sorry about that. Work has been very hectic. The movie I’m working on opens in January so these next two months are going to be even worse, I’d imagine. Hopefully they try and wrap things up by mid December before the Holidays.

Around Halloween Kay and I went to The Blaze over in Westchester County. It was my first time there and surprisingly packed. Apparently people from all over southern NY and even parts of Connecticut come to see it. Sponsored by the Historic Hudson Valley  organization, they populate a large area of land with carved pumpkins (some real, some fake I discovered) that are lit up. It was pretty neat.

Not only am I grateful that Kay is interested in these kind of things (she’s gone to the Blaze before), but that’s she’s actually introducing me to new things. A big fear of mine is living a boring and stagnant life. Small trips like this, and maybe a holiday trip to the tree at Rockefeller Center next month, are always nice to break up the routines of everyday life.

Fall Trip to Vermont

The first weekend in October ago Kay and I went to Vermont for a three days. We decided to stay in Stowe, renting a cabin from a place called Cabin in the Woods, and driving over to Burlington for the afternoon on Sunday. Monday we would drive back.

The drive up was really nice. It was a little cloudy but we still got a good taste of the fall foliage. I plotted a scenic route, driving along Route 7 and Route 100 to get a taste of the beautiful orange and golden leaves along the highways in the Green Mountains. There was one town, either Rutland, Vermont or around it, which had some interesting artwork alongside the streets. We saw moose, panthers, and other exotic animals carved as statues. (You can click any of the pictures on this page to enlarge them.)

We arrived at Cabin in the Woods around 2pm, after a five hour drive up. We stayed in a small and quaint cabin, perfect since it was just us and Kay’s dog Brindle. We actually could have fit two more people in bunk-beds in the 2nd bedroom, and another person or two on the pull-out couch.

We then drove around Stowe checking out the town, and eating delicious burgers and fries at The Blue Donkey. Many reviews on Yelp mentioned a long wait, and they were exactly right. It took about 25 minutes to receive our meal. The food was really good though.

Afterwards we attended Oktoberfest, which was kind of a let down. I can see locals finding it exciting to meet up with friends and family, but for us it was just a venue to grab a beer and watch people dressed in German clothes perform music. It was all inside a huge tent, with a few vendors trying to sell some goods.

Sunday was fun. We drove a half hour over to Burlington. For breakfast we ate at the Skinny Pancake. The line was out the door, which to us was a good sign. The menu looked so enticing we couldn’t decide what to get so we ordered 4 different crepes and a side of cheese fries. (We’re pigs, I know!) We almost finished everything. I would say 3 of our plates were completely finished.

Afterwards we went to the Church Street market, which reminded me a lot of the Santa Monica Promenade in LA. The great part is that there were still a lot of local stores selling Maple Syrup, hand-made wooden kitchen supplies, local mustard, and more. The promenade in Los Angeles has gone almost completely to big chain stores.

As we finished the strip it started to drizzle so we went back to the car. Randomly we started looking up spas on Yelp to book massages, and luckily found a place back in Stowe. We did stop by the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters shop, which was more like a store with a small informational museum attached. No big deal.

Back in Stowe we enjoyed a relaxing couple’s massage, to which Kay got to enjoy a dip in the jacuzzi and a Himalayan Mineral shower after. Completely beat, we decided to grab pizza and wine and head back to the cabin to relax some more.

Monday was an exciting day. We stopped by the Cold Hollow Cider Mill which had a huge gift shop with tons of goodies. From apple cider and sauce to salsas, mustard, syrup and more. We easily dropped one hundred bucks in there, if not more. We even got to watch part of the process of making the cider.

We followed that with stops in a cheese store, chocolate store, and last but not least the Ben and Jerry’s factory. As we walked in two parents were having a problem with their child and gave us their tour tickets for free. The tour was about 30 minutes and pretty interesting. We got to take a look inside the plant and sample a flavor in trial. Afterwards we visited the “Flavor Graveyard” where some flavors go to die, grabbed some ice cream at the shop, and departed for New York.

Overall it was a fun trip. I wish the clouds kept their distance some more so I could take some better pictures, but I’m glad we went nonetheless. Between this trip to Vermont and one to the White Mountains in New Hampshire last fall, I’m designating the first two weekends in October as the prime time to take a vacation each year. I love the fall colors.

You can find the full photo album here.

Planning the Vermont Trip

Sorry for the delay in entries. This Fall has been pretty hectic. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a very full plate of exciting activities:

- Two camping trips (one to Bash Bish Falls and one to North South Lake)
- Sunday Wine Trail day
- The Hudson Valley Food and Wine Fest
- Work get-togethers
- A tour of the Millbrook Winery with Kay’s family
- Apple picking with friends at Dressel Farms

This upcoming weekend should be a lot of fun, if the rain steers clear of northern Vermont that is. It looks like the rain has been pushed back till Monday, the day we leave, so that’s good. Kay and I are driving up to Vermont for a long weekend to see the Fall Foliage. I plan on driving through some scenic areas in the Green Mountains and through Brandon Gap. We’re renting a cabin in Stowe, and going to visit Burlington as well. I haven’t had time to do a lot of research, but here is what I have so far:

ON THE WAY
- Scenic Drive on Route 100 from Readsboro to Newport. Center of the Green Mountains.
- Scenic Drive on I-91 from White River Junction to Newport.
- Scenic Drive through Brandon Gap

STOWE
- Octoberfest: Stowe’s event field will become a Bavarian Village. Enjoy German food and freshly brewed Vermont beer.
- Ben and Jerry’s Factory
- Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Factory
- Farmer’s Market on Sunday 10:30-3pm

BURLINGTON
- Church Street Market Place
- Vermont Teddy Bear Company
- Waterfront Park

There are a few things I’d still like to look up, like good restaurants in both towns, and maybe even a Gondola Ride or Zip Lining excursion. There also seems to be great spas around, so maybe even grabbing a nice massage before our car ride back on Monday. We’ll see…

Here are two maps of the trip we’re planning:

Any comments or suggestions are appreciated.

Everything in Moderation

Somehow, maybe through Trover, I stumbled upon this young woman’s blog “www.nowpanicandfreakout.com“. I spent awhile reading some entries on her website and browsing through photographs. She spent a brief time out in Japan before having to move back home because the company she worked for there went bankrupt. She then got a “corporate job” and “settled” back in America. She later wrote,

“That burning desire for distant lands, exotic scenery and new adventures started calling once again. The mundane corporate job and politics became overbearingly mind numbing and suddenly settled wasn’t as glamorous and comforting as it once appeared.”

I can completely relate, although it seems we took two different approaches to solving this dilemma. She sold almost everything she owned and is living on the cheap traveling country to country. I think that is amazing, and if I was younger I would totally love to do that, but once you reach your upper 20s or even 30s, if you want a nice size house and kids, that nomadic lifestyle won’t do.

So while I can’t travel country to country living in hostels or crashing on people’s couches, I’m not advocating getting a corporate desk job, working 60 hours a week, and eating dinner and being in bed at the same time every day. As with everything I think it’s important to find a balance. A balance between a well paying job (you enjoy) and giving yourself enough free time to go out and experience the world. My job helps pay for my trips like the ones to Alaska and Hawaii. Now I’m saving for Key West in 2014 and Europe in 2015. Basically I think if you make it a point to save and go out on these excursions, you can make an ordinary desk job work to your benefit. In fact, when I have a little downtime at work I actually research my next vacation. That extra time online helps me discover good deals and figure out where the best places to go are.

I’m very happy the author of that blog got to go out an enjoy the world like that. I’m jealous when I hear stories of college students traveling abroad and living life overseas. I wish I had that chance and hope more Americans are encouraged to experience that during or after college. Luckily I can look back at my life in California and Florida, or my cross country road trips during college, and feel like I wasn’t missing out. But there’s no way I could drop everything and move overseas at the moment. Right now I can appreciate my job and the money it provides that allows me to go on these great, albeit short, vacations.

I keep coming back to the same theme: “Everything in Moderation.”