If day two was long, day three seemed infinitely longer. We left Twin Falls, Idaho early, heading.northwest.
We had lunch on Memorial Day in Ontario, Oregon, right across the border. The Italian place we stopped at was fancier inside than it looked from the outside. Lunch for the four of us was just over $30. After lunch we had dessert at Dairy Queen and then stopped at a Dollar Tree to pick up a few things … at which point Susan realized she had lost her debit card. A quick call confirmed that it was still at the restaurant, so back we went. Had we not made those other stops, we wouldn’t have discovered the card missing for hundreds of miles.
While in town I saw signs referencing the Oregon Trail. Having played that game many times as a kid, I thought it was funny and snapped a pic. Throughout the day I saw 100 more signs just like it. It was kind of like getting excited about the first Chicago hot dog place you find when rolling into town. Don’t worry, there will be more …
Driving through the mountains and Snoqualmie Pass yesterday was awesome. True to form, as we got close to Seattle it began raining. We had dinner at a sandwich shop across the street from a tattoo parlor, a coffee shop, and a medicinal marijuana store. I guess we’re here.
Our hotel in Seattle is right on the water. In a few minutes we are walking over to Pile Street to watch them throw the fish. Cruise boards around noon. We are all ready to be on it … or at least, not another day in that van.
No pictures right now — no wifi in the hotel so I wrote this on my phone. No wifi on the boat either, so my next update will be from Alaska in a few days!
I could probably sum up today’s post with “we drove all day,” but I’ll try to write more than that.
We left Denver this morning a little after 9am. The weather was absolutely gorgeous there. Both kids suggested that sometime we should just take a vacation to Denver.
From Denver we drove north — and drove, and drove. We drove north to Wyoming, west to Utah, and finally north to Idaho. It was amazing to watch the landscape change. Most of Kansas and Colorado yesterday were flat. We started out today by seeing the Rocky Mountains, and then continued to drive over and through them. Utah had some of the biggest green hillsides I have ever seen, and through the Rockies we could see snow-capped mountain tops all around us.
Susan brought sandwich materials for lunch. We had planned on pulling over and having a picnic, but yesterday’s 95 degree weather turned into 45 degrees at the 7,000+ elevation mark in Wyoming. Instead Susan made sandwiches in the car, and we pressed on. Most of the stops we made today were at rest stops, gas stations, and visitor centers.
We had hoped to make it to the hotel before the beginning of the Thunder/Spurs game, but eventually I realized I had forgot to account for the time change. With a few button swipes I added the ESPN Radio app to my phone, which allowed us to stream the game and listen to it in real time.
We arrived in Twin Falls, Idaho about 30 minutes before sunset. We crossed a giant suspension bridge coming in to town, and then noticed guys in parachutes standing around — base jumpers! We pulled over to let the kids stretch their legs, and sure enough, before long guys were talking out on to this gigantic suspension bridge and jumping off it. The sun was setting so I only managed a few pictures before it turned dark, but it was still pretty awesome to watch.
We hit the road yesterday morning, en route for Alaska. (We’re not driving to Alaska; we’re driving to Seattle and taking a cruise from there to Alaska.) We had planned to hit the road by 6am, but by the time we were fully packed and ready to go, it was 9am. Then we had breakfast. 10 minutes after we hit the road, we had a snafu involving me locking the wrong lock which would have kept our house sitter locked out and our cat unfed, so we had to head back. We really didn’t hit the road until 10am.
We drove north until everybody got hungry, and that happened to be in Newton, Kansas. Looking for something unique to eat, we ended up at Prairie Harvest Deli. It was in the old part of town and looked interesting. The deli was really a organic/whole food store, but in the corner the owner prepares different foods each day. To be honest I wasn’t really looking forward to the food, but the lady had prepared mac and cheese and I had a bowl of that with a scoop of vegetarian chili and, oh man, was it good. All of our food was good, actually. If, for whatever reason, you find yourself in Newton, Kansas, I highly recommend the deli.
And then, for 900 years, we drove across Kansas. Jesus, I hate that drive. It is literally like staring at a picture of nothing for hour after hour. That being said, the van now looks like an electronic store: there are two iPads, two DVD players, two iPods, two iPhones, and 500 movies. So once I got over the thought of anything interesting happening in Kansas, we resorted to electronic media to entertain ourselves. Somehow, we made it through.
Yesterday in western Kansas and eastern Colorado there were high wind advisories — 40 and 50 mile per hour gusts. Our van was getting blown all over the place, and my arms were sore after driving for hours. Dust was being blown everywhere and at times you couldn’t even see the sun. For a while we followed a motorcycle and that poor guy was leaning over at a 45 degree angle trying to keep it on the road. We saw an RV pulled over with people up on the roof, trying to reattach a roof air conditioner. We passed a guy in a Volkswagen dune buggy with no roof, getting sand blaster in the face. It was the closest I’ve ever been to being in a Mad Max movie.
Even though it was late, our final destination was Casa Bonia just outside of Denver. We used to have a Casa Bonia in Oklahoma City and Susan wanted to visit this one. We are really glad we did. The food was good, and inside they had everything from an arcade to a waterfall! During our dinner, a guy and a girl in safari costumes came out with a “gorilla” (another guy in a costume) on a chain. Before we knew it, the gorilla had broken the chain, stolen the girl’s wig, and pushed the girl off the ledge into the swimming pool about 12′ below. Later during dinner, a cliff diver came out and did several impressive dives off the fake cliff wall into the pool below. And, because we showed up late (around 9pm), we had one of the best seats in the house!
We made it to the hotel last night just before 11pm. The kids are already up this morning and are swimming in the pool. In about an hour we will load everything back into the van and head to our next destination, Twin Falls, Idaho.
Photos, where and when possible, will be uploaded here:
In 2009, I posted that I had visited 38 of our 50 states, although about a month after posting that I updated the number to 40 after returning from New York City.
Saturday I’m leaving on a trip that, by the time I get back home, will have added five more states to my bed post: Utah, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. I’ll post more about the upcoming trip in a day or two.
That leaves Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Vermont, and Wisconsin on the list.
A few months ago, Google announced that they would begin cross referencing data across all their applications. This meant that Gmail could now see what videos you watch on YouTube, and both of them could see what you have stored in your Google Drive. The point of it is that by cross-referencing your usage, Google can serve you better ads for you to ignore.
In response to the collective “the sky is falling” response they received from web pundits everywhere, Google added a “Google Account Activity Report” which users can subscribe to and have e-mailed to you on a monthly basis. I signed up. Here’s what it looks like.
The report is primarily made up of your Account Activity. According to the report, over the past 30 days I have only accessed their applications from within the United States. I have accessed Google using MSIE, Chrome, and “Mobile” (that must mean “iOS”). Ah yes, there it is. Under platforms it says “Windows” and “iPad”.
In the last 30 days I have sent 93 e-mails (to 31 contacts) and received 859 (from 104 contacts). According to Gmail, I read more than I write. Sorry about that, everybody.
According you the YouTue section, my most popular video on YouTube is my Literal Video Version of The Cars’ Drive I uploaded a couple of years ago. Last month 2,200 people watched it, and to date it has 86,128 views. It’s by far one of the stupidest things I’ve ever put on the Internet, and somehow 85,000 more people have viewed it than bought my book. Terrible.
And … that’s pretty much it. There are also some links to make changing your passwords, adding or removing products, changing your default language and “data liberation” simpler, but that’s it.
And yes, I now notice that in Gmail I get more topical ads (which I continue to ignore).
A couple of weeks ago, Mason’s school had a “Land Run Day.” It’s something we do here in Oklahoma.
I guess for a fundraiser, the school had a photographer on hand taking pictures throughout the day. When I went to pick Mason up from school last week, all the pictures were posted in the hallway and you could purchase them. Mason and I spent about 10 minutes combing through the couple hundred photos, and the above shot was the only one we could find of Mason.
So I took a picture of it with my cell phone — a “picture of a picture.”
If it had been a better picture of Mason, or one of him with his friends, or one with him and his land run wagon he built, I would have paid for it. So instead, I decided to snap a picture of it with my phone and see how it turned out. It turned out.
By 10pm tonight, robohara.com and all the other websites I host (podcast.robohara.com, review-o-matic.com, and lovethyshelf.com) had been down for almost 24 hours. The last time my web server was down for 24 hours was in June of 2009, when I built the current server I’m using and converted my physical web server into a virtual one.
For the fourth time in as many weeks, I came home to find my web server powered off. Personally I’ve only ever had this happen a few times: once time was due to a blown capacitor; every other time was due to overheating. I figured it was the latter and stuck a fan up to the case to buy me some time. The server ran for three or four days before shutting down again. Tonight after work I had to go do some shopping; 10pm was the first chance I got to evaluate the situation.
My original guess was right. My server has 4 fans in it — one in the power supply, two in the case itself, and a fourth on the CPU. The one on the CPU was the only one still spinning. Of the two in the case, one had completely locked up and the other was simply buzzing. The one in the power supply was dead too, which was most likely the culprit.
Several years ago while throwing some old computers away I (for such an occasion) ripped out all the fans and saved them. It took me half an hour to find them, but after I did, transplanting them into my server only took about half an hour. I fired everything up about 30 minutes ago and, so far, everything looks okay.
The downside to being your own server admin/hosting solution is that when things go bad, there’s no one else around to fix them. The upside is, during those times, you know that the issue’s being worked on. ;)
I upgraded my iPhone last week from a 3GS to a 4S. I did this mainly because I wanted a better camera phone for our upcoming vacation — the 3GS has a 3 megapixel camera; the camera on the 4S is 8 megapixels. I’ll be taking my Pentax DSLR of course, but I’m sure I’ll be snapping lots of camera phone pix as well.
The 4S has several improvements over my old 3GS, but the one I was most interested in playing with was Siri. Siri (as I’m sure you know) the the new iPhone “voice assistant”. It’s how people like Zooey Deschanel can tell if it’s raining outside or not.
If Siri is your first introduction to voice recognition software, you might not appreciate just how far such systems have come. I first played with Dragon Dictate in the mid-1990s. Voice recognition programs of that era had to “learn” your voice by having you run through a setup reading exercise that took about an hour. Even after being trained, few of the early programs could keep up with speech spoken at a normal conversational rate. Like early OCR software, the first generation of home voice recognition software wasn’t all that accurate. Dragon Dictate claimed an 80% accuracy rate, and that was under perfect conditions. Background noise and cheap microphones could greatly reduce the software’s accuracy.
When rolling, I can type somewhere around 100 words per minute (give or take). That means I could type more quickly, and often more accurately, than those early programs.
I didn’t dabble with voice recognition again until I began experimenting with in-car navigation in the early 2000s. Several of the popular mapping programs supported voice commands for simple navigation assistance, such as zooming in or setting destination points. Unfortunately, road noise combined with the distance between your mouth and your computer made for less than stellar results.
My first smart phone, the Palm Treo, had software that allowed for voice dialing. “CALL. HOME.” (pause) “Dialing Pizza Hut …” Argh.
So anyway, about Siri. It’s amazing how far the technology has come. For starters, Apple’s noise-cancelling technology does a pretty good job on removing background noise, improving the accuracy rate of the speech recognition. It doesn’t work with the radio cranked to 10, but with it on 3, in addition to background road noise, the phone had no problem recognizing my commands.
Another improvement is Siri’s ability to decipher what you really want. In the past, voice commands had to be specific. With Siri, it recognizes what you want. “call Susan O’Hara mobile” and “call my wife’s cell phone” both do the same thing.
And that’s the beauty of the thing; suddenly, I can do things with my phone that I either didn’t know how to do or was too lazy to do. “Siri, wake me up in 20 minutes,” results in Siri setting an alarm 20 minutes from now. “Siri, where’s the nearest Taco Bell?” gives me that exact information. Suddenly, I don’t have to know HOW to do those things. The phone does them for me.
Back in the pre-Windows days, you couldn’t launch a document — you launched applications, and then opened documents. It seems like Windows 3.1 even worked like this, but I could be wrong. If you wanted to read a Word DOC file, you couldn’t just launch the DOC file — you launched Word, and then opened the DOC file within Word. I remember thinking how amazing Windows 95 was, that it would allow you to just click on a file and it would magically open the right application and launch my file.
And that’s how Siri seems to me. I don’t have to know how to edit my contacts, or use the map program, or how to schedule alarms. I just tell Siri what I want to happen, and it does it. It’s a single point-of-contact for controlling my phone (at least, the apps that are supported).
For things that Siri can’t do on the phone, it uses the internet. You may have seen the iPhone commercial in which Samuel Jackson asks Siri, “How many cups are in a quart?” and she gives him the answer. I’ve already played around by asking her what movies are showing near me and how to make a screwdriver, and she delivered.
Perhaps the most interesting thing to me is that Siri is able to combine bits of information. “Remind me when I get home to reboot my server,” I said on Thursday. Siri pulled my home address from my contacts (I guess) and popped up a reminder when I pulled in the driveway.
What I’d like to see is this technology ported over into different gadgets. With PVR systems we can already do things like record television shows, play them back, and search the web, but imagine being able to do all of those things using plain language! “Siri, send me a text message when a new episode of Mythbusters airs.” “Siri, record the “Soup Nazi” episode of Seinfeld the next time it’s on.” “Siri, always keep five recordings of Beakman’s World.”
Saturday was Tuttle’s 21st annual Ice Cream Festival. Somehow we managed to miss the first twenty; this is the first one we’ve ever gone to.
There was a parade at 10am. We missed it. We were going for two reasons: lunch, and dessert.
For lunch, they had the same food trucks that they have at every similar festival of this nature. We split into two groups. From one trailer Dad, Morgan and I got a hot dog, cheese nachos, and an onion burger (respectively). From another trailer, Susan and Mason got an Indian Taco. The kids got a couple of cans of soda for a buck each; Susan and I brought out own water in bottles, which worked in our favor. Bottles of water were $3.
While Susan and the kids checked out the kiddie area, Dad and I walked around the car show. There were 20-25 cars on display, I’d estimate. It only takes going to a couple of car shows a year to start seeing the same ones over and over.
At two different times during the day, we over heard estimates of a “two-hour wait” for ice cream. Now, I thought the ice cream would be free, but when I heard that it was $1.50 for Braum’s ice cream cones, we came up with a plan B. After piling in the car, we drove over to Braum’s, where they sell ice cream cones for $1.35 (including tax). And the wait was around 90 seconds. And we did it in our air-conditioned car, in the drive-thru.
This review came off more negative than I meant it to. The Tuttle Ice Cream Festival wasn’t bad … there just weren’t very many things to do and we didn’t stay very long. Maybe we’ll give it another try next year.
Over at the Retroist, I’ve started a new video series titled “Looking Back with Flack”. In sticking with the site’s retro theme, in these videos I’ll be reviewing retro “things” — toys, video games, movies, shows, or whatever else I can come up with.
Here’s the first episode:
I hope to post 2 or 3 “Looking Back with Flack” videos each month. I’ll probably post them on Fridays over there, and then post links to them here on my blog a day or two later.