Monday, July 14, 2008

New blog!

Since there won't be any more condo renovations and we've been blogging as a married couple, I'm transferring this blog to:
Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Brother and Sister

My brother and sister came for a short visit last weekend with their significant others. We had a lot of fun hanging out (drinking espresso martinis and playing Cranium) and shopping. On Saturday, we went to Carmel to get away from the 100+ degree heat in San Jose. Not only did we get cooler weather, we also got caught in a thunderstorm! The weather was so bizarre...and of course I had just washed my car the day before. Luckily the rain didn't last that long and we were able to enjoy the rest of our day.
Pebble Beach Lodge/an obese squirrel on the 17 mile drive
Benjamin and Karen/Chris and Kathy
Staci and Tony

Friday, May 09, 2008

Playing hooky

Originally uploaded by b3nj1
Karen and I took today Friday off! We read that the whale watching was especially good this year after a couple of lean years, so we thought we'd check it out.

We headed out on Thursday night for dinner at Casanova in Carmel. On the way, our new Garmin Nuvi 660 GPS gave us creative directions. It came with an introductory subscription to FM traffic updates. Since 101 was a bit backed-up, the GPS thought we'd benefit from taking every exit ramp and then immediately re-entering the highway. We opted to rough it traveling at the speed limit in the carpool lane. :-)

Before dinner, we had some drinks at Hog's Breath Inn in Carmel. Then we walked over to Casanova. We ate there on our honeymoon last September and loved the place! It came highly recommended by a foodie friend of mine, Roman. It was still great, but not as fabulous as last time. The spinach gnocci was so freakin' good! Karen's rack of lamb was seasoned well, but a little over-cooked. I got the seafood linguine which was a bit bland and also over-cooked. For dessert, the warm chocolate cake was very tasty.

Friday morning, we went down to Monterey's Fisherman's Wharf for a whale watching tour with Monterey Bay Whale Watch. We had checked the weather before leaving San Jose, and knew to expect cloudy and cold weather. We had four-five layers on, but six would have been nice. Burrr..

We saw three clusters of whales. The second group was a mom and calf along with two other adults. They did some synchronized dives for us!

I snapped a bunch of pictures, but had some trouble with the lighting. I used my Canon 40D with an Canon EF 70-300mm lens. I set the camera to shutter priority at 1/500s in hopes to minimize motion blur. I think I should have gone a bit faster, and also set the ISO to ~800 instead of auto to coax the meter to pick smaller apertures. I think that would have given more forgiving focus. Most shots are not sharp :( We'll just have to go back!

While on the topic of gadgets... A little while ago, I got a compact GPS logger so I could geo-tag my pictures. I got the Holux M-241. It's the size (and spitting image of) a film canister, and it is really good at locking to the satellites. (The thing locks from the middle of our house!) I just fire it up and put it in my pocket. So, all the photos have their location attached, and you can see them on a map in flickr.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Our New Pets

No, we didn't get a dog...or a cat...not yet anyway. :) For now, we've adopted a couple backyard pets - Mr and Mrs Dove and Ralph the Squirrel. Of course we have names for our pets! I think it's the same set of doves who were around last year. They recently returned and built a nest in one of the eaves. When we first noticed the nest, Benjamin tried to get rid of it by knocking down all the branches. Can you believe that?! I felt bad, all that hard work those two birds put into building their home was shattered. The doves were persistent though and they rebuilt their nest in the same spot (and I made Benjamin leave it). The only creepy thing is that Mrs. Dove likes to peer into our bathroom window when she's sitting up there.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Sunday Hike

We went hiking this afternoon at the Arastradero Open Preserve in Palo Alto. It was an easy trek with some great views, a cute little lake and fun photo opps for Benjamin and his big camera. I always forget how close we are to nature despite living in such suburban sprawl. We saw various birds (woodpecker, quails, red winged black bird), butterflies and lizards. There are supposed to be fields of wildflowers but I think we were too late in the year! Here are a few National Geographic-esque pictures Benjamin took:





Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Visiting the Four Bears

We visited Paula, Alex, Josie and baby Dana this weekend. It was fun catching up, we don't see them often enough. Dana is an adorable baby! Josie is such a good girl and she looks even bigger now that she's the older sister. After visiting at the house, we decided to go out to dinner. It was Dana's first time out and both she and Josie did great! Click here for more pictures.



Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Howdy Mate

So Benjamin and I spent this past weekend doing our taxes. I am traumatized. :) It's the first year we're doing them together and things got kinda complicated. I guess that's a sign of getting older. I sure do miss those 1040EZ days! I realized that I need to do a better job at keeping track of my stuff in Quicken. I spent a lot of time looking for old receipts and documentation while Benjamin had everything in order and at his fingertips. On a more happy note, we're taking a trip "down under" this fall! We're going to go diving in the Great Barrier Reef and visit my brother and his family in New Zealand, I can't wait to see the triplets! We scored two FREE tickets through my American Airlines frequent flyer miles - all those work trips definitely paid off. Award travel to Australia is very hard to come by so I think this vacation was meant to be. Now we have to get our Advanced Scuba certifications this summer. :)

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Meet "The Sames"

Karen and I met our alter egos on Flickr!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Karen's blog needs a new title

Karen finally convinced me to contribute to her blog. Just wait for the hits to plummet...

IMG_4338_1 A couple weeks ago, Karen and I visited my family in Georgia. It was great to see my parents, my brother, his wife and kids, my sister, and her kids. While at my brother's, Karen and I rode his 4 wheelers. I think we'll have to get some because Karen really had fun! :-)

A friend, Joshua, recently moved from CA to GA, so we got to see him. We were made suitably jealous by their new home. The house is beautiful and spacious. Karen and I have been talking about adding a bit to our house and have started talking to contractors. After we're done, our house might be the size of Joshua's basement :-/

As usual, I shot a ton of pictures while in GA, and some are shared up on flickr. Kids (and pets) are much more fun to photograph than adults. We adults always seem to complain about how we look. The kids are especially photogenic, so no problem.


Speaking of flickr... it's awesome, but has a few shortcomings from my perspective. I wanted to find a good online backup solution, and since most of my data is photos, I looked into picasa and flickr. I decided on flickr because they store unlimited photos for a reasonable charge (~$25/year) and they have several ways to organize photos (tags, sets, archives). Picasa is more expensive and seems less flexible. Picasa software is seemingly nice (as long as you don't mind corrupted MakerNotes on your images), but there are many tools out there for flickr (like downloadr to bulk download pictures off flickr).

The true beauty of flickr is that they expose an API, so the shortcomings I've found can all be worked out with a few lines of code or by others' tools. I've written a little tool that I use to:

  • Prepare photos for upload

    • Remove the "OwnerName" tag since I put my name and phone number in my camera. This is a common complaint in the flickr help forums.
    • Add "machine tags" so that I can uniquely match a photo stored on flickr with the version stored on my home machine
    • Add additional tags. Typically for generic tags, like "Christmas", because we add specific photo tags, like "Karen", on the flickr website. Their interface is pretty good for tagging.

  • Upload the photo to flickr

    • There are other uploaders out there, but I didn't like any of them. Plus, having my tool take care of it removed a step in the flow.
    • This gave me the opportunity to optionally re-upload (replace) photos on flickr without losing any of the flickr state (views, comments, notes, etc). That's been useful as I repair photos that the Picasa software has corrupted.

  • Fix the upload time on flickr

    • Other uploaders use the current date/time for the "upload date". Seems logical, but instead, I'd rather have the upload time match the time the picture was taken. This is especially true since I uploaded all my photos (about 16k - not all are public though) from newest to oldest, so flickr displayed my oldest photos first since they sort by upload date. This feature allowed me to fix all the dates of my already uploaded photos. Flickr's selection of upload date seems a common complaint in the flickr help forums.

  • Backup flickr content

    • Now that we're using flickr, there's a bunch of new data created there. We tag and group our photos on flickr. We change the titles and descriptions, and there are comments and notes on the photos. So, the tool can pull this content back and apply it to the photo (title, description and tags fit nicely in IPTC/EXIF fields) or store it locally (notes and comments don't fit so nicely, so I just keep these in xml).

The tool is very customized to my needs, tastes, and usage, but I'm considering sharing it. It addresses some common complaints (OwnerName & upload time). I need to do a little cleanup/documentation before that though.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Happy New Year!

We spent new year's up in Truckee with a bunch of friends (thanks, Fostinos!). On the way up, we watched Jeff's final cyclocross race of the season in Livermore. It was really cold and muddy, all I have to say is that cyclocrossers are hardcore..and maybe a little crazy. We spent our time in Truckee hanging out, drinking, watching movies, playing Wii - it was so much fun. We also had a chance to visit Benjamin's cousin Aaron and his family who also live in Truckee. Cheers to a prosperous 2008!!

Jeff's cyclocross race/posing in Truckee: