Christmas Photos

Before leaving for San Francisco a few weeks ago, I also spent Christmas with my parents in France. Of course I took lots of pictures and I was a bit more lucky with the weather there than in California. Since I’m visiting my parents tomorrow (flying home for my sisters wedding), I figured I should finally do a little editing and polishing of these photos. Results are here.

Storm of the decade

The weather is more than a little disappointing. The San Francisco Chronicle was labeling yesterday’s storm as the storm of the decade. In case you are wondering, jet lags are funny and I’ve been reading the hotel paper since 5.30 am when it was delivered. The only news in the world seems to be Britney + Ohio primaries, at least according to this waste of dead trees. CNN seems to concur, alternating their non stop coverage between the two non issues.

Of course that kind of qualifications in a US news paper always need to be taken with a grain of salt but it sure was no fun walking in San Francisco yesterday morning. To see what the (predicted) 30 feet (10 meter) waves look like, I took the N-line to the Ocean Beach end point and stared at the ferocious mix of horizontal flying sand + rain and the predictably rather wild but not so high waves breaking for about 30 seconds before deciding that getting soaked like this was probably not a good idea. The rest of the day I did the Moma (great!) and in the afternoon I took the cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf when the weather had cleared up somewhat. Today I’m planning to do the de young museum and then, weather permitting, walk onto the golden gate bridge. My city pass ticket for the De Young also gives me access to the legion of honor museum so I will likely go there as well. Tomorrow I’ll use my bay cruise ticket and use a few more of the museum tickets.

Despite the nasty weather, I’m really enjoying San Francisco. Hopefully, I’ll get some sun light and warmth in Las Vegas next week.

San Francisco

I flew to San Francisco yesterday to do some sight seeing, visit my colleagues in NRC Palo Alto, and attend CCNC in Las Vegas next week. The flight was pretty long. I took the 6:15 flight to Amsterdam from Helsinki (i.e. I got up 3:30 am) and was supposed to leave to SF at 11:10. Unfortunately some idiot left some drugs (cocaine??) on the plane which resulted in a 1.5 hour delay to search the plane for more. The flight itself was pretty uneventful. The plane was a Boeing 777-200 which I liked a whole lot better than the 747’s I’ve flown so far on trans atlantic flights. The food was pretty decent (considering quality of usual in flight meals). Additionally, the in flight entertainment system was much better than what I’ve seen before. I saw several nice movies during the flight: Rush Hour 3, Mr Bean’s Holiday, Star Dust and Wallace & Gromit: Curse Of The Were-Rabbit. The system had a pretty decent selection of a few dozen movies with quite a few recent ones. Plenty to see on the way back.

Additionally, I met an old friend from Groningen where I lived a few years ago on the plane (six seats behind me!). She is living in San Franciso now with her husband and I’m having dinner at their place tonight. Small world.

My jet lag was nicely compensated by not sleeping for 26 hours. So I had no problems falling asleep at 21:00 and waking up well rested at 7:30. The hotel is pretty cool. It’s the Pickwick, 1 block from Powel Street station on Market Street. This morning I was planning to take the cable train from there (somebody gave me a ticket before I left). Unfortunately they had some mechanical trouble so I had to walk. I walked all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf and got some great views of San Francisco on the way. It seems to me the cable tram is for sissies anyway.

The only disappointment seems to be the weather. This morning it was pretty cloudy and around noon it started raining. On my way back I visited the Apple store to drool at over the cool stuff they have there. I played a bit with the ipod touch and was pretty impressed with it. Particularly the browser is very cool and I was very impressed with how it scrolls and zooms in and out of pages.

If it had a bit more flash memory I would probably buy one. 60+ GB would be about right for me (right now max is 16). My current ipod photo has 60 GB and that seems to be plenty for me.

Right now I’m relaxing a bit in my hotel room, sipping a coke and enjoying the free (!) wifi. Of course I am taking lots of pictures (despite the weather). I’ve gimped up one, the rest will follow when I’m back home and can use photoshop (the Gimp is comparatively useless/unusable):

Alcatrez

I might post a few more over the next few days.

traveling

I’m traveling the next few weeks (France, San Francisco, Las Vegas). I’ll probably update a few times from abroad.

Cheers & happy new year!

Travel from A to B

I’m going to pollute quite a bit of this planet since I will be traveling quite a lot next few months. The past few days I’ve been trying to book tickets and dealing with incompetent travel agencies and air lines. They really need to sort this booking tickets thing out.

The deal is perfectly simple: I’m in Helsinki and I want to go to St Quentin La Poterie, France (Le Gard district) to visit my parents in the south of France. The nearest airfields are Nimes, Marseille, Montpellier, Nice and Paris (more or less in that order; there are more airfields BTW and technically Barcelona is closer than Paris). I will have to rent a car regardless of where I fly. How hard can this be?

In short, there is no airline website capable of figuring this one out. I happen to know that my options are blue1, Finnair, SAS, KLM, and Air france. Blue1 and SAS are partners; so are KLM and Air France. Well that may be true on paper but their back end systems are not integrated, at all. Air France managed to provide me with the “best” offer, so I filled in my details (including credit card details) and then was redirected to a stupid pop up, in Finnish. WTF! So fuck you very much. No Air France this year for me. So I go to klm.com and they can offer me the same flight for 600 euro extra. WTF! No way. Fuck you very much as well! So I end up on good old Blue1.com, the overpriced but still cheaper variety of SAS with a direct flight from Helsinki to Nice. At 430 euro, this does not come cheaply but that is what you get for booking late in November. I spent about an hour figuring out what the alternatives were before finally selecting this one and I still have the feeling I’m being ripped off.

Originally I had planned to do something much more complicated. I asked the travel agency at work to book me a flight via France, San Francisco and Las Vegas spanning three weeks. The best proposal they could come up with was 4000+ euro. In my view this explains 100% why travel agencies are going out of business world wide. This is not what I wanted to hear. I ended up booking the flight to France myself and returning to Helsinki for a flight along this path Hki-Amsterdam-SF-Vegas-SF-Amsterdam-Hki combined with the hki-marseille-hki path that is quite a bit of flights that are somehow half the best the travel agency could offer me. Beats me. Arguably there’s some redundant air miles in this trip. Apparently it is impossible to make a sensible itinerary that has me travel to France before christmas, after christmas from there to San Francisco to Vegas and finally to Helsinki. I’m flexible on pretty much all the dates and I’m sure it can be done in less than 8 separate flights. My estimate is that I will be wasting enormous amounts of fuel on behalf of travel agency incompetence.

Anyway, enough bitching. I’m going to France, San Francisco, Las Vegas in the next few weeks. I’m very much looking forward to all of this! After that I’m also planning to go to Granada in late January for the Sensei project kick off.