Tag Archives: nature

European Vacation – Ireland and Northern Ireland

After England, we headed to Ireland. Besides seeing Jessica and Andrew in Paris, Ireland was my favorite country (countries). It was absolutely beautiful and had so much gorgeous nature. I could see myself living there happily. This post will probably have a lot of photos!

Driving in Dublin was crazy, but gem drove exceptionally! I didn’t drive the first day, but I did later. Driving on the right side of the car and left side of the street wasn’t really a big deal, but being forced to park and drive with most of the car on the sidewalk due to the small streets in Dublin was nuts.

gem’s a natural at driving on the wrong side!

First we walked to the Lansdowne Hotel for some dinner, Guinness, and to wait for a show in the basement.

The Irish House Party featured traditional Irish music and dancing. We sat right in the front row. It was easily one of the best evenings of my life. They were amazing.

Here we are with all the performers!

The next day we did some exploring in Northern Ireland. Perfect sign placement.

Our first castle was Carrickfergus Castle, which was super awesome. There sure are a lot of castles in Ireland though! Here’s gem, Antonio, and Anela in front of the castle.

And here’s me, gem, and Anela on top of it!

Anela seemed just a tad excited by the name of this boat!

Pretty close, right?

This castle wall seemed like the perfect place for them to pose.

I have a thing for silhouettes. I thought Anela and gem looked cool here in the window.

gem leans back all cool on top of the castle. She’s just chillin’. No big deal.

After the castle, we drove to Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge, which is 66 feet across and 98 feet above the water. The rope bridge connects the mainland to a little island. It was a bit freaky being on the little rope bridge that high, but most of us made it across without incident. Anela was scared of heights and stayed behind for a while, but eventually someone who worked there walked her across to join us.

Look, we all made it!

I think gem took this photo of me. It was really beautiful on the island.

Of course, I had to do a little yoga. I was still a few feet from the edge; don’t worry.

After our adventures with the rope bridge, we explored the Dunseverick Castle ruins and Dunluce Castle. Both were mostly ruins, and there isn’t a lot to say about them. Afterwards we went to Giant’s Causeway, shown above.

We did some hiking, and gem and Anela rescued a slug from the middle of the path.

This rock reminds me of a dinosaur’s bone. I wonder if anyone else in my group imagined that.

Giant’s Causeway is known for these basalt columns that are naturally formed from volcanic eruption. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Anela, gem, and Antonio hike across the rocks.

Here’s a closer look at the columns. You can see that the number of sides differ.

Watch your step! All three of them are looking down as they walk so they don’t trip.

That face. I don’t know what she was thinking here. 🙂

On the way back to our apartment, we stopped in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, for pizza at Opera Italian Pizza. Anela has no recollection of this, so I’m glad I have photos! You’ll have to excuse the weird neon lighting.

We got two pizzas, but this is the one that I remember. It might look like Hawaiian, but that’s not pineapple. It’s a ham and peaches pizza, and it was super delicious! This is one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had.

The next day we took a day trip to County Clare in the Mid-West Region. We grabbed McDonald’s for the road before heading out. Driving on the wrong side was fun!

We started with Bunratty Castle! And I hope all these photos are accurate. I might have some mixed up with Craggaunowen. That’s the problem with using my phone as well as my DSLR since my phone’s clock updated but my DSLR’s clock was set to my home timezone. It’s hard to sort out which photos go together.

I read that most castle staircases are narrow and go up clockwise so that defenders coming down the towers would have more space to swing their swords (since most people were using swords in their right hands). Interesting!

Time for a short break from all the walking to sit and look out a window. I think there’s a pretty decent chance than I asked them to sit down and pose for this actually.

The blacksmith fit Anela her new shoe. He was a nice guy, and I bet he really enjoys what he does here.

gem and Anela help the blacksmith! Honestly, we spent a long time with him. He really wanted to show us a lot of things, but it was fun.

gem also met some new feathered friends!

Next was Craggaunowen, a 16-century castle and open-air museum. Here’s gem on the roof of the castle.

gem learned to spin yarn first. It looks like she took this seriously.

I wanted to try as well. I bet I was focusing and concentrating.

And here’s Anela. Is that the face of someone trying their hardest? I think not! I bet she was laughing at herself, but I don’t remember.

This was in the castle courtyard. It was very pretty and green!

This path led to the rest of the open-air museum.

This is some sort of combination of building and underground tunnel.

The site features reconstructions of what life used to be like in Ireland.

Edited to add Anela’s comment: “Also, that looks like we ’bout to drop the hottest album of the year!”

Here’s an actor playing the role of someone who might have lived here in the past. He was nice!

After finishing at Craggaunowen, we explored Aillwee Cave, a cave system that includes an underground river. I don’t have a lot of photos to share since it was dark, but it was fun to go on the tour.

The Cliffs of Moher are quite possibly my favorite place. I don’t mean my favorite stop on our trip. I actually mean my favorite place ever. It was amazing.

Just look how gorgeous these cliffs were.

I spent a bit of time sitting alone. I wish I was close enough to sit and think at the cliffs regularly.

There were even some pretty pink flowers growing along the edge of the cliff.

I believe the little island is the Branaunmore Sea Stack. Atop the cliffs is O’Brien’s Tower.

gem went to explore the tower more closely!

At this point it was getting late and we were getting hungry. In our rush to see as many places as possible, we hadn’t planned enough time to eat. It didn’t help that the sun set much later than we expected and that restaurants seem to close earlier. In our search for a restaurant, we did find some nice cows that checked us out while we checked them out.

Eventually we found a bar with a bartender nice enough to reopen the kitchen to get us some amazing stew. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful day. However, there was one small part of the day left. I had an approximately 170 mile drive back to Dublin – late at night, single lane and unlit highways, wrong side of the road. I was so tired. That was possibly one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Thanks for trusting me to get us back safely guys!

We got back to Dublin much later than we had planned, so we decided to sleep later and spend the day in Dublin rather than driving to County Cork.

We began our day with a meal at O’Neil’s. I had some delicious shepherd’s pie! Afterwards we did some exploring. Here we are at Dublin Castle.

Next up was the Christ Church Cathedral.

We also got to go down into the crypts, which was a museum, but I didn’t take any photos worth sharing here.

Anela and gem pose in front of Peacock Green after we stopped for a treat. They gave us free pastries!

We went on a walking tour of Dublin where we were told that it was good luck to grab the left breast of the statue of Molly Malone. I bet no local believes that and that it’s just something they tell tourists.

Three lovely ladies post for a selfie. Molly Malone wouldn’t duck face.

The tour also took us to Trinity College, but I didn’t take any photos worth showing.

gem touches the tip of the Spire.

We spent the rest of the day walking through the city. We saw some interesting sights and learned some fascinating things. I was intrigued by the story of Father Pat Noise. You can read about it on Wikipedia. The tour guide told us that Irish care more about the story than the truth. Two brothers installed a plaque on O’Connell Bridge commemorating Father Pat Noise – someone who didn’t really exist. It was eventually removed (after two or three years). Another was installed, and when it was planned to be removed, a City Councillor argued against it. It’s still there.

Anela and Antonio look at something in difference while gem looks directly into the camera wondering why I’m taking a photo.

On our final morning, gem made us some breakfast sandwiches before we headed back to the airport for the next leg of our vacation!

Ireland was so amazing and beautiful. I know there are so many places to visit and so much traveling I’d love to do, but I really hope I can return to Ireland and spend a lot more time there. And while I’m hoping, I hope that the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland remains relatively invisible after the UK exits the European Union! Thanks for the memories, Ireland!

Europe Vacation 2016 – Denmark

Back in May, I traveled to Europe with gem, Anela, and Antonio for a vacation starting with Denmark. Clearly I took my sweet time organizing photos and writing blog entries. The catalyst was wanting to visit our friends in Paris. When gem found a cheap flight to Copenhagen, we began to plan in earnest. Most of the tickets were purchased by the time I was laid off from Toshiba. Weird timing, but the vacation was great anyways.

We left LAX on May 20 and arrived in Copenhagen on the 21st. Using Uber was interesting since Antonio had data but none of us had voice calling, but we made it okay. The most noticeable aspect of Copenhagen was that it was incredibly bicycle-friendly.

We explored the city a bit, including this greenhouse with cool stairs and two levels.

We decided to try McDonald’s everywhere we went. I don’t remember specifics about McDonald’s in Denmark, but the quality certainly seemed higher.

We took a canal tour that was excellent. It was a great way to quickly get a feel for the city.

I don’t have much to say about this photo besides the fact that I like it.

Tortus Copenhagen is a pottery studio that Anela knew from Instagram. Unfortunately, they closed by the time we got there and wouldn’t be open again until after we left the country. Anela left a note for them, and they later followed her on Instagram!

After a lot more walking, we walked through a very beautiful park.

gem had fun impersonating statues and admiring the hedges. She has a thing for hedges.

Perhaps Anela was waiting for people to get out of the way so she could do a jumping photo. I can’t say for sure, but we did take jumping photos here.

That night we discovered something strange about Copenhagen. It stayed light pretty much all day. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it would get dark around midnight and get light again around 3 or 4. In fact, that was a problem most of our vacation. We’d lose track of time based on the sunlight!

The next day was actually day of a big race. We saw some of the runners and stopped here for some coffee. I wasn’t a big coffee drinker at home, but I learned to appreciate it much more while in Europe. Unfortunately, coffee is a lot worse in the US.

It was half race, half street entertainment, and all excitement.

Here’s a view from a bridge over one of the canals in the city.

Next we visited the Church of Our Savior, which has a tall spire with a spiral staircase that narrows as it climbs. Anela, not liking heights, did not join us. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was actually mentioned in Journey to the Center of the Earth, which I had previously read.

gem looks really happy here!

At the highest point were many stickers and writing that people left. Antonio signed one of the stickers here.

Anela waited down below, but I still got a photo of her.

The inside of the church was also pretty with a number of cool statues.

Next we visited Christiania, also known as Freetown Christiania. It’s an autonomous or anarchist community in Copenhagen. It seemed pretty interesting, and you can read more about it on Wikipedia.

It had a lot of beautiful art inside and near it such as this on the side of a cargo container.

This blacksmith in Christiania holds a metal sign she made that I purchased as a gift for some friends of mine. I’ve seen them a few times since returning to the States, and every time I’ve failed to give it to them. I’m going to their house on New Year’s Eve, so I better look for it.

Funny story. At an airport later in my trip, there seemed to be a problem with one of our pieces of luggage. Eventually the security person pointed to my bag and asked whose it was. I said it was mine. He points to his monitor showing the x-ray’ed contents of my bag.

“This is yours?” he asked. There on the screen, 100% legible, are the words “NAKED DANCE.”

“Yeah.”

“Naked dance. You.” It was a question, but he said it more as an indignant statement.

“Yeah.” Not that I commonly partake in naked dancing (although when I’m alone in my room, who’s to say), but yes, it was mine.

He then starts laughing before saying “okay” and allowing my bag to continue.

We visited Tivoli Gardens, an amusement park and pleasure garden in Copenhagen. Do you know what a pleasure garden is? I didn’t until I looked up Tivoli Gardens on Wikipedia. It’s a garden open to the public for entertainment. Anyways, Tivoli is the oldest operating amusement park in the world. Sorry Tivoli, but you don’t hold a candle to Disneyland. Still a fun day though!

Here’s one of the streets through Tivoli lined with shops.

gem even got to play the xylophone!

After Tivoli, we did more exploring. gem wanted to join this sculpture.

I liked the Gefion Fountain featuring the Norse goddess, Gefion.

gem and Anela posed after we got done looking at the fountain.

gem thought that “cafe emma” could use a ‘g’ to make it “cafe gemma.”

One of the last things we did before dinner that night was visit The Little Mermaid, a famous sculpture that’s known to represent Copenhagen. It’s been vandalized multiple times and even beheaded. Some people are so disrespectful.

We went to Brasserie Degas for dinner because of their amazing desserts. However, when we got there we found that it was a nicer (and more expensive) restaurant than we were expecting. We got a number of desserts and shared them but decided to eat dinner somewhere else. The waiter seemed less than thrilled.

We ended up getting pizza and pasta next door. This was the first time on the trip that we noticed people getting really quiet when they heard us discuss Trump. You could feel the tension disappear when they realized we were not in support of him.

We ended our last night in Copenhagen by embarrassing ourselves a little. We joked that we should avoid walking past Brasserie Degas when we finished eating so that the waiter wouldn’t see that we simply went next door for dinner. When we walked out of the restaurant, we immediately turned the opposite way of Brasserie Degas to begin walking back to our AirBNB. Fool proof plan except for the fact that the waiter had just left and was walking to his car. He definitely saw us! Not that it matters of course. It’s our vacation, and we’ll eat where we want!

Thus ended the first country on our vacation! Copenhagen was beautiful and a bustling urban center. It was a great start to our vacation.

DMV server installation job and Nor Cal trip

I recently finished a temporary, contract job as a field technician for Form 10 installing computer hardware in California DMVs. Each day, two technicians would arrive at a DMV at 2:30 PM. We’d install new a new uninterruptible power supply and rack server, remove the old UPS and server, remove the old camera workstation, install and configure a new one, install new fingerprint readers at every window, and remove the old fingerprint readers. We’d leave whenever we were finished (usually between 7 and 10 PM), and then one of us would come the next morning to watch from 7:30 AM until 10:00 AM. And then we’d drive to the next DMV. As the team lead, I also had a bit of paperwork.

It was nice experience installation the rack servers. The hardest part was the physical act of getting it racked. It was also interesting seeing the DMV from the other side. DMVs have a reputation for being slow and boring, but in reality they’re staffed by normal people who are for the most part trying to help customers. And some of those customers are pretty bad.

The real difficulty of the job was the hours. Every other day I didn’t work until 2:30, which sounds good. However, when you consider that I’m in a different hotel each night, waking up, eating breakfast, working out, checking out by 11, and then driving to the next DMV by 2:30, there wasn’t much time for anything. There were tiny pockets of time. Maybe I could work out quickly enough, check out early, drive to the next DMV as soon as possible, and get there by 12:30 or 1. That gave me maybe two hours, but those free hours were in an unfamiliar place without any physical space for me to use. It was tough, especially being in Northern California or the Central Valley for a few weeks without being home.

Surprisingly I ran into three emergencies. First, one of the security staff members at one of the DMVs was taken away on a gurney. I don’t know what happened to her, but she was able to walk to the gurney herself. At another DMV, I heard a bit of a commotion between the staff and found out that an ambulance came for a woman who fell in the parking lot. It was raining hard that day, and I heard she fell unconscious. I don’t know if she slipped in the rain, hit her head, and was knocked unconscious or if she suddenly lost consciousness, causing her to fall. What I do know is that I saw security coning off a part of the walkway the had a puddle of blood. Apparently she broke her nose. Lastly, my partner and I witnessed a woman pulling away from a man, yelling things like, “get away from me” and “don’t touch me!” I got security, and my partner brought her inside while the man followed. It seemed to be a domestic dispute. Maybe she was overreacting and he wasn’t doing anything wrong. Maybe he was doing something wrong. I don’t know. But I do know that at the end of the day, she was okay, and that’s what matters. The police came and talked to both me and my partner, and they reviewed the security footage right next to me as I installed the server. It was an interesting day.

There was some chance for fun as well. I had some down time one day and decided to visit the local university, Stanislaus State.

I had never even heard of it, but I enjoy universities, and this one was certainly beautiful.

I also saw some cool wildlife. Yes, this photo is terrible. But there are wild turkey in the center!

And here’s a terrible photograph a baby deer! It’s right under the bush in the center at the top.

While in Sacramento, I had the chance to visit the Capitol Building.

I had to take a photograph with the bear! Former-governor Schwarzenegger bought this and left it in the Capitol Building.

I met an interesting woman with whom I went out twice while in Sacramento too. She teaches fifth graders, including many who have hearing impairments. She uses ASL in the classroom. I found it particularly interesting to realize she has to watch for children signing during tests as a way of cheating. She also plays roller derby in Sacramento, which is pretty sweet!

Chuck Sommerville, creator of Chip’s Challenge, lives near Sacramento. I asked him if he’d like to join a fan for lunch, and he agreed. It was awesome. Chip’s Challenge is one of my favorite games; I have an autographed copy of the original Lynx version. The lunch was a pretty amazing experience. He’s a bit of a personal hero of mine and has done a lot of cool things. He always has fascinating projects and shares progress on Facebook. Over lunch he told me a lot about the development of Chip’s Challenge, Chip’s Challenge 2, and Chuck’s Challenge 3D. I also heard about some more of my Lynx favorites like Klax, Todd’s Adventures in Slime World, Gates of Zendocon, and California Games (Chuck designed the skateboarding game). He also told me about John Romero (designer of Doom) and how they were both huge fans of each other’s work.

Chuck now works with LEDs. One installation of which he was particularly proud was the “Sensing YOU” installation in San Jose, which I had a chance to check out. It interacts with the phone game, Ingress, and responds to the motion of pedestrians passing under it. He actually got me playing Ingress now too. It’s a location-based game made by Niantic, the same developer who later made Pokemon Go. Ingress and Pokemon Go use the same underlying data.

Here’s a video of the installation that I took! I was with Matt and Katie, who I stayed with one weekend. They were very gracious to let me stay in their home and are truly terrific people. I had a wonderful time with them!

I’d never put up Christmas lights and enjoyed the opportunity to help them.

They looked great!

Matt has an arcade cabinet at home that his brother gave him as a gift. Here’s Matt and Katie playing Bomberman together. This photo makes me really happy honestly! They’re wonderful together, and I might have a soft spot for arcade cabinets too.

Visiting them was really fun. I got to see my friend Marc a couple nights that weekend as well. It’s practically unbelievable to me that I originally met these great friends through World of Warcraft!

That’s my trip! I got to add rack server installations to my resume, see all sorts of the more rural parts of California in which I had never stopped, visit Sacramento, and even meet Chuck Sommerville. It was a pretty good gig!

White Mountain Peak

white mountain peak

When Erica asked me to be a subject in a sleep study at White Mountain Peak, it sounded like a fun adventure! I spent four days at 12,500 feet, met some awesome people, and saw breathtaking views of nature.

white mountain peak

I stayed for three nights, and each night I was using a different routine. The first night I slept with AVS. From what I can tell with some Googling, it uses the ambient air, pressurizes it, and basically forces you to breathe it. I’m simplifying. I slept with a mask over my nose, and I actually liked it quite a bit. The second night I slept normally, and the third night I slept with oxygen.

The treatments are nice because the air is a lot thinner up there, and there’s a lot less oxygen. Simple tasks could really wear me out. Soaping my body with my bar of soap caused my heart to race. Talking while hiking would leave me needing to catch my breath. I also felt the effects of altitude sickness pretty badly at times.

white mountain peak

Despite the difficulties from high altitude, I did some great hiking. We even saw deer! They’re in this photograph, but I know they’re too small to see clearly. We also a hawk of some sort with a red tail. I’d like to say it was a red-tailed hawk, but for all I know, there could be a lot of hawks that happen to have red tails.

white mountain peak

Everybody on the trip was awesome as well. Steve, the caretaker at Barcroft station, was a puppeteer and is a delicious cook! I had the opportunity to get closer to Erica and Alex, and I’m thankful for that. Dillon rescued me from altitude sickness one day by joining Alex and me in a great conversation on morality and ethics. Matea, despite saying she doesn’t open up easily, left me breathless as we chatted during our hike. Corey gave me some photography tips – especially regarding shooting the stars. They must not have stuck with me, because you’ll notice I’m not sharing any starscapes.

Now I know 12,500 feet is pretty darn high, but I’d definitely go again. It was gorgeous! Check out more of my photos from the trip in this Flickr album!

Camping at Malibu Creek State Park

Camping at Malibu Creek State Park

I went camping at Malibu State Creek Park recently. I hadn’t been camping since high school, and while this wasn’t nearly as intense, it was a lot of fun! We just went for a single night. The camp site is directly in front of the parking spot, and there were bathrooms and showers (although we never needed to shower), so we didn’t really rough it.

Camping at Malibu Creek State Park

We did a bit of hiking both days. A lot of Southern California hikes look the same, but this was beautiful.

Camping at Malibu Creek State Park

M*A*S*H was filmed here, and as a few of us were big M*A*S*H fans, we looked at what remains from the show, including this truck. It was pretty cool!

Camping at Malibu Creek State Park

We had so much food too – pasta with arugula, hot dogs, chicken, spam masubi, chips, cookies, more chips, more cookies, banana s’mores, macaroni and chee-zza (one of gem’s dishes shown above), and lots more. Michelle was shocked by our diets I think.

Camping at Malibu Creek State Park

Michelle! She wasn’t in any of the group shots on my phone, but I’m going to include her in this post one way or the other.

Camping at Malibu Creek State Park

After our day of camping, it was time to go home and walk off into the distance.