Impressions from 3 Days in Denver

So our first trip ever to Denver for 3 days of shopping and household set up. A whirlwind trip.

I’m struggling to synthesize Denver. It is different than I expected, feels much more like the midwest or Texas than the West Coast — I guess not surprising when you look at a map. What is the soul of Denver, the essence of Denver? Searching for either of these on Google is unrewarding. What is Denver if you strip away all the chain stores, the national brands, the generic architecture? Not that Denver has any more of these than any other city, I just want to understand what is unique about Denver. Everyone I’ve ever met from Denver loves it, what is it they love?

I’m left with two impressions. One, the extensive brick architecture against the unending blue sky. You don’t get either one of these in Seattle, you don’t get the brickwork really anywhere on the west coast. Obviously Denver is not quake country. And Seattle’s skies are famously gray, and so often obstructed by trees, by hills, by architecture. Denver’s sky is big and blue and overpowering at times.

Two, the great little neighborhood taverns in every neighborhood. We ate at great places in Edgewater and other near western neighborhoods, we saw dozens of other great places. It felt like there were more of these, and more small neighborhood commercial centers, than we have in Seattle. Maybe they are just more reachable — the flat open layout of Denver makes it easy to zip around, in contrast to the water/bridge constrained layout of Seattle.

Nice time. I’d like to see more and I am sure I will over the next couple years.

What I've been up to — Ohio, Europe, Studying…

Some silence in last month. Spent a lot of time enjoying family and central Ohio, fall is the time to be in the state with football, color changes, often good weather, etc.

And when not in Ohio, I was in Helsinki (recommended: Hotel Glo, Fazer Cafe), Stockholm (Lydmar Hotel, Vasa Museum, Sture shopping area, Skogskyrkog√•rden, Sodermalm, Fasching Jazz Club, Opera Bar, oh and much more), and Brussels (Hotel Amigo, St Michael/St Gudula Cathedral, Roue d’Or, Musee Magritte, Comic Museum, Sablon, Wittamer chocolates, and much more).

Mentally I’ve been thinking about Fat Spaniel, a couple new things, and my half time load at UW this term as I continue my education. Lots of differential equations theory and numerical analysis, stuff I touched on 25 years ago, but good to get the base refreshed. Amazing how the tools have changed — MatLab and Mathematica are just incredible pieces of software.

Gadget packing

A sad fact of modern life. When I pack for a trip these days, my packing planning and time is dominated by gadget packing.

Just carrying the gadgets isn’t that hard. MacBook, iPhone, Kindle, Canon 5d. Ok I have to plan lenses for the Canon a little, and actually there is a whole endless morass of camera decisions brought on by carrying a good dslr — lenses, filters, cases, tripod, etc. But let’s pretend this all away.

Power is the next challenge. Wall wart for MacBook. Wall and car chargers for iPhone because the iPhone wants to be charged often. Kindle charger if travelling for > 5 days or if not fully charged. Extra canon battery and/or charger. Tried ChargePod as a charging consolidation device for a while but hardware failed. Tried one of the aux battery packs for iPhone, it was not effective.

Ok, next, various connectors for playback and transfer. Earbuds, check. Currently using Shures and happy with them. iPhone USB cable (part of charging kit thankfully). Want to output Macbook video/pix or iPhone video/pix to tv/monitor? Bring the connectors. Need to get photos off canon onto MacBook during trip? CF reader. Oh and a USB flashdrive always helpful.

Long trip? Will need extra CF cards, as well as external USB drive with master photo storage.

Ok that is all the physical. Virtual packing now. Kindle is easy, holds all the books I can read on even the longest trip, and updateable over the air (in the US). Music? My Iphone can’t carry all my music, do I have right playlists and subset? Movies on iPhone? Same issue, do I have the ones I want loaded? Docs — I use google Docs, so easy to get access, as long as I can get wifi. Tv shows? Trying to get slingbox working right now to solve that.

Convergence has allowed me to dump some devices — vidcam (canon or iPhone are fine, and I don’t vid much), nintendo ds (iPhone casual games are fine). Those would have all their own attendant power/connector/media issues.

I use Eagle Creek pouches in various sizes to organize all this. Otherwise you have a mad tangle.

What would make all this better? Clearly better battery life, wireless charging would be great. Great cloud storage with local cache for all media would help. Device convergence is not something I care about, there are reasons why dslrs and ebooks and phones and pcs should be different devices. I will be interested to see what my kit looks like in 5 years.

Stuff I Want But Don't Need — August Edition

* Possibly the most ill-considered travel item ever — those TSA agents love a good joke. Ha ha ha, strip your clothes off sir.
* Vex robotic kit. Never had robot love, but if i did…
* Sticky tripod. No idea why but seems like I should have in my camera kit.
* I don’t know why I don’t have an eye-fi yet.
* Cooling bandanna. At less than $2 I should certainly get
* Dramm fogg-it hose nozzle. Doesn’t the name sound like a spoonerized curse phrase?
* Dynomighty wallet. If they had a buckeye one i’d be there
* Digital rachet wrench. Seems like a horrible idea.
* Traverse switchplates. Nice, I hate generic plastic switchplates.

Recent books — Bonk, Weber, Dauntless, Travel

* “Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex”:amazon by Mary Roach. Moments of interesting info but a lot of tedium about the crazy ideas people have had about sex research and the crazy methods used. A little bit is titillating, a book worth is off-putting.
* “By Schism Rent Asunder”:amazon by David Weber.. Solid nautical adventure. Incomprehensible if you didn’t read first in series.
* “Dauntless”:amazon by Jack Campbell. A space officer revived after 100 years and thrust into a leadership role. He is isolated by the responsibilities thrust onto him and by the differences between his values and those of the current society. The character development of every other character is paper thin, which oddly works to support the feeling of isolation. I’m not sure I’d read more in the series but oddly effective.
* “Do Travel Writers Go To Hell?”:amazon by Thomas Kohnstamm. Well this travel writer is sure going to hell based on the life of debauchery he has led. Interesting insight into the quality of research that goes into travel books.


Welcome to BostonCoach — ok this is not the cheapest way to get around, but Buston Coach has been rock-solid for us over the last several years. The service has been flawless — always arriving on time, always courteous, scheduleable on relatively short notice, works well in major metro areas and more remote areas. We are huge fans.

Dream Trip to Chile

Haven’t had much opportunity to travel in the last year but hopefully will get the chance to do so. In the meantime there are some trips I am dying to take and I might as well collect all the links so I can quickly organize when I get the chance.

I’ve been dying to go to Chile for many years now. The natural beauty really calls to me. The highlight of my trip will be an Earth River expedition in Patagonia. This pretty much pins the trip to the Chilean summer months — December thru March.

Certainly I’ll want to spend time before or after the river in and around Santiago — some online guides:

* NYtimes
* ContactChile
* CIA factbook on Chile
* Consular Information Sheet from the state department
* Fodor’s, World Travel Guide, TripAdvisor

And then probably will want to get out of Santiago and see one other part of the country…not sure where…maybe should stay in Lake District a while at end of rafting trip tho maybe I’d be all watered out at that point? Or maybe Valparaiso and Vina del Mar in central Chile — here is one guy’s idea of an itinerary. Easter Island would be a fascinating choice too but that just doesn’t feel to me like really getting to know Chile. Maybe the wine district — stay at Termas Jahuel.

Driving Directions

I love google maps and mapquest, but if you are planning a multi-leg road trip — say for instance visiting 8 colleges and universities over 4 days — AAA triptiks are still pretty darn useful. They make it easy to specify multiple stops, save your plans and try variants, and they print out pretty well. I joined AAA for other reasons, I’m not sure I would pay the fee just for triptiks, but if you are already a member, worth trying.

Ignition Blog Roundup 9/26

* Phil thinks it would be great to listen to podcasts on his cellphone. Totally agree. I would listen to like 10x as many if I could use the cell.
* Phil talks about Jobster’s culture and how they encourage innovation — lifting the 20% idea from Google.
* Phil on the latest features in Berry411. I fyou have a blackberry and don’t have berry411, get going!

Maybe this entry should just be called “keeping up with phil”. Oh wait, Rich on online sites for trading in mileage points. Good stuff, I have a lot of idle miles.