Monday, March 31, 2008

New Endeavors

I've decided to undertake a new endeavor, I'm quitting my job to sell peanuts on the street corner. No, not really just seeing if you're paying attention.

This weekend was spent in front of my computer, I know that's what I do most days but this was slightly different. I decided it was about time I did something with my photography instead of leaving them on my computer where nobody can enjoy them. Doing a little bit of research on-line, chatting with my friends I have launched a new web-site. Currently this site just contains some of my favorite photographs. When I take notable photos on my travels, instead of sharing them using KodakGallery I will post new albums to my very own site.

I hope you enjoy it.

(Creative URL I know)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Earth Hour

I didn't think I had anything to blog about today until I turned on my computer to do some research (not for work this is purely personal and I'll blog about it once the project is complete, so stay tuned). Anyways back to this post, if you are not aware today Earth Hour is being celebrated today from 8 to 9 PM local time. People around the world (or at least in the UK) have been invited to turn off their lights to promote energy awareness and conservation. Google is doing their part to help in this effort as you can see from the screenshot below they have turned off their lights on their home page in the UK.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


I think the title of this posting says it all. Well maybe not, I'll give you the details. At the beginning of the month I went out and bought a new tripod and head, unfortunately the tripod arrived 2 days later but the head was on back order - the tripod isn't much good without the head. I called yesterday to find out when the item was expected in and was elated to find out that it was shipped on Tuesday that means it should have arrived yesterday, the beauty of next day delivery (or so I thought). Imagine my surprise when I called the store this morning to find out if the package was out for delivery today only to be told - it was delivered yesterday. This was not possible, I was working from home yesterday and I had no deliveries. The customer service rep then suggested maybe they left it with a neighbor. Now this is what I really hate about the delivery services here, if you're not home they go knocking on all your neighbors doors and ask them to sign for the package. Actually yesterday that happened to me and when I refused to accept the package the driver was all annoyed. I kindly explained that I do not know them and I do not like it when my packages are delivered to strangers. This seems to be a complete shock to people. As of now I have no idea where the tripod head is, I'm still waiting for a call back from the customer service people to find out where DHL delivered this to as it certainly wasn't delivered to me.

UPDATE: 2 hours after posting this DHL delivered the package. No idea why the site said it had been delivered yesterday. All is now right with the world(at least my world).

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Snippets from Vacation

Spending Easter weekend in a warm environment is a tradition that I think I will need to continue (does 2 consecutive years make it a tradition). The weekend in the Keys was very relaxing and fruitful. We couldn't have planned it better if we tried. We managed to go deep sea fishing - I spent the majority of the time feeding the fish but did manage to reel 2 in which were then promptly thrown back as they were either too small or not edible.

The marina next to our hotel in Key Largo has a famous resident "The African Queen." When we first walked by I commented that somebody had made a replica of the boat, but it is actually the real boat from the movie. And now for the random snippets.

Everglades National Park

We spent a rainy Saturday afternoon wandering around the Everglades.
Got fairly close to some alligators, I never want to be any closer than this.

In addition to lots of gators we encountered numerous birds including turkey vultures:

We also spotted a little frog. I have to give credit to my sister for spotting the frog and taking the photograph. She kept trying to explain to me where it was and I couldn't see it, I handed her the camera and told her to take the picture. After she showed me the picture I moved over to where she was standing and I could clearly see the frog. He was slightly camouflaged from other angles.

More Photography

Other notable photographic events include playing with my new macro lens and a strategic purchase. The exchange rate is really in my favor at the moment, so I took advantage of it and bought a new camera bag retail price in London 135 retail price in US 135 (for those not too good on math that's half price). The one problem I encountered with the purchasing of the bag was finding a store that actually sold them.

I stopped in every camera shop I saw in South Beach but none of them had the camera bag I wanted and none could seem to think of a camera store other than theirs. I searched the handy dandy Internet and found a Circuit City - that seemed like a good starting place. While they had a large selection of bags they didn't have the one I wanted - a backpack to hold both my laptop and camera gear. Yes I know I want it all. Luckily the people in Circuit City recommend a full-fledged camera shop just down the road. Sure enough they had a wide range of bags and exactly what I was looking for. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it I was parked sort of illegally so I didn't have time to browse around the store and buy more toys. The only problem with buying the bag was I now had 3 bags to manoeuvre and this means checking one.


When I checked into the Hilton I was asked if I wanted an upgrade, as a gold member I qualify for free upgrades if a room is available unfortunately they rarely are. I guess Easter Sunday is not a busy night at the hotel, not to mention it was only recently converted to a Hilton. The recent conversion probably has more to do with it. I was very happy to have a queen suite, the room had a great view of Biscayne Bay. It soon became apparent that they were still working out the kinks after the conversion. None of the lights in the room were plugged in, some lamps didn't even seem to be anywhere near a power outlet. The data port for the Internet connection was next to the TV not on the desk where it makes sense, and it had no power cord. When I returned to my room after dinner there is a letter under the door stating that the water on my floor is going to be turned off from 12 to 5, luckily I wasn't planning on needing running water during this time period. And to top it all off at about 2 AM there is a public address announcement that runs throughout the entire hotel indicating that the fire alarm that had gone off had been investigated and it was found to be a false alarm and there is no need to evacuate the building. This was a major relief especially since I didn't wake up to any fire alarm only to the announcement stating that there had been an alarm.

Car Rental
It always surprises me how different the rates for a rental car are depending if I say I reside in the UK or in the US. Sometimes I get a better rate if I say I live in the US other times I get a great pre-paid rate by residing in the UK. For this trip the UK rate was better. When I returned the car I was expecting a charge for keeping the car a couple of hours longer than I originally stated but I was not expecting a charge for the GPS system. This was a pre-paid rental. After about 5 minutes of explaining to the customer service rep that this was pre-paid and I had the email to prove it she finally agreed that the GPS was included in the pre-paid price and would cancel the charge. To make up for my inconvenience she also eliminated the extra charge for the couple of extra hours - YEAH!

Even though I have silver status on Virgin that really doesn't give you much - no access to the lounges, no upgrades, no priority boarding all I get is extra miles when I fly. Of course that didn't stop me from asking at check in if I could get into the lounge. The agent informed me that I can pay $35 at the door for access - since I had a little bit of a headache I thought it was worthwhile to sit in quiet as opposed to the hustle and bustle of the main terminal. At the lounge I requested a day pass and was told it's $35 if you pay by credit card $20 if you pay by cash. I went for the $20 option and am pretty sure that money was pocketed directly by the desk clerk. I think this is the first time I've greased a palm to get access someplace.

As I got off the plane at Heathrow I realized the plane at the next gate over was a Singapore Airlines plane. For those of you that are not in the know this is currently the only airline flying the A380 and it just started flying into Heathrow last week. I took a moment to scan the plane and sure enough it was the 380 - easily identifiable by the 2 stories. Unfortunately they get rather mad when you take pictures at the airport especially when you are supposed to be heading to passport control something about security, and given my "detainment" on the way to Miami I was going to try to make this as smooth as possible. It's times like these that I wish I had a camera phone as I could easily take a picture with that without attracting attention.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Suspicious Characters

Given that it is a 4 day weekend in England I decided a mini-vacation was in order so I headed to Florida on Thursday. The flight itself was rather uneventful. Landed, cleared passport control easily, hadn't checked any baggage so I figured I would be out and meeting my sister in 5 minutes. WRONG!

I get to the customs desk they ask me where I had come from I said London, the agent handed me back my form and said red-line please. This did not bode well as the 3 people before me had also been sent to the red-line. At this station, all bags are searched questions are asked as the agents search for contraband. Of course while you are in line use of cell phones is strictly prohibited so I can't contact my sister who is expecting me within a matter of minutes to let her know I have been detained.

My turn finally arrives I walk up to the agent hand him my form and am asked the following questions:

  • "Where did you travel from today?"
  • "How long are you here for?"
  • "Are you travelling alone?"

At this point the agent is called away to help close the suitcase for somebody and I am left standing there. I know better than to ask questions or cause a stink as that could lead to a full body search so I wait patiently for him to return. Another agent walks over and asks for my form. I tell him that the other agent took it and walked off at which point he looks at me and says "Oh you're free to go." This was news to me as everybody else was having all of their bags searched or scanned.

It was only about a 15 minute delay but it was enough to irritate my sister who had already been waiting for an hour and is not known for her patience. Luckily there were no other delays after this and we were on our way to Key Largo.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

I have recently been going through all my photos, primarily moving them off my computer onto an external hard drive. But that isn't what this blog post is about. While going through I stumbled across shots I've taken on my travels. Signs that when I saw them made me laugh, or scratch my head.

Taken at Camden Markets a very creative entrepreneur. As a kid I was always excited to put a quarter into the machines and see what kind of toy came out - temporary tattoo, ring, super ball. I don't know if I would have been as excited to get a rock.

Taken outside the Colosseum in Rome. Most likely not what they meant but I couldn't resist.

Taken outside our offices in Seattle. This one puzzles me, I understand posting speed limit signs as you can look down at the speedometer and see how fast you are going. But how do you know if you have exceeded the alcohol limit, are all cars outfitted with a breathalyzer?

Taken in Dubai. Here's a store that trades Dawn - tired of your old one stop in here and get a new one.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Six Degrees of Separation

Last night I was out with my photography club and discovered a random connection I had with one of the members. The guy was from Brisbane, Australia and I just happened to have studied there for a semester while in college. As I was talking about where I lived there and what I did he starting asking me very specific questions about what I studied and where I went to college in New York. Turns out his father was my professor there. Who would have thought that living in London I would run into somebody who knew the tiny little college that I went to. Just goes to show what a small world we live in.