A Travellerspoint blog

When in Rome

...do as the Romans do

sunny 29 °C

Because of the heavy traffic in SIlicon Valley area, and the fact I spent too much time in the Computer History museum, I had to change my plans a bit and do a sleepover on the road to Las Vegas - at Bakersfield, after about 4 hours of driving, which was just about half of the way to Vegas. The next day I arrived in Vegas and met my friend Davor who flew in from Boston to meet me and spend some time off. Davor is a software engineer who managed to get the US green card in a lottery, so I guess he is a lucky guy. But none of that luck kicked in when he tried the slots that day, and I never saw him at a casino table again.
We decided to explore the surrounding areas, and went on two interesting expeditions. The first one was a ride to the Grand Canyon, and originally we thought we'd drive there but after some advice from a few friends, we opted for a helicopter ride. It saves much time, and it provides the views of the Canyon which are impossible to get otherwise. The only downside was, once the helicopter lands in the Canyon, you only get to spend about 30 minutes there, before flying back. The flight itself takes about 30 minutes, and was a nice new experience (but it also has a downside - can make you sick very easily, which almost happened to me). So generally speaking, that adventure was a short, but an intense experience with some breathtaking views from both air and ground. Flying over the Hoover Dam was an additional bonus.

Sunset on the road from San Francisco to Las Vegas

Sunset on the road from San Francisco to Las Vegas

Flying near the Hoover Dam

Flying near the Hoover Dam

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Another view of the Canyon

Another view of the Canyon

Down in the Canyon

Down in the Canyon

Our ride to Grand Canyon

Our ride to Grand Canyon

Another expedition was a drive through the Death Valley, located in the Mojave Desert a few hours away, and it is the lowest, driest, and hottest area in North America. The temperatures of 40-50 degrees Celsius are very common here because of the specific climate and terrain configuration. The lowest point within the Valley is the so-called Badwater Basin, with the elevation of 86m below sea level.
Death Valley has a very interesting history, both the geological one and the one related to human exploration and even the native inhabitants: it is home to the Timbisha tribe, also known as the Panamint Shoshone, who have inhabited the valley for more than 1000 years. So it's a very interesting thing to read about and learn.

A view of the Death Valley from Dante's point

A view of the Death Valley from Dante's point


At the Dante's point

At the Dante's point

The Zabriskie point

The Zabriskie point


At the 'devils golf course'

At the 'devils golf course'


Badwater basin

Badwater basin


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We also went to see some shows and concerts (Rod Stewart concert, David Copperfield performance and the Absynthe show), went through all the shiny hotels on the Strip, and even visited Fremont street in the old, downtown part (if you remember the old video for that U2 song "I still haven't found what I'm looking for" - that was filmed on Fremont street.)

After my friend left for Boston, I was on my own, and as the old saying goes: When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
So I just learned to play some new games and even went to the Bellagio for a Holdem no limit tournament. Although just a casual player, after more than eight exhausting hours and surrounded by professional players, I managed to win the 2nd place in a 50 player tournament, which was a great success and a perfect ending of the Vegas adventure.

Veni, vidi, (almost) vici!

The winner and the runner-up

The winner and the runner-up


Las Vegas by night (taken from the Stratosphere top deck)

Las Vegas by night (taken from the Stratosphere top deck)

Posted by VukomanovicIgor 01:54 Archived in USA Tagged grand_canyon las_vegas death_valley Comments (2)

Here’s to the crazy ones.

sunny 28 °C

"Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius."

This blog entry is dedicated mostly to my fellow researchers, engineers and technology enthusiasts back home. To those brilliant people which I have had the pleasure working with during the past 10+ years, or just being friends with.

While exploring the streets, bars, restaurants and tech titans' campuses in San Francisco, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Cupertino, I've experienced the Silicon Valley in action: hordes of ambitious engineers chatting about technologies, concepts, inventions...working long hours, focusing on whatever goals they might have in front of them; and it was the same kind of enthusiasm, the same driving force I've seen back home many times. While looking around the heart of the Silicon Valley, in essence, I saw my colleagues from back home. And then it occured to me: they all really belong here. For it was here that most of the great things in technology was either invented, reinvented or (still being) perfected. And for this kind of people, having part in such a thing is one of the greatest rewards they can ever receive.

At least that's how I see it.

It was with a certain sadness that I was leaving that area, especially after visiting the Computer History museum in Mountain View, CA: the exhibits on display there took me on a journey through my own childhood. Not only by seeing the first computer I was using as a kid in mid 80's (Schneider CPC 464), or by seeing the computer I was taking my first summer programming course on in late 80's (Apple IIc), but also seeing those strange calculators my father was using that I used to play with when I was really a small kid (the sliding rule - in croatian called 'siber', and the HP 35 - the first scientific calculator, if I'm not mistaken). Not to mention the opportunity to see the Cray supercomputer (and it was the one used in Los Alamos, as a bonus), the photos of which I used to cut out of computer magazines when I was a kid and glue them to the furniture in my room.

There were many other things in that museum that instantly transported me back in time, but I don't want to turn this blog post into a treatise on my childhood (and I'm running out of time to write it).

However, as someone who has been introduced to personal computing at an early age, was pushed in that direction and now still being shaped by that industry, I will write about one of the places I didn't want to miss. And that was the place which bears a special significance as to the start of the personal computer revolution: a modest suburban garage at 2066 Crist Dr. in Los Altos, CA, where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak worked on the first Apple computers in mid 1970's, whose success practically ignited the personal computer revolution. This garage was also the childhood home of Steve Jobs.

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Now, much has been said about Jobs, and much has been written about the man, so I'm not going to go down that path. Maybe just two quotes while I'm at it (for the haters, of course :)

Robert Metcalfe, inventor of the Ethernet, once famously said: "Steve Jobs is on my eternal heroes list, there's nothing he can ever do to get off it."

Isn't that sweet? :)

And Mark Stephens aka Robert Cringley, (technology journalist) was very descriptive (and right on mark if you ask me): "With this guy we're not talking about someone driven by the profit motive in a desire for an opulent retirement at the age of forty, no, we're talking holy war, we're talking rivers of blood and fields of dead martyrs to the cause of greater computing. We're talking about a guy who sees the personal computer as his tool for changing the world."

And for making this vision a reality, here's a little known fact - Jobs and Wozniak were awarded with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest honor the United States can confer to a citizen for achievements related to technological progress, which reads: "For their development and introduction of the personal computer which has sparked the birth of a new industry extending the power of the computer to individual users."

So there you have it - hopefully people learn something by reading my babblings.

Next stops are not at all technology oriented, so not to worry. The road leads me to Las Vegas and nearby areas: Grand Canyon and Death Valley - writing about that tomorrow!

Until then,

Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

Charles Babbage differential machine

Charles Babbage differential machine


Original part of ENIAC

Original part of ENIAC

UNIVAC control panel

UNIVAC control panel


IBM 1401 lab

IBM 1401 lab

First disk drive (IBM 350)

First disk drive (IBM 350)

Original UNIX programmers manual

Original UNIX programmers manual

Early modem

Early modem

Altair 8800

Altair 8800

Apple 1

Apple 1

Original Macintosh and Lisa

Original Macintosh and Lisa

Early ethernet card

Early ethernet card

NEXT computer

NEXT computer

Cray 1 used in Los Alamos

Cray 1 used in Los Alamos


IBM deep blue

IBM deep blue

IBM Deep Blue, the computer which managed to beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997 (with some controversy though - Kasparov accused the IBM team of cheating by human intervention during the match).

Posted by VukomanovicIgor 04:26 Archived in USA Tagged san_francisco silicon_valley Comments (0)

From the Redwood forest to San Francisco bay waters

...this land was made for you and me

sunny 28 °C

Well I rode that ribbon highway
I saw above me the endless skyway
I saw below me the golden valley
This land was made for you and me

I couldn't help but remember this song by Woodie Guthrie the other day when I was actually riding that ribbon highway from the redwood forest all the way down to San Francisco.

As good old Bruce put it, "it's just about one of the most beautiful songs ever written", and by the way if you ask me, his rendition of the song from the Live '75-'85 album just nails it.

Anyway, I started the third day of the road trip from Crescent City, CA and rode all the way down to San Francisco. It was again a long drive (about 600 km with the detours), and again worth the effort. I rode through scenic road through the redwoods near the town of Klamath, and then again south of Eureka, through the well known "Avenue of the giants" road. There, in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park I spent a few hours strolling through the redwoods and the groves, and trying to find the famous "giant tree" seen in Return of the Jedi movie. It is a well known fact that some of the scenes for the Star Wars speeder bike chase sequence were filmed here, and at one point of my search I met a group of people from Germany also looking for the same tree. We joined forces and after some time found it:

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While not sure about the measures of this particular tree, mature Sequoias grow to more than 100 meters high, average over 500 years old, with some documented to have lived over 2000 years. They are among the tallest and longest living organisms on the earth, and as such they evoke the feelings of deep respect and humbleness. The forests have an unbeliavable scent, and sometimes it "rains branches" as my fellow German explorers put it: thousands of really small branches literally fall from the heights above as if it was raining.
After the forests, the ride to San Francisco was not so eventful, but one thing to note is how shocked I was upon the arrival, at the density of the traffic: it was late in the evening, maybe around 9PM and the traffic was really crazy, which is something I guess never changes: the next day I was exploring the city and I just couldn't wait to park somewhere and get rid of the car, as the traffic was unbearable. Not surprisingly I guess, if you learn the fact that city has about 850,000 permanent residents, but it fills up to about 1,5 million with all the workers from the surrounding areas.
So I parked at the well known attraction - the Fisherman's Wharf, which reminded me in a way of Seattle's Pike Place Market: a lot of shops, restaurants, people, merchandise, you name it. Very alive and very charming. Even a colony of sea lions have taken a residence near of the piers there!
After trying out some famous San Francisco sourdough bread from Boudin's, I wanted to check out the Alcatraz island... only to find out the tour has to be booked weeks in advance, so I missed it (payed the price of my lack of preparation right there). Suddenly I had a few extra hours to spend, so I decided to be a typical tourist and hopped on a bus tour of the city, which was okay I guess, as I learned quite a few of the interesting stories and facts about the city and its history.

Okay I think enough is said, and some pictures are in order...as Bono once said after a long monologue at the concert: "Am I bugging you? Don't mean to, bug you. Okay Edge, play the blues!"

The forest moon of Endor:
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Down the road to San Francisco:
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A panoramic view of the city:
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The fisherman's wharf:
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Alcatraz island:
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Wrapped it up with a few nightshots.
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Posted by VukomanovicIgor 00:45 Archived in USA Tagged san_francisco redwood_forest Comments (0)

The Lighthouse at the End of the Universe

semi-overcast 21 °C

Mary to the rescue!

No, not THAT Mary. :)
Mary Hutter! I remember my friend Chris mentioned how a friend of his and also a Twin Peaks aficionado moved up to Snoqualmie. Okay, so yesterday I got a phone call from Snoqualmie City Hall, to inform me someone left my ipad there. So how did they get my phone number? It seems that whoever took the ipad connected it to wifi and read the message that I sent to myself (begging for my ipad with my contact phone number), so that seemed to work out well. But, I was already down at the Long Beach (WA), and I couldn't afford the time to drive back to Snoqualmie and back. So I managed to get in contact with Mary (thanks to Susan from L.A.) who offered to help, and she did. She picked it up and The Mighty Ipad (tm) is now in her hands. Thanks again, Mary!

In the morning I went to Waikiki beach to see the lighthouses. There are two in the area: Cape Disappointment lighthouse, and the North Head lighthouse. The first one is visible from the road, but the second one required a bit more of an effort to see. There is a hike to the beach, and when I got there, it was...best described as otherworldly, I think. It was my first encounter with the Pacific coast. Strong winds, huge waves, a distant ship on the horizon, lots of birds just sitting there on the beach. Add to that the remote lighthouse barely visible from the mist created by the waves crashing on the rocky shore, and the experience is nothing short of magical. Later on, a friendly fellow emerged between the waves, I believe it was a sea lion happily swimming near the beach!

I spent much more time there than I should have, so the drive down the coast to Crescent City, CA turned out to be a challenging one, as I arrived late about 10PM there after a 610km drive down the scenic and a very well known highway 101S. But it was as much rewarding as it was exhausting, for the sights down that road were really magnificent.

Here are some of the photos from day two of the road trip from Seattle to San Francisco:

Cape Disappointment lighthouse:
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On the beach with North head lighthouse in the background:
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Maybe the video can bring up the atmosphere...:

The beach:
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Photos from the road down Washington and Oregon:
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Posted by VukomanovicIgor 23:48 Archived in USA Tagged california washington Comments (0)

The inventor and the dictator

...and how shit happens, even in Snoqualmie

sunny 27 °C
View West Coast Galore on VukomanovicIgor's travel map.

So much has happened since my last blog entry. As the matter of fact, some of the things that happened made it very difficult for me to write. First and foremost, I learned the hard way some of the downsides of traveling alone. One of them is, you have to take care of all the things and details by yourself: such as keeping track of the things you carry, of the time you spend during the day (especially on the road), of the itinerary, etc.

And the other day when I was leaving Seattle area, I managed to leave my ipad at the Snoqualmie point park. It was just one of those stupid things. I guess shit happens - even in Snoqualmie ;-)
When I came back to get it about an hour later, it was already gone. But, there was a note at the spot where I left it:

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Hmmm. Ok. I find it hard to believe someone can mistake an ipad for a computer (notebook?) in this day and age. And even worse, taking it without writing down any phone number or e-mail address. But, at least it appeared as if it wasn't stolen and that somebody was trying to return it. So I went to the Ranger station and guess what. It was sunday and it was closed. Luckily, some nice person who was working for the ranger was in the back of the station and tried to help me. He radioed the rangers, but only to find out it wasn't them who left the note, and it had to be some random visitor. But I already suspected as much.
So I went back to the park, asked around but alas - no luck finding the person who left that note.
The problem at that point was, I was leaving Snoqualmie and had tons of other things to do before embarking on a road trip to Long Beach, WA. And now I've already had wasted a few hours from an already a tight schedule - there just wasn't anything else I could have done. So with hopes of whoever took the ipad would turn it in on monday, I left the area. Drove to Everett north of Seattle, took a ferry ride to Kingston and then drove a difficult ride to Long Beach. Arrived late at night instead of the afternoon as planned.
I wanted to write about how I spent a beautiful day in Seattle the day before, but I was simply exhausted.

And what a day it was!

Clear blue skies, perfect for a visit to the observation deck at the Space Needle, 520 feet above the ground. Ufortunately I can't post the photos without the ipad (don't have my laptop with me), so that will have to wait a while.

I also checked out the EMP museum, which was quite interesting. Courtesy of Paul Allen. Among other things, there was a SF section (with great stuff like original uniforms and costumes used in Star Trek, Matrix, Superman,.. lightsabers from Star Wars, hover car from Blade Runner (!), a model of Alien used in the first Alien movie, etc), a fantasy section (with goodies such as the swords used in LOTR, costumes from GoT, the sword used in Conan - just to name a few), and then there was also a Nirvana section, with lots of interesting stuff (the smashed Kurt Cobain guitars being the most memorable exhibits), and finally they have on display a collection of guitars (in particular I remember Jimi Hendrix' strat which he played on Woodstock, and Eric Clapton's Brownie, the strat which he used to record and tour his debut album, and also Layla album).

As I said - lots of goodies at the EMP museum. Photos pending though.

One other interesting thing happened in one of the Seattle garages. As I was about to leave, walking towards the car, I noticed a Tesla model S parked:

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The garage attendant, a guy in his late twenties, noticed me taking that photo and commented:

Attendant: "Nice car, huh?"
Me: "Yeah. I like it."
Attendant: "A very rare car."
Me: "Do you know who is it named after?"
Attendant: "Not really. I think the CEO is Canadian."
Me: "It was named after Nikola Tesla, the inventor."
Attendant: "Is that so?"
Me: "Yeah. As the matter of fact, he was born in Croatia, where I come from."
Attendant: "Ohh yes, I know Croatia! Was part of a bigger country, no? Which disintegrated?"
Me: "Heh yes, that's true. It was part of Yugoslavia."
Attendant (excitedly): "Right, right! There was that, Milosevic, right? The dictator?"

:)

It was so funny. And sad at the same time, to realize Milosevic is better known than Tesla.

(to be continued tomorrow)

Posted by VukomanovicIgor 01:55 Archived in USA Tagged seattle snoqualmie Comments (0)

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