Just like the title says. I’m all packed and leaving shortly for the Microsoft MVP Summit in Seattle. I’ll be gone until Thursday night, and connectivity is always a question mark at these events – even in the hotels that offer high-speed access because they rarely have systems equipped to handle 400+ geeky MVP guests who all use lots of bandwidth. If I’m slow to respond to email, that’s why. Off I go!
Las Vegas is, in every way, a trap. The strip and everything on it has been designed to confused, defeat, and ultimately break down everyone so they give up on life and plop themselves into a chair in front of a slot machine. Last night I saw the Bill Gates keynote live, which was pretty cool, but it was also running at the same time as Digital Experience, a special press-only event that I wanted to attend. So, along with Stephen Hughes (and another guy who’s name I’m afraid to say I just can’t remember) we leave the keynote a bit early to get to the Digital Experience event. We were at the Venetian, and the event we were trying to get to was at Cesars Palace. Long story short, it took us around 90 minutes to get there, and we walked. We got lost, turned around, given bad directions, lacked good information from the event planners, and arrived around 9pm hungry, tired, and irritated. I only had a chance to speak with a few vendors, which really ticked me off – this was the ONE event I was really looking forward to because it was so great last year. This year it was much bigger, which made it harder to get through everything…I met a few people and made some good contacts with Sharpcast, Kensington, iGo, HTC, and others. There’s a similar event tonight, dubbed ShowStoppers, that I hope will be just as good – because I’m going to arrive on time and work the room like a PR master!
Off I go! When waiting in line at security I realized that I had forgotten to leave my Swiss Army Knife USB flash drive at home – I had data on the Flash drive that I wanted to keep, but I knew I couldn’t take the knife with me. So I broke the USB drive portion off the knife, and handed the security guard the knife and asked him to throw it in the garbage. He looked a bit puzzled, and had to go ask his supervisor for instructions. Amusingly enough, the knife is what I received from the last Vista Lab – so maybe I’ll get another one this year. 😉 I initially thought the knife/flash drive combo was a silly idea, but I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve used the pocket knife portion.
I arrived in Vegas a bit later than normal (WestJet was slow tonight, but they’re fun to fly with) and the flight was rocky – when the plane was landing the rear end felt like it was fish-tailing. The airport was dead – hardly anyone was there. The Orleans, the hotel I’m booked into, is so far off the strip that none of the shuttles go there. A $45 town car ride later, I arrived (good thing Thoughts Media is paying for this). A few pictures of the outside…
The hotel is surprisingly large and the room is clean and spacious – and it’s only $100 a night! I guess there are some good deals to be had in Vegas if you’re not convinced you need to stay right on the strip. Tomorrow the Vista Lab starts, and it should be interesting!
Ashley and I made it back from Hawaii, and we had an amazing time! Hawaii is a beautiful place, and a bit different from what I was expecting. Traveling on a cruise ship was likely a bit different than we expected, but overall a nice way to travel. The journey home was a bit long and frustrating – a five hour wait at the Honolulu airport, followed by a six hour red-eye flight to Seattle, then a five hour wait at the Seattle airport – but we’re glad to be home. We went there with two bags, and came back with four, so we have a lot of souvenirs for friends and family, along with Christmas gifts, and a whole lot of food and goodies. As per usual, we didn’t buy much for ourselves: Ashley got some new jewelry, I found a line of clothing I really liked and bought a few shirts. The real reward of travel for us is the experience, and for me specifically, the photography. I purchased my Nikon D200 with this trip in mind, and the camera performed amazingly well. There’s nothing quite like aiming the camera at a surfer catching a wave, and capturing four photos per second – I love that I never have to wait for this camera! I have an ungodly number of photos to go through – I was capturing in RAW+JPEG for 95% of the trip, so that slows things down tremendously (and is one of the reasons I find RAW so frustrating to work with). Most of my work will be culling though – I have 6288 photos in total, so if you figure that roughly half of those are RAW files, I have around 3100 images to go through. I suspect I’ll end up with around 800 to 1000 images in the end, perhaps less once I start to compare images of tropical scenery and flowers – odds are I shot much of the same thing, only in different places. The Canon Powershot SD800 served me well as a video camera and secondary photo unit when I didn’t have time (or the desire) to un-sling the big D200. I also had a chance to test out some new gear, including a very hardcore Kata camera bag, a new hard drive enclosure with a CompactFlash slot, and my Zune got a real road-test. More to follow later, though I suspect it will be at least a week before I’ll have my photos finished. Here’s a shot below of the sun deck on the cruise ship. This is one of the only times we were up there – we didn’t even go in the pool.
I have so much email waiting for me I’m scared to open Outlook, but tomorrow I’ll dive in and try to get brought back up to speed. I’m so amazingly thankful I can rely on the awesome team of volunteers I have, which allowed me to go on this vacation. Those guys truly made this trip possible.
After fumbling out of bed this morning at 3 AM, Ashley and I arrived at the airport via taxi cab at 4:30 AM. We made it through the long US Customs line (we were near the front), though the tightened security (all shoes come off now), and finally, onto the plane – where we proceeded to nearly freeze to death for 20 minutes as they kept the door open. It took off, and we noticed a strange thing – our ears kept popping and popping…but it didn’t quit like it normally would. Lo and behold, ten minutes into the flight, the pilot comes on the intercom and tells us that there’s a problem with the internal pressure system, and because of the altitude they have to rise to for the flight, they had no choice but to turn around and fly back to Calgary. We landed, hoping it would be a quick fix and we could stay on the plane – no such luck. We went back into the airport, and eventually they fixed the same plane, moved it to a different gate (just to psyche us out I think) and off we went – leaving at 9:30 AM or so. Much to our frustration though, our connecting flight into Honolulu was slated to leave Seattle at 8:40 AM, so we missed the flight. What sucks even worse? The next flight wasn’t departing until 5:30 PM. And today being Thanksgiving in the US of A, none of the local shopping malls or stores are open – so no visit to Fry’s Electronics for this geek. We wandered around the airport, got a 30 minute massage each, did some shopping/browsing (we’ll pick up some stuff on the way back when we ALSO have a five hour layover…). We also had to cancel our Cirque du Soleil tickets for tonight, because the new flight gets us in too late to catch the show. Double suck! Thankfully a kindly worded explanation to the ticket lady resulted in us getting a full refund (despite the stern warnings on the bottom of our receipt). It’s 4:48 PM Seattle time, and we’re just about ready to board the flight to Honolulu – let’s hope it’s uneventful and we get there on the first try!
This post will go live at 4 AM, which is the same time Ashley and I will be getting into a cab and heading to the airport. I’ll be essentially brain-dead at that time, and Ashley will be tired but excited. Why? December 1st is our fifth wedding anniversary, and we decided a seven-day cruise in Hawaii would be a great way to celebrate it. I couldn’t have picked a better woman to marry, and I feel blessed every day that she’s my wife. We’ll be back on December the 5th, so if you’ve emailed me or posted a comment on this blog that’s in moderation…well, everything will pretty much grind to a halt. I expect to relax, spend time with my wife, see as much of beautiful Hawaii as possible, and take approximately 4596 photos (or so). Did I mention that it’s snowing in Calgary and about -10 Celsius? I’m not leaving a moment too soon…see you later!
Made it into Seattle tonight. I spent 30 minutes at the airport phoning electronics stores in and around the Bellevue area, trying to find a place that had a Canon Powershot SD800 camera in stock. Phone voicemail systems are really hell on earth, especially when combined with dysfunctional voice-activated 411 services. I’d dial 411, ask for the phone number for CompUSA in Bellevue, be transferred over, and while waiting on hold to speak to someone, the 411 system would cut in and say “thanks for using our service”, then terminate my call. Whaazaa? Very frustrating – this happened three times to me. The times when I wasn’t cut off, I was trapped being bounced from phone to phone. Frys Electronics in Renton was the worst – I call the front, ask for the camera people, they transfer my call, and it rings around 100 times. I kid you not, I was standing there for five minutes letting it ring. Why? The dysfunctional 411 service didn’t SMS me the phone number like it said it would, so I’d have to dial 411 again to get the phone number. Stupid. Thankfully, a helpful cab driver suggested I try Circuit City on the way to the hotel, so we stopped near Renton and sure enough, they had ONE camera in stock, and it was so new they hadn’t even put it behind glass yet, it was still in the stock room. I got it for $399 USD + sales tax, which is a heck of a lot better than the $549 CAD + GST it was going to be sold for at Visions. Why are electronics, and pretty much everything else, such a huge rip-off in Canada? Ashley and I were at Chapters on Sunday and it was amazing looking at the US prices being at $6.99 and the Canadian pricing being at $9.99. The two dollars have been within 10% of each other for pretty close to a year now, shouldn’t these prices have come closer together? Canadian retailers need to kick some ass in the channel and get better pricing. But I digress…the new SD800 is awesome, check out this wide-screen capture mode:
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve used a Canon point and shoot, so I’m a bit rusty with the menus systems, but this one looks like a winner so far. Great design, great screen, amazingly fast start up, very little shutter lag (none if you turn off the flash), a high ISO mode that still looks good, 3.8x optical zoom, 7.2 megapixels, and the image stabalizer is the real deal: I was taking images in my dim hotel room, without the flash, and they weren’t blurry. I’m very impressed with this camera so far! The only down side? It’s not as thin as the Casio S-500 I’ve been using for the past year and a bit. I think I can put up with the “bulk” though in order to get better pictures.
Tomorrow morning I have to race down to Circuit City in order to buy five Zunes – I hope there isn’t a line-up…