Thursday, October 31, 2013

FAA Endorses Common Sense: New Rules Pave Way for Electronics

This photo will soon be allowed to be taken under the new rules

The FAA announced today what we all knew deep down: That game boy (or camera) isn't going to down the plane. The newly adopted rules allow airlines to control how electronics are policed on their aircraft, pending the submission of proof to the FAA that everything is safe. That means that the next time a member of the cabin crew tells you that you can't take a photo or read your Kindle, it will be because of rules that the airline set and not an edict from the FAA.

I expect that airlines will be quick to jump on this since this type of amenity and opportunity to differentiate yourself doesn't come by very often and this is a pretty cheap feature to add to an airline. The caveat at the moment is that the rules still stand until the airline decides to change it, so "follow" the rules... for now. You can read the press release here and see my general reaction to the right. Finally! No more having to hide my camera or wonder if they are going to get on my case...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Flight Report: SBA-SEA

After my interview, it was time to pack up and head out. I was pressed for time, but at least getting through security at the airport is trivial at SBA. The main challenge at this airport seems to be somewhat frequent cancellations. I wasn't hit by that time time, but the small connections to LAX, SFO, and BUR do run into mechanical issues and delays on these small flights can add up to missed connections if you get unlucky.

Alaska Airlines offers some attractive connections to and from SBA. They offer direct flights to PDX and SEA on slightly larger regional aircraft than you get when you are headed to a destination inside California.

The Santa Ynez valley from the air. This is where Santa Barbara county is expanding housing significantly. It's less expensive to built up here, but the jobs in the county are still centered around Santa Barbara by the coastline. It's an interesting dynamic. Santa Barbara has limited options for growth physically. The options are all slightly less than ideal. Expanding outward means changing the ecosystem of the coastline, removing agriculture, and changing the way of life for many in the community, all of which will cause people to come out and oppose it. Growing upward changes the look and feel of the city and blocks views, which means that another powerful group will also come out and oppose that. Building in the valley means inducing travel demand between the two areas of the county, which creates pollution and strains the transportation network. That prompts calls for wider roads that will never really keep up with demand, since the new easy access granted by new roads spurs yet more development further out. It's a heck of a problem.

 Crater Lake in Oregon and Mt. Rainier below.

This building above is the Weyerhaeuser Corporate Headquarters. It is designed to blend into the natural environment. From the distance, it looks like a hill.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Food Fridays: Crushcakes & Cafe in Santa Barbara

The purpose of my trip this time around was for an actual interview, which went rather well. The interviewers all seemed to really like my background, story, and experience. I left feeling really good about the interview and the opportunities that they were highlighting. That also means that I may be in California by the end of the year, which would be a huge change.

Before the interview, I stopped off to get some coffee and behold what happens to be less than three blocks from where my new office would be: Crush Cakes Cupcakery. I had to try it.

I eventually settled on the strawberry cupcake, which was pretty good. The cupcakes itself wasn't too sweet and the frosting was fairly light, but I do have to subtract some points for there being too much frosting on my particular cupcake. I was worried that I would end up with pink frosting on my fingers that would somehow transfer to my suit. In the warm weather, the frosting is also very soft which increased the risk of it being a messy cupcake. Fortunately, I managed to avoid that while also enjoying my cupcake.

And yes, a grown man in a suit, drinking a proper doppio machiatto out of a tiny cup, and eating a pink cupcake. If you gotta a problem with that, then you know what you can do...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Santa Barbara - Again: SEA-PDX-SBA

This weekend came with a surprise trip to Santa Barbara. I was invited to interview for a new position there and that prompted a very quick trip in and out. I arrived Saturday night and left midday Monday. If I get the job, what does that make me? SantaBarbaraFlyerGuy? Ex-SeattleFlyerGuy? SeattleExpatFlyerGuy? I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. In the mean time, here what the flights were like!

Flying down to Santa Barbara from Seattle is a bit expensive, but I ended up using miles to make this trip happen. 40,000 frequently flyer miles and $7.50 gave me near direct flights on Alaska Air. They have flights direct to Santa Barbara from both Portland and Seattle, which is exactly what I flew this time around. These are on smaller planes, a combination of the Dash-8 turboprops and CRJs. I tried to get timelapses on these flights using a new technique, but this proved... difficult. I was using my new Nexus 4 to capture the timelapse, which I hoped would be better than my current technique, but a couple things were off: The phone unexpectedly quit and the angle of the window basically means that you are mainly aimed at sky. It didn't work, but at least I got some good photos.

The first leg is quick, but low. It's only about 30 minutes in the air, which is no time at all. On the way, we had some good views of Seattle and of the Olympic mountains. I love the view of the water, mountains, and ferry from the air. After that, I had a two hour layover and then a second flight direct to SBA. Night time flights don't offer too much in the way of scenery, but at least there was the sunset...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

There is now a Simple Choice for International Data: T-Mobile.

If you travel internationally (even if it is just to Canada or Mexico), the moment you cross over the border you start paying exorbitant prices for the basic functions of your smart phone. If you have planned ahead, you might get off paying $30 for 120MB. If you haven't, then you risk a bit of sticker shock when the bill comes back: A single e-mail with a photo? $20-$50. It's not pretty.

T-Mobile has stepped in with an offer that can hardly be refused by anyone looking to travel abroad: Free unlimited international data and texts in over 100 countries. If you are traveling anywhere that is pink below, then you can open up your e-mail and look at Google Maps without fear. It won't cost you anything extra.

There are a few caveats: The free texting is to US number only. No tethering. Speeds are limited to email and maps, so no 4G for free. You need to have an international phone. There is also some language that some places still charging if there are additional taxes, which is not well described on the website. You also need to sign up for their "Simple Choice" plans, which actually aren't bad at all: $50 is the entry point with unlimited talk, text, and data with no contract (You have to bring your own unlocked device or buy one from them at full price... which is often a better deal than the subsidized handsets you get from other companies). Still, this takes a lot of the pain out of international travel and staying in touch. A tablet, like the Nexus 7, combined with a plan like this would be an ideal solution for just about all of your travel needs.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Food Friday: Hitchcock Delicatessen on Bainbridge Island

After visiting the Bloedel Reserve, some friends and I went to downtown Bainbridge to grab a bite. We were looking for something that was delicious, but not exactly pricey which is where Hitchcock comes in. While their restaurant is expensive, the cafe/delicatessen next door is actually extremely reasonably priced and very high quality.

With a group of four, we had the opportunity to try four different sandwiches. None of us were let down by our choices. We tried the the roast beef, the pastrami, a turkey club (with bacon), and the Cuban press sandwich. All of the sandwiches are between $8 and $10 and they offer wine and beer, if you are so inclined.

Above: The turkey sandwich. Those are figs, turkey, arugula, with bacon added for extra measure.
Below: The roast beef sandwich. Cheese, horseradish, onion, and beef all on a potato roll.

Next up: The Cuban Press. Two types of ham, sweet bread and butter pickles, caramelized onions, and mustard come together in this sandwich.
Finally, the best for last: The pastrami. Delicious brisket, rustic bread, kraut, and cheese. This one was my favorite. Maybe I was just craving brisket (and have been), but this hit the spot.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Back to Bainbridge Island for the Last Day of Summer

My love affair with Bainbridge Island is well documented. I have been riding "the boat" back and forth from Seattle to Bainbridge since I was a kid and still today it is something that I feel compelled to do every now and again. It also doesn't hurt that the Bainbridge Island also offers some genuinely fun things to do, in addition to the great ride over.

October 6th marked the last day of summer. It was unseasonably warm, sunny, and the perfect day to take a trip to the island. It was in the 70s and sunny. Days like that are numbered as Halloween is just weeks away. Together with three friends, we decided to visit the Bloedel Reserve and a bite to eat at Hitchcock Delicatessen which is what I am going to share today. 

The trip from Seattle to Bainbridge Island is a quick 35 minute trip with views of the city and mountains from all sides. If it is sunny like this, I prefer to be on the port side towards the front where the wind keeps you cool while you soak in the sun and the view of Mt. Rainier.

It is another 20 minutes by car to get to the Bloedel Reserve on the northern end of the island. If you do not have a car, Bainbridge Island does have a "Frog Hopper" during the summer months that will take you there and Kitsap Transit does have a bus (#90) that will drop you off a mile from the gate. For ease and time, I would recommend having a car for your visit.

The turn off for the reserve is a little hard to see. It will be on the right and is the second to last right turn on the island (if you go over the bridge, just turn around and try again). Agatewood Road is what you are looking for (see directions here). Once you are there, the walk takes about 1.5 to 2 hours depending on how fast you move and what catches your eye.

 The main house may cause a "pride and prejudice" moment for visitors who enjoy that novel. The house and the entire estate belonged to Prentice Bloedel, who earned his fortune in the timber business. He retired in 1950 from the MacMillan Bloedel Timber Company and spent the next decades building the grounds. In 1974, the gardens were transformed into a reserve.

In addition to the house and the general natural areas, there is a Japanese garden, a moss garden, a reflection pool, several ponds, and large meadow. Right now, the fall is starting to bring color to the trees, which turned out to be especially beautiful on this late summer day.

Next time on Food Friday: Hitchcock's fantastic sandwiches!