Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Avast a Swashbuckling Pirate Fest!

Ahh it be a good time! Canon battles and adventures fer all.

I met up with a crew of scurvy pirates lookin fer adventure and adventure tis what we found. That and red silk skivvies, frottage, dirty tattoos and cleavage like you've never known. A masterful captain led us on a scavenger hunt to end all scavenger hunts.

The whole event was caught up in the spirit of piracy and boisterous fun. There was grog and rum for all. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to get involved and volunteer.

I welcomed all that came through those gates and bid them much adventure. "pillaging on the left, plundering on the right"

That day I met some great couchsurfers as well. Yusuke, Nithan and a few other SF CSers. They were my crew for the scavenger hunt and we got 2nd place! Of course it required a bit of bribery and grog but all in the days work for a pirate!

Some of the best CS hosts in the Bay Area!

Of course there was also Axe throwing and other skullduggery to be had!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Spelunking and Motorcycle Accidents

I started out the day cooking breakfest for a half dozen 11yr olds... then went spelunking with Ashley a cool CSer from Santa Cruz. We talked and hiked into the forest on our way to the Porter Cave. It looked like someone had blocked off this cave by pouring a concrete cover. Luckily the demo work had already been done and we descended with ease. Of course we had our trusty hippo along for illumination and laughs. (Really! it laughed every time we flicked the light on)

Apparently the cave is home to a few endangered species... Most notably a pseudo scorpion. We crawled around inside the cavernous cave... I suppose that is a bit redundant... anywho we hit a mucky sticky part that made a sucking sloshing noise as we walked. It felt like walking through a puddle of caramel. Ash slipped and the hippo went flying sending batteries into the abyss. SHIT! we exclaimed as we were plunged into darkness... Luckily my camera came to the rescue and provided the infinitesimal amount of light needed to make out the round shapes in the muck. Batteries in we cross our fingers and click the switch. "huhuh huh" the hippo chuckled and sent reassuring light, scaring the darkness away not with light but laughter.


We walked out of that cave and towards Tree 9. I had to make another summit climb, this time to leave a token. My lucky flying elephant. A really great friend, who I have a cosmic connection with, gave it to me as a gift many years ago. I've used it as my travel inspiration. When it flies so do I. Ensuring safety and many fun adventures along the way.


Descending the tree we happened upon a little grove with prayers hung in the tree. Little scribbled pieces of paper hung from branches. Everything from "I wish to graduate UCSC" to "I wish you knew how amazing you are" to "I wish I had the ability to conjur carne asada burritos at will."


Many students were moving out so we took the liberty to use their carts as luges, careening down the sloped pavement. Fully intact we made our hasty exit.

Fast forward to having tea with a girl who stopped to chat me and another CSer up. We talked about traveling and adventures as I gave some pointers on using the website. Out of nowhere tires screeching and **CRASH!!** A car collided with a motorcycle sending him skidding on the ground. Luckily he popped up quickly and looked unscathed. I dialed 911 and got a dispatcher on the line as I ran over to check on him. Shaken up, yet thankfully alright. The motorcyclist exchanged info with the driver. She was driving a Honda with a vanity plates: "What Ev" I had a laugh and took a picture. The motorcyclist laughed at the irony of the scene too. Thankfully everyone was fine! I helped drag the bike off the road and left my number.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Hiking at Hidden Villa


I went to visit my good friend Wes down in Monterey. He had a meeting with a solar firm so I tagged along for the ride. We went hiking in Hidden Villa a 1600 acre wilderness preserve that offers summer camps for kids and lots of eco workshops. I was really impressed with their setup.


The even have the oldest running Hostel in the US on the property (since 1937). We walked past lots of happy livestock and chicken tractors as we ventured off into the woods.


There are miles of trails all over the wilderness preserve. Our path took us along a small meandering stream in the understory of several varieties of trees.


Wes has been around the world many times, driven across the US 7 times and seen 34 countries on an extended travel adventure that lasted six years! He is another one of my inspirations to travel. I loved hearing his stories and picking up little tidbits of advice.

When we got back to the car I noticed a tick! I quickly squished it before Wes chimed in about an article he read about tick saliva having a protein that blocks the HIV virus from attaching to T cells.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thailand Weather - Interactive Flash Map

Stumbled on this great map of Thailands temperatures and rainy seasons.

It helped me put a visual picture to where and when it would be wet in Thailand. My timing looks good weather wise. I should be in Bangkok late October then traveling around that area until February.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Skype VS Truphone VS Vopium VOIP Review

Ok so which VOIP app for the iPhone is the best? I've been evaluating three of the apps that seem to be kicked around the most. Vopium, Skype and Truphone.

I've used Skype the longest as I have it installed on my home computer and use it to make video calls and talk to international friends.

I used Truphone a while ago and it didn't really seem to have the kinks worked out. I decided to give it another try and see how it compared.

A new contender to the Voice over IP game is Vopium.

Skype seems to have the best pricing as it has unlimited calls to United States landlines and mobiles for 2.95. Unlimited Country costs 5.95 where you can pick whichever country you call the most for unlimited calls. There is an unlimited world calling which costs $12.95 for calls to 30 countries.

Skype also offers a "Skype In" number which allows others to call you. The cost of this service is $18 for 3 months (or $6 dollars a month) with no per minute cost.

Truphone costs $17

Vopium does an interesting thing where it can use your existing phone capability (and cost) and then reroutes the expensive international part of the call over the internet.
So instead of paying your phone companies $4.95/min rate you can call out over your regular connection for the per minute rate then add on $0.03 for the international part. Vopium can skip around the standard call rate by starting out using wifi (like skype or truphone)

The initial trouble I had with both Truphone and Vopium is that they need to call you to set up the service on the phone. This is really difficult if you don't have reception and you want to make calls over wifi. So basically I spent at least an hour on both Vopium and Truphone trying to get them set up while Skype took 3minutes.

When it comes to call quality Truphone definitely sounded better and reacted better to button presses. Skype had a noticeable lag between when I said something and the other party heard it. The lag makes conversations difficult. Most of the time Skype works great. It is a great service when used on a computer as the calls seem to be crisp and quick. Also button presses register when using the computer version of Skype.

I would generally rate Skype above Truphone because it has the ability to make and receive great calls on a PC (or mac or linux). Also skype is less expensive and more widely used allowing more free calls to be made.

However the Truphone app for iPhone seems to have better call quality and isn't frustrating to use when entering numbers on the keypad.

My test was calling in to my voicemail account where I'd have to key in a security code or even my 10 digit phone number. After 6 times of typing in the wrong code it would just disconnect me while using Skype. Truphone sent the correct key presses and all was well. However there was some strange echo distortion when listening to my messages. I didn't hear any of that while talking to a live person though.

I haven't been able to get Vopium registered on my phone yet... Also it doesn't seem to offer a nice inexpensive unlimited plan for my uses.

I may keep Truphone installed as a backup but Skype seems to win me over in the cost/performance arena.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Muffins and Tree 9

Today I set out on an adventure to climb the mythical Tree 9. A huge tree located in the forrest surrounding the University of California Santa Cruz campus.


Along the way I picked up a Couchsurfer from New Zealand. Michael set out to see some of the states and "burn through his savings" before he got too far into his med degree. Along the convoluted way to find the tree we happened up on dorm BBQ for the students. Being the opportunists we are, Michael and I stepped into line for some grub. We asked the student in front of us if she knew how to get to Tree 9... "yeah it is that way" she pointed into the forest. A surfer dude chimed in, "Whoa you guys talking about Tree 9?" we got to talking and it turned out he was biking with his brother up from San Diego. They'd been on the road for 15 days and he'd just been up Tree 9.


Just then we hear an announcement. "Muffin eating contest in 5minutes!" Hell yeah muffins! I'm all for eating contests and enjoy the sport of consuming foods as fast as possible. It probably stems from my childhood days of plundering the all you can eat buffet tables before the restaurant realized I was eating their profits!

The contest was Muff-tastic! Second place ain't too shabby, I can eat me some muffins!


Loaded with good food and better directions we reach the mythical tree. Words cannot describe the feelings one has when perched upon a branch when the wind whispers through the forest. One girl sat watching them sway and listening. We talked of many beautiful moments encountered before I pressed on to the top.

I had a thought of conquering the tree by climbing to the top. It was a silly thought as I would be conquering it no more than if an ant felt he had conquered a human by scurrying around on him. I felt clear and refreshed, energized as the soft wind rustled by as I stood atop the tree. The view to the other side of the bay reminded me of looking across the ocean to the other side of Maui. There is a similarity between Santa Cruz and Maui for sure. One that makes me miss the place I call home.

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