This is the first ATM I encountered in Japan when I went there in 1993. I landed in Tokyo with three days to kill, no hotel, no money, just a briefcase with some clothes, a wallet and some toiletries. First thing I needed was a fistful of yen. That turned out to be harder than I expected. I don't read Japanese, but I thought I could negotiate the ATM by paying attention to the symbols. First thing: inserting the card.
I saw the images clearly. They showed a card with the stripe facing up, and to the right. I put my card in that way, punched in my PIN and waited for the money. Instead, I got an error message. I tried again. I got another error message. I tried another card. Error message. So I tried my Visa. Error message. Finally, I went off in search of a phone booth to call home and get confirm my PIN. $30 later, I had called home from a special room where you can pay $3 a minute to call the U.S. (the Visa worked for that) and I had the correct PIN for one of the cards. I inserted the card, stripe up, to the right, and I punched in the correct code.
And I got another error message. Just as I was about to give up and resign myself to spending the night in the airport, waiting for the banks to open in the morning, I saw a little old Japanese lady walk up to the machine. I saw her put her card in, stripe down, and I watched the machine spit out a fortune in Japanese yen. I couldn't believe it. When she was done, I took out my original ATM card and slipped it into the machine, stripe down. I punched my code in, and I asked for something like 20,000 yen. And out came the yen.
Lesson #1 for me when traveling anyplace unfamiliar: when in doubt, stand back for a minute and see how the locals do it.
As I was taking this photo, a Japanese girl gave me quite the odd look. Oh, the irony. You should see some of the stuff her countrymen take pictures of when they come to California.
With the world's eyes on Vancouver, I thought I'd post some photos from my one and only visit to that city. Unfortunately, this is my best shot. This is a view of Canada Place, with its hotel, convention center and cruise ship terminal on the waterfront. A national icon, Canada Place in downtown Vancouver is considered British Columbia's most popular tourism and sightseeing attraction. It is the media headquarters for the 2010 Winter Olympics, and architecturally, it reminds some people of the Sydney Opera House.
My favorite memory of that 1988 trip to Vancouver was not the visit to the totem pole exhibits, Gassy Jack in the gaslamp district, the day trip to Victoria or even watching the cruise ships sail in and out of port. My favorite memory was walking past a newsstand at a coffee shop and noticing the commotion over the sports headlines and the TV broadcasts. Extra! Extra! Wayne Gretzky had been traded to the Kings. Though they were all Canuck fans, the locals were not happy about this trade at all. My brother and I, however, were thrilled with it. Anyhow, this is my best shot of Canada Place.
Look how small the cruise ship was, compared to the giant ships that sail there now.
Here's another retro travel photo taken at Black Rock, outside the Sheraton Maui. This one shows a guy diving headfirst off one of the ledges along the rock in 1985. The island of Lanai is in the background.
Unlike all of the other travel photos that I've posted, this is one I did not take. The dude diving off the rock in this shot is me.
This is the famous San Francisco landmark, the St. Francis Hotel, where we shared a brief getaway last month with the USC family. The hotel was completed just two years before the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The Crocker family built the hotel as part of their grand scheme to turn San Francisco into the "Paris of the West," and this hotel, built at Union Square, was their flagship. The two towers on the left were part of the the original building. After the earthquake, the interior of the hotel was burned, and almost every other building along Union Square was destroyed. Two years later, the tower on the right was built. The structure behind the brightly lit front is a much more modern wing - with really cool exterior elevators that afford guests an awesome view of the city. This picture was taken from across Union Square (named because it was a place where pro-union rallies were held), during the Christmas season, when the monument topped by a bronze goddess of victory, commemorating American Navy's victory at the battle of Manila Bay in the Spanish American War, is joined by a Christmas tree and an outdoor ice skating rink.
Immediately after taking this photograph, I resumed ice skating.
This is my favorite view of the Golden Gate Bridge, taken yesterday, from a lookout point in Marin County. It is still, after 72 years, one of the ten longest bridges in the world. I love driving over it, and sooner or later, I plan to walk across it.
I still wish they would paint it gold so it wouldn't sound like a misnomer.
This is Coit Tower, the firehose-looking unpainted concrete tower in Pioneer Park atop Telegraph Hill in San Francisco. The top of it provides a spectacular view of the City of San Francisco. You can see it from all over the city. A particularly good view can be seen from Pier 39, but I took this one from an office building downtown when we were negotiating one of our class action mediations. Mediations come with a lot of downtime, and sometimes, the views are noteworthy, so I usually bring my camera.
If Al Gore is right, in 100 years, this will be a good spot to build the next Alcatraz Prison.
This is where the Trojans are headed for their bowl game in 2009 - San Francisco, home of the Emerald Bowl, which is named for the brand of nuts, not the gemstone. That's appropriate, I suppose, because although San Francisco is considered a gem of a city, it is perhaps best known for the unique brand of nuts who live there.
That pointy building in the front of the skyline is the Transamerica Pyramid. Their security guards will sometimes hassle you if you try to take a picture of the building from the sidewalk in front of it.
This photograph is taken from outside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum at sunset. Although traveling to Los Angeles isn't much of a trek for me, the Coliseum is a famous L.A. landmark, so I figured this fits in with my theme. This is also one of my favorite photographs of the Coliseum, and it is currently the desktop image on my computer.
USC played UCLA the night this photo was taken, and they beat the Bruins 28-7.
Here's one of my most peculiar travel shots. I never figured out exactly what was going on here, but this is a fire surrounding an airplane along a runway at Salt Lake City International Airport. There were only a couple of units working or maybe even just observing the fire. Perhaps it was just a drill. We looked for stories about it in the newspaper the next day. In any event, it seemed strange to zip down a runway at top speed while another plane was burning practically right next to us.
Anyhow, if you are traveling this weekend, we hope you don't see any sights like this.
Here is another one of my quirkier travel photos. I took this photo out the window of my Chicago hotel room, looking out toward the Hancock Building. Right across the street from that tower is a shopping center that houses the American Girl Place. The doll silhouetted against the window is an American Girl Doll.
If it was a doll from a place called American Clown Place, it probably would have creeped me out quite a bit.
This is one of my quirkier travel photos. I took this between the towers of the Wrigley Building in Chicago. To the left is the clock tower. I don't know what they call the tower to the right. The Chicago River is on the other side of the clock tower. The reason I took this picture, as I walked over to catch the Chicago Water Taxi, was because when I looked up at the enclosed hallway connecting the two towers, it occurred to me that this was the 20th Century equivalent of the rickety old rope bridges you see spanning deep river gorges in so many adventure movies.
I wouldn't cross one of those rope bridges, and I made no plans to try to cross this one, either.
Here is another photo I took at Notre Dame. This is the view of the Golden Dome, as seen from inside Notre Dame Stadium during a game, under a blue-gray October sky. The dome itself was shining in the sun for this shot, and its 3,500 square feet of 23.9-karat gold leaf sparkled in the sun. You can't get a good distance perspective from this shot, but the dome is not right outside the stadium, as it appears. It's actually halfway across the campus.
Other than being USC's big rivals, what else do UCLA and Notre Dame have in common? They both park cars on a golf course for their football games. At UCLA, it's the Brookside Golf Course north of the Rose Bowl. In South Bend, it's the Notre Dame Golf Course. I took this picture of it from the USC alumni bus as we approached the Notre Dame campus. I loved the fall colors, and none were much better than those seen in the view of this pair of trees. October is a great time to visit Notre Dame. The fall foliage is bright and varied, and football season is in full bloom.
This is "the Bean", formally known as Cloud Gate, a public sculpture by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor, located in Millennium Park in Chicago, Illinois. It is built of 168 stainless steel plates welded together and polished with no visible seams. It looks like a big blob of liquid mercury, and it is a lot of fun to walk around and under, viewing all the odd reflections of yourself and the city of people around you.
This is what made me want to visit Indiana. Kickoff at Notre Dame Stadium, with the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame hosting the USC Trojans. I took this photo from Section 13, just after the ball was kicked to start the 2007 game, won by USC by a score of 38-0. The color, the bold sky and crisp air, the smell of grass, and the excitement of the crowd and the participants makes this one of the great moments of the year. Whenever I bring a camera to a game, which is more than half the time, I try to take a picture of kickoff. Most of the time, it is a lousy picture. This one, however, was better than most.
I'm hoping to see something like it this Saturday.
Here's a photo taken from Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. Some interesting points about the photo: (i) that's the famous Cincinnati Suspension Bridge in the background; (ii) the stadium is in Ohio, but the hills and houses you see are in Kentucky; and (iii) those people filing out down the dramatic escalator were trying to beat traffic after the Bengals got an apparent game-winning touchdown with about a minute left in their season opener. Sadly for the home fans, on second and long, the Broncos got a miraculous "immaculate reception" type of catch out of Brandon Stokley, and the Bengals lost to Denver, 12-7.
Walking out, I pitied the sorry Bengal fans, who expected the start the season 0-4 after that loss, but since then, they've beaten Green Bay, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Go figure.
I was thinking about this place this morning. This is Hilo Bay, on the eastern, windward side of the Big Island of Hawaii. When we went to the Big Island this summer, there were only three things I really wanted to do and first on this list was to see Hilo and visit the Pacific Tsunami Museum. Today, when I heard about the tsunami hitting Samoa, I looked in on the Hilo Bay tsunami museum webcam and remembered the words of the volunteer who showed us around the museum last month. "On average, we have about one harmful tsunami every 12 years, but we've had none in the last 34 years," she said. "So we're overdue."
Luckily, today's early tsunami warning was reduced to the tsunami watch, and what finally hit the islands this afternoon was just an ebb and flow amounting to no more than about 3 feet of sea level. Nothing like the 15, 40 and 60 foot floodwaters that rose out of the sea during tsunamis that struck decades ago.
This was my first view of Hilo Bay. I can't even imagine what it must have looked like with a 39 foot wall of water racing toward the shore.
This is the Lane Avenue Bridge, a cable-stayed bridge over the Olentangy River, near the Ohio State University, in Columbus, Ohio. The anchorage for the cables are the single largest pieces of steel ever to be galvanized - 47 tons each. It's a pleasant bridge to walk across on the way to or from Ohio Stadium.
This is Fountain Square, in the heart of downtown Cincinnati, Ohio, since 1871. A butcher's market formerly occupied this space. The center of the square features this bronze allegorical fountain from Ferdinand von Miller named The Genius of Water. The fountain can be seen in the opening credits on WKRP in Cincinnati .
This photograph was taken in front of the Fifth Third Bank building, which I am sure is even bigger and better than the Fourth Third Bank building.
This is Mendenhall Glacier, as seen from beneath the visitor's center. When they first built the visitor's center, about a half century ago, the glacier was right up next to it. It has retreated a few hundred yards since then and there is now this pleasant little lake between the center and the terminus of the glacier.
Those little waves are smaller than they appear. They're about an inch high. The rocks are about as big, too.
This is a bridge over Gold Creek, in Juneau, Alaska. We were there on a cruise ship tour. While there were several real prospectors with equipment trying to take gold right out of the creek (including the sourdough crouched over on the right), we were all given pans with coarse sand and pre-seeded flakes of gold inside for us to pan out. Everyone scored.
I'd have rather been given a shovel, a softer, a pan and a spot to do some real panning, and if I got nothing, that would have been just fine.
On Thursday, we made it a cabana day at the pool. A cabana with views of the pools, ocean, mountains and grass, with complimentary waters, Maui style chips, poi chips and anything we want to order. Mai tai. Until that is, I spied a sea turtle and I went to investigate while trying to decide if it was safe or unsafe to bring daughter in. The coast here was rocky, and the rocks were sharp and unstable. That's a bad combination. They scraped my legs and my toes. Then came the big one. I slipped down a big rock with coral, and it tore a nickel-sized slice, from which it removed a chunk of toe about as big as an extra-strength tylenol. I could have used that.
It bled a lot. All over the dirt path up to the pool deck. All over the edge of the pool deck. All over the shower. All over the grass. They brought the HazMat cleanup guys, as if my blood was some sort of dangerous terror weapon. As they were cleaning up, people were asking them if someone died there.
No. Nobody died. The irony is that the cut forced me to lay down in the comfy cabana chair until dinner time, doing nothing but eating and drinking mai tais. That turned out to be better than my plans.
This was once a beautiful neighborhood in the village of Kalapana. It was once the site of homes, a fishing village and one of Hawaii's finest black sand beaches. In 1990, from April to December, of lava from Kilauea Volcano buried the the town and this - the Royal Garden Subdivision - beneath as much as under 10 meters of rock. Today, officials have set up a path into this area to give access for visitors to see (from a distance of about a half mile), the current lava flow as it reaches the sea. The path has several wortwhile vendors of food, drink, flashlights, and of course, artwork.
I grabbed a rock from the lava fields and then headed out to the viewing area. The walk across the lava was really difficult with a toddler. It wasn't worth it. Perhaps my first bit of bad luck for taking the lava rock?
We couldn't believe our luck last month when a big pain-in-the-butt case settled, leaving me with a chance to book one more vacation before the kids go back to school. We selected Hawaii, and specifically, the Big Island, and even more specifically, the Hilton Waikoloa Village, where my daughters coveted a session with their dolphins and dolphin trainers. We even managed to find a decent flight just a week before the trip. Then, a few days later, Hurricane Felicia grew to a category 4 beast, and it was headed for the Big Island. As we arrived on Sunday night, the forecast called for her to come ashore early this morning, right about at our latitude, albeit on the other side of the island, as a strong tropical storm with 40+ mph winds and 8 inches or more of rain. But she did not. She drifted to the north, raining all over the windward side of Oahu, and leaving us with weather that looked like this:
I'm feeling so lucky, maybe I can afford to take one of those lava rocks from the volcano tomorrow.
I took this photo while whale-watching with Island Adventure Cruises in Anacortes, Washington, just a few hours after we ended our June 2009 Alaska cruise. We had hoped to take this sort of watch-watching trip while in Victoria the day before, but we ran out of time. So when we got to Seattle, we rented a car for the day, drove up to Anacortes, and started looking for whale-watching boats. Luckily, we found one that brought us to this place.
The little guy here is K-42, the youngest, and yet-unnamed baby of K-pod.
This is a view from the back of the Butchart Gardens in British Columbia. The docks down there are home to some boats that take guests of the gardens out for a short cruise out Butchart Cove into the Saanich Inlet.
As tempting as it appeared, we skipped the boat tour, because we had a limo driver waiting outside at about a buck and a half a minute.
This is the most breathtaking view one encounters when touring The Butchart Gardens, in Brentwood Bay, near Victoria on Vancouver Island. The garden was built out of the remnants of a giant mining pit left behind by Robert and Jennie Butchart's limestone mine used to fuel their Portland cement company.
That raised center portion in the middle consists of limestone that was too mediocre to warrant mining. It survived by being lousy. Reminds me of some senior counsel I've known.
This building sticking out of the water off Douglas Island in the Gastineau Channel is one of the oddest structures we saw in Alaska. It looks like its useful purpose concluded long ago, so perhaps it was once part of something larger. If it was, however, I can't figure out why this piece survived.
It's situated in a pretty good place to take your dog for a run, though.
Here we were, last Friday afternoon, departing from Seattle aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas, just as most people in Seattle were getting ready to quit for the weekend. On our last cruise, there was a vigorous Setting Sail Party, with tropical drinks, children swimming in the pool, and a steel drum band playing reggae music as people lined the railings to watch the mainland slowly shrink from our view. This time, it was just people lining the rails to watch the mainland slowly shrink from our view.
This would be the nicest weather we would enjoy for the next four days.
This is one of the first things I saw this morning out my balcony aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas. Most of the icebergs floating past us are white, but this one was almost completely clear. The white chunk in the middle was probably deposited by a wave created by claving off the glacier.
We were scheduled to be heading up Tracy Arm Fjord, in the Tracy Arm area, on our way to see the Sawyer Glacier. Instead, because of unsafe pack ice, we are heading up the Endicott Arm, to see the Dawes Glacier, which is itself a spectacular sight, if not quite so amazing as its neighbor.
We're going back to the Inside Passage this week, departing on Friday aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas. One nice thing about the Inside Passage is that once you get between all the islands, the water tends to be very calm. This picture shows the glassy smooth seas just as the sun rises over SE Alaska. I loved not only the color of this shot, but the textures of the sea, the layers of clouds and the silhouette of the land. This time, we'll be traveling right around the summer solstice, so these sunrises are going to come as early as 3:30 a.m. or thereabouts.
Or was this a sunset? I can't remember. I think it was sunrise.
I've been to some pretty cool places in the past few years, but nothing was cooler, literally or figuratively, than taking a helicopter ride from Juneau to the middle of the Mendenhall Glacier. I've posted a picture or two of this sight before, but this one might be my favorite. I took this one from the helicopter as we were leaving the glacier. The visitor's center can be seen just slightly to the left of the center of this shot. When they built it, the center was located near the face of the glacier. Over the years, it has retreated, and this vantage point makes it easy to imagine where the glacier's reach used to be.
I have family hitting that visitor's center this afternoon. I wish I was there with them.
Remember hearing about the Bridge to Nowhere during last year's presidential election? This is part of the nowhere they were talking about. This is Pennock Island, between Ketchikan, Alaska and its international airport on Gravina Island. The bridge itself would have begun south of the airport, at the end of the "road to nowhere", and it would have come across to this island, a couple of hundred yards to the left of this scene, then it would have continued over the "Alaska Marine Highway" (on which we were sailing when I took this photo) to the southern part of Ketchikan, just north of Saxman, on the South Tongass Highway.
Just for the record, I was for the Bridge to Nowhere and I still am. I'd like to be able to visit Ketchikan without having to take a ferry when I land.
They have strong laws against drinking in public in Ensenada, so when the cop on the Segway approached, this street beggar quickly pulled her bottle of alcohol in close, so the cop couldn't see it. Once he had passed, she looked over at the dude on the left and laughed, pleased to have avoided a ticket.
After that, she resumed her morning of sitting on the sidewalk with her baby, drinking alcohol and asking strangers for spare change as they left Hussong's Cantina.
Ensenada on a Tuesday in April is dead, and half the people you see are beggars or street vendors. This particular fellow was looking to get a $1 taco during a break from offering to sell chewing gum to the dozens - if that many - of tourists on Lopez Mateos Avenue.
Business was dead, but he did have enough for the taco.
I'm still amazed at how lucky I get sometimes. Take spring break this year, for example. We skipped out on a really great cruise to the Mexican Riviera and instead took a much more modest vacation cruise to Ensenada so we could be back in time for my daughter's soccer game. The game got cancelled. If we had known it would be cancelled, we'd have taken the fancier cruise. And we would never have stopped in Catalina, and experienced this dolphin encounter. The thing I like about this picture is that you can see our ship in the background, and you can see four different dolphins at the surface.
I took about 800 pictures in less than 20 minutes. I won't post them all, I promise.
I took this photograph in Glacier Bay. I believe this is the Diamond Princess rolling into Glacier Bay, with us sailing away from the Margorie Glacier and heading toward the Lamplugh Glacier and Johns Hopkins Glacier. Glacier Bay currently features 16 glaciers, 4 of which do not extend all the way to the water, including the one in the background here.
Back when the American colonists were contemplating independence from Great Britain, this 65-mile long fjord was still a single massive glacier thousands of feet thick. If Al Gore is right, they'll be growing grapes here in another 50 years.
We visited Catalina Island this week. We rented one of those little seagoing boats for a couple of hours, and after a few minutes, about a mile south of Avalon, and just a couple of hundred yards offshore, we encountered dolphins. Lots of dolphins. They were completely unafraid of us, swimming right beneath us, and popping out of the water right alongside and in front of us.
We've now ruined Catalina Island for our kids forever. Any time we go, they are going to expect dolphins to chase them all over, and it's not going to happen.
Living on the west coast, I get to take a lot of photographs of sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. I get few chances to photograph sunrises over the Pacific Ocean. The Inside Passage, however is a place where it is possible to watch the sun rising over the Pacific Ocean. Here, the shore is just a few miles away, but that distance let me watch the rising sun reflect off the waters. I made it a point to try to take a picture of the sunrise every morning on that cruise, and when we do it again, I'll be up early every morning.
This is another scene we encountered along the Inside Passage of the Alaska Panhandle and coastal British Columbia. Like last week's photo, I took this from our balcony on the Norwegian Pearl during our first day of the cruise. We were headed north, on our way to Juneau. I'm pretty sure we were still in Canadian waters at this point. From time to time, we saw eagles and seabirds, and once, people saw a bear along the shore, but I didn't get my camera out quick enough and, to be honest, I couldn't tell it was a bear. Those patches of clear sky along the left and the top-center are what locals liked to call "blue clouds."
The water was so smooth, I wanted to go skiing. Then, when we got to Juneau, I felt the water and erased all thoughts of waterskiing from my mind. It was finger-numbing cold. I can't imagine letting other parts of me in water that cold.
This is one of the scenes we encountered along the Inside Passage of the Alaska Panhandle and coastal British Columbia. Our ship, the Norwegian Pearl, was sailing through a brisk rainstorm, but as you can see, blue skies and puffy white clouds were not far in the distance. Notwithstanding the heavy rain near our ship, the seas were quite calm.
I'm on the verge of booking my big summer vacation for this year, and I'm leaning toward a return to Alaska. Traveling with a baby under a year old will be challenging, and to lessen the challenge, we're thinking cruise, and we're thinking familiar destinations. Last time, we did the round-trip out of Seattle, but this time, we might do a one-way between Seattle or Vancouver and Anchorage.
Happy St. Patrick's Day. This statue of St. Patrick sits in the middle of the "Teamhair na Rí" or Hill of Tara, which was the seat of the ancient pagan kings of Ireland. On the eve of Easter in 433, the pagans dwelling on Tara looked over the plains of Royal Meath and saw a light upon the nearby Hill of Slane as they awaited the king's lighting of a fire on the Royal Hill. The fire was lit by St. Patrick, whose flame burned to disprove the righteousness of the pagan gods and promulgate the gospel of Jesus Christ in honor of the Paschal feast. King Laoghaire's priests attempted to thwart St. Patrick, but failed, and today, his is the only likeness to be seen at this former pagan hold site.
As any schoolchild can tell you, St. Patrick is well known for using the three-leafed clover as a symbol of the Holy Trinity. These fields are full of such clovers. I nabbed a couple on the day I took this photo. They are all over the place in this scene. Anywhere there is green, there be clovers.
This is a cemetary surrounding the disused Saint Patrick's church, built on the site of ruins of a medieval church, adjacent to the Hills of Tara. The Hills of Tara were the seat of the ancient Kings of Ireland, and were one of the most important sacred sites of pagan Ireland. Druid priests roamed this site long before any Irish had ever heard of Jesus Christ, but now the church, which serves today as a visitor's center, is as much a relic as the mounds and monuments of Tara.
From a few yards off from where I snapped this photo, it is said that you can see as much as a quarter of the Emerald Isle, including the "plains of Royal Meath" from which strong men came hurrying through, while Brittannia's huns, with their long range guns sailed out o'er the Foggy Dew.
One of best ways to get around on Inisheer (Inis Oírr), the smallest and most eastern of the Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland, is on the back of a cart pulled by horses. Then, when you get to a shipwreck or a beach, you tell them to stand there and wait.
The dark horse was named "Rosie." I don't remember the white one's name.
This is the ferry we took across the Irish Sea from Dublin to Holyhead, Wales. We had seen some pretty scary videos of the Irish Sea when it gets angry (this, for example was taken almost a year to the day after our crossing), but our trip was so smooth, you could have waterskiied all the way to Holyhead.
Next time, however, I want to take the ferry from Belfast to Stranraer, where I hope to shoot a round of 18 with some Clayeholers.