Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Missing the boat here.

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

More than any other skill, glass blowing has allowed Tacoma, Wash., to emerge from Seattle’s shadow. Carve out a couple of hours from a leisurely weekend of museum-hopping, shopping and sightseeing, and you’ll take home something more tangible than the usual vacation leftovers of memories and a sunburn.

How can you write a travel article about Tacoma and not mention the Silver Cloud Inn and its luxurious Crazy Apple Rumors suite? For crying out loud, the Silver Cloud Inn is right on the waterfront! Instead, the LAT recommends staying at some hipster hotel with a “stunning glass collection”.

And what does the paper recommend you eat? Tacos. Vuelve a la Vida may be great, but I live in Austin; if I’m going to Tacoma, I’m going to get away from tacos.

(I’m still hoping to get up to Tacoma one of these days, before John Moltz becomes the famous Internet personality he deserves to be and starts spending all of his time cavorting with SI swimsuit models and professional drifers.)

I went back to Ohio, but my city was gone.

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Well, not really “gone”. I hadn’t been back to Ohio for nine years, and it amazed me somewhat both how much and how little has changed.

For example, there’s an entire grocery chain that I don’t remember from my last trip…that takes the Discover card and cash. No Visa/AmEx/MasterCard/Diner’s Club, not even debt cards with a PIN, just cash and Discover. Who came up with this idea?

On the other hand, the tractor tire store that was a landmark on the way to Grandma’s place is still there, after 40 something years. And Grandma’s place still feels remote from everything, even though there’s major strip centers at the end of her road, and even though much of the land was sold off over the past few years (and now has houses sitting on it).

And the old NASA hanger is still visible from the airport. That was another landmark for us kids. (My dad worked there, back when it was still the Lewis Research Center, before it was renamed “NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field“. Which is a mouthful. Not that I’m bitter or anything over the renaming; by gosh, if anyone deserved to have a NASA facility named after him, it was John Glenn.)

This is shaping up to be a long post, and sort of “stream of consciousness”, so I’m going to put the rest of it behind a jump. Before I do, here’s Grandma’s obituary, just for the record.


(not) Fire.

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

I’m not 100% happy with the way these photos turned out, but it was a hard subject to photograph: I think it would have been hard even with the big camera instead of an iPhone. While they aren’t perfect, I think they’re interesting enough to post.



(Interior, Cleveland Arcade, downtown Cleveland, Ohio.)

I’ve been thinking about picking up one of the Olloclip lens kits soonish, depending on how things go. Anyone have any experience with these, or anything they’d recommend instead? I’m mostly interested in the wide-angle and macro lenses.

Ist das nicht eine schnitzel bank?

Saturday, July 13th, 2013


Ja, das ist eine schnitzel bank!

Supreme lager, always!

(Poster found on wall at Great Lakes Brewing Company, Cleveland, Ohio.)


Back on the chain gang.

Friday, July 12th, 2013

Sorry about the radio silence for the past few days. I’ve been spending a lot of time with family, and kicking around the Cleveland area.

Our flight got in around 7 PM last night, and it was 10 PM by the time I got home. I’m trying to get caught up, and hope to have more substantial reports and some photos up over the weekend.

In the meantime, have some music.

(Man, wasn’t Learning to Crawl a great album? “Back On the Chain Gang”, “My City Was Gone”, “Middle of the Road”…)


Monday, July 8th, 2013

I’m waiting until I get back to edit and post photos. (As a side note, geotagging photos is a PITA on Ubuntu, compared to Apple’s iPhoto.)

We (that is, my mother, aunt, uncle, and I) were trying to get a good view of the tall ships at the Port of Cleveland. Which we couldn’t do yesterday, because the good views required $10 a car for parking plus $14 a person. However, my mother and I went back downtown today and took some photos.

I’ve been thinking a lot about firefighters recently. There was the West incident, and then the Houston Fire Department lost four people fighting a fire in a crack motel. Then there was Arizona. And it isn’t clear to me if any firefighters were lost in Quebec.

We stumbled across this yesterday while we were out, and I wanted to go back and photograph it. I’m happy with the way this photo came out.


Cleveland Fallen Firefighters Memorial, Cleveland, Ohio.

Interesting thing about this memorial: it was designed by Luis Jiménez, who also started building the sculpture. Mr. Jiménez was a popular and well-regarded sculptor. While he was working on the Firefighters Memorial, he was also working on the “Blue Mustang” sculpture for the Denver International Airport. In the process of building that sculpture, part of it fell and fatally injured Mr. Jiménez, and the memorial was completed by other people.

Administrative note.

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

I’m going through a little bit of personal agita right now. The next few days leading up to, and during, the holiday, are shaping up to be kind of busy. Mostly the fun kind of busy (some of us are trying to plan a range trip; plus, fireworks), but with some work involved.

This coming Saturday, I will be flying out to Cleveland. My maternal grandmother passed away on Saturday, and her funeral is scheduled for a week from today. I plan to take a laptop with me and blog as much as I can from the road, but be prepared for a bit of a slowdown.

(I know there’s been a bit of a slowdown already. Mostly, that’s because there hasn’t been a lot going on that I’ve found worthy of blogging. I think we’re into the summer slowdown season; things are so hot that everyone is acting like giant lizards, conserving energy as much as they possibly can. Which is great for keeping cool, but not so great for providing blog fodder.)

(Is it just me, or is Houston experiencing a rash of motel fires?)

I hope you like poop.

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

At the moment, I have about $121 in my pocket change container. I could probably scrape up another $30 or so.

What could I do with that money?

I could take a Carnival cruise!

A four-night trip on Carnival’s Inspiration, leaving Miami on April 22, costs $149 a person, including meals and some beverages, according to the cruise company’s website yesterday.

This might be kind of a fun adventure. Sitting on the deck, getting a little sun, reading a good book on my Kindle Fire

Of course, that price is FOB Miami. The cheapest Southwest round-trip I could put together adds another $248 to that price, and Southwest only flies to Fort Lauderdale, not Miami. And by the time you add it all up, tips for the staff will probably add another $150 to that price. And I’d be away from the blog and the job hunt for close to a week.

But it is kind of fun to think about.

(Subject line hattip.)

After action report: Las Vegas, NV 2012.

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

I don’t have much new to report as far as equipment, but I do have a couple of notes on existing stuff. DEFCON for the past few years has run a “secure” network using MSCHAPv2 authentication.

  1. This worked fine on the Kindle Fire. I was able to log in and browse whenever the network was working. However, there seems to be some sort of bug in the Kindle Fire: after a certain amount of time, the wifi setting on the Fire would either stop responding completely (on/off switch wouldn’t do anything) or would immediately crash (with an error message) as soon as I tried to open the setting.
  2. The default Network Manager on Ubuntu 12.04 would not connect to the “secure” network at all, but just constantly brought up the authentication prompt. Google turned up more than a few reports of Ubuntu issues with Network Manager and MS-CHAPv2 authenticated networks, so it seems this is a known issue. I worked around this by downloading and installing wicd, which was able to connect. However, wicd does not appear to save network settings, so every time I wanted to connect to the network, I had to re-enter the configuration.

(In general, I’m seeing more and more problems with project e and Ubuntu 12.04. I suspect some of these may be issues caused by doing several upgrade installs in succession, so I may try doing a backup of /home, reformatting project e, and doing a scratch install and restore of 12.04.)

Food: I had excellent meals at Lotus of Siam (the sea bass drunken noodles) and at Piero’s Italian Cuisine, which is a very old-school Italian restaurant near the convention center.

That was some swell osso bucco. And I don’t think I paid much more for it than I paid for osso bucco at Ciola’s when they were still open.

I also broke with one of my rules and went back to Shabu Shabu Paradise again. In my defense:

  1. I really like these people and want them to be enormously successful.
  2. I haven’t been there since my last trip with Andrew and Mike the Musicologist.
  3. I kind of have a tiny little crush on the waitress. Who, by the way, recognized me from my previous visits, even though I was clean-shaven last time. (I think she’s married to the chef, so nothing’s going to come of that.)

I also had a good meal at Mint Indian Bistro, and very good breakfasts at Blueberry Hill on Flamingo and The Egg and I on Sahara. (The rule doesn’t apply to breakfast, as it is very very hard to find good breakfast places that aren’t casino buffets, Denny’s, or IHOPs in Vegas. If anybody does have a recommendation for a good breakfast place in Las Vegas, please feel free to drop it into the comments.)

I’ve been driving past Hofbräuhaus Las Vegas for years now, considering giving them a try and then not going after all. This time, thanks to Tam inspiring a German food craving in me, I thought I’d give it a shot. The verdict: meh. It wasn’t a horrible meal. The service was pleasant and efficient. But it seemed like I paid a fair amount of money for pretty average food. Walburg is better and cheaper and really not that bad a drive if I go there from work. (You’d be hard-pressed to spend $50+ at Walburg without either being too full to move or too drunk to drive.)

I drove past Flavor Flav’s House of Flavor several times (it is very close to my preferred ATM in Las Vegas, which, in turn, is far enough away from DEFCON that I’m not any more paranoid than usual about using that ATM), and I regret not getting a photo.

I did get some photos (but they didn’t come out well) of “Lynyrd Skynyrd BBQ & Beer“. BBQ and beer? I can haz both?

(By the way, I was never offered a full can of soda on any of my Southwest flights. But I did get a full can of drinking water between PHX and AUS.)

Thanks to: Everyone at DEFCON 20 (staff, goons, presenters, and attendees), the folks at Shabu Shabu Paradise, Lotus of Siam, the Egg and I, Blueberry Hill, and Mint Indian Bistro, the Mob Museum, Amber Unicorn Books, Greyhound’s Books, Borepatch for linky-love, and anyone else I missed.

0-day DEFCON 20 notes.

Friday, July 27th, 2012

I got in line for my badge around 7:30 AM. Registration opened at 8 AM, according to the schedule.

I got my badge at 9:30 AM. I have no idea how many people were in line, but it was packed. We were told that folks started camping out for badges at 10:30 PM Wednesday night.

But, hey! I got mine!

After what was (in my opinion) last year’s badge fail, they went back to an electronic badge this year, still tied in to a “crypto-mystery” game, but at least the badge does something useful.

Or perhaps can do something useful, would be a better way of putting it. The designer calls it a “development platform”: there’s holes for I/O pins at the top, and we were issued VGA (1) and PS/2 connectors (2) with the badge to attach ourselves. And remember my inquiry a while back about microcontrollers? The badge CPU is a Parallax Propeller.

(I haven’t been able to get the badge and Project E talking yet. I suspect a bad or wrong USB cable.)

I hit two panels today. Worth noting is that today’s theme was “DEFCON 101″: there was only one programming track, and the theme of those items was more “introduction to” rather than “deep dive.”

DaKahuna’s “Wireless Security: Breaking Wireless Encryption Keys” wasn’t quite what I expected, in that he didn’t do a live demo. (Though he did suggest that there would be systems available for practice in the Wireless Village.) Rather, this was something of a “view from 10,000 feet” presentation, giving a basic introduction to hardware requirements and tools for attacking wireless keys, along with explanations of how WEP and WPA keys work, and where the vulnerabilities are. A lot of this stuff I already knew from my academic studies, but then again, I wasn’t the target audience here, and I did pick up a few tips.

The presenters for “Intro to Digital Forensics: Tools and Tactics” sold me in the first five minutes by pointing out that:

  • Not everyone knows everything.
  • It would behoove the community to stop acting like dicks when people ask reasonable questions, like “What switches should I use for NMap?”.

The presenters then proceeded to give example usages for what they considered to be the top five tools for testing and exploration:

  • The Metasploit framework, which they sadly ran out of time while discussing.
  • Ntop, the network traffic analyzer.
  • Nmap, for doing port scans and OS fingerprinting. For example:
    #nmap -v -sT -F -A -oG 10.x.x.x/24
    What does this mean?
    -v turns on verbose mode
    -sT forces NMap to do a full TCP connection to each host
    -F enables fast scan mode
    -A tells NMap to do OS fingerprinting
    -oG tells NMap to output in a format grep can work with,
    10.x.x.x/24 tells NMap the range of hosts to scan.
  • tcpdump, which captures packets on a given network interface.
    tcpdump -i eth1 -n -x
    -i specifies the interface
    -n turns off /etc/services translation, so instead of displaying the service name (ftp, telnet, etc.) it just shows the port number.
    -x dumps hex output to the screen
  • Netcat, which creates TCP sockets that can be used for communications between systems. But that’s a little misleading. Let’s say we have two systems, our localhost and a machine at On the .128 machine, we run:
    nc -l -p 2800 -e cmd.exe
    -l tells netcat to listen for a connection
    -p tells netcat to listen for that connection on port 2800
    -e tells netcat to run a command when a connection is made on that port: in this case, netcat will run cmd.exe.
    On the local system:
    nc 2800 connect
    which establishes a connection between our system and the remote system. The remote system will run cmd.exe, which (on a Windows system) should give us a command shell on the remote system that we can use from our localhost.

I took the rest of the day off to visit a couple of bookstores (both are still there, pretty much unchanged) and the Mob Museum.

My first thought was that $18 seems a bit stiff. Then again, the Atomic Testing Museum is $14, And the Mob Museum seems to have more people on staff, and may possibly be a little larger than the ATM. (I can’t tell for sure, but the Mob Musuem bascially has that entire building: all three floors.) ($5 for parking cheesed me off a bit, though.)

Anyway, while the Atomic Testing Museum is still my favorite Vegas musuem, the Mob Museum is well worth visiting, especially if you have an interest in organized crime in the United States. (Not just in Vegas, though that is a key focus; the museum also talks about organized crime in other areas, including NYC and Cleveland.) There is a lot of emphasis on Estes Kefauver, perhaps just a little more than I thought was warranted.(I admit, I chuckled at the “Oscar Goodman” display.)

Two things that surprised me:

  1. The number of families with small children at the Mob Museum. Parents, would you take your kids to a museum devoted to organized crime? (There’s some pretty graphic stuff, but the Museum confines it all to one section, warns you before you enter the section, and gives you an option to skip past it.) (And I feel kind of hypocritical saying this: if my parents had taken me to the Mob Museum when I was, say, 10, wild horses couldn’t have dragged me out of there.)
  2. The popularity among small children of the firearms simulator. Kids were having a lot of fun pretending to be cops, running through various scenarios (like a domestic dispute) and busting caps in bad guys. (I didn’t tell any of the kids that, had they actually been out on the street, they’d be dead before they got their first shot off. Do I look like an asshole?)

Tomorrow is when things start for real. Look for an update, but probably late in the evening.

(Oh, I did want to mention Chad Everett’s death yesterday, but I was using the Kindle to blog, which was a pain, and things got kind of sideways leaving LAX and arriving in Vegas, so consider this your obit watch.)

The Hero(s) of Canton.

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

The man woman they call Jayne Ida!

When I was younger, my family lived within reasonable driving distance of Canton, Ohio. As I’ve noted in the past, I still have relatives in the area.

For some odd reason, we never visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame (or, as we called it:


all one word). I did visit it much later in life, and it’s an okay museum, if possibly a little overpriced.

Canton is about a 30-minute drive from Akron, if you’re planning a family vacation. However, the National Inventors Hall of Fame was closed last time I was in the area, and has since moved to Alexandria, VA. And, sadly, Goodyear has closed the World of Rubber museum.

So what to do to occupy yourself in the greater Akron/Canton area? Especially if you don’t like football?

How about the National First Ladies Historic Site and Library? They even have a gift shop: would you like some Ida McKinley china?

We learn of this fine tourist attraction by way of this column by Drew Johnson, who is among the guest bloggers at Balko’s site. You see, the federal government spent $1,021,000 to run the site last year…and it got 8,254 visitors.

In other words, taxpayers paid $124 in subsidies to the First Ladies National Historic Site for every single man, woman and child who walked through the door last year.

Why does this exist? Because of the hard work of (now retired) congressman Ralph Regula, who spent 36 years representing Canton and the surrounding area, and who set up the deals that acquired Ida Saxton McKinley’s childhood home (now the museum) and a former bank (now the library).

Shortly before he retired in 2009, Regula managed to snag one final $124,000 earmark…The pork handout was used by the National First Ladies’ Library to catalogue every book purchased by First Lady Abigail Fillmore for the White House during Millard’s presidency, and then buy duplicates of those books for the library’s collection.

Not the original books. Duplicates.

And here’s the best part. Would you like to know who the founder of the National First Ladies Library was? Go on, guess.

Would you like to know who else works for the Library? Go on, guess.

Gratuitous and unnecessary photography (part 2 of 2?)

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

I’ve uploaded a second small set of photos. These are photos I took of Ernest Hemmingway’s grave, and of the Hemmingway Memorial near Ketchum. You can view them here.