T Minus and Counting

Today I leave for vacation. This is the first time I’ve left the continent in more than 5 years. One of the best parts of planning a big trip is building anticipation leading up to the date. I took this anticipation and used it to try out the APIs for Alexa’s Flash Briefing, something I check every morning for my news podcasts.

Its very much a hack. The Alexa flash briefing it not so much an API as it is an RRS feed that you can push daily updates to. I didn’t want to set up a full RSS service just for the few weeks leading up to the trip so with some help from other blog posts I managed to use AWS Lambda behind an API gateway endpoint to mock out a bare bones RRS feed server. One that just decrements a number every day.

from __future__ import print_function
import json
import datetime

def respond(err, res=None):
 return {
 'statusCode': '400' if err else '200',
 'body': json.dumps({
 "uid": "1234",
 "updateDate": datetime.datetime.utcnow().isoformat() + 'Z',
 "titleText": str(days_to_trip()) + " days to vacation",
 "mainText": err.message if err else res['message'],
 "redirectionUrl": "https://yoururl.com"
 }),
 'headers': {
 'Content-Type': 'application/json',
 },
}

def days_to_trip():
 trip = datetime.datetime(2018,8,30,0,0,0,0,datetime.timezone.utc)
 today = datetime.datetime.now(datetime.timezone.utc)
 return (trip-today).days + 1

def lambda_handler(event, context):
 rawdata = "there are " + str(days_to_trip()) + " days until your trip to europe"
 reply = { "message": rawdata,
 }
 return respond(None, reply)

The date is hard coded the python is sloppy. But it did what I wanted, telling me every morning how many days I had left until my trip, and I was able to get it together in a couple of hours.

Soon they will start boarding for my flight and the adventure will start, the count down has reached zero.

Snow Lake and the Seven Dwarfs

Last weekend I hiked up to Snow Lake. This was as an unofficial work event, with many team members showing up. This is not unusual as in Seattle this is a common summer weekend activity. This hike was different as it was the last time many of would see one of our co-workers.

One of our team’s founding members work visas has expired and his every attempt to get another via the annual lottery had failed. Our friend and co-worker is no longer allowed to work in the US and so soon would be leaving us. Those with citizenship, myself included, often don’t understand how unnecessarily complicated and frustrating our immigration system is, but these cases are not rare. I work in an industry where most of my coworkers are not born in the us, many are working under the last year of their student visas or are H1B. They can’t plan more than a few years in advance because it is not a certainty that they will be picked in the Green card lottery before their current visa expires.

This is now the second of my co-workers who has gone through this. We are lucky that we work for an international company that has offices in Canada and other locations where one can move with job security. As the argument over illegal immigrants continues to dominate the media I want to remind us all that its not easy for legal immigrants either, and maybe improving the process would help both problems.

blog-DSC01519

Like Bigfoot; wandering off into the forest perhaps to never be seen again

You’ve got Mailbox

Mailbox peak is a famous hike in the Seattle area, know for very steep elevation gain and beautiful views. Mailbox peak has been so popular there are now two trails up the mountain. We hiked the new trail which is better maintained and takes a gentler path up to the summit, though going back and trying the old trail is still a possibility.

The hike was challenging, but it was not as hot as the week before and most of the trail was under a protective canopy of trees. The last mile climbing in the sun was hard, but by that point the end is so close.

blog-DSC00780

Start with a sturdy bridge. Not very steep.

blog-DSC00790

Fording the ‘river’

blog-DSC00804

Into the woods…

blog-DSC00818

…and through the trees…

blog-DSC00822

…to the top of the mountain, please

blog-DSC00814

Stopping at the first overlook

blog-DSC00829-Pano

Not a bad view, but there is still a lot of elevation left.

blog-DSC00834

Does this count as rock climbing?

blog-DSC00839

Scaling this rock slide really feels like we are going straight up

blog-DSC00842-Pano

Climbing the rocks in the the hot sun does provide a nice view

blog-DSC00856

I thought the rocks were the top of the mountain but it keeps going up

blog-DSC00868

Saying hello to the natives

blog-DSC00886

Looking out over the edge

blog-DSC00897

THE SUMMIT! Those post workers really have it tough.

blog-DSC00914

What a good spot for a new profile picture

blog-DSC00919

Someone should open up a portrait studio here

blog-DSC00924

One for me too! Photo by Mark

blog-DSC00927

Rainier is the true star of the photos

blog-DSC00943

Even the locals like to stare out at the mountain

blog-DSC00934

Need to take a selfie to make it official

37192313_1327672124033832_5956986474090987520_n

The gang. Photo: Sean/Shiwani

blog-DSC00956

Time to do it all again in reverse

blog-DSC01014

Mark, Sean, and Anthony far ahead on the trail

blog-DSC01018

Wondering through the trees

blog-DSC01024

So many trees

blog-DSC01029

What a beautiful forrest

 

blog-DSC00878

Required: Picture of a Bee

Dirty Harry

This weekend, though I have not done enough hiking training this summer, I set out on a very hot day to summit Dirty Harry Peak.

blog--00550

Seems like AT&T signal should be good around here

blog--00576

Though some trees

blog--2-2

A small, easy to miss, cairn that is the different between the easy and hard hikes

blog--

The view of I-90 from a brief break in the trees

blog--2-3

More trees

blog--00574

The heat and sun isn’t stopping this slug

blog--00590

Though it was a hot summer day the wild flowers were in bloom

blog--2

More trees

blog--00615

Following the old logging road mean that we were in the sun wishing for the trees

blog---2

The valley on the other side of the mountain as seen from the peak

blog--00644

Beth hanging out at the cliff’s edge

blog--00677

On the long way down

blog--00670.jpg

Bonus: A fuzzy bee on a wild flower

Arts and Crafts

Here is a photo I took at the Gamble house in LA, the pinnacle of Arts and Crafts architecture. The inside of the house was dark and one could only walk around with a tour, so I didn’t come away with any interesting pictures. On the grounds however, free to roam, I took this picture of some of patio fashioned out of clinker bricks.DSC08899

Sea to Sky

Traveling up British Columbia’s route 99 is known as the Sea to Sky highway as it takes you from the water’s edge to high up in the mountains. When going to Whistler we drove up in a snow storm so we didn’t get to sett any of the beauty. On the way back the skies were a little clearer.

Whistler_Panorama1.jpgWhistler_Panorama2.jpg

Improving My Dynamic Range

Reflecting on the year: This year is drawing to a close and as part of a retrospective look on the year I am finishing and publishing several blog posts that at one point I started and never completed.

While in Philadelphia I sent some time playing around with High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography. For me to create images containing a larger dynamic range than my camera is able to capture I took several exposures with different EV values, to capture highlights, mid-tones, and shadows in detail and then composited the images together to create on image with a larger dynamic range than I would normally be able to capture.

Untitled_HDR6-Recovered

Philadelphia Museum of Art at night with HDR

Untitled_HDR6-comparison

Left is the HDR composited image and on the right is a single exposure