Mount Sutro: An Electronic Periodical

0820Hours EDT

The City by the Bay

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Photo Credit: Marc Malonzo IV — Golden Gate Bridge and Fort Point, Marine Drive, San Francisco, California, 26 January 2009 Not discounting all the wonderful travels I have experienced over the past several years, I am very excited to be returning to San Francisco just shy of one decade since my last visit in June 1999 shortly after high school graduation. I will be in town staying in the Mission District from Wednesday, 20 May through Thursday, 28 May 2009. For those who may be interested in meeting for lunch or something, please contact me so we can arrange it. I started looking into the possibility of going this year with the thought of using collected frequent flyer points to keep costs down and vacationing over a holiday to take advantage of the free day off work. In addition, I wanted two-segment (one layover) flights through Memphis International Airport if possible. In mid-January, I formed a plan that met these criteria and on the twenty-second decided to book my travel. According to the Northwest Airlines website, I could purchase additional WorldPerks reward points to increase my balance from 19,754 to 25,000, the amount necessary for a domestic roundtrip flight. Sold in increments of 1,000, I spent $201.03 for 6,000 points, much less than the nearly $500 the tickets alone cost. Continuing to the booking page, I discovered that I still did not have enough points to purchase the tickets. Puzzled and worried I had just made a critical mistake, I re-read the award travel chart detailing how many points it costs to travel to domestic and international destinations. Changed since my last visit to the site, the chart shows most US domestic flights now require 40,000 points for roundtrip travel. I dialed the number for Northwest customer service and waited for an agent, sipping on a freshly mixed cocktail and determined to find a solution. After explaining the situation to the agent and learning the reward travel redemption policies just changed on 15 January 2009, I was presented with three alternatives to my original plan, each with pros and cons of their own.     a.   Leave one day later and have two layovers; return on desired date and flights.     b.   Leave one day earlier on desired flights; return one day later and have two layovers.     c.   Go with my original plan, but use 12,500 points and an additional $250. The third plan was unacceptable since I was not willing to pay more after already purchasing the 6,000 points. The first plan was undesirable for the delayed departure and extra layover. Left with one plan, I told the agent to proceed with booking the second itinerary. I was informed there would be a $20 fee for booking via telephone, perfectly acceptable considering my need for the agent's services was self-induced. The real fee for my oversight will be paid on the day I return home. My flight departs San Francisco International at 0630 PDT, a mere thirty-nine minutes after sunrise, bound for Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. From there I will fly to the one airport I specifically tried to avoid, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, to catch a CRJ-900 back to Tallahassee Regional. It will be a long day but I live close to the airport, so as long as everything runs on time I should be in my bed by 2200 EDT. In the next weeks and months, I will have the chance to prepare a basic agenda, highlighting places I want to go and things I want to photograph. With any luck, the reward travel snafu will be the sole glitch on this trip. I had a dream the other night where I got to San Francisco and realized I had forgotten my camera, of all things. I think after neglecting to bring my battery charger to Japan there is no chance of that happening, but it still amuses me to know my subconscious mind is pondering the trip too.
Related Article → The Remote Experience
Photo Credit: Marc Malonzo IV

The Eve of Day One

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Photo Credit: David July — The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., 01 November 2008 Andy Dufresne taught us the value of hope and that it "is a good thing, maybe the best of things." This concept fit the Barack Obama campaign well, echoed by those who voted for him. When you think about it though, very election is about hope. In casting a vote for a candidate, you hope they make the right choices and justify your support. Frequently they will not meet your expectations or worse will embarrass you by acting inappropriately. You make an informed choice and hope. After the often misguided, discriminatory and embarrassing actions of leaders past, I hope the concept of change is not lost on President Obama when the weight of the nation's menagerie of issues grows heavier. I hope he is able to make more headway internationally with a foreign policy that promotes peace and security without advocating imperialism. I hope he can establish a bridge between the right and left, whose goals can be met with compromise and an open-minded acceptance of the other side. Critics may claim that a lack of experience will inhibit President Obama's ability to be an effectual leader, but I think a fresh perspective not clouded by the cynicism and duplicity of Washington is exactly what we need. While the outgoing administration used the causes of freedom and democracy to justify many of its actions, I hope the new White House will do more to practice than preach, realizing that it is easier to get others to cooperate with your initiatives like anti-terrorism, disarmament and regional stability when you do not employ the same tactics you proclaim to abhor. Like many others, I have eagerly awaited this day since long before Barack Obama blew the doors off the good ole' boys club and started his remarkable journey to the top. There were times it seemed it very distant, such as after the 2004 election and when the USA PATRIOT and 2006 Military Commissions Acts were signed into law. Now that it is here, I am excited to see what happens on day one and beyond, to see which hopes are realized. I slightly regret my decision not to go to the inauguration, but factors like work and money made it impractical (not to mention the bone-chilling weather and enormous crowds). Instead, I will take an extended lunch and watch the ceremony at home via the internet. I will be there in spirit with Erik and Lauren however, with whom I originally planned to attend. They will start their trek to the from Alexandria around 0530 and make an effort to find a decent spot along the parade route.
Photo Credit: David July

The Remote Experience

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Photo Credit: Josiah Mackenzie — San Francisco From Twin Peaks, San Francisco, California, 10 March 2008 I spent several hours on the telephone this afternoon with my friend Marc who is currently in California on business. When not working near Sacramento, he has been spending time in San Francisco where his friend Danny moved a few years ago. Knowing my affinity for the city, he has been calling me from various locations to let me know how cool something is or to get directions and hours of operation. Today's call was to let me know he was finally embarking on a journey to Twin Peaks, to see the view of the city I recommended and to take pictures of Sutro Tower and the vista for me. As I joined in, Marc and Danny were heading south on Castro Street between 14th Street and 15th Street, where Marc expressed his surprise and displeasure that numbered streets while consecutive are not necessarily exclusive, as in this case where Henry Street comes in-between. Acting as navigator, I launched Google Maps Street View and could see (basically) what they were seeing. Marc kept me apprised as to their progress naming off intersecting roads as they went. After heading down into the Castro looking for a photo shop that has apparently closed, they backtracked and headed west on 17th Street. Marc reminds me of the stairway I saw on the map while planning this little trek last week and asks how to get there. To my knowledge, there was nothing special about it, a typical San Franciscan residential stairway connecting Ord Street to Levant Street, but Marc and I were both amused at the name Vulcan Stairway. As they ascended the stairs, Marc and Danny encountered someone who lives there. The nice woman said she is the oldest resident on the Vulcan Stairway, living there for some twenty-six years now. Following Levant to Lower Terrance, down Saturn Street and finally to Temple Street, the duo is back on track, continuing on 17th toward Clayton Street where Twin Peaks Boulevard begins. As they begin the final ascent, I assure Marc and Danny the trip will be worth it and that little previews of the outlook to come will pepper the route. Passing Raccoon Drive and Burnett Avenue, stopping to take pictures as they go, they decide to take a page from my past and detour. Instead of following the winding path of Twin Peaks Boulevard to the summit, it is possible to climb up to the observation point on Christmas Tree Point Road if you are careful. They made it without incident and agreed that it was worth it, albeit questioning why they did not simply take the car. I am told the sun made things more difficult for some Sutro Tower shots, but Marc did get some good ones from Twin Peaks, as well as of the rest of the city. I am looking forward to his return to Tallahassee so we can chat and look at the pictures. Having been a part of this experience remotely, the images will round things out nicely. I will update this article with the photos as soon as I have them and no doubt include a few new Sutro Tower pictures on its site. Photo Credit: Marc Malonzo IV and Danny Patterson — Marc Malonzo IV and David July (on telephone) on Twin Peaks pose in front of Sutro Tower, Christmas Tree Point Road, San Francisco, California, 17 January 2009In a final virtual moment, Marc had Danny take this picture of us at Sutro Tower together—I was saying "hello" over the telephone at the time. Better still, I will have the chance to relive this journey in person when I take my own trip to the bay area this year. Having been one decade since my last vacation to San Francisco following my graduation from high school, I decided recently it was about time. The tentative schedule has me depart Tallahassee in the early morning on Thursday, 21 May 2009, connecting through Memphis—intentional after my positive layover there on "The Day Trip" to Las Vegas—and arriving at San Francisco International after 1100 PDT. I will head back after noon on Wednesday, 27 May 2009, change planes again in Memphis and get back home just before 2200 EDT. To save money, I will be using my frequent flyer miles with Northwest Airlines to book my seats. I will have to pay only $187 to make up for the 5,246 WorldPerks miles I lack toward the needed 25,000. And thanks to the generosity of my friend Ernie, I will be staying at his Mission District apartment to save on a hotel room. With those two essentials taken care of, I can focus on saving for my time there. I am not going to get too excited yet as I have been here before, making and cancelling plans a few times over the years. There should be nothing to stop me from going this time though and as soon as I book my flights in the next week or two, I will know it is for real.
Photo Credit: Josiah Mackenzie Original Photo Credit: Marc Malonzo IV and Danny Patterson

The 30 Century Man

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Photo Credit: David July — Looking down the platform of the McPherson Square Metro Station, Washington, D.C., 01 November 2008 If you click around YouTube long enough, you are bound to come across homemade music videos usually in the form of movie and television clips edited to a related (or not) song. I seldom watch videos of this nature, but on a day in early July 2008, I happened to be looking for something in particular.
UPDATE: Check out The 30 Century Man Returns for the 2010 re-release.
Having always enjoyed the animated television program Futurama, I was excited to learn of the four direct-to-DVD movies resurrecting the once-cancelled series. When I finally saw the first of these new productions, Bender's Big Score, I was very impressed with it overall. I thought the story, the careful attention to the series continuity and the presence of the original cast all made for a fantastic return from the television grave. As you might expect knowing me, the music made an impression as well. The score by series composer Christopher Tyng really helped bridge the television elements to the larger film as did the cool extended remix of the Futurama theme. The soundtrack is rounded out by a few amusing character performed musical numbers by Ken Keeler and a song called "30 Century Man" performed by The Jigsaw Seen. Written by Scott Walker and originally released on his 1969 album Scott 3, the "30 Century Man" cover by The Jigsaw Seen—from their 2002 Songs Mama Used To Sing—is heard during a pivotal point in the movie and is particularly moving and appropriate. Interested in hearing the song in its entirety, I went to YouTube and began my search. The video I found by Araka5i was of the type I mentioned before, featuring clips from a few films and set to the Scott Walker cut of the song. I found the original version quite different from the cover and although I enjoyed it, I still wanted to hear The Jigsaw Seen performance. It turned out I was not alone as one commenter, taylorthebarbarian, wrote of his desire to hear the cover on YouTube. In reply to this comment, the band wrote, "feel free to post a video of our version." You have to love a band that realizes the potential the internet has to introduce music to new and diverse listeners worldwide. Why not let fans promote you for free, right? I practically surprised myself having the thought, but before long I decided to take this invitation and produce a video myself. After purchasing the song from and encoding the movie into an editable format, I fired up Sony Vegas 7 and got to work. It took me about twenty-four hours from start to finish, but if I may say so myself, for a first attempt I think the final product turned out well.
UPDATE: This video is no longer available. Check out The 30 Century Man Returns for the 2010 re-release.
30 Century Man - Video by David July, Song by The Jigsaw Seen/Scott Walker - Futurama © Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Given the scene in which the song appears in the movie, I thought it would be appropriate to follow the character of Lars and his relationship with Leela. Even as of this writing, six months later, I still receive positive comments and e-mail. The best one, of course, was from The Jigsaw Seen's co-founder Jonathan Lea who said the video looked "fantastic." They even placed a link to it on their website's news page on 07 July 2008. It was a fun experience making this video and I gained a better appreciation for film and television editors. I would not expect many future releases of this sort, but you never know what may inspire me one day.
Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

The Way Forward

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Photo Credit: David July — The modern Seven Mile Bridge (US-1) as seen from the historic Seven Mile Bridge, constructed between 1908 and 1912 as a railway bridge, Florida Keys Mile Marker 47, 12 November 2008 It is hard to believe another year is nearly complete. 2008 has been good to me overall and while I have done many things and gone many places, I have not often written for this site. For those of you who visit now and then only to find the same essay posted and no new content, I hope to make it more worth your while in 2009. There are several new articles I will start working on after the start of the new year. The topics for these articles, based on recent and not so recent events, include the following.
  • The Japan Trip: Days Five and Six
    The long-awaited and overdue conclusion to my comprehensive vacation report.
  • The New Car
    After my clutch left me stranded, I decided not to repair my car and instead purchased a brand new one.
  • The Christmas Wedding
    On Saturday, 20 December 2008, I officiated the wedding of my good friends Erik Patten and Lauren Gleason.
  • The Capitol Trip
    The tales of my first road trip in the new car up to Washington, D.C.
  • The Conch Republic
    Trip report and photographs from my November 2008 trip to Key West.
Just yesterday, I upgraded the software running things to improve performance and fix several nagging bugs. As with any upgrade, there may be unintended consequences—especially since I run a highly-customized copy of WordPress with my own theme—so please let me know if you find anything broken. There does seem to be an issue with the RSS feeds which I will fix in the next day or two. I apologize in advance if subscribers receive duplicates. I am also entertaining a suggestion made by Erik to post more "blog" style items, to keep things fresh and current in between the lengthy essay and report articles. Exactly how this may be implemented is still up for debate, but I think I will at least try the idea and see how it goes. I never intended to make this site a daily update of every mundane experience, but I think I can find a happy medium to keep my friends from nagging me and stop the all-too-common month-long dry spells. Finally, as a reminder to my friends in Tallahassee, I am hosting my annual New Year's Eve party starting at 2100 hours. I hope to see you here tonight. Happy New Year!
Photo Credit: David July