Mount Sutro: An Electronic Periodical

0500Hours EDT

The Tales of Stories Past

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help

I was pleased to hear the news my friend Omar accepted a job at my office. He had worked there before and it was nice to have someone to go out to lunch with regularly, not to mention a non-work friend. Not too long after he started we talked about carpooling.

After all, Omar's apartment is about 100 feet from mine and our office across town requires a fourteen mile daily round trip. It seemed vacuous both economically and environmentally to do this journey separately, especially when we would sometimes find ourselves driving side by side down the road. And thus it became so on a Wednesday in October 2007.

Two or three weeks after we started carpooling to work, I received word through the City of Tallahassee e-mail newsletter of the upcoming Commuter Choices Week. The purpose of this event is to raise awareness of alternate forms of transportation and encourage local residents to find a green way to work.

In addition to press conferences, lunches and rallies, the week featured several themed events including Ride Your Bike Day, Carpooling Day and StarMetro Ride Free Day. Carpooling Day was the Wednesday event so Omar and I were amused at the irony, but the Ride Free Day captured my interest as well.

I figured a one day trial of the local bus system might be educational so I decided to see what it would involve. The 80x Express Route went into service in August 2006 and has a stop near my building. There are several ways from home to the closest 80x transfer at the main bus station, C.K. Steele Plaza in downtown Tallahassee, but after reviewing the various routes and times I found no way to get to work by 0700.

Carpooling is a far more viable solution for Omar and me anyway, granting us the opportunity to make detour trips when needed and to have at least one car on hand during the day for lunch and unforeseen circumstances such as illness or an emergency.

Looking back on the three months carpooling thus far, I can easily conclude this experiment a success.

Photo Credit: David July

The Holiday Recap

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help

It may not be apparent from the frequency of recent article posting, but 2007 has been a productive and enjoyable year for me. Most recently I spent the holidays visiting Key West and Orlando for Thanksgiving and Christmas respectively.

Key West was a blast. This was my third trip to the Conch Republic as an adult. Although I did not get to meet up with a few friends that originally planned to be in town, I had a great time walking around, taking 650 pictures in the process, eating at local restaurants and enjoying a few alcoholic beverages.

While in Orlando I visited my friend Steven who has lived in Tokyo, Japan for the past several years, and met his wife Emma of London, England. We enjoyed beer, cocktails and conversation with other friends at St. Andrews Tavern, a place I used to frequent and now visit when I have the chance. The holiday was fun with my family and our gift exchange was enjoyable.

I threw a small party yesterday for New Year's Eve and it was a success. There were even a few surprise guests that stopped by during the course of the night. Being no stranger to the joys of modern living, my party featured streaming music, a live video feed from Times Square and a digital countdown timer.

Now that the holiday season is over, things will inevitably get back to normal. I have an upcoming business trip at the end of the month and plan to work on getting all those Key West pictures ready for publication to the Gallery. I might even try to write something now and then.

Photo Credit: David July

The Beach House

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help

"Involuntarily I glanced seaward—and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock."
With some projects at the office wrapping up, I was particularly needing some time away from town and wanting badly to take pictures. As chance would have it, I was subsequently invited to Seagrove Beach, Florida for the weekend, 16 and 17 June 2007. My friends Jon and Susan were heading to a family house there, vacant for those days.

The week before the sixteenth could not have gone any slower. Finally, Saturday arrived as soon Jon and Susan did. We chatted in my living room for a few minutes before hitting the road. Although the drive there should have been a relaxing two and some odd hour trip, the first thirty minutes ended up being extremely tense as I was almost hit several times by inconsiderate truck drivers on Interstate 10.

Soon our caravan of two vehicles broke away from the crowd and enjoyed a mild, sunny ride west and then south. There were a few other troubled spots on the road which would eventually work out for the better. But more on that later. We arrived in town slightly behind schedule, around 1530 CDT.

After spending some time walking around the delightfully wooded and shady neighborhood, checking the beach out, taking some pictures and of course relaxing at the house, preparations for a nice dinner began. After a run for steamed and Old Bay seasoned peel-n-eat shrimp, Jon and I went to the new and nearby Watercolor Crossings Publix, or as it shall now forever be known: The Busiest Publix Ever.

Seriously, during and after the experience Jon and I continued to express amazement about how many people were really in that store. It was not a large building to begin with, but the place must have been close to maximum capacity. And by the looks of the overflowing carts being rudely pushed through the New York Subway sardine-like crowd, the apocalypse was most certainly near. Later in the day I instead concluded people fill their carts to the brim in order to visit this store as infrequently as humanly possible.

Needless to say, we got the hell out of there as fast as humanly possible. The resultant dinner of steak and shrimp along with sides of macaroni salad, potato salad, coleslaw and french bread was fantastic and definitely worth the trip to the store. With dinner finished, cocktails consumed and digestion idling, it was now time for my first trip to Seaside.

Seaside, Florida is a New Urbanist-style planned beach community with strict covenants and restrictions. Most people remember it as the filming location for the film The Truman Show written by Andrew Niccol. Normally I am not for restrictive pre-planned housing developments, but there is just something about Seaside that makes it cozy, not creepy.

The three of us headed out into the dark night at 2230 CDT, for the area has only sparse street lights until you enter Seaside—and even then, those lamps are smartly designed to provide sufficient but not blinding light. It was a lot of fun to wander around the surreal streets nearly devoid of life as the night grew older. We made our way all around the community, stopping in some spots to sit and enjoy the peace and quiet, or to take pictures.

We got back to the house after 1230 CDT and stayed up talking for a few hours before retiring to bed. I have failed to mention until now one of the great features of this house. Behind it rests an old stable converted into a guest house. Basically the size of a smaller motel room and with its own bathroom, the guest house was my quarters for the weekend.

I woke up the next day a bit later than I had originally planned, but this was my getaway weekend so whatever. After spending some time drinking coffee and chatting, Jon and Susan went to the beach and I left to capture Seaside in the daylight. According to timestamp, I was only gone for about an hour and forty-five minutes, but it seemed much longer. Walking through the streets, between houses via the unique pathways, I made short work of Seaside.

I finished the remainder of the food from the day before and joined Jon and Susan in watching part of the 2007 U.S. Open—you read that correctly: I watched golf—before we cleaned the place up and prepared to leave. When we did get underway at 1845 CDT, I was relaxed but saddened to be leaving such a nice, quiet place.

Since the drive in had contained some less than stellar moments, Jon decided to take a different way back. Avoiding the Interstate completely, this new route would turn out to be a perfect conclusion to a perfect weekend. Shortly after leaving the Seagrove area, the traffic thinned to nearly nothing up until we were close to Tallahassee around 2100 EDT.

The weekend could not have been better.

"He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night."
Excited to talk about the trip and share the pictures I so adamantly wished to create in the first place, I spent a bit of time a few days ago writing up the article, selecting pictures for the gallery (110 selected from 263), editing nine of those and uploading them. The next day I started the process of adding the pictures to the gallery.

Unfortunately and despite what I do for a living, I underestimated the processing power and system resources required to facilitate the batch addition of high quality images. The software crunched away at the pictures while access to the server began to fluctuate.

"Oh, shit. I'm crashing my web server!"

It was only a short time before my embarrassed message to Marty of TLC Web Enterprises was received and the server was, um, yeah, rebooted. Whoops.

As the traffic on Saturday helped shape the ideal ride back Sunday, this series of events culminates with two positives as well. To start, Mount Sutro will be moving to a newer, more powerful server in the near future. Additionally, I discovered an alternate way of uploading pictures to the gallery—a way that does the job without bringing the server to its knees.

I'd never live down doing that twice.

So now that the pictures are safely on board with their seatbelts fastened and tray tables locked and upright, please take a moment to visit the Seagrove Beach album, the latest in The Road Trip Series.

Photo Credit: The Florida Memory Project
Photo Credit: David July
Quotes: F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Lunar Eclipse

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help

Last evening I took my first local road trip since I decided to plan and execute more such outings. This trip was unique however in that the destination was basically unplanned. Unfortunately, it did not quite go as I had hoped.

If you did not know, a total lunar eclipse—the first of this type since 28 October 2004—was visible for Africa and Europe and partly visible for most of the rest of the world. The refraction of sunlight through the Earth's atmosphere during a total eclipse paints the moon in a reddish hue, particularly hypnotic during the moment of "greatest eclipse" when the moon is in the center of Earth's umbra.

As the sun set and the start of the visibility period for eastern North America neared, I headed outdoors to try to catch the moon rise. I descended the stairs of my apartment and turned right only to see an enormous mass of dense clouds filling the entire eastern sky. Since the moon was due to rise shortly, already in the middle of the visually best parts of the eclipse, I was obviously disappointed.

I thought perhaps getting into an area where I had more visibility of the lower sky and horizon might help, but only if the clouds dissipated some. Not willing to take the chance of missing a great show, I got into my car and headed towards Interstate 10. The plan was to drive west to Exit 181 (SR 267) and find such a spot.

Driving the fifteen mile stretch of highway, I anxiously awaited a sign that the clouds might disperse and offer a glimpse of the moon. That moment never did come but I decided to continue on the mission to find the right vista anyway. I exited and turned north on SR 267 as I did not recall seeing any particularly good spots to the south the last time I drove there.

Immediately to my left was what appeared to be a perfect location—an abandoned gas station with a long curvy entrance road. I drove up to the next intersection and made a U-turn during which I noticed a few cars parked on the grass and a small group of people standing around. Near them was a sign for some University of Florida facility, so I assumed they were an astronomy club or something.

The curvy drive to the former Exprezit! gas station was a nice spot, although the openness of the terrain and my proximity to the I-10 interchange made me feel as though every driver that passed on SR 267 was looking right at me. The view of the horizon was partially blocked by trees across the street but it was no matter; the clouds were still fully occupying the eastern sky.

There was a nice cool breeze gently wrapping around me as The Sounds of Swing quietly emanated from my windows and sunroof. With no change in the cloudiness in sight, I decided to head back to that group of people I saw and maybe learn a bit more. It was 1845 EST.


In this image assembled from three satellite photographs you can see SR 267 just north of I-10. In the upper left corner is the abandoned gas station and curvy drive. The upper right corner depicts some of the UF facility. You can see the intersection with SR 267 just below it. The tree closest to the intersection is where I joined the crowd facing east, which appears to be due south in this composite. [ interactive ]

You may notice the picture comes from Yahoo! Maps but I link to Google Maps. This is because while Google offers a higher resolution image with more zoom and clarity, a photo separation line bisects the region. It changed the focus of the composite so I went with the uniform version instead.

When I parked in the grass and started to get out of my car, the entire group stopped to look in my direction. If there had been a jukebox playing, it would have most certainly scratched to a halt.

"I assume you're all here for the lunar eclipse," I postulated, breaking the silence.

Astronomy students they were not. The crowd actually consisted of multi-generational members of the same family. They had come from various parts of Florida for a "reunion of sorts," as the man who responded to my query stated. A few of them had obviously convinced the others, ranging in age from high school or college age to late adulthood, to come out and witness the eclipse.

Ironically, I was the most knowledgeable person present and ended up fielding lunar eclipse and other space-related questions. There was some additional brief chit-chat but their conversation soon returned to family topics foreign to me. Staring over the group in silence, I watched the ever-darkening sky for a sign of anything.

At 1905 EST, I pointed and commanded to the group, "Look!" A faint glow of white light had managed to penetrate the clouds and was slowly getting brighter. This renewed hope invoked an energy in the crowd, now moving away from the cars to get a slightly better view without the interference of a telephone pole.

Over the course of the next twenty minutes, we watched with fading enthusiasm as the clouds continued to mask and slightly uncover portions of the moon, now in its final stages of eclipse. There were a few moments when it appeared the clouds would part just enough to completely allow a full viewing of the moon, but it would not occur.

The group eventually left and I soon followed suit at 1945 EST, watching what I could see of the moon during the twenty mile drive back. Again, for a few moments here and there unobstructed views seemed eminent but never actually materialized.

In all, despite the failure to watch the lunar eclipse, the evening was a lot of fun. And if nothing else, I have a new destination to choose from when I seek a place to view the sky.

Oh, and for the record, that UF sign that contributed to my false impression students and/or professors were gathered was not for any space-related facility. It is actually the Gadsden County Extension Office for the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

I have been collecting the following linkage for the past few weeks, so some of the items are more current than others.

The Beginning
This is an example of what we should have seen last night...

Big Bullies
...but this is more like what we saw.

Lunar Eclipse Gallery
Featuring images from CNN, The Associated Press, NASA and

Another Eclipse Gallery
Featuring amateur photographs from around the world.

Flickr: Lunar Eclipse
The most recently uploaded photos tagged with lunar and eclipse.

Totenkopf Toaster SKULL-Toast
This German toaster brands a skull and crossbones graphic on the toasted bread. [ via ]

Autumn and the Plot Against Me
An interesting personal research piece about tracking the origins of a Windows XP wallpaper photo.

Say What Again (high res)
A cleverly animated textual take on Marcellus Wallace's "Say What Again" dialogue in Pulp Fiction by Jarratt Moody. [ via ]

'Infomania' worse than marijuana
"Workers distracted by email and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers, new research has claimed."

Jimmy Kimmel: Takei to Hardaway
An amusing bit by George Takei who addresses shamed basketball star Tim Hardaway's recent anti-gay statements.

NZ fishermen land colossal squid
Of specific note is the enlarged picture of the caught 33 foot, 990 pound Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni.

Better Uses for $1.52 Billion
In the wake of Microsoft's loss in their $1.52 billion dollar patent infringement suit, Mike Davidson comes up with some alternative uses for that sizeable sum.

Finding your way back home
A nice newspaper article about adults returning to their childhood homes and making them their own. It features Jeff Tabaco whose site I have read for years.

Star Trek Voice Operated Dimmer
Features sound effects and the voice of Majel Barrett-Roddenberry. [ via ]

Steampunk Keyboard Mod
An immaculately designed and built retro-style computer keyboard constructed with classic typewriter keys and custom detailing. [ via ]

Every Star Trek reference in Family Guy ever!
'Nuff said.