This past Thursday, I made my way home after spending nearly three weeks in California. It was the first outing for my new camera purchase; I recently splurged and bought a Canon 7D. The camera is, simply stated, incredible. It is considerably larger than my previous camera, the XTi, which has its plusses and minuses. It is superior in just about every other way. The new autofocus system is taking some getting used to, but it does seem quite powerful. Perhaps most impressive, though, is the low-light performance. With my old camera, anything above ISO 800 was virtually unusable, but now I find myself using ISO 3200 in some situations, and the results are satisfactory. The noise patterns even seem more film-like to me, so they are less distracting, and sometimes even desirable. Overall, I'm quite happy with the new camera, and I've even posted my first set of pictures taken with it, with the details of the events surrounding them detailed here.
I spent the first weekend in November in and around San Francisco, with some friends from work. We went up Friday evening, eventually making our way to a Latin fusion restaurant, Charanga. The food was fairly good, and they didn't mind terribly that most of us were quite late to our reservation. The waitress also knew a bit about photography, so I showed her my new camera, with which she seemed thoroughly impressed. We dropped Eric, Marianne and Nicole off, and then Chi, Pammy, Steve and I made our way to Twin Peaks, and then to Steve's place. The following morning, I enjoyed my first ever Dim Sum with Steve, Chi, Pammy, Eric and Marianne at Yank Sing in downtown. From there, we split up; the others went on to do some of the touristy things in the city, and I went to pick up Nicole and her friend from New York to go to Muir Woods. When we got there, parking proved to be difficult; we had to walk quite a ways back from our car to get into the park. After we got in, we started on the loop trail, but eventually we diverged, taking a trail up out of the forest. We originally thought this trail would loop back, but it kept climbing, and we eventually found ourselves on a paved street. The street turned out to be one we had taken into Muir Woods, so we followed it a while, eventually stumbling on a new pair of trails. Unfortunately, we chose the wrong one, and had to backtrack after hitting a dead end. So, we finally made it onto the right trail, only to find it blocked off a short way in. Nicole and I decided to continue despite the blocked path, but her friend decided he had enough, and went back to the road. We eventually met up at the visitor center, where I saw my first Tesla Roadster. Unfortunately, I couldn't get my camera out in time, so I didn't get a picture before it sped away. From there, the three of us made our way to Mount Tamalpais, just in time for sunset. We were rewarded with a beautiful view of the bay, the city, the headlands, and the ocean. We then made our way back to the city. After dropping the two of them off, Chi, Pammy, Steve, Eric, Marianne and I went to The Stinking Rose for dinner. The following morning, I picked up Nicole again, and we went to Land's End. After the short hike, we had lunch at a local Korean restaurant, and then made our way down to San Jose. We took the scenic route, starting on the coast highway, and then turning off of I-280 to get to Skyline Boulevard. Though the views of the bay and ocean were not as impressive as I had hoped, the forests we passed through were breathtaking; the drive was one of the best I have had since visiting the redwoods in northern California.
The next weekend I spent in Los Angeles, with my aunt and uncle, who live in Huntington Beach. After flying into Orange County, I was greeted with the infamous 405 traffic, though luckily for only seven miles. In all, it took me just short of an hour to go the 25 miles to their house. We had grilled chicken for dinner, but my uncle graced me with some of his wine collection as well. There are few chardonnays that I like (making it the only varietal I generally avoid), but he is able to find some that I actually enjoy. After trying out a few different wines, we moved on to a dessert wine. He was happy that I partook, as he says he cannot get anybody else to drink it with him. Shortly afterward, we made our way to bed, as the plan was to get up early to go tailgating before making our way to the USC-Stanford football game. The next morning, we made our way to Pasadena to pick up my cousin Christine. At seven in the morning on a Saturday, we hit traffic. Luckily, we weren't too late, and we left my cousin's on time. We picked up some tasty breakfast burritos on the way, and eventually made our way to campus. Coming from Nebraska, the debauchery I witnessed on the USC campus was definitely something novel. Everybody was drinking out in the open, and campus security came by every now and then to make sure nobody was dead. We all had lots of fun, to say the least. We met up with some of my cousin's friends, and partied for a few hours. Eventually, though, we did make our way to the stadium, to see USC get utterly creamed. During the halftime show, the Stanford band and announcer railed on USC for a good ten minutes, in a manner so incredibly distasteful that, although there were some scattered boos, most everybody just sat in stunned silence. We didn't even stay for the whole game; we left with seven minutes left to beat the traffic. During that time, Stanford scored two more touchdowns. Afterward, we went to Smitty's in Pasadena, at my cousin's recommendation. We then dropped her off and made our way back to Huntington Beach for the night. We spent the following day mostly relaxing, watching football. I didn't even get to see the Broncos lose, though, as it wasn't broadcast there. We had a late lunch at a taco place in downtown Huntington Beach, and eventually we said our goodbyes and I made my way to the airport.
Finally, after two weekends away, I was able to spend this past weekend at home, as well as all of this week. It feels good to be home again.