Monday, May 29, 2006

New York experiment again...

I am leaving tomorrow for yet another trip to the Brookhaven lab. I am going to stay there until June 23rd probably and see how we can improve with the experiment. I haven't stayed that long away since the first time I was there (6 weeks back in May 2004).

It is a very critical time to leave sportswise. NBA Finals, the Roland Garros in tennis just started, and of course the World Cup that starts next week. I will be back on the first day of the round of 16 if all goes well.

On the weekends I've set a few more goals. I would very much like to visit Six Flags theme park in New Jersey, home of the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world. Any coaster fan like me has to visit it at least once, and I think now is a good time to do so. I will certainly visit New York City again, and one of my goals is to look thoroughly one of the rgeat museums in the world, the Metropolitan Art Museum. I went there with Patrick 1.5 years ago but we only spent 2 hours there; now I want to spend the full day. Who knows, I may also have time for a Broadway show...

The day the world cup ends, I will leave for Lake Geneva in Wisconsin for the AAC conference. I hope that I will find some spare time and money to stay in Chicago over the weekend. That ends on July 15th or so.

Then at the end of July I will be visiting Greece for about 2 weeks, and that is pretty much my summer for this year. I thought I should let you know on my whereabouts this coming months. Have fun!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Miami & The Bahamas: The Beaches

(This is the my 400th post!)

Although the women are always nice to watch, that was not the main reason we decided to go on the trip. The main reason was, of course, the sea. Miami has the infamous South Beach, and Bahamas are known as one of the most ideal locations in the world to swim and enjoy the sea. You see, Los Angeles has great huge beaches but not so nice waters; the pacific ocean is harsch and salty and most of the time it has big waves ;we were aiming for the nice calm seas. The day before we left LA, we promised with Stavros that we would swim at least once for every day of the trip. We kept our promise; let's see how and where.

We left LAX at 8am, and we were at Miami around 4pm. We headed straight for the beach (we didn't even checked into the hotel first; we pulled out our swimsuits from the luggage and changed clothes inside the car).

This is South Beach on a Friday afternoon. White sands, blue waters, people and hotels in the background. For the first time I saw a beach outside Greece that looked very much greek to me!

On the next day, Saturday, we went in the peak time: around 1pm or so. The beach this time was hugely crowded and we saw lots and lots of people (see also the previous post).

One of the most interesting sites was a bunch of people with beer cups drinking inside the sea (despite the fact it is forbidden!). Notice how the sea colors change with presence of a strong sun, compared to the previous day.

On the 3rd day (sunday), we didn't actually swim but we went to the Florida Keys (key = island in spanish). Close to the southest Key there is the 3rd largest coral reef in the world (κοραλλιογενής ύφαλος), after the ones in Australia and Beliz. I had booked in advance for a boat to take us for snorkeling in the reef, which lies about 7 miles in the middle of the ocean!

I don't have my own pictures from the sea; however the diving was beautiful. Like in the documentaries, where you see all kinds of colorful fish and plants moving around, we saw a beautiful assortment of fish and reefs. It wasn't as colorful as I was expecting because the sun was blocked by some clouds. However it was still highly enjoyable and a unique experience nevertheless. None of us had done snorkeling before, but other people on the boat had visited the other 2 large reefs of the world already.

Instead of nature pictures, here is our group after the dive:

On the way back, we enjoyed the sunset in the open sea. The Gulf of Mexico does weird things with the weather during the summer, hence the clouds we were seeing. It reminded me of the travels with the ships to the greek islands...

On the next day we travelled to the first island in the Bahamas. It was raining when we got there (yes! it rains a lot in the summer), so our first attempt to swim didn't look very exciting. It was a good feeling though to be in the sea while raining.

The seconf day in the Bahamas was the most important. We were to visit Cabbage Beach, by many the best beach in the Bahamas, around which most of the resorts and hotels are built.

That turned out to be a problem actually. Most entrances to the beach are through the resorts only; you can't use them (or these parts of the beach) unless you are a guest there. We found out that there was exactly one small path to the beach for the tourists; it took us a while but we managed to find it and started walking on it, and it didn't look encouraging:

Small, narrow walkway. We kept going though.

At that point I was thinking: This better turn out ot be great, exact opposite of the path to get there. Unlike many other cases, I don't believe that the journey matters more than the destination in our case!

OK, I can see the end of the path, despite the fact I cannot see the sea yet. Let's keeep moving...

There it is ... a few more steps...
By that time I was moving fast, together with Stavros, and others were left a bit behind us. I just couldn't wait!

Finally, this is the view we saw once we reached the edge:
The Bahamas are here! White sands, crystal clear blue waters... I can't wait to get in!

The view was stunning indeed.The colors of the waters were just amazing, inviting us to start swiming right away. I immediatelly dropped my stuff, took off my shirt and shoes, and run to the sea!

It felt nice... very nice. The waters were very warm, and you could see miles away inside the water. I swam and swam and swam until I couldn't swim anymore. At that point, we started the games:

We had also promised to do jet-skiing (my first time). The cost was $60 for 30minutes. Me and Stavros shared a 700cc Yamaha jet-ski, and the guy let us use it for 10 minutes extra, so I paid $30 for 40 minutes. Not bad at all. We went into open waters and the nearby islands (including the one owned by Eddie Murphy). Woa, that amazing! It was one of the best and most exciting feelings of my life... The guy could go fast, very fast. At many points we were just flying and the whole jet-ski was in the air after a big wave! The turns were awesome, and I also managed to throw us of the jet-ski once. That was the peak of the trip to my opinion. I want to enjoy it while it lasts...! It lasted for 40 minutes and I got a really but burning out of it, from which I haven't still recovered completely.

The final day we visited the second island in the Bahamas, Grand Bahama. I insisted going on a second less touristic island because to my mind this is the real trip, not the resort-oriented capital that we saw in the first island.

I wasn't wrong. Grand Bahama is 5 times larger, and instead of 1-2 it has about 10 excellent greek-quality+ beaches, We visited about 5 of them in the same day, starting with Xanadu Beach.

We got there at 10am, it was just us, the birds, the fish, and the fisherman. I loved the fact that for a long distance (about 50m) the sea was very swallow. This allowed the sun to amplify the beauties of the sands and the waters, creating nice exotic reflections:

Notice how very close to the beach, there are numerous trees that were torn off by last year's hurricanes. It was a weird feeling.

The other above average beach that we saw on that day was Pelican Point, which is also Stavro's favourite. Here is how it looks like:

From a photographer's point a view, I learned how big of a difference it makes to have something (like a tree, rock, or a person) in a picture where you need to photograph a beach. The second picture looks so much better and live that the first.

Anyway, on that beach I didn't swim. I just found a nearby abandoned hut, laid down and slept, while a warm breeze was playing music for my ears and I could also listen to the waves hitting the sand. I just laid down there for more that 1 hour, enjoying the quietness, and thinking about the people that live there permanently.

Let's conclude. I realized how lucky we are in greece ot have all these nice beaches. South Beach is equal to them, and the beaches in the Bahamas are superior to them, but not like a cultural shock or anything. For someone that comes from Canada or North Europe maybe he or she will be surprised to find such perfect sands and turquiz waters. For a greek it is also a big improvement, although not a life-altering one.

Anyways, the Caribbean lived true to its name by having some of the mist stunning swimming sites in the world. There are popular, crowded places as well as secluded beaches with just you and the sea. We had a taste of both, and it was a great experience. I think that for my next trip in search of the perfect beach, I will look somewhere in the indian ocean; for now, Cabbage Beach holds the gold medal!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Miami: The people of South Beach

In the previous big trip in New York, The data to be published to my blog were too big to fit in one entry, so instead I decided to split the trip into many different posts. I think I will have to do the same thing with our trip this time to Miami and the Bahamas.

To travel is to realize how everyone else is wrong about other countries. So very true. I think Miami Beach is what people that have never been to the US think that LA is like: It has the feeling of a big greek island. And what makes it different is the people that hang out there. So I decided to start the posts with pictures of types of people that we found in the Beach of Miami, just walking 15 minutes along the sand. Here we go then.

Let's start with the beach girls:



Probably fake...

nice and easy...

Let's double them:

Triple them:

Quadruple them:

There are also guys. You see for example the typical athletic-perfect-boy-perfect-tan guy:

Or the "this is my beach and I have big balls" guy:

Or a happy Jamaican:

There are also girls next to the beach, in the bars and restaurants. Here is our hostess:

Here is another hostess:

Her is a girl working very hard in a shop:

In a stroke of good luck, these girls sat next to us and we talked a little bit (justr enough to let us take their picture):

I saved the best for last:

People go to South Beach to watch and be watched. They try to be perfect (countless ripped 6 pack body builders there), enjoy the sun, and some even swim! Lots of celebrities hang out there whenever possible, and not to mention the continuous flow of limos that were passing by (we even saw a Mercedes SLR!).

More to come...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Carribean, here come the Greeks!

The counter went to 0! At 4:40am I will wake up. Stavros will pick me up, and then we will get Dimitris and Ilias and head for the airport. My first large-scale (>4 days) trip since the journey at my senior year as an undergradute, in Spain!
Friday and Saturday we will spend them in Miami and South Beach (on the left in this amazing picture). Sunday on Key West (the bottom-leftmost island in the small chain that heads towards the west), the southest place I will have ever been in my life; on Monday and Tuesday we will visit the Pirate capital of the Caribbean, Nassau (to the right of the big island in the center), and on Wednesday Grand Bahama (the center-north gamma shaped island).

You can also see Cuba, it's the big island on the bottom of the photo.

Money.... Check.

Passport.... Check.

Sunblock... Check.

Moisquito repellent.... Check.

Custom burned music CDs.... Check.

Colorful crazy t-shirts.... Check.

Gameboy with FM Tuner add-on.... Check.

20GB external media drive.... Check.

Last minute blog entry.... CHECK!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Myst V: The last great adventure game

As I clicked my mouse for one last time and then watched the ending credits, I felt sad. Sad because I finished a game that was really good. Let me explain.

I played the original Myst in a Playstation 1, back in 1995 or so. The game was just great because it was one of a kind, and it became for many years the best selling game in history (outscored only recently by The Sims).

I played Myst II, or Riven, in my home PC around 1998. Riven was a masterpiece. I personally regard it as the Mona Lisa of adventure games: when you stop back and realize the ingenuity of the plot, the complexity of the riddles, the imagination of the puzzles (who can forget the hallway that you could see only if you closed the doors that you just opened to entered the room!), it just takes your breath away. I never managed to do on my own not even 50% of the storyline, and when I was reading the solutions online I felt like reading Hercule Poirot's revealing of the murderer in an Agatha Christie novel.

Myst III and Myst IV were developed from a different company than the originals. They are still pretty good adventure games, close to the atmosphere of the originals, and much more beautiful artistically, but it felt like a very well done adaptation of a good book. They didn't feel original or groundbreaking.

I finished playing Myst V last night. While it is not as good as the first 2 Mysts, it is better than III and IV, partly due to the fact that Cyan Worlds made this game again, the creators of the first 2 games. The downside is that the graphics are now real-time rendered. In all previous 4 games the graphics were pre-rendered, which means that everything is stored in the computer hard drive and they are recalled each time the player reaches a specific screen in the game. Myst V is 3D, and the player has complete freedom of move. That means that the graphics are generated depending on how you walk, which means that the visual quality is lower, even if you have a super-fast computer.

On the upside, this game is original. For those of you that have never played Myst (fancy chance of that), the story backbone is that there is a civilization that writes books, and what is described in the books becomes an actual world that the player can explore and travel through. In Myst V they introduce the Tablets: they are pieces of stone that you can engrave something that can alter the physical appearance of the worlds (called Ages). A certain drawing will cause rain to fall, another one will cause teleportation, and other cool stuff. It was a great twist in the mythology that helped new kinds of puzzles to arise.

My favorite Age was #2, the star-observing world. It is pure work of a genious. Everything slowly makes sense, it has the coolest Tablet effect, star gazing, a small tram, and many more goodies. I think it is my favorite Age in all of the Myst series. It reminded me of the adventure games back in the mid-90s when I would play one game after the other. Now, it's just a race to who has the best graphics. I am so glad that Nintendo decided NOT to go to High Definition and kick-ass graphics in their new console, Wii. They said that they will focus on gameplay (based on an awesome space and movement sensing remote) rather than on technology. Go Zelda!

What's next? Civilization 4 probably, and I may give a try to And then there were none, based on the Agatha Christie classic mystery novel. But for the moment, I need to prepare for the Champion's League soccer final tomorrow!

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Cryptex...

When I came back home from school (basketball, actually) today I found a small box in my mail. I opened it and here is what I found inside:

Yes! It was the Cryptex from the Da Vinci Code Google Quest! They must have mailed it on Friday as soon as I completed the 24th and final puzzle. I weighs about 1kg and is the size of my palm. It is original, exactly as described in the book: there are 4 dials with 26 letters each, and when you assemble the right word the Cryptex is supposed to open and reveal something inside.

I captured this moment on video:

Skype: Free calls in the US!

(story here)

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Skype, the Web telephone company, on Monday announced a marketing promotion that will allow its users in the United States and Canada to make free calls to conventional wireline and mobile phones.

Until now you had to pay in order to call conventional phones. If the story above turns out to be true, it will change the phone landscape forever. I don't think this move has any precedent...

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Solonas came back from the amazon (the river, for once, not the website!). My jaw dropped when he said that at some point it is 60km wide... yes, that's 60,000 meters. "Picture this", hew said. "We were fishing piranchas, in a lake, which was inside an island, which was inside the river".

Did you get that? A lake in an island in a river.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

A day in LA

Some times the days here are very full. They are full in a different kind of way that they are full in Greece, especially Athens. In Athens I felt I was doing stuff but it was an illusion: at the end I had spent more time trying to get somewhere or do something in preparation, rather than actual activities. At the end of the day I felt full, but in reality I hadn't done many things; I had just spent my time trying to.

In LA it is different. Some days, like today, I get to do many things. Part of the reason is that universities here a vastly more lively community; it's not just classes and exams. It is about life. The weather helps, and the people try to take advantage of it. The things I am about to describe do not correspond to a typical day, which is somewhat boring. Today is one of the days that are exciting.

I woke up at 10am. I went to my office in school just to find a FedEx envelope on my desk. It was the media bank, the gadget for unloading pictures from my camera! I couldn't resist trying it so I run back home and got my camera and my old laptop hard drive. I went back to the office and assembled everything, and I quickly realized that the device has only ONE button (other than the power on switch). You stick the memory stick in, press the button, and it copies the pictures on the hard drive. Then I hooked it up through USB2 to my PC: everything was there. Mission:Accomplished, and now I won't have to worry for storage in our trip.

Right about when I was starting to do research, Dimitris called: "Free food in front of EEB!" Indeed, it was graduation day, the whole campus is a big party and they served lunch for the EE graduates and their guests. When all 3 students in my office got there, I met for the first time Belma's (Erdem's (my labmate) housemate) sister, brother and mother who had all come from Turkey. Stavros and Zafeiropoulos also came after my immediatte call to them, and we all had a great time.

I went back to the office and did some work. I realized it there was nothing wrong with my matlab code, it has to do with the input I give it. Still, how do I get the right input to feed? As I said to Stavros earlier, Katsouleas doesn't know either (that's the beauty of PhD), he just makes suggestions here and there.

Around 4pm I left Erdem sleeping on the floor (we desperately need a couch in our room!)
and went to the graduation ceremony. The PhDs were there (marios, akis, dimitris). We all went to the nearby Starbucks for a coffee. We discussed a lot of things, but I was troubled with my research issue. Hence the followign picture:

I went back home, changed, and then headed for the tennis stadium for a match with Erdem at 6pm. I hadn't played tennis for over a year, and I realized that I very very quickly remembered. We spent about 1 hour playing.

I went back home, checked some online stuff and then around 10pm I started watching TV. First, Numb3rs, the special math tv show. Then there was a documentary on world's top 10 beaches, during which Rajay was struggling to teach me the phonetic difference between beach and bitch. For the record, Mykonos was one of them!

The day finished with Jay Leno and Tom Hanks. He gave a great interview at his show, probably the best interview I've seen on Jay Leno! If you have fast internet, go to mininova and download today's show (May 12) when it comes out, it was just pure fun.

Now I am blogging, and then I will continue my nightly ritual my playing Myst. Goodnight, and Goodluck.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The semester is over... I started playing Myst V (Not that I had classes or anything, but it is more of a psycological factor...). In August of 2005 I finished Myst IV, and I was quite happy with it. Although I got Myst V in early October, in December I reformatted (virginized) my computer with a new version of WinXP that supported directX 9.0c just fine to play Myst V (and Sims 2, and Pirates, and ...). But then I had to go to Greece and then Dora came to visit here so I didn't have much time with it.

Unfortunately I have to go to Miami/Bahamas next Friday, and then probably for experiment at Brookhaven, so I don't think I will have it finished by then. I started today with a strong 3 hour playtime just to get into the spirit of it. It feels different than Myst IV and III so far. The graphics are a bit slow on my card (Asus FX5200, one of the best things on the market 3 years ago but I won't upgrade until Vista comes out in January 2007 to a card that will support the Aero effect).

Anyway, it's 2am and tomorrow there is the hooding ceremony here for the PhD students at 9am.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Nice gadget

I found after some help from the NTUA newsgroups a gadget I was looking for: a portable digital picture storage.

The problem with my camera is that it only holds 8 minutes of video in its 1GB memory (this is the largest memory there is at that speed - Ultra II). In our recent trip to Yosemite I brought my laptop with me, and I was emptying the memory every single day. So I had 4 GB of data at the end of the trip.

As the trip to Florida and Bahamas is coming up (εννέα και σήμερα!), I am reluctant to get my laptop with me. It's bulky, takes up space, and I am afraid it may be lost, damaged or stolen (we have 5 flights and 3 different hotels to stay at).

Then I thought it would be nice to have a portable 20GB hard drive that has memory slots so that one can unload pictures in it during trips. I don't care about lcd screen and previews, I just want to get my memory empty.

Apparently such a device exists! I bought it from, a version that just provides the case and you can insert any 2.5" (that's laptop size) hard drive in it. It is the size of an iPod, it has a battery and all kinds of memory card slots. I will just install in there the old hard drive from my laptop (I replaced it with a faster and bigger one last year). I knew it was nice I din't throw it away!

I'll let you know how it works as soon as I get it, hopefully by Friday.

8 minutes!

I found out the first 2 questions immediatelly within one minute... and then for the last one it took me 7 more minutes. It was an anagram of "So dark the con of man", so when you rearrange the letters you get one of Da Vinci's work. At the moment I couldn't remember which one; I googled a little bit (the hints were that it exists at the Louvre and the National Gallery in London). I found out Virgin of the Rocks. I typed it in, but nothing. Then I remembered that the phrase appears in the book; so I quickly get the illustrated edition from my bookself, and go the the corrresponding page. It took me about 2 more minutes to find it: Madonna of the Rocks! Aaargh!

Am I in the first 10,000? We'll find out soon. Officially this phase of the contest ends tomorrow at 11am.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Da Vinci Code Google Quest: The Final day

What started 23 days ago is about to enter the final phase tomorrow. Today I completed the 23rd put of the 24 puzzles that were uploaded every morning. Tomorrow, the first 10,000 people that will correctly solve the final puzzle first will continue to the final phase.

Interestingly enough, the final puzzle will be video-related. That means you'll have to watch a 45sec clip and answer 3 questions regarding it. Now, there are good news and bad news about it.

The bad news is that it takes time to wacth the video; depending on the questions, you'll have to go back and watch it again and look for clues to the answers.

The good news is that the video is already uploaded on google video...! Me and Erdem watched it together many times, I wrote down the dialogue in a printed piece of paper and he made a short list with items that can possible be asked for. In this way we want to be ready for the questions tomorrow.

When all 24 puzzles are completed, there are 2 forms that have to be submitted with the addresses and names so that one can proceed to the final phase. Only when these forms are submitted does the clock stops and records the time that everyone else will be ranked upon.

If all goes well, I'll be blogging here at 10:01am tomorrow morning...

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Yosemite, Mysemite

Yosemite is the most popular national park in the United States, with over 3,000,000 visitors a year. We decided to go with Dora now after the suggestion of Violetta, who insisted on going during the springtime because Yosemite is all about the waters and its waterfalls; and the waterfalls are most voluminus now because of the melting snow. And oh boy, was she right!

I thought Yosemite was closer to SF than LA, but that is not entirely true. It took us 5 hours to get there, and one needs 4 hours from SF, so it's not that closer to SF than in LA. After you enter the Park, there is about 1 hour drive until you reach the heart of the park, the Yosemite valley. Right before you enter it there is this long tunnel:

At the end of it there is a parking lot, and a bunch of people staying close to the edge. Everyone was trying to setup their tripods and their super-duper cameras in order to get a picture.

This is what they were looking at:

When I saw for the first time that view, it took my breath away for a few seconds. I had read that the yosemite valley is one of the most beautiful places in the world but I never believed it until I stood there for a few seconds, watching the waterfall slowly pouring its waters down the valley floor. The place looks pristine: you cannot tell whether it 1,000,000BC or 2000AD. To my mind, if there was a dinosaur there chewing trees I wouldn't be that surprised!

All the rocks are granites, and the rock on the left is El Capitan, the largest one-piece granite in the world, a landmark point for every serious climber.

Notice the shape of the valley: unlike the V shape that most valleys have, this one is shaped like a U. (observe how the floor rises in order to reach the cliffs). That is because a glacier once upon a time travelled through the valley and reformed it and made it more smooth: the ice slowly sculptured the rocks and the floor and gave them this smooth, washed away shape.

Although the view looks pristine, over 10,000 on average (with their cars!) visit the valley every day. However the trees are so huge that they cover all the hints of man-made objects, roads, cars and houses that actually lie there on the floor.

Since the season is best for high water volume, let's take a look at some of Yosemite's waterfalls.

These are the Bridal falls, the ones that can also be seen in the big valley picture above:

These are Yosemite Falls, the tallest falls in the US and 5th tallest falls in the world. It consists of 3 parts with a total height of about 700m; there is a trail that leads you to the top after about 8 hours!

Here's another interesting picture:

These are not named falls, but in the spring water comes out of the cracks in the granite monolith and the wind blows the mist away; the sun just creates a weird effect when viewed from that side.

On our first day there we did the small and short trails to the bottom of these waterfalls; we spent about 30min in each case. But on the next day we decided to go for the most popular trail on the park, the hike to the top of Vernal Falls:

The waterfall may look normal in size but it's avtually pretty big; if you could see the heads of the people next to it, they would be only 1-2 pixels wide; the fall itself is about 15-20 meters wide.

The hike itself was amazing and it was by far the best hike I have ever done in my life (not that I've done a lot; a couple of times back in Greece with Mpellos and his company, a couple more in the mountains here in LA, and that's about it). The first half of the trail is considered of moderate difficulty, and as you climb up next to the river in each turn another part of the magnificent views discloses itself. It was just great to have such an exciting view as you head up, as it makes everything more relaxed.

The second half of the trail was the moneyshot though. You start approaching the falls closer and closer, until you reach a point of the final 100m or so. For these last 100 meters, the trail is just big blocks of granite steps heading almost completely up, right next to the main falls. Here is an idea:

As I climbed up I felt like Pizarro heading in the mountains of Andes trying to find the Incas and their gold. While we were climbing, the mist of the water that was pouring in the bottom of the fall was playing many tricks on us, sometimes stronger and sometimes weaker. Most of the time you couldn't stop walking because you would become completely wet; you also have to avoid other people that step up and down in this very narrow passage. Thankfully at some points the path went under the granite rocks and we were able to make short stops.

When we finally reached the top (all wet and exhausted) we just laid down next to other sunbathers on the surface of the granite, pulled out the handmade sandwiches that I had made for the trip and enjoyed the magnificent views while listening the sounds of the thundering waters. I really wanted to go to the next stop up the path, the Nevada Falls, 2 miles away, but we didn't have enough time to get there and return before sunset. That trail ends after 220 miles at the top of Mount Witney, the highest point in the US.

Here is a view of the Vernal Falls, a composite panoramic image I took from the Incas trail:

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The place we stayed was surprisingly nice, 1 hour outside the Valley.. Our room was inside a 5-6 bedroom house, it had 180 degrees windows that viewed the mountains, a newtonian telescope and a very carefully placed toilet paper:

The little triangle convinced Dora that the lady in charge was loving and caring for the rooms. She also made us breakfast the next morning before we left for San Jose at the silicon valley to meet Violetta and George.

When we finished with out dinner there for George's birthday, I turned my tripod and camera towards the moon. Here is how the moon looked like that night:

There is a trick though. When the moon is young and looks like that, you can also see the rest of the moon also! By increasing the exposure time on the camera I was able to capture that too:

While the bright part of the moon is the light from the sun that hits its surface and then reaches our eyes, we see the other part of the moon for a different reason: Light from the sun hits the earth, then reaches the moon, and that reflects back to earth and our eyes... It's a game of cosmic billiard that can be seen only in the first 3-4 days when the moon is very young. Beautiful, if you ask me.

For out way back to LA we decided not to take the fast highway route, but follow the "famous" Highway 1, that goes along the coast of California. It took us more than 8 hours to get to LA and cover 350 miles that day. Here are some shots from the trip.

Big waves:

Rocky cliffs:

A dynamic image of seagulls and seas lions lying on the sand:

The sea lions' resting and mating place:

A nearby squirrel:

And me enjoying the view at some point midway through:

I wasn't impressed though. For the americans it must be something exciting, because the East coastline simply sucks, so the only decent coastline they have is this part of California. For them this is something new and nice. But when you come from Greece with over 15,000km of coastline - and I've seen a lot of it - Highway 1 is not that new of an experience. Worth doing it once or twice maybe, but that's it.

Yosemite on the other hand is a spectacle to be seen, unlike anything else. The pristine feeling that he view of the valley gives you when stand there and look at it is incredible. So, I will finish my post with a high-res composite picture of the valley:

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Bonus Material: A bunch of 60 year old people each rented a "car" and decided altogether to go to Yosemite: