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Photo Tip: Amsterdam

23 Apr

Amsterdam Letter Sign

You can’t go to Amsterdam and not visit this iconic city symbol. It’s located in the Museumplein city square in front of the Rijksmuseum. At any given time there will be tons of people in your shot, which adds character to the photo if that’s your sort of thing.

However, if you want a less cluttered shot, here’s a tip- walk to the back side, snap your photo, and then “flip” your image. Example:

One: take your photo.

Amsterdam Backwards

Two: with a program of your choosing, use the flip option to flip your picture. If you have a smartphone or iPad, a variety of apps will do this including Diptic, Pic Jointer, Pic Stitch, etc. Usually it is a symbol that looks like a mirror image of 2 triangles or rectangles with a line in between. I am using the Pic Stitch app in the example below. If you’re on your desktop, there a few options: Picasa (Control-Shift-H), Preview for Mac go to Tools -> Flip Horizontal, or you can even do it within WordPress and of course Photoshop.

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Three: Save to your camera roll, add filters, post process, etc, and you’re all done!

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Hope this little tip helps! Someone with a sharp eye will certainly do a double-take, but as a non-purist I really don’t mind!

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We’re Back. For Reals.

25 Jul

Even though we technically flew back to the states last Wednesday, we were still “traveling” in the last week. Less than 2 days after we got to SFO, we jumped into our car and headed towards LA for a family/friends reunion. After enduring many transit connections over the course of our trip, the 6 hour drive down I-5 seemed like a breeze!  We spent a long and fun filled weekend in LA and now we’re back in the bay area, ready for more reunions galore. Here are some things we are embracing about being home:

Having personal space. It’s nice to not be surrounded by people wherever we go!

Getting free water with ice in restaurants.

Non-confusing weather. July in the northern hemisphere should be no rain jackets or umbrellas.  We’re talking to you, Europe!

Consistent internet.

Driving…from one end of the parking lot to another.  Hey, the Gilroy Outlet is very big.

Our laptops. It’s glorious to be blogging with a real keyboard!

And the most important thing:

Spending time with our families and friends in person.

We are so happy to be home!

Vietnam, Foreign

4 Jun

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Vietnam was one of those places where on one hand I felt a sense of familiarity since my last visit 18 years ago, but on the other hand, it was quite foreign to me at the same time. I wavered between both feelings during our 12 day stay.

Here’s the foreign stuff:

You know how you’ve heard of so and so distant relative but if you ever saw them on the street you wouldn’t recognize them? Or when your family’s not socially networked when you go away to college and so you come back to find out that suddenly your baby cousin is now a kid who can read and has a Facebook profile? That’s how I felt about my family that are still in Vietnam.

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I always knew I had relatives in Vietnam, but I never really knew who they were or even some of their names. Sure I had met some of them 18 years ago, but over the years, it was out of sight, out of mind. So it was really neat to sort of “discover” and get to know my cousins better. Not to be cheesy, but I feel like I gained more family while on this trip. The last time I felt this way was when we got married.

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See the cute little girl? I had no idea she even existed!

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I had no idea my cousin is artist/teacher. I knew he was a teacher, but I thought it was some academic subject, not art. He is super talented, he made those busts!

I played badminton with my cousin. That was incredibly fun though sweaty. Badminton was quite foreign to Jerry before he met me, but familiar to me, as I got my first badminton set in 5th grade.
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No one in my family in the States played badminton while I was growing up, so I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my cousins in Vietnam play almost every day!

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I thought we left food drive thrus when we left America in February, but it turns out in you can ride your motorcycle right up to a vendor and get stuff like meat buns and fruit without getting off your bike.

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I had no idea Saigon had its own version of Notre Dame. It was a duh moment!

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Jerry found these buildings to be oddly shaped. Built very tall instead of wide, when there was plenty of land to be had.

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Who knew the post office was this baller? Although given the amount of cardboard boxes it handles, I shouldn’t be surprised 😛

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Jerry discovered the best DDR players to be in Vietnam (we thought they’d be in Japan). And as you’ll see in the video at the end of this post, go kart racing is where folks take the opportunity to not drive like they normally do outside.

Museums in Vietnam:
I pretty much got schooled by these museums in Vietnam. I won’t even pretend that I am knowledgable about Vietnam’s political history or current political climate. I guess there is always the assumption that if you’re from a certain country, how dare you not know the history, right? Well, better late than never! What I knew about Vietnam’s past I cobbled up through years of random things I’ve heard in passing from my family, the TV, or in school. And to prove this point, we flew into Hanoi on April 29th. Our hotel receptionist told us the following day (4/30) was a holiday. I blankly looked at him and said, huh? Then it registered with me that it was Black April. I actually only learned about Black April during college, not even from my family. And why would they tell me? I certainly didn’t ask. So this trip to Vietnam was a huge history lesson for me. I didn’t even know that the US used Agent Orange during the war either. That was a huge shock for me and seeing the pictures, that was eye opening. I think that when we come home, I’d like to ask about the war and my family’s boat escape story in further detail with my family if they feel like talking about it. I’ve only heard bits and pieces, but maybe I’ll have more intelligent questions to ask now that I’ve seen one side of the story (i.e. the museum exhibits).

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I had never heard of the “Hanoi Hilton” or that former Senator McCain was a prisoner there. Jerry had though.

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Vietnam Military History museum in Hanoi. I learned a lot about the French colonization of Vietnam here.

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The site where the northern Vietnamese army tank (pictured above) crashed through the gates of the then called Independence Palace and afterwards renamed Reunification Palace.

The War Remnants Museum in Saigon. There’s no flashy exhibits or fancy technology like today’s museums. But I think it’s well curated and extremely powerful. The photos speak for themselves.

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Not to be all dramatic, but that Agent Orange exhibit had me tearing up. I felt so depressed seeing all the photos and reading the stories. How do you ever repair or repay an action like that? You just can’t.

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So despite flying in and thinking that Vietnam would be the most familiar place for me because I knew the language and the food, it ended up being foreign to me in the most positive and eye opening way. Someday I’d like to take our kids there so they can get a sense of their family roots.

iPhones in the World

3 Jun

At home there’s always the iPhone versus Android debate, where folks will deliberately NOT use an iPhone because they are Apple haters. We definitely haven’t seen this trend around the world. In many countries we’ve noticed that using an iPhone is akin to driving a nice car or toting an LV bag- it’s a status symbol of sorts. While on the hunt for an iPhone case, we saw that Vietnam in particular had nearly zero iPhone cases for sale (we met up with my cousin in Saigon and all his friends had no cases on their iPhones) and in Thailand, many of the iPhone cases had either a hole in the back that showed the apple logo, or the cases looked exactly like the back of an iPhone, just in more vibrant colors. Of course there’d be the requisite typo, we saw a case that spelled “California” incorrectly. It’s like wearing a Tomy Hilfiger shirt or carrying a Guggi wallet!

I never thought that a cell phone would be a status symbol, but now it makes sense! In case you’re wondering, here’s my new case:

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Just kidding.
Here’s really what my case looks like:

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Okay, I’m kidding again! I just wanted to show y’all how ugly and tacky these iPhone cases are haha. PS you can see the hole where the apple logo would show.
For the last time:

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It took me forever to find it, but it was worth it! Gotta love useful souvenirs!

Akihabara Electronics

4 Apr

This district of Akiharbara is known for electronics. If you can think of it, they probably sell it. We spent a few hours in the largest store in the district- Yodobashi Camera- and it wasn’t enough. But lucky us, there is one in Kyoto, so we’ll be exploring that one as well.

For anyone who was been to the mecca of camera stores in the USA, B&H photo, Yodobashi puts that place to shame. The store is just a completely massive place that sells every single piece of camera equipment and more! Try walking through all the tv/audio, computer, high end watches, washing machines and refrigerators, games, stationary, beauty products, bicycles, and more! This place has it all. There’s even 2 floors with restaurants and a food court.

Unfortunately due to the poor exchange rate prices are relatively expensive. So Jeannie won’t be getting that new fridge after all. Bummer.

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First Impressions: Tokyo

29 Mar

We arrived in Tokyo a couple days ago and I have to say that I love love love this place. Everything about Tokyo so far is eye opening, fun, tasty, clean, and so technologically advanced! Bidets are not as intimidating either, I have to admit. I feel like Dorothy when she left Kansas and got to Emerald City. Seriously, I’m on cloud nine right now. This is Jerry’s second time, and I think he’s almost as enamored as I am, it’s been 18 years since his last visit.

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I think Tokyo is the cleanest city that I’ve ever been to. Love it!

The subway system hasn’t been that hard to figure out, especially since they use a very efficient numbering system. Also, the seats on the subway have seat warmers, super awesome!

The convenience stores (Lawson, 7-11, Family Mart) have really tasty food and it’s super cheap! They will warm up your food for you and there is even a section of warm bottled drinks. I had a hot milk tea this morning and it was so delicious.

You can buy baseball tickets using an automated vending machine at Lawson. We’re going to a Giants/Tigers game this weekend, can’t wait!

Nighttime is so much fun because everything is lit up and the atmosphere is just electric (haha, pun intended, I couldn’t help myself).

The intersections are just ginormous. Crossing the street is kind of fun. Dorky, I know!

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Girls here must have high tolerance for the cold, because some of them wear really skimpy outfits haha. Even during the day!

We had to try the automated ordering machine. Jerry wanted udon with shrimp tempura but it wasn’t pictured so we had to match the characters, it was like a puzzle. Luckily I recognize some of the characters because they are also in Chinese.

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Many people wear SARS masks. I asked an expat about this while we were in line for 2.5 hours at Sushi Dai (the only reason the expat was in line for sushi at a touristy location on a weekday morning was because she had an out of town guest with her). She said it was because there are very limited sick days in Japan, so the masks are a preventative measure.

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Yep, a 2.5 hour wait. we are going back to the market for the fish auction, but I think we’ll try someplace else, even Sushi Dai was an amazing experience. It’s good to try new things…with shorter lines, ha!

I can’t wait to soak up more of Tokyo. That Shibuya crossing is gonna be something else!

An Open Letter

24 Mar

Dear well intentioned tourist who we’ve asked to take a picture of us,

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This is not how you do it.

Sincerely,

JJ

It’s rare that the two of us have good pictures together. I don’t think it’s due to fact that our camera is unwieldy or hard to use (ppl with SLRs have taken bad photos of us as well). I feel that it’s because many people lack the simple skill of properly framing a photo, or they simply don’t care how your photo turns out. For example, at the Christ the Redeemer statue, it would help if the actual statue was in the photo as well.

Even if:

-the weapon of choice is film, P&S, SLR, or nowadays, the camera phone
-the camera is in P or M mode
-flash is used or not used indoors or outdoors (Okay, so I cringe a little here, but can you blame me?? Those cheesy flash filled sunset pictures are so terrible!)
-filters are outfitted or not on lenses

We all fit in some combo of the above. If someone has the most expensive camera and shoots exclusively in M, you would think they could frame properly as well. We don’t ask for or expect professional quality photos from the general passerby. For once I’d just like a properly framed photo where limbs aren’t cut off and where the attraction is in in the picture. Oh well. Until that happens, we’ll just keep asking everybody until there are no more people or we just give up and use the timer. Lugging around a tripod around the world isn’t really an option for us. Luckily in this case, we got a decent picture 3 tries later!

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Anyone share in my frustration?

The Best Water Show Ever

10 Mar

We attended the most awesome water show ever in Lima.

Tons of people, pretty much all locals.  There were different types of water shows and fountains.  We loved going through the people tunnel!

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Cheesy but pretty neat.

Electronic Equipment

19 Feb

We’ve finally decided on our electronics gear for the trip.

iPad 16gb
iPad camera connection kit
2x iPhone 4s 16gb
Panasonic TS2 waterproof camera
Nikon D7000
Nikon 17-55 f/2.8
Nikon 35 f/1.8
SD-to-USB card reader
8gb USB stick
4x 32gb SD cards (2 in the Nikon, 1 in the Panasonic, and 1 which holds every single episode of Big Bang Theory and Friday Night Lights, plus a dozen movies)
2x Petzl Tikka Plus 2 headlamps (not pictured)
Monster 4-port travel power strip
Monoprice audio splitter and 2x earbuds
Outlet adapters for all regions of the world
Various cables and chargers

Any last minute suggestions on additional things to bring? We leave in 5 days!

Tech Logistics

16 Jan

During the planning process, a question that came up was how we were going to manage our photos/videos and stay connected on our trip.  The idea of lugging around a computer didn’t really appeal to us, however, there’s a lot of compatibility issues to work out when NOT carrying a computer.  So we decided upon the iPad to become our blogging and media processing tool of choice.  Plus an iPad is so, so, so much lighter than our Macbricks…ahem books.  I’m still trying to get used to the idea that you can’t just “plug” in the camera to an iPad and “dump” the “files” onto a “desktop.”  No siree, we had to pick up these little suckers.  I guess it means less cords to lug around, but Apple, really?  You couldn’t have stuck a USB slot there?

Currently, our travel tech equipment consists of a Nikon D7000 (along with a 17-55/2.8 and a 35/1.8), a Panasonic TS2 waterproof camera, the iPhone 4S and the aforementioned iPad. We were finally to sell our D300 (faithful to it for nearly 4 years, even celebrity marriages don’t last that long!) and switched to the D7000 for its lighter weight (notice a trend we’re going for?) and dual SD cards, and we switched to the iPhone 4s for its world compatibility (it was pretty easy-peasy getting Verizon to unlock our phones).  I gotta admit, I was anti-iPhone for the longest time because I am an avid user of Google products and as we all know Apple + Google ≠ BFF.  However, I have quite warmed up to it and have found unofficial apps to access my beloved Google products.  Anyone got any additional app suggestions?

So the Cliff Notes version of this post is, we don’t really have an excuse to not blog or share pictures of our adventures.

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