Shuttle Endeavor flyover

My flight out of Oakland today was mid-taxi, just about to turn onto the active runway and take off, when we suddenly came to a complete stop and the captain came on the PA to explain why. Space Shuttle Endeavor would be flying overhead, latched onto its special 747 on a flyby route buzzing the San Francisco Bay. The whole plane – passengers and crew – clamored for the left side windows, and I was one of the few who could get to my camera without unpacking a bag or booting up a phone so I took a couple awkward shots leaning across the window seat passenger. She was actually in my seat and I should have objected when I boarded since I pick window seats on purpose, but I was nice and let her keep it – now I wish I had been more pushy, as I could have perhaps taken a slightly better picture.

Regardless, it was an unusual moment that won’t happen again, as Endeavor’s landing marks the last time a shuttle will fly. The passengers buzzed excitedly afterward and then sat quietly without protest waiting for the runway to be opened again – a rare moment of reserved patience from modern air travelers. It was poignant and cool, a lot cooler than these pixely pictures indicate.

Las Vegas – November 2011

Spent an awesome week in Las Vegas with Sean and Jules, attending the SEMA show and experiencing an amazing Vegas-style Halloween along with Alex and Nasim in the Circus Circus Fright Dome. I shot a few pictures of casinos, the Hoover Dam and some cool urban decay in an abandoned mall that are in this gallery.

Gallery is here – slideshow button is at the top-right corner.

Week on Maui – October 2009

I returned home last night from an amazing week in Hawaii, soaking up the tropical sun, sipping drinks around the pool with friends, and celebrating a very special wedding with John and Heidi. Danielle and I did more exploring than on previous trips to the islands, venturing out to Kula to tour a botanical garden, and tagging along with Bill, Jenn and Kristen for a day’s drive along the road to Hana. It was a relaxing escape from regular life and I was so tempted just to stay there forever, but if I’m going to move to Maui I think I’d at least want to come home first, pack my computer and my SLR camera, and ship down my motorcycle. 🙂

Gallery slideshow here.

Knox Mountain Hill Climb in Kelowna, BC – May 2009

It was a perfect weekend to cruise over the Okanagan mountains to Kelowna, BC and attend my favorite northwest track event – the Knox Mountain Hill Climb. I originally ventured into the great white north seeking this unique, european-style rally two years ago – with my buddy James Walper – and the event was just as excellent as I remembered it. The drive up there, even more so; please bear with all my out-the-window shots as I was completely enthralled by the scenery along the highway, but there was rarely room to pull over and take a proper photo (plus I never would have made it home). 😉

Although I didn’t intend to bring any souvenirs, I did manage to return with a horrendous allergy/cold/flu (swine?) but had a worthwhile trip despite not being able to hear or sleep or breathe for most of it, and managed to confirm a few things for myself:

  • My Z is a fantastic car. Besides being totally sexy, it is just brilliant to drive (finally getting the new suspension settings where they should be surely contributed to that) and the 700 miles I logged this weekend flew by, bringing me home all too soon. I can sit in that driver’s seat for literally hours without even considering a break, and while there are things I’d love to fix, I’m extremely happy with where it’s at right now. I guess it’s just nice to validate that all the hard work and money are worth it – and they are. 🙂
  • I am good at traveling alone. A few weeks in a foreign country with a lonely hotel room and an expense account have taught me that it’s okay (enjoyable, even) to walk into a restaurant and request a table for one, and I’m resourceful and creative in finding ways to entertain myself in a strange town. Of course, I would have loved a roadtrip companion, but I’m pretty experienced at flying solo and it’s something I do well. I like that about me.
  • I’ve got a crush on British Columbia. There’s a lot of it to love: all the rugged, dramatic, sweeping wilderness that I grew up surrounded by in Montana, but on a larger scale; all the lush cascade rain forests of Washington, but with more sunshine; wide open highways and a driving populace that knows how to “stay right except to pass”; the metric system (it’s easier to use, people). Everytime I’m up there I find another reason to go back, and Kelowna is definitely on the short list of places I’d like to “keep an apartment” someday.

The other thing I learned this weekend is how quickly my dual-battery grip is exhausted running the autofocus on AI Servo… so I didn’t shoot as much of the race as I would have liked to. On the bright side, that left me time in the afternoon to actually just enjoy it as a spectator, rather than through the lens (and halfway up a tree). Next year, though, I’ll have battery reserves for the late afternoon, and two working nostrils so I can stay for Sunday’s runs, too.

Click here for the gallery

2008 Year in Review

I’m home alone tonight with a wicked sinus infection, drinking a lot of tea, running warm saline through my nostrils and reading Jeremy Clarkson. I sent my parents on their planned new-years outing with Tim and Carol earlier today, and saw Danielle off to her ball-drop party an hour ago, so the house has now fallen quiet with only myself and the cat remaining – and neither of us is putting shoes on until at least tomorrow. It’s been relaxing and festive having my parents here for the last week and a half, and tonight my empty house feels exactly that without them all around but I’m taking advantage of tonight’s opportunity to recuperate so I can enjoy the last couple days of their stay to the fullest. I am truly blessed with an incredible family that love each other unconditionally and are the best of friends, and I can’t say enough how much I appreciate the powerful (and rare) gift of growing up in a happy home. I thank God every day for them, and pray that I never take them for granted.

At some point tonight, I’ll probably turn on Dick Clark and let a team of underpaid television interns tell me what noteworthy things happened in 2008 while the world toasts each other on this oh-so-magical of holidays centered around humans’ apparent fascination with nice round numbers. Before that hour arrives, though, I feel compelled to look back on my own noteworthy 2008 moments.

Brian’s 2008 Year in Review
I made my modeling debut in early 2008 when my face (and a Threadless t-shirt) graced the Crutchfield website and greeted readers of their email newsletter. So far I’m not America’s next top model, but regardless it will make a great bullet point on my A&E biography.
While I technically bought my condo and moved in Dec 2007, it wasn’t until my sister and I returned from the holidays in January that we really started making it our own. I spent many long nights last spring pushing a paintbrush or tearing up carpet and I owe so many thank-you’s to the friends, family and neighbors that have lent their assistance – especially my parents, who have worked tirelessly on my home as though it was their own. I’ve learned a great deal about homeownership, remodeling, and project management, as well as memorizing the number for Dominos. I felt like such a grown-up purchasing major appliances, and I can’t explain how satisfying it is to look at the mantle I built with Mom or picture the attic insulation I installed with Dad and see the successful results of our teamwork. Danielle’s creativity has really made the decor come together, and I love that she found ways to incorporate my model cars and nerdy fixtures into the scheme. It’s a place I’m very happy to come home to, but it’s not been an effortless year by any means and I’m not sure I’ll schedule 2009 with the same remodeling pace.

My job really turned into a career this year, and 2008 was full of exciting challenges, new faces, huge opportunities and the heartbreaking change that is inevitable in the business world. There have been many nights I’ve lied awake fretting over big decisions or writing and re-writing an email in my mind, a sign that the responsibility I bear at work is shaping me and becoming part of who I am. I’ve grown up a great deal (professionally, at least) this year and I don’t feel like the same person anymore that struggled so much 7 years ago to find any job at all. My title changed 5 times this year (although only 2 of them were actually promotions) but there’s an intangible promotion that happened somewhere along the way, wherein I became a professional in my field, and more than just a lucky bloke that landed a good job by being in the right place.
Travel – boy, did I. More new cities and new countries in 2008 than in any year of my life, by a long shot. Texas in April, visiting Clint, Christi and Lilly on the beach in Galveston, and then again in July for more fun in the sun. Denver in June, San Francisco in July, and New York in September, all on business – a part of my new job and something I’d always hoped would be asked of me. In August I visited North Carolina for the first time, and internationally there was London in June for an amazing 2 weeks with Audrey and back again in July for another week with Katie and the UK team. Then I spent half of October down under in Sydney, an experience that I will never forget. I put a lot of new dots in my TripAdvisor profile this year and it was all pretty awesome.
Hobbies-wise, 2008 was a pretty banner year for me. I finally bought a motorcycle like I’d been wanting to for years, and managed to promote the SLUT when I earned my rider’s license. Some amazing photoshoot opportunities presented themselves this year and I was ready with camera in hand, from picturesque Nissan shows (where my Z happened to take first place) to the British Motor Show, Australian Motor Show and Seattle Motorcycle Show. Other than cars (and bikes) I also managed to capture a lot of Sydney and take advantage of Danielle’s connections to shoot a private tour of the Ballard Fishermans’ Terminal. Next year I’m hoping to take better advantage of local Seattle places and events, and hopefully still fit in photos of a few exotic locales, as well. I’ve also got a renewed energy for my Z and the Nissan team, and I’m excited for another summer season with them (where hopefully I’ll be in Seattle for some of it). 😉

I lost 25 pounds in the first 3 months of 2008 and got back to size 34 jeans, a feat which I credit to a lot of determination on my part, a lot of protein shakes, and my excellent trainer Austin. I’m in better shape at 30 than I’ve been my whole life, and the spoils of victory have been sweet. I tackled wakeboarding this summer with Sean and Julia with more success than I’ve ever had learning a sport. I sold all my “fat jeans” on ebay and put the proceeds towards new designer ones, including a few from overseas shopping ventures. It’s been fun buying new, slimmer clothes, but even more fun having more energy and feeling healthier.
I turned 30! Yes, it’s just another celebration based on an arbitrary round number, but my parents, grandparents and friends all gathered to help me ring it in, and that’s what made it a milestone. The calendar says I’m officially a grown-up and in many ways I feel appropriately like one, but in others I feel as young as ever and as wide-eyed about the possibilities ahead of me as I’ve always been. Life continues to be good to me and despite small challenges I can honestly say my soul is very happy inside this body, following this path, living this life, and I think anytime you can say that you should consider yourself a success.

Spending My Time

It was 2pm when I finally decided to leave my hotel room and venture outside. The morning had slipped away from me, like the way a credit card balance adds up to something frightening even though none of the individual charges were particularly significant. My over-zealous internal alarm clock has fully adjusted to Sydney time, waking me up at 7 every morning now matter how tightly I roll down the window shade, so that even today – Monday, a federal holiday in Australia – I couldn’t seem to soak up any more than the minimum number of horizontal hours.

My intention Saturday had been to catch a bus to Bondi Beach, one of those typically-Aussie places on my must-see list, and something I figured would make a cheap date for myself and my Canon traveling companion. Saturday was dreadfully rainy, though, and despite reminding myself multiple times of my adopted Seattle mantra: “if you didn’t do something just because it was raining, you’d never do anything”, I just couldn’t talk myself into a dreary day at the beach. All the visions of sunbaked blondes lounging gracefully on the white sands of Bondi were washed out of my mind by the torrential downpour, and instead I went on an urban walkabout, enjoying my photog trip through the Chinese Gardens and finding some cool souvenir presents for people I wished I could call in the middle of their night. The shopping I did for myself I regret now; a misguided attempt to give purpose to a day without any. Spending money I didn’t have on things I didn’t need was only a momentary distraction, and left me feeling no more fulfilled and instead frustrated with my lack of self-restraint.

Sunday I planned to visit the zoo and Sarah from the local office had offered to join me, but again the weather interfered. It really wasn’t about the animals or taking photos; more than anything I was looking forward to spending a day with someone else besides the voices in my head. Sarah indulged me with breakfast in the city and a brief neighborhood walking tour, but when she departed I found myself again walking briskly through the city wearing my best purposeful look, attempting to mask my complete lack of purpose and sense of total uselessness. I explored some great things that afternoon but in the back of my mind was the nagging feeling that it was all only a means to an end, the purposeful spending of time like one spends the last few dollars of their local currency on the last day in a country. “I have all this time that I need to spend. I can spend a bit here, and a bit more there. That still leaves quite a bit. What else can I spend some on?” In my normal life my time is so precious and it’s agonizing to so intentionally disregard its value.

Maybe it was the exercise of walking the length of the city – I chose not to take the ferry as walking would spend more time – or maybe stopping in a Starbucks at St James Park for something that felt a little like home, but the bloody stub of my adventuresome self-reliance had regrown just slightly as I neared my hotel. I wandered awkwardly into a waterfront restaurant and requested something that, while increasingly familiar, I can never utter without a

trepidatious quiver in my voice: “table for one.” Either oblivious to my malaise or else preying on it like a wild dingo nips at the heels of the slowest wallaby, the icy hostess guided me to a table in the near-empty dining room less than arms-length from a chatty, affectionate couple, and unceremoniously removed the second place setting. Before departing she abruptly notified me that she’d “need this table back in an hour and 45 minutes.” I wasn’t sure if that was meant to sideline the several-hour binge drinking session of a wayward traveler at a lonely table in a stuffy steakhouse, or merely a statement to the poor service she expected her colleagues to be providing me that evening. Feeling unwelcome before I’d even unzipped my jacket, I ate my kangaroo steak and departed as soon as the check arrived. I was home in my hotel room in time to watch both the James Bond movies playing on Fox Classics in their entirety.

Although Monday is a federal holiday here and all my Aussie mates enjoyed the day off, I felt compelled to start the morning working through email, adding tasks to my todo list, and crossing off any small items I could complete without actually needing to talk to anyone in person. In retrospect I think my sub-par emotional mood was more to blame than the work itself, but I came away from several hours of productivity feeling drained and depressed. Like so many things that I ambitiously start with only the best of intentions, actually doing the job that I’ve been working so hard to build for myself is much less fulfilling than was the road I traveled to get here, and the “great opportunity” had begun this morning to feel more like a cage I’d built around myself, confining my influence, authority and creativity into a 9×9 square pen. I’m trying to chalk it up now to needing more sleep, which is most certainly true, but I can’t shake the self-doubt; maybe I don’t really know what I want as much as my standard job-interview-answer belies.

In the midst of my morning of melacholy, I also managed to:

  • break my computer (my personal one, not my work one). My Powerbook G4 has been working so well, and despite being woefully slow has aged gracefully since 2002, with all parts still functioning, the screen as sharp as ever, and even a respectable on-battery awake time. Whenever I’ve been tempted by the new, shiny MacBooks that I most certainly cannot afford, it’s felt good to say “I don’t need to upgrade; mine works very well for what I need.” When I discovered the busted hinge today and silently accepted that each time I now open or close the lid I’m bending the frame, cracking the display and sending my dependable laptop of 6 years another step closer to the grave, it made me want to cry.
  • make the mistake of calling American Express. I thought it would make me feel a little less concerned about my empty checking account to start tracking my out-of-pocket expenses so far on this trip and estimate what I’d be refunded. In comparing receipts and Amex transactions I discovered someone’s been buying 65-dollar tanks of gas with my corporate Amex card in Flushing, NY every day since 1-Oct. Stupidly, I called Amex to report this. For those of you who are ever in this situation, let me give you some advice: wait until you get home from the foreign country before you give Amex a reason to cancel your credit card. It would not have been any more difficult to dispute these charges after I was safely home in Seattle, but instead I made that call and then spent a couple hours arguing with Amex reps, pitting my best patient-yet-frustrated voice against their circular logic and horribly-broken english. Finally my 4th rep along the chain, Lisa in Georgia, made arrangements to issue me a temporary card at the Amex travel office in Sydney, tomorrow. While I can certainly live off my (personal) cash for one day, I will feel much better once I have that replacement card. The emotional difference between “alone in a foreign country” and “alone in a foreign country without any money” is tremendous.

So with those things plaguing my mind, I ventured from the hotel this afternoon – after eating lunch in the hotel bar, the only restaurant in town that wouldn’t ask me for any money – and made my way to St James park with a book. The sun had crept back into the day and was filtering through the trees occasionally, and other than exotic-sounding birds and the unfamiliar voices of occasional passersby, the park felt comforting and somehow normal. I spent the last coins in my pocket at that same Starbucks, hoping it would be a placebo for homesickness again, and it worked a little. I started the Wil Wheaton book John bought me for Christmas, hoping to dive into Wil’s life for a bit instead of wallowing in my own, but I couldn’t help picking my head up partway through every story where Wil realizes how important his family is to him (more important than his career), or what really makes him happy (not the jobs he thought he wanted) and letting the thoughts and emotions around my own struggles with these same things wash over me. Am I working hard for the wrong things, while neglecting that which will really matter to me when it’s gone? Am I making excuses for myself, for my obliviousness to others’ interest in or love for me, for my emotional unavailability, for judging others unfairly? Am I going to keep walking away from great women because I’m afraid I don’t know how not to be single anymore? Do I really believe that I can find my intellectual fulfillment entirely in my hobbies if my job ceases to interest and challenge me?

I gave up on trying to read right about the time the weather started to turn. As the clouds grew darker I marched bravely home – to a home with a splendid view of the city skyline and nothing familiar or comforting that doesn’t come through the internet connection – my eyes squinted tightly against the dirt being flung into them by the violent breeze. Resolutely I trod under the viciously-flapping flags decorating the waterfront, weaving around slow moving tourists clutching their hats and shopping bags against the gale and brushing stray raindrops from my face. Once again, my walk held all the purpose of a king’s messenger on a mission blessed by God, yet on the inside I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to reach my destination, defaulting to it only for lack of a better distraction. From the entrance to my hotel I turned back to snap this photo of the giant harbour flag being tortured by the wind, and then escaped the grasp of the impending storm through the revolving door.

For all my effort to dodge it no storm has really arrived, and my triumphant rush to shelter was just another hollow attempt to create purpose where none existed. I’m not sure I can explain how I feel any more concisely than with that as my metaphor. Yes, I’m a little homesick. Yes, I’m pretty burnt out on being in a different city every other week. Yes, I’m as confused as anyone else at work about what my job is supposed to be now and why I’m supposed to care about doing it. But more than that, I’m worried I’m spending a lot of time without proper consideration for it’s value and in more areas of my life than I’ve previously allowed.

First night in Sydney

I felt pretty out of it today from the time change, but I forced myself outside into the brilliantly sunny day to explore the Darling Harbor area a little. I found a great omelette and cappuccino breakfast at a streetside bistro, took some halfhearted pictures of tourists on the boardwalk, ate lunch overlooking the harbour and then gave up on being either adventurous or artistic and retired to my hotel for a nap. I stepped back out briefly this evening amidst a completely different crowd than the day’s – gone were the tourists with their fanny packs and strollers, replaced with the stilettos and cigarettes of the young clubbing crowd. My neighborhood is alive with energy tonight but I’m just too tired to take part. It is literally by force of will, pushing myself to stay awake until a reasonable Australian bedtime, that I’m even online right now posting these shots for you.

From my hotel room window, looking over Darling Harbour and across to downtown Sydney:

(Click for the full-size)

And from the Pyrmont Bridge, looking south into Darling Harbour. My hotel is the one trimmed in yellow neon.

(Click for the full-size)

Hopefully I’ll feel a little more ambitious tomorrow. Sydney is clearly an incredible city and there’s a lot of people I wish were here with me right now, helping me enjoy it.

On the streets in central London

London is an incredible city, full of history at every turn and more culturally diverse than the United Nations on bring-your-family-to-work day. It’s a place that truly embodies expressions like “hole in the wall”, as the curved streets, winding alleys, dead-end “mews” and never-ending canyons of brick and cobblestone mean there are literally thousands of gems – clubs, restaurants, pubs, stores – that you might only find by chance, on a recommendation, or by getting lost.

I’ve been taking a lot of pictures, especially of things I don’t ever see in Seattle. For example, there have been some great British cars driving around:

As well as some vehicle owners with questionable taste:

And definitely some stores we don’t have at home:

More when I get a chance, but suffice to say that London has been a very cool experience so far!