Maui, Hawaii (2012 Visit)

This year, I had the opportunity to visit Maui. The weather and atmosphere were as beautiful and relaxing as I had imagined Hawaii would be. I became quite attached to the ocean views in restaurants along the shore and watching the colourful sunsets.

The pineapple (aka Maui Gold) is a staple in Hawaii. Maui farms pineapples for export, however the growing cost of production has dramatically reduced the number of farms on the island. Since pineapples are one of the few crops grown there, it is also one of the cheaper produce to buy. When shopping at a Safeway, it was common to see a bag of oranges for more than $10. A local told us she preferred eating out as opposed to making her own food, as it was cheaper.

The Banyan Tree is very significant in Maui as one of their historic sites in Lahaina centers around this tree. Here is a Banyan on a hike through Kipahulu. The tree has thick branches that reach out, perfect for those who enjoy tree climbing.

The climate in Maui varies throughout the island. Iao Park, where the above picture is taken, is in the mainland mountains is often overcast with drizzling showers (perfect to capture great photos).

The ocean is never far away in Maui. Few places on Earth are as far from other land as Maui is. The Hawaiian islands are almost halfway between Japan and San Francisco. Being far away from large cities in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I was able to vividly see distant stars on a stargazing cruise.

Unfortunately, when I visited Maui in April, it was near the end of the whale watching season. There weren’t that many whales left, but I did manage to capture a few pictures of the gentle giants.

The best I can discern from internet searches is that this a fiddlehead fern.

A visit to Hawaii isn’t complete without attending a luau. This party was accompanied with traditional dance and music, and an all you can eat Hawaiian buffet as the sun set. In this shot, you can see the beautiful mountains of Maui in the background as the lights set center stage.

They say that no two sunsets in Maui are ever the same. This was my view over a relaxing dinner.

Saint John, New Brunswick (2012 Visit)

Years of travel around the world have made grow even fonder of the beauty and character of the buildings in Saint John, New Brunswick. Not only are these structures special in their appearance, many also have a significant history behind them spanning generations, and stories that could be told forever.

Sadly, the city does not appreciate the treasures that line its streets as they have demonstrated willingness to destroy it due to “lack of need”, arson, or sheer empathy from community leaders and citizens.

I would like to share some of my favourite images captured during my visit to my hometown this summer.

This view from Fort Howe, one of the city’s tallest points, is dominated by a large (and mostly empty) viaduct leading into the city. A few decades ago, this area was filled with many blocks of residential neighbourhoods that were removed during urban renewal. Harbour Station (centre-left) takes its name from an old train station that occupied its side, and the harbour itself which filled much of the valley centuries ago before it was filled in.

A couple enjoys the fountain in the Loyalist Burial Grounds, the city’s original burial ground. It was closed as a cemetery in 1848, and has been a place to relax lined with trees and gardens ever since.

All of these buildings served many functions in their past, but they have been restored and repurposed for storefronts and restaurants. At night, the street in this whole area is buzzing with night life.

Prince William Street in the Trinity Royal Preservation Area is home to many heritage buildings like this one that add so much character to the area.

Another old brick building shows its age very well.

Local memorabilia is on display for cruise ship visitors, and locals of course, who come into Barbour’s General Store.

While the owner hasn’t fully maintained the original facade of this building, it’s unique shape and brick work are still beautiful and very much intact.

My high school’s current building was built in the 1930’s during the Great Depression, but even then, it seems that plain wasn’t an option for Saint John. Inside this beautiful facade, visitors are greeted with a granite staircase and portraits of past principals. Saint John High School is actually Canada’s first publicly funded school beginning as the Saint John Grammar School in 1805.

German Street almost feels like a tunnel with many tall trees overhead. Dozens of old heritage homes occupy small lots and fetch prices typically only seen in much larger cities.

The vacant Paramount Theatre doesn’t look like much on the outside these days, but it was once an attraction that brought in people from all over Atlantic Canada to view events. Many have rallied to save the old theatre, going so far as to even create a documentary that aired on CBC. A business plan was created to make use of both theatre spaces inside as well as the lobby for a cafe. Sadly though, the $3.5 million needed to get the project started hasn’t become available. The owner is on track to destroy this former jewel, and convert it into a parking lot. This is unconscionable to me given its potential.

The new Hans W. Klohn Commons building at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John is one of the newest additions to the city’s roster of architecturally significant buildings. Its design proves that there are still some community leaders around that care about beauty in addition to function. I only hope it is a sign of things to come.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my brief tour of the city.

Calgary Zoo

Last year, I visited the Calgary Zoo which is most known in the negativity-centric media for its unfortunate animal deaths. In person, the zoo is a worth while destination for viewing over 1,000 animals.

A couple caterpillars make the rounds in the Botanical Gardens.

In the Butterfly Garden, there are many different butterflies fluttering around. I was quite captivated by this butterfly and pattern in its eyes.

A fruit bat’s body is structured to hang upside down without exerting any energy. Their legs are surprisingly weak, and cannot support their weight while standing upright for a long period of time. But this isn’t a problem when hanging upside down.

This chimpanzee looks from the outside into a cage. Unlike the monkey above, chimpanzees and apes do not actually have tails at all. I never noticed the difference until now!

Numerous flamingos quench their thirst and clean themselves.

Meerkats like this are native to South Africa. They eat many kinds of insects and even small birds, and are immune to many kinds of venom. They don’t have excess fat stores, so finding food is a daily need, which I’m sure is an easier process inside the zoo environment. Sadly, their lifespan in captivity is only 12-14 years, half of what it would be in the wild.

The zoo does a good job of copying the natural terrain especially outdoors inside a major Canadian city like here in the Canadian Wilds section.

After a day in the zoo, it is relaxing to sit down and enjoy the scenery.

San Francisco 2011 (2 of 2)

In this post, I share the remainder of my favourite photos from my 2011 visit to San Francisco. This includes many landmarks which you’ve probably seen many times over.

Fog nearly hides the Golden Gate Gate bridge in the distance. The bridge spans across two towers which sit atop old ferry ports. Ferries were the primary transportation between SF and Marin County before the bridge.

The Golden Gate Bridge in all of its glory without fog. To avoid collision with boats on foggy days, the hallmark red is used. Many Japanese bridges use a similar color for the same reason.

My second visit to Alcatraz! It’s amazing how San Francisco’s primary tourist attraction was left to sit in ruins for many years after closing as a prison. Besides its attraction as a prison, Alcatraz has may beautiful gardens. To make the island more like home, prison guard families would plant small gardens. This activity was even popular amongst the inmates. Since the terrain is rocky, soil has been imported from elsewhere.

Alcatraz Island is off in the distance as I pose by the lookouts.

Alcatraz Island is now the setting for a TV series. You can see the Pink Persian Carpet plant that covers the island. Many plants had died due to the harsh conditions on the island. However, the Persian Carpet was one of the plants that did thrive.

The famous crooked part of Lombard Street. This is clearly a tourist attraction. However, there are many less well known streets that run between houses that are closed off from traffic with beautiful gardens. It was mentioned by a tour guide that some streets are pedestrian only since they are too steep for cars.

The Painted Ladies are such beautiful homes. They are located next to Alamo Square park with amazing views of the city. Even without the fame from TV’s The Full House, I can imagine they would still be popular. Unfortunately, these row of homes must have privacy issues as almost all of their blinds are closed.

The sea lions near Pier 39 seem to love attention from tourists, at least when they’re not just laying around.

That’s all for San Francisco for now.


During the summer, I traveled to Atlanta for the final academic conference of my M.Sc.

One of the sights to see in this city is CNN. The tour was a bit short, but did include live viewing of news anchors while on the air, as well as reporters collecting news from various sources.

I also saw the World of Coca Cola, and got plenty of souvenirs! The highlight of this tour was the tasting of dozens of Coca-Cola products from around the world. Some are quite delicious, particularly the foreign Fanta flavours.

This lion at the Atlanta Zoo seems quite relaxed, almost as if posing for my photo!

Atlanta has the beautiful Botanical Gardens with lots of great sights to see inside and out. This photo here almost seems like it could be a musical instrument of some sort.

Atlanta is also known for Martin Luther King Jr. There’s a national park set up in his honour across the street from the church where he preached.

University of Calgary Convocation

In June, I officially graduated from the University of Calgary with my Master of Science degree in Computer Science.

A few seconds followed by a walk across a stage caps off over two years of research and hard work.

One highlight of my time in academia the media exposure received by my emotional robot control project, leading to dozens of blog posts and articles around the world, and a live television interview on Breakfast Television Calgary.

I’d finally like to also share some photos from an iLab party shortly after my defence in January.

My time in the Interactions Labs broadened my interests and changed my view of the world more than I imagined it could have. So much has changed in my life since I flew into Alberta for the first for a tour of the university in April 2008. I am grateful for the experience.

Family Visit 2011 (Drumheller, AB)

While my family visited for my university convocation, we took a side trip to Drumheller.

Until you are near the town, it seems like a normal highway. Then, the badlands appear, and you’re there.

This is the view of Drumheller from inside the world’s largest dinosaur.

The dinosaur bones are quite fascinating to see in person at the Royal Tyrrell Museum. It’s hard to tell from this photo, but this display was quite large. I was only as tall as the legs, if that.

This display showed a neat little bird.

Another one of Drumheller’s attractions is Little Church. It is designated as an actual place of worship that seats six at a time. At one time, it had stained glass windows and a brass bell according to the town web site.