Rover Thoughts: The RoverLog is Live!

Well, as promised, I finally built the RoverLog!

Rover RoverLog Range Rover Sport l320 repairs and reliability

The RoverLog will be the central repository of all relevant data I can think of with regards to maintaining, servicing, and repairing the 2006 Land Rover Range Rover Sport L320 I bought in 2018 with 126,000 miles on the odometer. I hope this log serves to entertain, inform and educate on just what a high mileage vehicle like this needs to stay running. I fully recognize that this Rover is going to need work. It’s no spring chicken, but I love it, and this is an objective log of the TLC it will get from here on out or something in my life changes significantly and I have to let it go (I certainly hope not. Head on over to the dedicated page (which you can also find a link to in the menu at the top of my page) for further info, an explanation of the spreadsheet is included in the spreadsheet as well.



I hope this sheet serves as a good representation of Rover reliability from 126,000 miles onward. Unfortunately, I was unable to get the service history for this vehicle from the dealer it was serviced at, as they cited privacy concerns related to the former owner…and I don’t think they want to get sued for something, even if that’s not my intent (spoiler alert: it’s not). Maybe some day I’ll figure out how to get my hands on that data and integrated it into the living spreadsheet I’ve created. Of course if you have any ideas on how to go about that, I’m all ears. Feel free to contact me. This would qualify as nice correspondence and I always look forward to that.

Onward and upward and above and beyond!

Local Thoughts: The Los Angeles Theatre and Perfecting My Panorama

Who Framed Roger Rabbit is one of the seminal movies of my life and holds up better than nuclear fuel rods, so when I heard that it was going to be screened at the iconic Los Angeles Theatre in Downtown LA, I knew I had to go see it and also capture a panorama of the interior. We all know the Los Angeles Theatre well from a variety of movies, TV shows, and excellent commercials. For example:

  

Okay that’s enough pop-culture referencing for the moment. The point is, you probably knew about this place, and as theaters go, it’s pretty epic inside, although not in the greatest of shape, as are none of the formerly grand Broadway movie palaces of the early 20th Century.

The theatre is part of the LA Conservancy’s annual ‘Last Remaining Seats’ festival that screens classic cinema in formerly glorious and ornate movie palaces mostly located in the Broadway Theatre District in Downtown Los Angeles, but also in other locations around Los Angeles as well. Previously, I had seen Citizen Kane at the Orpheum Theatre. Not sure which theatre I’ll see something in next time. For better or worse, the conservancy did not let us in to the theatre until 45 minutes prior to the screening of Roger Rabbit and so I had limited time to document the interior, but then I remembered: technically, the glass is always full and I can always come back. I shot this hasty video as I was more interested in photos this time out. Perhaps at a future screening, I’ll get better video:

What I really wanted to get, however, was a humdinger of a panorama of that glorious interior (barbershop quartet notwithstanding) and I put to use many bits of wisdom I had learned over the years from taking many many many less-than-satisfactory-to-me panoramas.

The first thing I learned was:

1. NEVER EVER EVER take a panorama with your smartphone. They suck. Of course I say that based on the assumption that you take photos with something other than a smartphone when you go out. Sure, a smartphone can stitch together a panorama in real time but the end result is incredibly distorted, has no additional stops of dynamic range, makes use of heavy JPG compression, and has to be quite cropped to account for variations in the user’s y & z axis jitters when panning. I could continue onward as to why smartphone panoramas are bad bad bad, but I won’t. Moving on.

2. While you should never use your iPhone, you should use your iPhone’s orientation (ie vertical) for taking panoramas. A normal camera’s horizontal bias (ie 4:3 or 3:2) may seem like the way to take panoramas, but this leads to a lot of distortion and eventual cropping of image data at the top and bottom of your photo and if the point is to capture as much area as possible, then you want to take more pictures in a 2:3/3:4 format to get maximum coverage.

2. Identify the center of your panorama and take a reference photo first to determine the look and focus and feel of the end result. Switch to full manual mode. Set your focus, shutter speed, aperture, ISO. All the things. Now take the picture of the center, and do not change any settings. Including focus. This is important. Most helper-functions on digital cameras have you start your panorama from the left or the right side of your perceived frame and base their settings for the entire panorama off of how the far left or right of the picture looks. The helper function is also typically limited to jpg output which crushes bit depth, compresses colors, bakes in white balance, and a slew of other undesirable things to your pictures, so that’s why we go full manual for this. Your camera is now ready.

3. Depending on your disposition, now start taking your photos from left to right, or right to left (in your camera’s RAW format). Remember. Your camera’s settings are locked from step 2. You haven’t changed anything right? Good. Here’s how many photos I took to capture this panorama:

Los Angeles Theatre Panorama Component Images

4. Load your raw files into your editor of choice. Mine was Adobe Lightroom CC Classic. (Note: Lightroom CC can’t handle this project. Adobe stripped features from the newer version which baffles me).

5. Again, process your middle photo first to taste, and then use those settings for every other photo in the series. Lightroom makes this very easy with the standard ‘cmd+c’ and ‘cmd+v’ allowing you to copy+paste your settings from one photo to another. Very natural.

6. Merge your photos. Again, this is handily done in Lightroom or Photoshop. I prefer Lightroom because it preserves raw data and still allows you to perform additional non-destructive final adjustments to your merged photo.

7. Happy with it? Good. Here’s how it came out:

Los Angeles Theatre Panorama - 20,000 Thoughts

And that, folks, is how I take panoramas these days. I guess you could just use your phone too though.

Seeing Who Framed Roger Rabbit was great as well. In person to take about the film was Don Hahn, Charlie Fleischer, and Joanna Cassidy, and the print used was an old film print instead of a digital file. This was nice because it fit with the theme of the old movie palace, and the visual effects held up better since they were designed to work in the more forgiving 35mm Vistavision format. When you watch a restored HD or 4K version, you can spot the old effects. Notsomuch here. It was great.

I do hope to return to see more flicks in the grand movie palaces downtown. If you’d like to know more about the LA Conservancy and Last Remaining Seats, please do check them out.

Travel Thoughts: The Sidney Business District is Totally the Matrix

When I say the downtown Sydney Business District is totally The Matrix, I’m not joking, at all. It’s the frickin’ Matrix.

While this wasn’t the primary reason for my visiting Australia, I admit I became a little tied up with experiencing it for the wealth of movie filming locations from that film. While I believe in Film Works and keeping production local to Los Angeles, I realized that Sydney was in fact, the perfect place for this movie to be made twenty years ago. The reason was simple: Sydney’s metropolis was, at the time, not instantly recognizable to most of the world and as such was the perfect surreal backdrop for a  world that may (or may not be) real.

The thing that made the Sydney Business District even more matrixy than The Matrix though, was the fact that it was practically impossible to get lost. All one really had to do was park at the Sydney Opera House (a later post), and walk back into the city, and somehow you can always find your way back. I cannot say this of Manhattan which, despite being laid out as a grid, I can’t find my way around to save my soul. It’s bad there. Sydney not so much! The other notable thing is that Sydney isn’t in a grid pattern, so you would think it would be harder. My theory is that “the machines” programmed the layout of Sydney into my brain with that thingie that’s plugged into the back of everyone’s necks.i

In addition to the spot where Neo called the machines at the end of the film, I also came across a couple of other locations while I was there, including the Martin Place Fountain (where the “Woman in the Red Dress” program was run:

Another non-location was the staircase inside the Westin Hotel in Martin Place. While IMDB lists this as the filming location for the staircase, as do many fan sites, however it’s most likely not…unless there’s another staircase in the bowels of the hotel somewhere. See for yourself, below is video of the staircase, followed by video from the original film. While they might share trim bits, they are most definitely not the same staircase:

There is one other possibility that’s not completely crazy: That the original staircase was torn out and a new one built in its place that used the same trim pieces. I say it’s not crazy, because I’ve seen large facilities tear out and replace structural elements like this all the time, due to things like failed safety inspections or interior redesigns, or new building code requirements and it’s clear that Martin Place had seen a bit of a renaissance since the Matrix was filmed there with the facades on many of the buildings receiving major facelifts prior to and even during my time there. I can’t even be sure that the Westin was a tenant in that building at the time the Matrix was filming. Many of the seedy locations used for the industrial and alleyway sequences in Sydney went on to gentrify in the years following the production. Most areas are unrecognizable and cannot be tied to the production.

This of course, was but a small part of my visit to Australia, and I’ll cover the other aspects of it in subsequent posts.

These photos were taken back in 2015 with what I thought was an underdog and unsung hero of a camera, the original Canon EOS M. Derided for slow autofocus, a lack of available lenses, and poor battery life, I thought it did a decent job, I debated whether or not to put any of these photos in the hi-res gallery, and in the end, opted to wait until I had put up additional subject specific posts on Australia and will then do a consolidated “greatest hits” album.

Travel Thoughts: The Ars Electronica Center in Linz, Austria

The Ars Electronica Center in Linz, Austria saw its influence expand greatly back in 2009, interactivity and human appendages-as-input devices were all the rage, and people were actually working hard at realizing the future and making profoundly cool and interesting and unique experiences that revolved around gestural interaction with digital devices or within digital environments. This was largely an outgrowth of the first iPhone which had just been released (en-masse) about a year earlier.

CRW 8358 copy

It’s as if everyone wanted didn’t want to work hard until Apple did it first and then once Apple did it…everyone hopped on the multi-touch train and claimed it was easy. Even I did. And it wasn’t easy.


Remember where you were when this happened?

That’s right, I built a giant multitouch wall into a sun porch and it worked for all of one evening before my code crashed, but hey, I can say I did it, and I can also say it got me nowhere in my career. But at least I learned that I was capable of great things even if only I recognized that fact.

But I digress…

The Ars Electronica Center is a “Museum of the Future” based in Linz, Austria that had recently undergone a major renovation with a completely new building. It had always focused on the interactive art world but around 2007 it became an absolute Mecca for this sort of thing as iOS paved the way for a ton of development in the non-qualified interactive experiential space. Before I continue, what I mean by “non-qualified” is the notion of activated spaces or objects. These are/were things that required nothing more than your presence to activate, so there was no need to own a device to initiate an experience (like an iPhone for example).

And I loved that sort of thing, so I went there. Continue reading “Travel Thoughts: The Ars Electronica Center in Linz, Austria”

Coffee Thoughts: BLVD CAFECITO – My Other New Coffee Stop

BLVD Cafecito is my other coffee-go-to in Magnolia park, in addition to my recently discovered stop, The Palm. Also, we’re adding a new category: Coffee Thoughts…which means another category is inevitable: Beer Thoughts.

blvd cafecito

In upping my coffee game and morning routine to accommodate my personal policies on human interaction, Irecently-and-happily discovered the newly-opened Palm Coffee Bar, and also turned to BLVD Cafecito, a small coffee bar running by a gentleman of cuban descent, that serves up Intelligentsia coffee. Like The Palm, there was a discount if you bring a thermos and don’t use a paper cup.

Inside there’s intimate (cramped) seating for about four people, but if you can snag a seat, it’s a nice spot to sip coffee and read your kindle if you can read without being distracted by music and customer banter.

To be fair, the music isn’t loud, and the customers aren’t typically a bother either…unlike some other places.

One thing I’m looking forward to is the extension they’re building on the right, “BLVD Taco.”

Anything great thing about Blvd Cafecito is that they donate to local school programs. I live down the street from an elementary school (and also filming location for Doug Demuro when he’s in LA…more on Doug in posts to come) that proudly waves the Cafecito flag and I’m all for that. You may have noticed, but to the right of my posts is a banner for Donors Choose, a wonderful site for donating to and crowdfunding public school programs and classrooms specifically. Please check them out. $10 can do a lot.

But now, I must get back to sipping coffee…

Car Thoughts: Important Historical Vehicles in Odd Places – A Series – The Bungatti

This Bungatti story isn’t about barn find vehicles. There’s an excellent site for those types of stories. Instead this is about singularly important vehicles that one either learns the importance of after the fact, or simply doesn’t expect to come across in a given location.

For our first example, we’re going to talk about Kenny Howard “Von Dutch’s” Bungatti.

The Bungatti is one of the last survivors of the great historical Car Florida Migration of the 1980’s

von dutch bungatti

And that’s what we’re going to talk about… Continue reading “Car Thoughts: Important Historical Vehicles in Odd Places – A Series – The Bungatti”

Local Thoughts: Heritage Square Needs Work

I should have titled my trip to Heritage Square as another live stream fail (similarly to Hearst Castle), but there was something about Heritage Square that offset my live stream errors and evened everything out: It wasn’t a very good museum.

Heritage Square Museum

I was really looking forward to using my cobbled-together vlogging system for the first time here, but wasn’t able to, not because I forgot a critical component (although that could have been the reason), but rather because photography wasn’t allowed inside the houses, and that’s just lame. Maybe there was a time when one could argue that camera flashes could damage vintage preserved surfaces on an artifact or fabric or room interior, but nobody uses camera flashes anymore (unless they’re the NoH8 Campaign or Terry Richardson and the latter is a creep getting his just desserts…never understood the appeal of his work or how he got work and why I can’t get work) because camera sensors are so good and lenses are so fast that flashes are unnecessary. Continue reading “Local Thoughts: Heritage Square Needs Work”

Past Thoughts: The 14th Factory

Around this time last year (2017), Simon Birch’s The 14th Factory was all the rage in Los Angeles.

Located just east of Dodger Stadium on Avenue 19 in an abandoned industrial bakery, The 14th Factory was an amazing temporary large scale art exhibition that anyone who couldn’t score tickets to the Broad in time for their first trip to LA could go to and still find suitable locations to snap selfies for their tinder profiles which they in turn utilized to boost their follower counts on instagram.

This is too bad because it was utterly brilliant and worthy of so much more than social media exploitation.

Continue reading “Past Thoughts: The 14th Factory”

Travel Thoughts: The Anza Borrego Serpent Sculpture

I had no idea Anza Borrego had a random iron serpent sculpture out in the desert before instagram, which is an embarrassing thing to admit, but I also have this thing where if I see a cool thing or event on social media, I go see it, and that’s how I ended up here.

After ditching my impractical but supposedly (but not really) earth-friendly EV and getting an impractical and abstractly (but not really) earth friendly SUV, I committed myself to exploring as much of the continental US by roads traveled as I could (time and funds permitting). I successfully made it here (about a four-hour drive overnight to capture sunrise) and to Hearst Castle before I was unceremoniously cut loose from a temporary work assignment I was contracted to be at through the end of May at the earliest.

Continue reading “Travel Thoughts: The Anza Borrego Serpent Sculpture”

Travel Thoughts – New Orleans – A Testament to Building with Wood, Lead, and Tar

God I loved New Orleans, and I can’t put into words why. Okay, blogs are about words, so I should probably try.

In December of 2017, a travel buddy & I embarked upon what may become an annual excursion: Experiencing New Orleans at the best possible time: NOT Mardi Gras. Continue reading “Travel Thoughts – New Orleans – A Testament to Building with Wood, Lead, and Tar”