Aura – An Easy to Follow Self Driving Vehicle

My step-mom April Halberstadt attends church on the Santa Clara University Campus. Knowing my proclivity for chasing self driving vehicles down the Streets of Silicon Valley, she made a point of letting me know that there’s a self driving shuttle on campus.

Auro Self Driving Shuttle, Santa Clara University, Silicon Valley, USA
Auro Self Driving Shuttle

While recently in the neighborhood, I went to see what’s going on in Santa Clara and swing by the university campus. Most of what’s interesting to see is in or around the university. The city and university are centered around the mission. While on campus, I typically swing by the De Saissat museum- but I was too early on this visit.

Santa Clara University, Silicon Valley, USA
Mission Santa Clara

In any case, there was no sign of the self driving shuttle actually, I noticed there literally was a sign, literally (!) that I passed. But in any case, there I was minding my own business checking out the Mission building when up pulled the Auro. A young man seated  in the Auro (guess we can’t call him the driver) was asked by a lady passing by, so if you have to choose between hitting a pedestrian or a skateboarder what happens. At that point I chimed in suggesting the Auro should hit the skateboarder because they are more annoying. They then went on to discuss the “Trolley Problem” and I kept photographing.

Auro Self Driving Shuttle, Santa Clara University, Silicon Valley, USA
Auro Self Driving Shuttle

What was nice, from my perspective at least, is that the Auro is very slow. And that it has a route and stop right in front of the iconic mission. So after a few photos close up, I sat and relaxed at the fountain a ways back to get a more distant view. After getting a few sans vehicle photos eventually the Auro drove slowly towards me. In fact, another little similarly configured electric powered utility vehicle zoomed right past the Auro. The series of photos fit nicely into an animated GIF (see below.)

Auro Self Driving Car Race

Salinas and Steinbeck

Salinas, California
Salinas Train Station

Returning from the Monterey Peninsula, I opted to go straight inland this time. All I ever hear on the news when I’m down in the Monterey Area is crime dramas from Salinas. Yet there had to be more.

Salinas, California
Salinas Rail Station

And I was pleasantly surprised!

Salinas, California
Downtown Salinas Stock Photo

The small tiny core of downtown Salinas was nice and tidy. The built environment was rich in architectural details. Regrettably I didn’t have too much time, but it looked like there were a number of nice eating (and drinking) establishments.

Salinas, California
Antique Salinas Soda Bottles

The main road runs right in to the National Steinbeck Center. Salinas was Steinbeck’s home town and a major influence on his writings (or so I have read.)

Salinas, California
National Steinbeck Center (stock photo)

A historic Bank of America building is being given a new life as a giant antiques shop. Like many small towns, the people seemed particularly nice and had time for small talk, like the lady at the antiques shop. Photographically, I really like the glass in the window thing. I took a few other snaps inside the shop. One thing that freaked me out as I sorted my photos and looked a bit closer was that the military garb I had taken photos of had swastikas. I’m surprised and freaked out as to how many Americans have a fascination with the NAZI’s!

Salinas, California
Nazi hat in antique store

 

The Merits of Lake Merritt

While working on another stock photo site’s content: VeryHighDPI.com, I managed to get a few “normal” stock photographs of Oakland’s Lake Merritt.

Lake Merritt, Oakland, California

Lake Merritt, Oakland

Lake Merritt, Oakland, California

These are some recent photos, but I was perusing my Lake Merritt gallery and found a few more I’m pretty happy with. I plug a few of those below too.

Oakland, California

Lake Chalet, Oakland, CA

Oakland, California

<rant> On a related note, I’m gonna get on my stock photo soapbox and trash a competitor. I was researching locations, keywords and such and stumbled upon Getty Images. They are the 800 pound gorilla of the stock photo market.

I did a search for Oakland California and was shocked at what I found. For one, there was some professional looking content. But many of the photos looked way over processed, HDR’d and generally of the “b” grade material found on Flickr.

Surprise number two was how shallow their selection was. The search was for Oakland California – a very picturesque and newsworthy city half the size of and right across the bay from San Francisco. The New York Times was calling it Brooklyn West or something as I recall- I’m assuming because of the increase in hipsters. Their “creative” content only had about 3,500 hits, and including news just shy of 7,000.

In that search were completely useless photos given such a search. There was a little kid flipping of the camera. Another caucasian kid in the snow (I doubt in Oakland as snow here is very rare and light.) Here are some more examples that popped up on Getty’s site for the search Oakland California: kid with gingerbread, Man with Mask, the USS Hornet (not in Oakland!), Iranian woman standing in Garden (?!), a rubber ducky, a slightly blurry closeup of a seagull etc. There’s also a lovely photo of a faux castle – but it’s in Napa an hour or so away. What the hell is going on with the stock photo industry and Getty in particular?! Does nobody curate this stuff at all? Are there absolutely no standards for keywording? </rant>

 

The Death of Marshmallow

Google, Mountain View, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Google, Mountain View, California (Michael Halberstadt)

A while ago I wrote a little piece about the new “Android Graveyard.” Google had a sculpture garden in front of a more prominent building on the Googleplex. They moved all their sculptures (I caught them in pieces getting touch up job in the last post.) Now they are in an out-of-the way corner in a peripheral building near the Google-central.

Google Android Statue Garden, Mountain View, Silicon Valley (Editorial Use Only) (Michael Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)
Google Android Statue Garden, Mountain View, Silicon Valley (Editorial Use Only) (Michael Halberstadt / SiliconValleyStock.com)

What Google started doing was unveiling a new sculpture with each OS release. Android operating system releases are named after sweets. Now with the birth of a new OS, there’s a death and a sculpture is added to the Android Graveyard.

Google, Mountain View, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Google, Mountain View, California (Michael Halberstadt)

This time came was the the birth of Nougat, and the death of Marshmallow.

A new statue at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California, depicts Android 4.4 nicknamed KitKat with an Android Statue made of KitKat bars (Michael Halberstadt)
A new statue at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, depicts Android 4.4 nicknamed KitKat with an Android Statue made of KitKat bars (Michael Halberstadt)

Here are a few stock photos of a Silicon Valley graveyard.

The new location for all previous Android Mascot Sculptures under renovation (Michael Halberstadt)
The new location for all previous Android Mascot Sculptures under renovation (Michael Halberstadt)

Announcing Android Nougat

Google just announced the new Android OS: it’s Nougat. Sweet.

Google, Mountain View, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Nougat Statue, Google, Mountain View, California (Michael Halberstadt)

As per usual, the new sculpture was released at the Googleplex. Yours truly put on my editorial stock photographer hat and made a stop in Mountain View yesterday.

Google, Mountain View, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Google, Mountain View, California (Michael Halberstadt)

I also got a few stock photographs of the Android sculpture garden that has changed a bit since my last visit. It was also mobbed with kids and other visitors. Finally there’s a place to go to for some Silicon Valley tourism besides the small infrastructure that barely exists here.

Google, Mountain View, California (Michael Halberstadt)
Google, Mountain View, California (Michael Halberstadt)

 

Soviet San Francisco

San Francisco, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
2016 Russian Victory in Europe celebration in San Francisco, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

I’d been meaning to get out and do something productive. This time I opted to head over to San Francisco. It was an overcast Sunday morning and I figured at least there’d be plenty of free parking. And in fact I found a decent spot right around from Google’s SF HQ (and Firefox that I actually photographed.)

Firefox, San Francisco, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Firefox, San Francisco, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

From the Embarcadero I headed toward the San Francisco Ferry Building. I think that’s still a popular spot and thought a few aerial shots were in order. I got a few verticals in – even managing to get a bunch of patrons at the Market Bar to comment on my rig.

San Francisco, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Cable Car turnabout from above San Francisco, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

From there I headed for a straight on view. I got a few good shots in – I think at least. But I noticed something odd. Off to my left I saw a few people in military garb and Soviet flags flying. At first I thought it was some hipster kids who think Communism is cool, yet know nothing about the subject at all. Boy was I wrong. On arriving I heard one of my favorite old pinko tunes: Katjuscha (I know the DDR version.) In addition to the Soviet red flag with hammer and sickle, there were modern red, white and blue Russian flags and a our very own stars and stripes in the mix as well. I asked one of the ladies what the occasion was. Turns out they were celebrating Victory in Europe day (a day early- not sure if it was because they could have the day off or that’s how Russia celebrates their victory.) It was cool none-the-less.

San Francisco, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Civic Center Farmer’s Market, San Francisco, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

The next aerial views I decided to try were the City Hall area. There was a movie being filmed there- adding lots of clutter and parking issues. But I did my best to hid that. There was also the Asian Art Museum and Library behind me that seemed stock photo worthy. And it turned out to be Farmer’s Market day at the United Nations Plaza. I got what I could.

San Francisco, CA (Michael Halberstadt)
Ferry Terminal from Above, San Francisco, CA (Michael Halberstadt)

For some reason I thought it was closer than it was, but I also thought the turn around for the cable cars area would be a good “from above” spot. And it was. I think these will sell- it’s a very common stock photo subject, but the aerial view is different enough I think to make my shots unique.

(this last photo is a link to my San Francisco gallery)