Monday, September 15, 2014

SwiftKey - The Worst Virtual Keyboard

I had heard a few raves about this new virtual keyboard (some even touted it as the best virtual keyboard on Android). So I wasn't very surprised seeing people go a little crazy when SwiftKey announced a free version for android.
I took the dive and installed it right away, fearing the offer was not going to last long.  The initial setup looked kind of polished and very welcoming.  The UI was certainly a notch better than stock/Google/Sammy keyboard, with a some amazing color/visual customizations.  Cool!

But it had one FATAL flaw... right from the very first sentence I typed, it would misspell about every 3rd word!  No kidding, I had to erase the word over and over only to find myself giving up on 4th or 5th retry and typing one alphabet at a time rather than swiping (or like I like to call it, Swype'ing).  Total disaster ~~~sigh~~~.  I thought I was typing obscure words, I toned down my vocabulary but SwiftKey's accuracy didn't improve.  It didn't even remember or learn that I'm constantly correcting what was interpreted of my swipe, or what I had chosen the last time on the same swipe pattern.
And if I ever wanted to spell out non-English words, then the feeling was nothing short of having entered the gates of hell!  I'm not kidding or exaggerating.  It is indeed that bad.  More than once I felt I would rather prefer the T9 Predictive Text of older feature phones from last decade (which, for the record was amazing for the time on phones).  After raving about swipe'ing keyboard when it first came and showing it off to friends, I started feeling sheepish and embarrassed in front friends when had to correct over and over AND over.  Not to mention the horror of adding an apostrophe(') to any word, you have to fight hard against SwiftKey to NOT add a space, and if you go back it often, due to mind of its own, change the word, auto-(in)correct (tm)!

But I wasn't ready to give it up yet, the critical self inside of me questioned me, I thought it was probably my swiping, or my words, or my usage, or something in me that was horribly wrong, so I kept using it for good 3 months.. But one fine day my patience crossed its threshold (not to be confused with Windows Threshold! Bad joke!).  But seriously, I reached a point where I said just !@#$ it, I don't want to retype every 3rd word any time I type a sentence.  I didn't want to spend enormous amount of time correcting or updating SwiftKey's dictionary, esp. when I knew my last virtual keyboard was awesome.

So, that very instant, before steam would start coming out of my ears and nose, I switched back to my good'ol Swype (Google Play, official page)!  Boy did I miss you!  With tears in my eyes (of happiness, of course) I whispered into her caring ears, I missed you so bad, I really did!  Glad to have you back in my life! ~~~hugs and kisses~~~ (yes, I'm known to sometimes talk to inanimate objects in cases like this)!

I'm now re-experiencing the joy of fast and error-free typing, Swype'ing!! ~~~muah~~~
I highly doubt the claims that SwiftKey is the most popular virtual keyboard out there, in my opinion it's the worst virtual keyboard I have ever used. Adiós SwifyKey!  At this point, I don't feel like checking out the blogsphere as to why SwiftKey wasn't good for me, esp. because I know a perfectly great virtual keyboard is sitting right in front of me!  The rational part of my self is hating me for sticking with it for so long and wasting so much of precious time, but the un-rational(uhh? what?) part is happy I gave it a good shot.

If you haven't tried SwiftKey, then don't worry, you haven't missed a thing.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Movie Review: Transformers-Age of Extinction

It's been a while here... intense work coupled with good weather is keeping me away from blogging.
So I thought I will post a quick review on the something... something that was supposed to be a movie I saw a few days back... Transformers: Age of Extinction.
If you don't care to read my elaborate and detailed review of the movie, I'll offer you something that perfectly summarizes the whole movie in a single line and you can then decide what you want to do next...
 Watching Age of Extinction is like watching two drunk junkyards having wild-wild sex in the fit of love in your backyard.

Plot wise, if you can say one exists (which doesn't!), it is strikingly identical to all the other 3 movies in the series that preceded it:
  • Everyone searching for that one that thing, spark, seed, fruit, flower... that will tip the scale in Autobot wars, Check
  • An underdog (Mark Wahlberg), Check
  • Barely-Legal hot chick (Nicola Peltz) who, no matter what, always has a perfect makeup with pink luscious lipstick on, ALL the bejesus time, Check
  • Secret Government Organization, Check
  • A villain hiding in plain sight (Megatron aka Galvatron), Check
  • A hero hiding in plain sight (Optimus Prime), Check
  • Plain sight hiding in plain sight... WAIT! What?? That doesn't make sense! Check!
  • Lots of shaky shots, fire, destruction, mayhem, explosions... Check, check and Check!
  • Incoherent story line, Check
  • Predictable, Check
  • And it is unbearably long, Check
(For the record, the first original Transformers was enjoyable, with just the right amount of special effects and not unbearably long).
First off, it looks like the movie was made by someone (and FOR someone) who loves to masturbate to violent explosions and destruction of things.  And every iteration of the "act" then demands for a bigger and larger explosion to get the fix.
There are so many explosions in the movie that it makes all of the 4th of July fireworks combined (to date!) look like a mere spark from striking a matchstick.  If Michael Bay were ever looking for an alternate profession, I think he can really give even the most contemporary Pyrotechnians a run for their monies.
Age of Extinction basically is the exact same movie as the first one, just with more cheap and racist shots at humor, more noise (or the explosion), more robots (or car thingies, because you can't tell what's what anymore).  Once the autobots start fighting (or start making violent love, because no one can really discern what's happening!) you can't figure which are the good guys and which are the bad ones, which makes it orders of magnitude more annoying, because you want to root for the good guys, right?
To top it all off, the movie is incredibly long, 160 minutes, which is well over 2 and freakin' half hours!  2 freaking half hours of mind-numbing noise, mind-bending explosions, mind-@#$ing action and all this to no end, or the same "we must save humans(~~~imagine Prime's voice~~~)" sh!t.  That's torture, not entertainment.  If you want to exact a revenge on someone without him/her realizing it... take them to this movie, IN 3-freaking-D!
And most certainly NO, I haven't missed the juiciest part, Michael Bay's penchant for staring barely-legal female characters is only a notch higher in this version compared to previous movies.  While looking at the hot 20-something year old Nicola Peltz may make you overlook a few flaws in the movie, more than average flaws might I even add   ~~~wink wink~~~, even 100s of her in this movie cannot make you overlook the lameness of everything this film has thrown on the screen.
I believe I have now been permanently marred by this experience and I've decided to ban all future Michael Bay films from my life for good.  I wouldn't have watched this one either, had it not been for my buddy insisting on watching it.  At least he agreed to my one condition when I retaliated; I'm not going to watch it in 3D, even if you pay me a thousand dollars! (A lesson I learned the hard way from the experience of watching the last Transformer movie in 3D, Rise or Fall or Revenge of something).

But, in all fairness, the ideal audience for this movie is not the demographic of USA, but it is other parts of the world, parts where the movie industry just doesn't have the technical know-how of creating such mayhem of special effects.  Let alone being able to afford monetary expenses of creating one.
So, I said it in the beginning and I'll say it again...
 Watching Age of Extinction is like watching two drunk junkyards having wild-wild sex in the fit of love in your backyard.
Other notable disappointments have been Man of Steel and the latest Spiderman (the name of which I refuse to Google), 300-Rise of an Empire (my review here).  And I'm sure I'm missing a movie or two.
~~~sigh~~~  Good movies are so hard to come by these days.  Until last week, I was pinning my hopes on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  As a kid I adored that cartoon series, but I heard even TMNT-2014 is rated as drearily dull, even at its best.  But I might still watch it, just for the sake of it.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Movie Review: 300-Rise of an Empire

300-Rise of an Empire, or in simple terms, 300 Part-2...
One of those other weekends, I had nothing better to do (in retrospect, I was so wrong!) so I went to catch up on a movie with a buddy, it had been a really long time since I last watched a movie in theater.  To say that the movie was boring, would be a gross understatement, cinematography was good, but only at times and only to a certain extent.
And here's my take, the movie, surprisingly can be very accurately summarized in mere 3 short words/phrases:
  1. Water! Lots of it! In fact it wouldn't hurt to blame California's water shortage entirely on this movie!
  2. Blood! Even more plentiful than water!  Take that Mel Gibson for Apocalypto or even Quentin Tarantino for Kill Bill(s)
  3. One lousy half-a$$ s3x scene (s3x scenes are quintessential part of _every_ American movie)
  4. Slow Motion (ok, I lied, there are 4 items, not 3).
The movie is nothing more than a hodge-podge of dismemberment of body parts (hands, legs, head, anything) that fly everywhere with blood splattering all around in extreme slow motion under a gloomy-n-internally overcast semi-black-and-white environment.  When nobody's hacking bodies, the dialogues in the movie are banal, at best.
Compared to the original 300 (my review here), this movie is almost entirely shot in slow motion. I was afraid even the dialogues would now start appearing in ssslllooowwww mmmoootttiiiooonnn and to tell you the truth, I wouldn't have been surprised if that had actually happened! So much so, that if we played the movie at normal rate then the entire movie would be over in 15 minutes flat!  The time part is a bit of an over statement, but you get the idea.
Good Thing: The only silver lining, watching it in 3D didn't induce a head-ache (and that's only because of the movie being in slo-mo), unlike Superman-Man of Steel, which gave me a splitting headache after I watched it in 3D, TW-freaking-ICE!

Life could only be better if you skip this one.
See Also:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Spring Is Here

Long time no see???  Well, been sunk in life's shitty boring problems knee deep too long now.  Not a good excuse to not post, but hey, that's the best I've got :(
Anyway, I thought posting some beautiful photos would be a good way to say "hello" to a few fellow readers I have left...

Lately, work-life has gotten a tad boring, mostly as I don't have my discuss-everything-under-the-sun lunches with buddies at work anymore; instead have chosen to watch Youtube videos while I gobble down food at my desk, at wildly irregular times.  But all's not lost, or so it feels...
Sun was out for two straight days and skies were clear bright blue, almost made me feel lucky for being alive and be able to see this day (note: this is not an exaggeration when you live in Seattle)!  But my skepticism that Spring is upon me, didn't budge.  That is only until I cared to look around my office while I parked my car and walked towards my building: Cherry Blossom buds opening up!  So the very next day I brought along my camera (luckily it was sunny again!) and went on a stroll after lunch to shoot some pictures around the campus.  And here's the result: Spring is upon us guys!
Time to break out of winter clothes!  Gear up for some hiking, photography and camping!

Yes, if you let her have it her way, Nature does have a way of uplifting your mood on occasion, trying hard to make you re-believe that life is indeed beautiful.
These are just a few shots from around the campus, full album here on flickr: Spring 2014!

    Body-Canon EOS 6D (full frame)
    Lenses-Canon 100mm F2.8 Macro Lens & Canon 70-200mm IS F4L

Note: Weather turned sucky the very day after I took pictures and went only southwards for even worse on the weekend.  You know, that's the typical Seattle weather, awesome and great while I'm holed up in my little office but crappy on weekends when I have time to explore the outdoors ~~~sigh~~~ That's the finicky Pacific North West weather we all love so much :-)

Full album with many more photos here on flickr: Spring 2014!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Galaxy S3 4.3 Jelly Bean Update Annoyance

If you are looking for steps to stop that annoying download complete notification, skip to Instructions section.
There have been a lot of issues with the 4.3 Jelly Bean update pushed out so at some point Samsung decided to pull back the update and work on fixing them.  But I was surprised when AT&T pushed the 4.3 update nonetheless.  I didn't want to be guinea pig or spend hours fixing annoyances, so I delayed the update, but, not very unlike Windows ~~~aarrgghhh~~~ it kept insisting every few hours that I update the darn phone.  The only respite being God-sent postpone button that allowed me to postpone the update for up to 1, 2, 4 or 8 hours, I selected the max duration, 8 hours.  After doing that 2-3 times, today morning, to my horror, when I got up and checked my mobile I noticed there was a subtle difference in my lock-screen's appearance.  Even before unlocking it dawned upon me that I have gotten the dreaded upgrade.  Instead of my early morning routine that helps me shake off the slumber, it was this squeamish feeling of being violated that jolted me back from sleepiness.
I haven't used it more than an hour, so I can't say what I like and what I hate about this update, or what are the annoyances, except one...  There's one that's breaking everybody's resolve to NOT swear and that is: randomly showing notification that a file has been downloaded.  Now, this file, in all the cases is either not recognizable or was downloaded years ago, actually in mobile-years, eons ago! So, of course when you tap on it, you get back an error something to the effect of "Cannot find this file".
After Google'ing, I figured this was a very common annoyance and people suggested "Clearing Cache" to get rid of this.  But no one actually shared detailed steps how to do so.  Or more importantly, "which" cache to clear!  After some trial and error I figured how to do it.  And I thought of making a quick post to help others rid themselves of this irritating behavior.
Instructions to Clear Cache:
  1. Pull down the notification center when you have an icon notifying you of some download
  2. Tap-n-Hold on the filename that appears
  3. An "App Info" menu will pop up
  4. Tap on that "App Info" menu
  5. It takes you to Android's standard interface from where you can manage the applications
  6. Just hit "Clear Data", it will warn you, just say ok and proceed with clearing data
  7. Voilà!  You will not be bothered with this again, unless you REALLY download something
I couldn't find this app whose data I cleared from Application Manager, so I take it must be some system internal app that's hidden from Application Manager.  And I didn't know if what I was doing was the real solution, so I didn't even take any screenshots to help, but at least I remembered the steps.

Edit: The app is called "Download Manager" and actually is visible if you are patient enough to scroll through "All" apps tab in application manager.  Here's the screenshot.  Blogger is not letting me upload images, so here's the link to screenshot: Screenshot-Clear Download Manager's Cache.

Edit: The BIGGEST annoyance so far has been random battery drains, just yesterday it dropped off from 100% to 85% in less than 5 minutes, the phone's back went warm AND this was while in "power saving" mode!  I fired up Elixir2 and noticed most CPU has been hogged by Samsung's wretched KNOX.  My battery is lasting less than half a day in power saving mode (and I don't have any bells-n-whistles enabled, aka FB, Twitter, Email notifications, etc.).
This is just pathetic. 
Moral: When will these idiots (the ones defining upgrade/update experiences) realize that there are some of us who DON'T want to be forced to upgrade, especially when there are many known unresolved issues with the update.  And if you MUST annoy with hourly reminders, at least don't FORCE upgrade while I'm asleep and can't baby-sit your f!@#$ing notifications! ~~~sigh~~~ There's no dearth of idiots in this world, none whatsoever!

Is Samsung becoming the new Yahoo!/HP, refer to my previous post: Stop Writing Crappy Software

Saturday, September 14, 2013

My Dirty Secret: Wettest Dream of My Life

Today, I'm letting you in on my real dirty dream, wettest of wet dreams I would LOVE to experience, vividly comic'ized by the great artist at xkcd...

All the nerds-n-geeks out there are experiencing a nerd-boner as... .. ... ~~~aarrghh~~~ I'll be back shortly!

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Healthful Spinach Smoothie

As I promised in the last post, here's the recipe I promised.  First things first, fret not, as I have told you earlier, I'm not going to convert this blog into a store house of cooking recipes, people have already done wonderful job all around the blogsphere.
But in my quest to improve my eating habits, I will share a few health-filled recipes once in a while.
Making this Spinach Smoothie (Palak Smoothie) is so astoundingly easy and simple, that it really defies the commonly held belief that you have to spend hours in order to cook a healthy meal(*conditions apply!).  Not to mention it would be outrightly criminal NOT to make this regularly!

This is enough to make about 3-4 glasses of smoothie, scale it per your needs:
  1. Banana - 2
  2. Pineapple - 1/4th
  3. Slice of Whole Lemon - 1
  4. Spinach - approx. 3 handfuls
  5. Peeled Oranges - 2
  6. Papaya - 1/4th
  7. Condiments: Black Pepper
  8. Optional: Almost any fruit you want, esp. berries, avocado, Cinnamon, Honey
  9. Water, to get the consistency you prefer
If you don't want to read rest of the boring interesting commentary, then here's your skipping-to-the-best-part...
Quick Recipe: Grind them (0-5) all together, sprinkle freshly ground pepper and top it off with a mint leaf!

If you have time, patience and zest to endure my boring (but not totally useless) commentary, then here you go...
The key idea here is gathering the ingredients, once you have them, it is just a matter of putting them in the mixer and making a smoothie out of it, there's not too much more to it.  But if there's one thing I want to point out is, do not skip on the
slice of a whole-lemon, the lemon's grind (thick outer skin) is what gives this smoothie its unique deep flavor.  If you don't have one handy, DO NOT expect spectacular results when you substitute it for that lowly chemical-laden lemon juice from your fridge.  I recommend running out to the nearest grocery store, instead and picking one up (note that running will also up your appetite for a healthful drink!).  My 3-handfuls of spinach measurement is approximate, keep adding till you get nice vibrant green color.

The trick is to grind all of these properly, putting Spinach in first will make the mixer's motor run on near-zero-load with leaves sitting there almost undisturbed!  Don't curse me when this happens, because it means you haven't read the full post ;-) Luckily for you, you will almost instantly start getting the burning smell, so you'll know something's amiss!  (Note that I have a very cheap 4 year old mixer, so I have to be creative how I grind things in it; chances are you might have better luck with yours, or coincidentally, have a cheapo one like mine!).  Always put juicy fruits first, the juice helps form the base of the smoothie, a thick paste.

Once ready, top it off with freshly ground pepper and a flavorful mint leaf!  That all there is to it!

You can experiment the base recipe in many many ways, the above is a good reference of what all goes into this smoothie, a good starting point, be creative with what you can add.  Like avocado, papaya and black-pepper are my own personal touch to this recipe.
If you want to keep this healthy, then there are a few things I strongly recommend against adding.  Also, unless you want your smoothie to taste like a slush, I recommend keeping ice out too.
Things to keep out of your smoothie: sugar (NO NO NO additional sugar or sweetener is needed, for christ's sake banana and pineapple bring enough sugar already), milk (doesn't go well with citrus fruits), Strawberries (will conflict with pineapple and citrus flavor).

If you have all the ingredients ready(*), it doesn't take more than a minute to whip a glassful of this smoothie, including cleaning time.  Use fresh ingredients, especially spinach leaves, frozen spinach will not get you anywhere close to what fresh ones can achieve.  I'm willing to bet it will not even taste like a smoothie.  I generally chop the fruits over the weekend and keep them in the refrigerator, that way I don't have to spend too much time gathering all the ingredients whenever I want to make a glassful. Chopping pineapple, especially, is a bit time consuming a task best reserved for weekend.
More Tips:
  1. Bananas
  2. Another trick I have picked up for making great smoothies over the period is using frozen bananas. I have had to throw away a lot many bananas for not eating them before they went black and rancid. So now I just peel all the bananas, put them in a nice ziplock bag and put them in deep freezer! They will stay there for at least a month, but I consume them within a week's time. This also means you will never have to use ice in your smoothie again!
  3. Leftovers
  4. Make sure you don't make too much, this tastes best when made fresh. But if you have leftover, then just put the smoothie in a nice air-tight mason jar, it will last for 3 or so days in the fridge.  Spinach is rich in iron, so naturally it will turn a tad dark, don't be scared, it will still be good for consumption.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

I have been hacked!

Have you ever had a feeling that your brain is being hacked into while you are asleep? And by hack I mean programatically, of course, not physically. That's the feeling dream I had early morning today... while I lay half awake I had an unsettling dream that my brain was hacked into and someone was having fun while rummaging through it.  I bet I squirmed a bit, who wouldn't!
Was it not enough that I have, more than once, had recursive dreams, now somebody has to hack into my brain?  I lay perfectly still struggling with my part asleep-part awake-part confused state of mind without perturbing anything just so that I can understand what's happening, or lack hereof! Early morning brain hacks would so very well explain the slow mornings I have had! Stupid me, anything that will convince me I need to spend an extra 5 minutes in the bed :)
My mind then wanders off (hacker seems to have gone by now ~~~phew~~~) first worried about what has been deleted from my brain, not that you can backup a brain (funny, you can hack into one, copy it contents, delete some, but not back it up, attaboy!).  But as it goes, one never knows what has been deleted until the one actually needs it.  And then I get concerned about what inner thoughts the hacker might have tapped into.
I lay there contemplating (ohh.... in reality, here comes another 10 minutes of sweet sleep!), so I lay there contemplating, what would it mean in reality to hack into someone's psyche programatically, if and when it could be done, without the subject knowing it.  That's when I realized it was just a dream (but nothing is ever JUST a dream, never, is it!).  And no, I'm not talking about the stupid movie Inception and again no, neither did I see it before going to bed nor do I intend to see it in foreseeable future, I didn't even think of thinking of seeing it in foreseeable future.
It has been longest break on blog so far, somewhere around 8+ months ~~~sigh~~~ A few people asked me lately why have I stopped writing and I assured them that I haven't stopped writing I just have stopped blogging them for a short while (a popular euphemism for: am being a lazy bum!).  So this useless bizarre dream of today's seemed like a perfect post to resume blogging with, or a good attempt at the very least.
As to life...
It pains me to see that I haven't been making full use of the Sun that's blessing us Seattle'ites (residents of Seattle, not satellites!) with longer days.  Hope to get back on the saddle before winter kicks in and days start getting shorter where it gets dark by 4pm and it starts feeling day ended even before it started.

Coming up next: How to make a quick very healthy smoothie in under a minute! 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Amazing Trip To Alaska

Latest copy is always available at: Detailed Itinerary of Alaska Trip.
And Some Photos here.
It was less than a year ago that I had been on a cruise to Alaska with my family which still stands out as THE BEST family trip we all have ever had.  So much so that my mommy pledged that every family trip has to be Cruise to Alaska :)
So when we decided to take a trip, the expectation that we would love it there in Alaska, even without a cruise, was only natural.  We didn't have much time to plan and parts of Alaska you get to see at ports while taking a cruise ship are quite different than what you can/should see on a air/land trip.
So there was only one big problem ahead of us: Planning

Alaska is huge, incredibly beautiful and every place is worth visiting.  Which means we'll need well over few months if we want to do-it-all.  Not an option, at least not yet.  We had less than a week's worth of vacation to use for this trip, so there were compromises that we were going to make in terms of how much ground to cover without killing or overwhelming ourselves.  So we both started reading tons of websites, printed material, etc. almost to no end.
There weren't any reference itineraries we could build upon, as in nothing from reliable sources known to us.  But AAA's travel planning guide (which btw is excellent!) came to the rescue.  The attendant at the counter who handed me the book gladly told me what are a few "must see"'s.   That was a good starting point.  And so began our, more or less haphazard planning.

So after our successful trip, I thought of writing up my thoughts in the hope that it fills that gap for someone in my position: a first-hand reference itinerary to build and improve upon.  Besides, after coming back from the trip quite a few people asked me to share my itinerary.  So here it is... tips, tricks, hotel reviews, things to do, places to visit, clothes to wear and more.  Whether you follow it to the word, improve it, or experiment with it, feel free to share your thoughts so that I can keep this relevant. 
Alyeska Resort

Rescued Bald Eagle

  • Day 0: Anchorage, landed early AM, so had the whole day to explore Anchorage

    • Visit Alyeska Resort (in Girdwood): Tram ride, lunch at top of the resort
      • Info about resort link
      • Unless you want to stay in the hotel (at the base), no need for reservation in advance
      • There's lot of area to walk on around the resort at the top which is free of ice, you might get some nice scenic shots from here
      • Single tram ticket gives you multiple rides up and down, we did only once though due to time constraint
    • Portage Glacier
      • Drive to the Begich Boggs Visitor Center, link
      • About 45 mins drive form Anchorage downtown
      • You get a good view of the lake and a glimpse of Portage Glacier
      • Folks at the visitor center are good about providing information on what you can do around
      • You can choose to go on cruise form here (Whittier, I guess), but hold on until later, you might have seen enough glaciers later in the trip, esp. if you are visiting Kenai Fjords, which is a MUST.
    • Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
      • Very Close to Begich Boggs Visitor Center, < 10mi
      • Opportunity to view Alaskan wildlife up close, link
      • Bears, Bisons, Eagle, Moose, Caribou, Deer, Lynx, Porcupine
    • Lake Hood Seaplane Base
      • It is the busiest seaplane base in the world
      • We just drove around the lake admiring the beauty and getting of at a spot or two
    • Stay at Extended Stay, not recommended
      • Extended Stay, not a bad hotel, but a little far from airport. You can find better ones, Inlet Tower is a much better choice (see Day 5)
      • You will have to rent a car for this day to cover all of this
    • Clothing: Layered Warm, pretty chilly at a few places
    Days are pretty long, you will have sunlight upto 11pm to 1am in the night, depending on how up North you are.

    Train ride to Denali Princess Lodge

  • Day 1 & Day 2: Denali National Forest

    • Alaska Train Tour: Not only is this scenic, but immensely informative
      • You can choose from multiple source-destination city combinations and also multiple nights option, Princess Lodges is what we had choosen
      • Find the one that fits your needs. We spent just a night there, I recommend spending two nights, so you can do more, esp. the tour to innards of the Denali National Forest
    • We did the Princess Lodge Jet Boat Safari
      • 3 hrs excursion in jet boat for a fun-filled ride on the Nenana River, more info here
      • We spotted a Moose crossing the river, Beavers and saw a few beaver dams upclose
      • After the ride, learn to pan for gold and keep your findings and feed the reindeer
      • This was much better than we expected it to be
    • More TODO
    • We would have loved to do one of these, which would require more time than we had
      • Denali Park Tundra Wilderness Tour
      • Probably the only tour that goes deepest into Denali Forest, 53mi. Private vehicles are not allowed beyond 13mi or so the park.
        More info about this tour here
      • Bus Natural History Tour
      • Slightly smaller tour, compared to above, but is good enough and recommended by our tour guide.
        More info about the tour here
    • Stayed at Denali Princess Lodge (first night), Highly Recommended
      • Nice lodge by the edge of Nenana River and lot of nice views
      • Our lodge reservation was part of the whole train ride package
      • Food at the lodge and on train is NOT included in the package
    • Train ride back to Anchorage
      • The train compartments (both, to and fro) are really nice, two storied, with glass top. One level for general sitting and one level for dining. There are also open areas on compartments from where you can see (and feel) the nature :)
    • Scenic drive to Seward
      • Ride along the Cook Inlet and Turnagain Arm (link) was really awesome. Super windy. There's a Beluga point where Beluga Whales are often spotted. We couldn't spot one. But we did spot a bear in the wild, trying to find food on snow covered mountain slope. Even if it is late in the evening, you can enjoy the beauty as the sun is still shinning!
    • Stayed at Breeze Inn, Seward (second night).
    • Mixed feeling about the hotel
    • For the price we paid hotel itself wasn't that good. But it is right in the downtown and super close (literally a hop away!) from the Seward Port. Booking the hotels early might give you option of better hotels.
    • Clothing: Layered Warm, pretty chilly at few places
    Bear Glacier

    Orca and her Calf

    Calving: Huge chunk of ice falling off a glacier
    Sea Lions

    Matrix Bullet-Time with Harbor Seal :)

    Jelly Fish

  • Day 3: Seward, Cruise to Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park

  • Most cruises will start early in the morning, around 8am, so it is good to drive to Seward the night before to avoid traffic delays. Anchorage-Seward is 2.5hrs - 3hrs drive.
    • Day long Cruise to Northwestern Glacier, 9-10 hrs, starting at 8am
    • One of the MOST important excursions is a cruise that takes you up close to the glacier. The ship captain will narrate all the information relevant about glaciers, wildlife, marine life, sea, etc. Very well organized.
    • We took the Northwestern Glacier in Kenai Fjords cruise, check this out.
    • Food is served on board, but if you are a vegetarian, I recommend you get your stuff to eat.
    • But don't stuff yourself, the ride up through Gulf of Alaska is quite bumpy
    • We saw Humpback Whales, Porpoises, Orcas, Sea Otters, Stellar Sealions and lots of birds.
    • But the MOST breathtaking view was that of the glacier standing hundreds feet wide and tall, a stone's throw away, where you see icebergs calving out at the lip of the glacier.
    • More Cruises
      • There are a few other day-long cruises to choose from, but not all will visit the glacier, so choose carefully, link
    • Alaska Sealife Center
      • Very close to the Seward port where you take the cruise from, totally worth visiting. Just takes about an hour or so to take the tour of the whole center, don't miss it
      • Sometimes they are open through late evenings, so better to check it off your list the same day you do the cruise. It is not so tiring, check info here
    • Clothing: Dress in really warm layers, inner thermals are highly recommended, it gets very cold out in the sea
    Drive to Seward: Cook Inlet and Turnagain Arm

  • Day 4: Seward: Downtown and Huskies

    • Meet the Huskies
      • Take a ride on sled pulled by huskies, take a tour of their kennel and most fun part, play with the little husky puppies!
      • You can choose to skip the sled ride (because it is NOT on the snow) and just take the tour of the kennel, meet some dogs (there are about about a 100!) and meet the puppies.
    • Exit Glacier
      • Short of landing on one, this is as close as you can get to a mammoth glacier. Take a short 1mile hike up to the Edge of Exit Glacier. The rangers have free hour-long guided tours, I suggest take that. It is better than walking clueless about surroundings. You can check if there are any ranger guided walks, here on the NPS website
    • More TODO
      • Harding Icefield Trail
      • If prepared, gear-wise (and fitness wise!), we would have loved to do this. This strenuous 8+mi hike with about 1000ft elevation gain per mile offers most spectacular view of the glacier. Takes anywhere between 6 to 8 hrs to complete. Trail info here.
    • Stayed at Inlet Tower, Anchorage.
    • Nice hotel, close to airport and in the downtown.
    • Drive in the evening back to Anchorage, and stay at Inlet Tower
    • Clothing: Not too warm, we had nice warm sunny weather, check weather beforehand
    The Exit Glacier

    Exit Glacier

    Exit Glacier

  • Day 5: Anchorage Tour

    • Earthquake Park
      • Park explaining the wrath of 1964 earthquake that changed Alaska forever
      • Do the 5mi loop that offers more opportunity to explore the park, we couldn't due to timing constraint
    • Decision Time!!!
    • Time to decide... if you choose not to stay back in Alaska, you have to fly back home!
    • Clothing: Light, can get very hot on a sunny day 

  • More Information & Tips:
    • Hotel Shuttles
      • Most hotels have shuttle service to-from airport. They will even pick up and drop you around important points, like railway station. So don't be shy to ask them whether they have one you can ride on.

  • Bookings

    • Of all the things, you need advance booking for the train ride to Denali National Park and the one day cruise to Kenai Fjord. Or at the least I recommend that you do it, so that you have important activities covered. Also felt that the hotels in Seward were out of rooms pretty fast, so good to take a lead on booking them sooner than later. Rest you can manage on the fly. If you take train ride, you will have a rep walk around and offer to book you on some excursions for Denali National Forest. If you don't have time to research in advance, they also give an informative pamphlet you can look through and quiz them about the tour, they generally are quite knowledgeable. Used and for all flight and hotel bookings. Costco Travel for car rentals.

  • Camera

    • On the cruise, get a raincoat for your cam if you can. This is important if you have an expensive camera or are carrying a DSLR or are just not sure if your cam fares well in light drizzle of water. I personally didn't take one, but would have if I knew it in advance. I saw a few people have plain plastic like covers slapped on their cams, I guess you should get those for pretty cheap. Goes without saying, have a raincoat on yourself too :) But come what may, DO NOT forget to get camera on cruise (with batteries well charged and ample space on memory card). If you have a DSLR, choose a fast lens, helpful for continuous shooting. Don't be afraid to carry a change of lens, I shot with 50mm f/1.8 (landscapes) and 70-200 IS f/4 with 1.4x extender (wildlife) Come to think of it, it won't be that bad an idea to rent a telephoto lens or an extender for your trip. Don't have info on lens rental in Alaska, but know a few places here in Seattle.

  • Mosquito Repellent

    • On open marshlands or wetlands you come face-to-face (quite literally!) with a lot of mosquitoes, and flies, so be prepared with some arsenal to combat them, repellent would work best.

  • Transportation

    • If you want to go places, you will need your own transportation. Other than at Denali National Forest, it is recommended you have your means of transportation most other days, that way you can cover more of Alaska.

    The version on my website is going to be most up-to-date, so head there if you want the latest information.  And More Photos here.