Skip to content
September 16, 2017 / Jim Fenton

Colorado Road Trip Day 9: Concert

Saturday, August 26, 2017

It’s kind of nice waking up in your own bed in the middle of your vacation. I had been missing my exercise classes at the Y, so I went and experienced a crowded Saturday morning class. Other than that, the day was mostly spent reorganizing our things for the second half of our trip, doing laundry, and taking care of a little paperwork at home.

ConcertAs I mentioned yesterday, long ago we bought four tickets for a OneRepublic concert this evening. If Celeste had still been home, she would have taken a friend, but instead we invited our friends Tim and Linda to join us. We parked a mile or so away, had a nice Italian dinner beforehand, and walked to Shoreline Amphitheatre. We arrived toward the end of the first warm-up act (James Arthur); the second warm-up, Fitz and the Tantrums, is one of our favorites. It was a fun concert, and overall a nice evening with friends.

This article is part of a series about our recent road trip to Colorado and back. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

September 15, 2017 / Jim Fenton

Colorado Road Trip Day 8: Intermission

Friday, August 25, 2017


Pearl Street Mall

Celeste was free until 9:00 today, so Kenna and I took her to breakfast nearby and got to hear stories about the previous day’s activities. Summary: it went well; she was also able to meet up with Rebecca, a classmate from high school, and some of her new friends/roommates.

Celeste had orientation meetings starting at 9:30, so we dropped her off at the dorm and went off on our own. One of our first stops was at McGuckin’s, a truly remarkable hardware store. We were told by one of the many very helpful clerks that it’s about 60,000 square feet in size.

We spent much of the day at the Pearl Street Mall, shopping but not buying much. We also picked up a local campus newspaper, and were amused by an ad for McGuckin’s describing it as “your local zombie survival superstore.”

Long before Celeste had chosen a school to attend, we bought tickets to a concert near home (OneRepublic and Fitz and the Tantrums). We bought four tickets, thinking that if Celeste hadn’t left for school she could invite a friend or if she had, we would invite another couple. We decided that we still wanted to attend the concert, so late in the day we parked the car at Denver International Airport and flew back home. In addition to the concert we’ll get a couple of nights in our own bed, do some laundry, and pick up Celeste’s guitar and anything else from home she needs.

DIAIt was a little strange parking our car at an airport 1000 miles from home, but other than that everything went smoothly. We had plenty of time before our 8:10 flight to SFO, so we found a comfortable seating area before security, then flew through security (TSA pre-check really wins) before having dinner on the other side.

We finally had a chance to ride the AirTrain at SFO out to the rental car center, something that we don’t normally experience. It’s quite a nice system, just like the train to the terminals at Denver. Too bad it doesn’t continue out to the long-term parking garage!

This article is part of a series about our recent road trip to Colorado and back. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

September 14, 2017 / Jim Fenton

Colorado Road Trip Day 7: Move-in

Thursday, August 24, 2017

CelesteStuffToday is the climax of the first part of our trip: Celeste’s move-in at University of Colorado Boulder. The move-in process at CU is very well organized. Each student is issued a parking pass with a designated drop-off area color and time window for arrival. We arrived right at 9:00 when our window began and were directed to a drop-off line while Celeste went to pick up her student ID. After a short time we were directed to a parking place and assigned a volunteer who helped load Celeste’s stuff from the car and car-top carrier into two large roll-away bins. Kenna then re-parked the car while we waited for the elevator to Celeste’s floor in the dormitory. With 12 floors and only two elevators, this was a bit of a wait but unavoidable.

Arriving at Celeste’s apartment, we were greeted by a note on the door from Celeste’s roommates welcoming her and explaining that they were out. We quickly unloaded Celeste’s stuff from the bins and thanked our volunteer, and set to the task of getting her stuff unpacked and at least preliminarily placed.


View from Celeste’s apartment

We had expected that Celeste would need some drawers for her closet but didn’t have any measurements, so we grabbed lunch together and then went over to Bed Bath and Beyond for some that would fit. Another realization is that Celeste’s bed is rather high and Celeste isn’t, so we picked up a folding step stool for her.

After returning with those items, Celeste needed to be at an all-floor meeting for her dorm as well as several evening events so Kenna and I departed. Celeste’s college life has begun.

Dinner with Susie, Ken, and family was take-out food from an excellent Indian restaurant in town. Kenna and I resolved to eat more Indian food when we get back home.

This article is part of a series about our recent road trip to Colorado and back. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

September 13, 2017 / Jim Fenton

Colorado Road Trip Day 6: Boulder

Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Trip Odometer:1554


Chautauqua Auditorium and Green Mountain, Boulder

Today is mostly a day to prepare for Celeste’s move-in tomorrow. So we parked near the campus and took a walk around it and some of the University Hill commercial district during the morning. We had a few things to pick up and expected that the local Target store would be very crowded, so we drove a few miles to another Target. There were still many CU students shopping there, but it was not excessively crowded.

We all (8 of us including Stan, Susie, Ken, and the kids) went out to dinner to observe Celeste’s last night before moving to CU. We ate at Next Door, a modern and very family-friendly restaurant on Pearl Street, Boulder’s primary commercial district. We had an excellent dinner in a semi-private alcove overlooking Pearl Street, where we could watch a few showers fall.

This article is part of a series about our recent road trip to Colorado and back. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

September 12, 2017 / Jim Fenton

Colorado Road Trip Day 5: Colorado

Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Trip Odometer: 1340

With a short ride today, we had a somewhat more leisurely start from Rawlins. The first part of the trip continued along I-80 to Laramie, from which we took US-267 to Fort Collins, Colorado, bypassing Wyoming’s capital, Cheyenne. Celeste noticed that immediately upon entering Colorado, the surroundings were quite a bit more scenic: pine trees, interesting rock formations, and the like. We are wondering if the trees were planted as a “welcome to Colorado” gesture to travelers.

As we had planned, we had lunch in Fort Collins at Austin’s, a downtown restaurant we had enjoyed on a previous visit. The temperature was perfect for their sidewalk seating area.

For most of the trip, the highway speeds have been too fast (70-80 mph) for Celeste, still an inexperienced driver, to share in the driving. But as we left Fort Collins, she took over and very appropriately did the “anchor” segment of the trip to Boulder.

We arrived about 4 pm at the home of Susie and Ken, my cousin’s daughter, son-in-law, and family. My cousin Stan was there to greet us. Susie and Ken and their kids Zach and Molly arrived about 5 from school on their bicycles.

Celeste had made arrangements to meet some of her new roommates in town, so the rest of us had a fine time getting caught up on things over excellent tacos prepared by our hosts.

This article is part of a series about our recent road trip to Colorado and back. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

September 11, 2017 / Jim Fenton

Colorado Road Trip Day 4: Eclipse

Monday, August 21, 2017
Trip Odometer: 1015

TotalEclipseToday is a relatively rare event: a total eclipse of the sun, stretching from coast to coast. The timing of Celeste’s move-in at University of Colorado made it possible for us to take a detour to central Wyoming to try to catch this.

Except that we didn’t stay in the path of totality, we prepared for the worst in crowds. We stopped at a grocery store last night to pick up sandwiches for a picnic lunch, expecting that the lunch offerings in the area of totality would be limited. We got up extra early, and departed a little after 7 am for the 2 1/2 hour drive (under normal conditions) to Pavillion, Wyoming, right on the centerline of totality.

There was more traffic than usual, but we were surprised and happy that there were no traffic delays on the way. We drove just past Pavillion to the centerline, which turned out to be about where the paved roads end. There had been warnings not to park on the grassland due to high fire danger (mufflers, etc. igniting the grass) so we found an elevated spot on the edge of one of the quieter dirt roads. We got there about 10:10 am, and totality was at about 11:40 am.


The time went by quickly as I set up my camera and Kenna and Celeste played Frisbee (very appropriately, with a Frisbee painted as the moon). As totality approached, we spent more and more time watching the Sun through our eclipse glasses. The Sun got dimmer and the air got noticeably cooler.


Then all of it sudden, it was twilight. We heard cheers from the other eclipse-watchers scattered nearby. I took a bunch of pictures, focusing on the spectacle of the Sun’s corona. Kenna and Celeste noticed that it looked like the sun had just set — everywhere! In all directions, there was light around the horizon. We took some panoramas of the horizon as well. Suddenly, it was over. The Sun got quickly brighter, and we re-donned our eclipse glasses. After a few minutes talking about what we had just seen, we enjoyed our picnic lunch.

A woman who lives nearby rode up with two small children on an all-terrain vehicle, and thanked us for coming all the way from California, and she hoped we were having a good time in her area. We asked her what we should see while we were there, and she suggested we see Sacajawea’s grave, which was just a few miles out of our way.

SacajaweaWe passed through the small community of Pavillion (population 232) on our way out. We drove past a park where there apparently had been an eclipse-watching party as well as by a small tavern. It was quite nice, especially considering that it is such an out-of-the-way place.

Our next stop was at Sacajawea’s grave, just outside the town of Fort Washakie. Sacajawea, the native guide for the Lewis and Clark Expedition, was nicely memorialized by a statue and plaques describing her important contribution to the Expedition. The graveyard was interesting too, with many colorful and well-decorated graves, primarily, I assume, of members of the Shoshone tribe of the Wind River Reservation.

LanderBakeShopWe started our return trip, and made good progress until we reached Lander, the county seat (and large town, with a population of about 5000). Traffic came to a dead stop, so we decided to wait it out at the Lander Bake Shop, a cafe we saw. While enjoying our drinks, we noticed that traffic was moving very little. Fortunately the shop had WiFi so we were able to look at traffic on Google Maps, and decided to stay a while. We walked around the town, visited a couple of art galleries (not what we expected in central Wyoming!) and returned for more coffee and an excellent ice cream sandwich, this afternoon’s ice cream treat.

At 5:00 the bakery closed, and we decided to press onward. We were optimistic because Google said that it would take a little under two hours to get to Rawlins, our stop for the night. But what we hadn’t considered was that much of the route has minimal to no cell service, so Google didn’t really know about the traffic along much of the route. While there were sections that got up to 70 mph, there were also long stretches that crept along at 15 mph or less. We arrived about 9:00, had a late dinner at the Burger King next to the hotel, and turned in for the night.

Overall, we had a great day in central Wyoming and were glad that we were able to be there for the total eclipse.

This article is part of a series about our recent road trip to Colorado and back. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

September 10, 2017 / Jim Fenton

Colorado Road Trip Day 3: Utah

Sunday, August 20, 2017
Trip Odometer: 685


Bonneville Salt Flats

After breakfast, we continued east on I-80. Our first stop was after only about 10 miles at the rest area adjacent to the Bonneville Salt Flats, where many land speed records have been set. We stopped there on an earlier trip (2006), but it’s striking to see the very white landscape, very much like snow.

After passing through the deserted western part of Utah, civilization returned. We stopped again at the Great Salt Lake state marina to have a look around and our morning snack. The snack was quickly cancelled because of the thousands of tiny bugs in the parking lot. They weren’t actually all that annoying but we didn’t want to let a bunch of them into the car. The marina was worth a look around, even with the $3 parking fee.

We then drove into downtown Salt Lake City, passing by the Mormon Temple and Tabernacle and then up to the State Capitol, high on a hill. There were an unusual number of motorcycles, which we found out were there for the annual Ride for Fallen Officers.


The Great Salt Lake

Continuing east on our winding climb out of SLC, we decided to stop at Park City for lunch. This took us a few miles off the road, but we loved breathing the mountain air and enjoyed our lunch at a local cafe.

After a few more miles of winding road, things straightened out somewhat and the speed limit again went up to 80.

Soon after crossing into Wyoming, we came to Evanston, Wyoming, where we thought we would find a good place for ice cream. We checked out a couple of possibilities, and one was closed (it’s Sunday) and another looked like it had gone out of business. We decided to stop by Wendy’s for their Frosty (sort of a cross between soft serve ice cream and a milkshake), and were pleased to see that they were on sale: a small Frosty was only 50 cents. They weren’t all that small, either. $1.58 for three Frosties (including tax) will undoubtedly be the most economical ice cream stop of the trip.

Continuing from Evanston, we passed through some picturesque rock formations to the way to our destination for the night, Rock Springs. It’s striking how much the scenery changes each day.

This article is part of a series about our recent road trip to Colorado and back. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

September 9, 2017 / Jim Fenton

Colorado Road Trip Day 2: Nevada

Saturday, August 19, 2017
Trip Odometer: 287

Outdoor climbing wall at the Whitney Peak Hotel

This is the day of the trip that we were least looking forward to: 400 miles across Nevada, with presumably little to see along the way.

Before checking out from the Whitney Peak Hotel, we decided to visit the second floor, where a notable rock climbing facility is located. Coming out of the elevator, we were there: many rock climbing walls that took up most of the second floor, except for a fitness center and small gift shop. Stepping onto the balcony, we got a better look at the outdoor rock climbing facility we saw in last night’s darkness: two large walls perhaps 50 feet tall, above which was a landing and two more narrow walls extending up several more floors. Climbing any of those would be an impressive achievement.

After checking out, we drove a short distance east to Sparks, and had breakfast at a Starbucks there. Then after filling up the tank we began our long drive. The first part of the drive, along the Truckee River, was quite scenic, much more so than I had expected (or remembered). Soon after leaving town, the speed limit increased to 80 mph and the surroundings changed to drier brush.

I-80 Scenery

Although the road seemed to be in excellent condition, a couple of road paving operations were underway that narrowed the road to a single lane and a speed limit of 55, which somewhat countered the benefit of the 80 mph sections. We stopped for lunch at a Subway in Winnemucca. We continued to Elko for our afternoon ice cream break (a tradition on some of our road trips), and then on through picturesque clouds and a few showers to Wendover, Utah, our stop for the night. Wendover is on the border between Nevada and Utah, with casinos on the Nevada side and considerably more staid surroundings on the Utah side. The Utah border is also the time zone boundary, causing us to “lose” an hour.

We took a short stroll back into Nevada, then returned to Utah for dinner at a nearby cafe.

This article is part of a series about our recent road trip to Colorado and back. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

September 8, 2017 / Jim Fenton

Colorado Road Trip Day 1: Departure

As I have done for the past several years, I kept a journal on our summer vacation for publication on this blog following our return. This year the publication of the journal is delayed by three weeks from real time, and I intend to post one installment every day or so over the next two weeks or so. The recurring characters in our story are myself (Jim), my wife Kenna, and our daughter Celeste, who is on her way to college.

Friday, August 18, 2017

While we have done considerable travel this summer, we thought the most interesting trip to blog about would be our road trip to Colorado. Celeste begins at University of Colorado Boulder at the end of August, and we thought we would drive her (and her stuff) out to begin her freshman year.

We managed to fit almost everything she needs into our Volvo XC60, with roof box attached. The packing itself was notable. For example, Celeste found some clothing bags that allowed her to vacuum pack her winter clothing, so they didn’t take up so much room. It didn’t make them any lighter, though!

Amazingly, we left almost exactly on plan: 10 AM today. Our first stop was Stockton, to visit and have lunch with Kenna’s folks (Celeste’s grandparents, of course). We left mid-afternoon; our plan was to go via a scenic route, especially since much of the trip will probably not be all that scenic. So we took Highway 88, which also seemed to be the fastest route to Lake Tahoe. We haven’t driven 88 many times, and it was a very pleasant change of scenery.

Descending to Lake Tahoe, we stopped at a Scottish pub, MacDuffs Pub, for an enjoyable dinner and some nice banter with people at the adjacent table. We stopped by the lake just after sunset, and continued to our destination for the night, Reno.

It had been quite a long time since any of us had been to Reno. Probably because it was a Friday night, the downtown area was bustling with cars and pedestrians. Our hotel, the Whitney Peak Hotel, was centrally located, a former Fitzgerald’s casino and hotel that had been extensively renovated and now contains a large event space in place of the casino. Tonight the space featured an event with an impressive amount of deep bass (perhaps dubstep), making walls shake in the lobby area. But our room was completely quiet.

Kenna and I took a little walk around, admiring the famous Reno arch (just outside) and their new river walk area, an example of another city celebrating rather than turning its back on its river. Although there was quite a bit of foot traffic when we arrived, it seemed to taper off substantially later in the evening (like about 10 pm), very much unlike Las Vegas.

August 1, 2017 / Jim Fenton

The gaping hole allowing email spoofing

Bogus email messageIn today’s news there was a report that Anthony Scaramucci, the outgoing White House communications director, got “punked” by an email he thought was from Reince Priebus, the former chief of staff and his apparent rival. The messages actually came from a account.

Although not nearly as consequential, This sort of thing is commonplace. I have gotten several messages claiming to come from Facebook and other social media contacts, but actually from impostors using their names. Presumably the impostors mined the names from social media.

The email industry bears some responsibility for making this possible. Despite the enormous effort put into development and deployment of email authentication and anti-phishing technologies such as SPF, DKIM, and DMARC, there is a gaping hole: it isn’t readily possible to distinguish a message from someone at their expected email address from a message posing as them from a different email address entirely.

Email clients used to routinely display the email address as well as the “friendly name” when they displayed a message. They used to typically display:

From: John Doe <>

That isn’t all that pretty, and in this case a little redundant. It also takes more precious space on mobile devices. So today many clients simply display:

From: John Doe

But suppose someone wanted to pose as Mr. Doe? They could very easily send a message with a From header field like this (of course, substituting with their own email domain):

From: John Doe <>

On many email clients, this will display exactly like an actual message from the real John Doe.

What could be done about it? Obviously, this is an area that warrants some real usability research and a lot of users will need to be trained. But here are a few possibilities:

  1. Verify the address against the user’s address book. If it doesn’t match, display the sender’s name in a distinctive way, e.g. in red, with a big X, etc. Obviously there would be issues with someone in the address book as John Doe sending a message as Johnny Doe, but that can be handled too.
  2. Do the same as #1 but do something like the blue checkmark on Twitter: display something distinctive saying the message came from an address you recognize. The problem here is that meaning of the checkmark would be different: not verified by some central authority, but by one’s own address book.
  3. Display the email address, either with or instead of the friendly name, if it doesn’t match.

There is some risk of just “kicking the problem down the road”, however. If this becomes really effective, address book attacks would become useful. Attackers would try to trick you into accept address book entries (typically .vcf files) from them, and these might enable them to more plausibly pose as a trusted (or at least known) contact.

No matter what we do, some users will ignore it, and we can’t fix that. But we can, and should, give users the tools to easily spot messages that they should treat with more suspicion.