My Background

This is not an autobiography, but I wanted to give you an idea of where I'm coming from and why I'm doing these Web pages. There are 4 topics I want to cover to explain this: my computer background, my interests in travel and photography, my efforts to keep my kids amused, and family camping. Excuse the length, but hey, these are my Web pages. I can do what I want. 2 MB's is a lot of text.

I've always been interested in computers. I started with a home-made S100 system, upgraded it to a TRS80-compatible, built an Apple II from surplus parts, then got a real IBM PC. I've been PC-compatible ever since, moving up gradually to a '286, '386, and finally a Pentium 120 system. I've been online since the early PC days, logging onto various bulletin boards.

I got into Prodigy (Classic) when it was a newborn online service. I was using a CGA card in monochrome mode and a 1200 baud modem, so it was pretty primitive and frustratingly slow, but it was great to be online and have real graphics. I liked the online features, such as the news, the encyclopedia, Nova, National Geographic, and the stock quotes. What I found myself using the most, however, was the bulletin boards, particularly the California section of the travel bulletin board.

At first, I used the California travel bulletin board to look up ideas about places that I could take my family to, but I also found myself sharing advice and opinions of my own on where to go to. This was a vicarious way of enjoying these places. The problem, however, had to do with the way the bulletin boards worked. Notes posted there disappeared after a few days. I found that newcomers to the board kept asking the same questions after the answers had disappeared from the board. I was ttiring having to repeat the same information over and over. Luckily, I could upload saved copies of old notes, but I wished there was a way I could have my advice posted somewhere semi-permanently. With the personal Web pages on Prodigy Internet, I can do that now.

I know personal Web pages have been available on Prodigy for a long time, and I've been a little slow making my own, but the one thing that's prompted me to do so is that I now have a scanner, a Microtek ScanMaker E3. It's fantastic! I've been having a great time scanning in my photographs and manipulating them. Now I can bring together 3 of my favorite pasttimes: computers, photography, and travel. The only problem is that now that my wife and kids have learned how to use computers, the only time I can get to my home system is after everyone else is asleep. I may have to buy another one.

Speaking of photography, it's another one of my hobbies. I've been interested in photography ever since I was a kid. My first camera was a Kodak Brownie roll camera. When I got older, I used my dad's Rolleiflex, Nikon rangefinder, and Minolta SLR. I took photography classes in high school and set up a black-and-white darkroom in my bedroom. I bought an enlarger and learned how to manipulate prints by cropping, dodging, and burning in. It was fun, but it was a very time-consuming process to get a small number of prints. Also, I found black and white to be too limiting a medium. I started taking more color slides and prints. Color processing at that time was way too complicated and expensive, so I never got into it. I sent my film out to be developed, but I was often disappointed in the results. Now that I have a scanner and photo manipulation software, I can make up for processing deficiencies.

When I was in college, I spent a summer working for my uncle in Detroit, who was a professional photographer. I helped him take pictures for ads and catalogs for K-Mart and other stores and for the Ford Annual Report. I learned professional tricks and techniques. The most important rule I learned was that film is cheap; time is expensive. After I had children, I learned one more thing--memories are priceless. That's why I have thousands of pictures.

Before I had kids, I liked taking mostly artsy pictures and scenics and used my SLR a lot. However, after my kids were born, I started taking pictures of them, tons of pictures. After they learned to walk and run, I couldn't focus on them fast enough with the SLR. Plus, it was too heavy to lug around with all the baby things I had to carry. So, I started using point-and-shoot automatics, which were lighter, easier to use, and better for catching moving kids. Most of the pictures in these pages were taken with one of my cheap but tough $40 automatics. With impatient kids to deal with, I couldn't be like Ansel Adams and spend hours or days setting up a shot. I had to look and shoot quickly. So don't expect masterpieces of photographic art.

Now that my kids are older, they get annoyed when I take pictures of them (but want me to take more pictures of their friends), so lately, I've been taking more scenic pictures. Also, for health reasons, I've been doing a lot of hiking and biking lately, so now I take my little Vivitar automatic in my backpack with me wherever I go, to shoot the scenery and record where I've been. I hope to describe and show pictures of the hiking and biking trails I've been to. I can also prove to my doctor that I've been exercising.

As for travelling, when I was younger, I didn't like to travel. I guess it's because I got carsick a few times on long trips. I grew up in LA, which can be a pain to travel around in, since you have to travel miles and miles through traffic to get to places. I didn't enjoy travelling around in LA, though I did enjoy the destinations. However, I went to college in Santa Barbara, which is a great area to explore, either by car, by bike, or on foot. It's a lovely uncrowded city in a beautiful location, which makes for great photographs. It's one of my favorite places, so I made a whole section on it. Also when I was in college, I took a car trip across country along route 66 to Tennessee, Ohio, and Michigan, so I got to see a good part of the country outside of California. Anyway, I got the travel and exploring bug when I was in college, and took it with me when I moved to the Bay Area.

Once I got to the Bay Area, I got the travel bug really bad. The Bay Area is like one gigantic park with the cities squeezed in a narrow band around its center. I'll go more into this in a separate section. My wife and I spent a lot of time exploring the parks, backroads, and museums of the Bay Area when I first got up here.

After we had kids, we started looking for places to take them to keep them amused and provide educational experiences. We visited most of the playgrounds in our area. When they were very young, and the world was fresh and new to them, almost anything amused them. Taking them places allowed us to relive our childhood and appreciate how special simple things can be when seen through young eyes. When the kids were older, we went to museums and other educational places. In the process, we were educated ourselves. Now that the kids are teenagers and would rather not be around their parents, except when they need money or a ride, it's getting harder to go places and have fun with them. At their age, it's not so important where they go, as much as it is who they go with. Anywhere they go with their friends is fun. Anywhere they go with their parents is boring. Oh well, that's life. But by helping other people have fun with their kids, I can enjoy it vicariously. That's one reason why I'm doing these pages.

I also intend to discuss places to go family camping. I wasn't interested in camping when I was a kid. I was in the Cub Scouts, but never went on an overnight camping trip. The first time I went camping was on my cross-country trip in college. I slept under the stars in New Mexico and Memphis. After I started working, my friends at work invited my family and I on a yearly group camping trip and abalone hunt in the Mendocino area. We camped under the redwoods, ate fresh-caught abalone, and told jokes and stories around the campfire. When I joined my current department at work, we went on group campouts to different places, such as Big Sur and Point Reyes. Also, I took my family on camping trips to the Sierras and Gold Country. We're into roughing it, but not too rough. We like to go where they have clean restrooms and hot showers. We tend to carry a lot of camping and cooking gear, so we mostly go to car-accessible campgrounds. We like to try different places, so I'm constantly on the lookout for new places to go camping. I can offer opinions on the places I've been to. I have several camping books, so I can provide information about other places.

I hope the information provided on these pages proves useful. If you have any questions or suggestions, you can E-mail me. See my home page.

2005 Update:
I did this page originally in 1997. A lot has changed since then. My son graduated from UCLA. My daughter is in UCSB. My fastest computer is a home-made Athlon XP2600 system. I'm using DSL and an Ethernet LAN. I haven't taken hardly any film pictures in years. I've graduated to pure digital photography. I started out with an El Cheapo 1 megapixel fixed lens digital, which took crummy pictures, but got me hooked on digital. I later got a 1.3 megapixel Fuji Finepix with 3X optical zoom. It took incredible pictures, better than I could get on film. It made making Web pages much easier and quicker. Unfortunately, it was not as durable as my film cameras. After dropping it a few times, it eventually died. I replaced it with a Toshiba 3.2 megapixel 3X zoom, which took even better pictures, though it was a bit flakey at times, acting like it was running under Windows. Now I have a Konica-Minolta G500 5 megapixel, which is light, compact, and takes great pictures, but those 5 MP files are so big, I almost never use that resolution. You can see the difference between scanned prints and direct digital by comparing the pictures on the old "Best Places to Take School-Age Children" with the more recently updated "Places to Take Young Children" page, which is mostly (but not entirely) digital. I still use a scanner, but I gave the old Microtek to Goodwill. I have an Epson 1650 3200X1600 DPI scanner now, which allows me to scan slides and negatives as well as photos. This is not to say that digital always gives better pictures than film. My SLR with professional color slide film could probably run circles around the digitals in terms of picture quality, but it's much more expensive, inconvenient, and overkill for Web pages.

Sorry if these Prodigy Web pages are getting a little old. Yes, I know the links are stale. I don't have time to keep them updated. I've been concentrating my time on other things. I'm the secretary and Webmaster for the Friends of Santa Teresa Park, and a volunteer photographer for the Santa Clara County Parks, so I've been doing a lot of work for the parks. I have a separate Websites on parks. I've also been doing Web pages for the Bay Trail project. More recently, I've been getting involved in geocaching. I have geocaches in several of the local parks.

Ron in San Jose

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Ron Horii, San Jose
Created 10/6/97. Last update: 11/15/97, 9/1/05