You know it's going to be a long day when you're awakened two hours early by guys shoveling gravel out of the back of a truck by your house, followed by the discovery of a large puddle of water on your basement floor from the previous night's heavy rain, followed by an e-mail from Norton announcing a $55 subscription autorenewal for a program you don't even have installed anymore. I still maintain my ire at Norton (it's not "customer convenience" if I don't want the renewal, guys . . .), but at least we got a bit of rain.
I present my second attempt at a planet. The bridge was not a good shooting location (not only did it move every time someone walked across it, but the railings were so close that their angles changed drastically when I rotated the camera, creating that broken hacksaw pattern), but it was the only place I could find that was far enough away from trees and buildings to get a clear wide-angle shot of everything in sight. I'm kind of tickled that the planet has its own moon and sunset, though.
As promised, the second batch of photos taken on Sunday. These were taken at Prospect Hills cemetery (the nearest "photogenic" cemetery to my house). Some of the pictures turned out well (nine out of 50, which is a pretty good ratio), although this one made me very unhappy (I spent 15 minutes looking for that statue before I realized I'd walked by the remains of it twice).
The "planet" is a new technique I learned, involving a rather large 360-degree panoramic image (something like 30 wide-angle vertical photos stitched together) that is then run through Photoshop's polar coordinates filter. My computer was not happy about working with a photo that size, but the results are eye-catching.
It occurs to me now that I never mentioned my acquisition of the camera that took all of these. After a few months of consideration I took a deep breath and plunged into the world of dSLRs (for the non-photographers among us, those are characterized by two main traits: they have detachable lenses, and when you include multiple lenses and other accessories they're several times more expensive than a point-and-shoot; we're talking individual lenses that cost twice what my old camera did). I bought a Canon Rebel XTi about two weeks ago (along with another $500 of lenses, filters, tripods, carrying bags and remote controls). Amazon loved me that day. I bought a bag big enough to carry both the new and old cameras, because there are some situations the new camera doesn't do as well (most notably, dSLRs won't do video at all and they're not very good at infrared photography; the infrared photos I posted a few days ago were taken on the old camera). The only glitch so far has been the external battery grip, which broke three days after I started using it.
I bought some books to help me with the learning curve (which I've read is commonly somewhere around 3 months and 3,000 pictures); I now have a rough understanding of apertures, f-stops, focal lengths and shutter speeds, but I still need a lot of practice to understand how they all work together at the same time (I junked my entire first batch of 80 pictures and only kept four of the next 60). Hopefully by September I'll be happy with my photos (or a sizable minority of them, anyway).
The office move is progressing in tolerable fashion, festooned with only the occasional glitches (on my shifts, anyway). What was projected to be about 24 hours a weekend has distilled into a measly 4 (way to overcalculate, people), so the overtime pay won't be what I was expecting, but it's also far less stress. My "second shift" has already set up shop in the new building, and my "primary shift" moves tomorrow, so by Wednesday I should be permanently in my original (yet more grandiose) office building.
Jamie and I saw "A . . . My Name Is Alice" on Saturday. Fantastic show. I chastise all of you for not attending (except Cris and Mark, who attended on a different night). My favorite skit involved a secretary projecting her romance novels on her real life; Jamie favored one involving a strip club. I will refrain from psychoanalysis on those choices. Cris was at least mildly concerned about how aggressive the play might be (it being loosely affiliated with the Vagina Monologues). Having seen the Vagina Monologues (twice), I can say without hesitation they weren't comparable (or perhaps comparable in the way apples and pineapples are both fruits); it wasn't really a "for women" show as it was an "about women" show. Granted I wasn't really uncomfortable at the Vagina Monologues, either, so I may not be unbiased. In any case, it was, as noted above, fantastic.
We stuck around for a bit afterward to chat with the numerous members of the crew Jamie knew from her own theater experience (including the musical director who played the piano onstage in a wig to fit in with the "women" theme). Jamie knows a lot of theater people . . .
I spent Sunday in photography mode (to the extent permitted by 90-degree temperatures). The infrared photos appeared in my blog yesterday; the cemetery photos will likely show up tomorrow.
I also epoxied the lid onto that bird feeder (which means I have to take it apart to refill it, which is a pain); I noticed the squirrel perched below it today, but I haven't seen him actually try to open it yet.
I played around with an infrared filter downtown today. I still don't quite have it figured out (they're fuzzy and I had to monkey with them in Photoshop to get them to look right), but I think I know where I'm making the mistakes ([insert rambling commentary on custom white balance and small apertures here]).
For the curious, an infrared photography filter blocks most of the visible light spectrum but allows near infrared (not heat, which is far infrared; no Predator-esque photography for me) light through. Near infrared reflects off objects slightly differently than visible light (for example, the chlorophyll in plants shows up as white instead of green).
I'm not understanding jazz. I've given it an honest listening, really. I just don't get it. Maybe it's a sign of my deep-seated need for structure.
My office began its inexorable advance back to its old digs over the weekend (the first of three). I volunteered for shifts on all three, although I was put on "special assignment" this weekend rather than supervising the move with the other volunteers (I spent a few hours photographing all of the offices in our current building and printing them to hang in the empty offices in the destination building in hopes of avoiding the confusion the moving crew faced in reassembling the furniture this weekend). Two more weekends to go.
I was amused by the audacity of some of the movers; apparently a minimum-wage job and boxers above baggy pants are not impediments to hitting on, well, anything cute and female. I'm unfamiliar with that level of machismo; is the shotgun approach of flirting with everyone really the reason most people find more relationships than I do? Women, do you really find that flattering? I've always found such behavior irrational and uncomfortable, but then again the things *I* think potential dates would like have obviously not panned out.
Lane and I saw the latest "Harry Potter" yesterday. I thought it was okay, if not as memorable as the others (it lacked some of the visual impact, or perhaps I'm oversaturated with well-done CGI). Lane was disappointed in some of the shortcuts they took to fit it into the allotted time, a common malady among hardcore fans of books-turned-movies. She also dismisses my theory that Harry goes back in time and becomes Voldemort in the last book . . .
I saw a teenager walking down the street today with what I thought was a chunk of yellow fiberglass insulation taped to the side of his head. As he walked by I realized it was his hair. He'd grown it to his shoulder on the left side and cut it short on the back and right sides, and then he'd dyed just the long part a fluorescent yellow (not even bleached blond, but actually colored highlighter yellow), which contrasted with the rest of his light brown hair. I realize I'm too old to be in the "hip" crowd, but come on, that's not even "making a statement." That's just "attention whore" (help me out here, kids; can you apply that slang term to a guy?).
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Thursday, July 12
The Power of Storytelling
I listened to a very sad but poignant NPR interview with an 84-year-old survivor of Japan's WWII "comfort women" program, along with an article on Japan's continued refusal to acknowledge it happened. I recommend listening to it, but keep in mind it's not uplifting.
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Sunday, July 8
Highs and Lows
Lane and I saw Transformers today, which, I'm happy to say for the sake of my childhood memories, was good (although John Turturro's character was annoying as hell, and it amuses me that this is the current primary picture for the movie on IMDB). I have a box of Transformers somewhere in my basement, kept carefully from the 80s, so I have some passing familiarity with the concept, if not quite the same vested interest as die hard fans; thus, I got most of the inside jokes inserted in the movie that the majority of the audience missed, and I was also happy to hear (not see, mind you) that they hired the guy who did the voice of the leader of the good Transformers in the 80s cartoon to do the voice of the same character in this movie (it's a *very* distinctive voice, and for fans it feels familiar). The ending, of course, set up a sequel, and I imagine it did well enough to warrant one. Lane enjoyed it as well, although she rolled her eyes nearly hard enough to fall over when I pointed out the poster for the fetid stain upon entertainment that is the upcoming Bratz movie.
The twins are developing language at a rapid rate. Kyle in particular is now regularly stringing words together into short-but-complete sentences. "I'm so tall!" when riding on my shoulders, "I'll be okay!" after a choking on a mouthful of pool water, "I say more!" when she wants me to swing her around in the air again, "Where did Alec go?" and, my personal favorite, "Come on, Jay. Let's go swing!" Alec is almost constantly pointing at things and saying "What's that?" and then mimicking the response.
The twins have also shown a notable divergence in their manipulation tactics. Kyle has chosen the "brute force" route, employing crying, screaming and insistence to achieve her goals. Alec, on the other hand, in displays of almost eerie effectiveness for a two-year-old, has already adopted pouting and puppy-dog-eyes (and she's damn good at it). We're talking sighing, burying her head in your shoulder and just sitting there looking sad for *10 minutes* without even the hint of a smile. Of course she snaps right out of it when she gets what she wants, or a suitable alternative, but I fear Scott and Lisa are going to have their hands full.
The only other note of the weekend concerns an interesting discovery at my homestead. I suppose I was bound to be subject to the random act of theft eventually (I've lived here 8 years, after all, and it's pretty much impossible to completely burglar-proof everything). I realize I'm supposed to feel victimized and outraged by the personal intrusion. I find myself oddly amused and confounded instead, though, as the stolen property in question wasn't my new $100 fire pit or $50 patio chairs or $25 copper torches. No, it was a set of cheap, black plastic solar-powered sidewalk lights I bought for $20 two years ago from Wal-Mart (lights that have seen far better days). Which were right next to the copper torches (two of the lights were within two feet of the torches). And it wasn't all eight lights, but rather 5-1/2 (they left the base of one and two other complete ones). It seems like the oddest thing to steal, unless you're specifically out looking for a set of sidewalk lights (and even then, there are *much* nicer lights along my block). I suppose if you're going to be robbed, that's the best way to do it . . .
I could have posted these on individual days, but instead you get a hodgepodge of pictures from the Summer Arts Festival, Shakespeare on the Green and the Fourth of July, along with some fortune cookie fortunes I used to start a new Flickr group. Enjoy.