April 22nd, 2013 · Comments Off
A question was posed on Reddit: How can I use my Southwest Airlines Frequent Flier miles to enjoy a modest but relaxing US-based vacation? I came up with this answer. All are cities that Southwest flies to:
Suggestion 1: Sanibel/Captiva
- Fly to Ft Meyers, Florida.
- Rent a car and drive to Sanibel/Captiva Island (about an hour drive)
- Rent a cottage for a week
- Visit the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge and see birds and wildlife
- Collect Shells
- Visit the shell museum
- Eat ice cream
- Rent bicycles and ride the bike path
2: Cape Cod
- fly to Providence (PVD)
- Rent a car and drive for about 1.5 hours
- Stay in Eastham, Cape Cod
- Fly kites
- Visit lighthouses
- Walk along the beach (probably too cold to swim in May)
- Day trip to Marthas Vineyard
- Eat ice cream (lots of fresh creameries)
- Rent bikes and ride on the magnificent rail trails
- Funky shopping in Provincetown
- Possible bonus: stop at Whaling Museum in New Bedford, which is on the way to Cape Cod
2a: Newport option
- Fly to PVD
- Newport is about an hour away
- Visit stunning mansions
- More of a shopping-and-spending-money destination, IMHO.
3: Acadia National Park:
- Fly to Portland, ME (PWM)
- Rent a car and drive for about 3 hours to Bar Harbor
- Stay in, or just visit, Bar Harbor, a quaint town
- Awesome bicycling trails
- Rent kayaks and paddle with a guide
- Gorgeous hiking; low, easy-to-moderate mountains with semi-alpine conditions
- Eat popovers at Jordan Pond House
April 17th, 2013 · Comments Off
I’ve been learning the German language for about five months, now. I need a place to put all the resources I’ve found, so here it is. Hopefully it will be useful for other German-learners.
- I’ve been told that Pons.eu is the best German-English dictionary online, because it’s not crowdsourced.
- Deutsche Welle has several courses, for young learners and grownups alike.
- My favorite DW podcast course is Deutsch, Warum Nicht. It comes complete with a text you can download.
- The AudioTrainer looks interesting, as well, although I have not tried it yet.
Online and Electronic Text References & Tutorials
Textbooks and books
- Textbooks: We are using “Neue Horizonte” by Dollenmeyer. I have to say, I cannot recommend it. It’s exorbitantly expensive and the grammar dwells a lot on college-student vocabulary, such as “student ID” and “student dormitory”, which I don’t find useful, as a post-college learner. If anyone has a good textbook to recommend, leave me a comment.
- Barrons German Grammar is a useful reference
- German childrens books in PDF format
App-based courses & drills:
- Anki: a flashcard program with many German decks
- Memrise online learning website with many German courses
- Duolingo: Free language-learning website and crowdsourced text translation platform. It was originally sponsored by a MacArthur fellowship and a National Science Foundation grant.
- Toms Deutschseite I haven’t tried this online course, but it was recommended on Reddit.
- Perfect German, Michael Thomas Method: This is one of those CD-based courses. It’s not cheap, and I haven’t tried it yet. I might try this after my course is finished, to brush up.
- See if there is a local college near you that has a German program. Maybe they have a weekly social hour for speaking German, often called a Kaffestunde
- There are a number of websites which will match up speaking partners, such as Language Exchange; I haven’t tried them.
There are lots of sources for German music, contemporary and old. You can find tubas and oom-pah music if you want, of course, but there’s a vibrant pop music scene in Germany. Here are a few sources:
- German radio stations streaming on the internet
- Spotify has a lot of German artists. You can listen to a free account with commercials. Spotify is play-on-demand, so you can control what plays. Search for a German artist, and Spotify will recommend similar artists. You can also search for “Deutsch” or “German” playlists from other members.
- Reddit has a subreddit of German music submitted by Reddit members
- There’s an autoPlaylist of music videos from the r/Germusic subreddit
- Amazon.com has a lot of German music for sale; many older albums can be downloaded for $9.99; some newer CD’s can be really expensive there, though.
- If you’re looking for a specific and newer CD, it might not be on Amazon at a reasonable price; try looking for it on eBay.
- If you want some background and information about German music, Deutsche Welle has a really nice German Pop podcast.
Popular groups which come up a lot include: Wir Sind Helden; Peter Fox; Klee; Juli; Einstürzende Neubaten; Rio Reiser; Herbert Grönemeyer; Wise Guys; Silbermond; and my personal favorite duo, Rosenstolz. Rosenstolz is highly melodic, their more recent work features a lush sound and sweeping, somewhat melodramatic songs about life and love. Recommended: their albums Wir Sind Am Leben, De Suche Geht Weiter, Das Grosse Leben, and Herz. (AnNa, ruf mich an!)
More ideas? Leave a comment. I keep a running list of German language links on Delicious.
Tags: Learning German
February 2nd, 2013 · Comments Off
I was in the market to buy a printer before the end of 2012 tax year. My large format Canon S9000 was getting to be around a decade old, and the inks are not archival. My other printer, an Epson R800, is archival, but it is small-format. And, had its nozzles clogged to hell for the past year or so and just would not print. Did I really need a photo printer? Probably not. But it is handy to have around. And, I reasoned, the old printers were hand-me-downs from a friend; I hadn’t actually bought a printer since the 1990′s.
Canon’s printer line was refreshed in Oct 2012 with the Pro1, Pro100, and Pro10. The thought of having brand-new printer technology was appealing. My Canon printer almost never clogs, the Epson one was forever clogging, so I was shy of buying Epson again.
So, I investigated the Canon lineup:
* Pixma Pro10: pigment based. $700
* Pixma Pro100: Dye based. $450
* Pixma Pro1: top of the line, more ink tanks than the others, $1000
The Pro1 was too expensive, so that was out. Between the Pro10 and Pro100, I wasn’t sure if the extra $250 for the pigment was worth it. There’s not a lot of info out there on the Canons, they are so new. I was going to pull the trigger on the Pro100, but then I found some writeups suggesting its black and white quality is not outstanding. So I reluctantly looked at the Epson.
The Epson R3000 came out a year earlier, October 2011, so it’s still fairly new technology, but it has something of a track record. There’s a lot of reviews of it on the internet, it is apparently very popular and very well-used. I found a ton of outstanding reviews, including praising its black and white output. I found reviewers suggesting that the clogging problem had been fixed. It is similar to the Pro10 in that it uses pigment-based ink and is priced at $700. **However** there is an aggressive rebate program by Epson that brings the price down quite a bit. So in Dec 2012 I had the opportunity to purchase Epson’s pigment printer for the price of Canon’s dye printer. Which is what I did.
As of this writing (Jan 2013), the Epson is still packed up. I need to clear some room for it, as it is much larger than either of my old printers. So I haven’t put it to the test, yet. Ironically, my R800 gave me an error message about a week ago, saying that it had reached the end of its service life. So I guess my purchase was well-timed.
Tags: Photography (writing)
January 15th, 2013 · Comments Off
If there are objects close to the camera, a panoramic head is a must. For objects far from the camera, parallax is not a problem. For example, for architecture interiors, you really do need a tripod and pano head.
I use these as my regular tripod setup:
* 5DMII with 14mm Rokinon lens
* a Kirk ball head with acra-swiss quick release;
* RRS L-plate on the camera at all times
For precision panoramas I add these:
Relatively lightweight, though not cheap.
Here is a Flickr set of my stitched panoramas.
Without a pano head, this can be the result:
Tags: Photography (writing)
January 13th, 2013 · Comments Off
I’ve taken a number of photo classes and workshops. I believe there are a number of things to be gained:
- Instruction by a pro. You may learn something that you did not know before. The obvious thing.
- Evaluation of your workshop work by a pro. Much better than random comments on Flickr or Reddit.
- Evaluation of your portfolio by a pro. Most every workshop I took, the instructor was willing to review your work that was taken outside the workshop.
- Observing the pro, and other participants. How do they set up their tripod? How do they interact with the model? Just watching an experienced photographer is instructional.
- Asking questions of a pro. “How did you get started”, “Do you recommend I go to photo school”, “why do you use this gear and not this other gear”? Every question that people ask on /r/photography, you can ask of the pro, and you have a good idea that the answer is not bullshit.
- Hearing anecdotes about the photo industry and other photographers is fun to me. You should have heard the story that Jeff Foott told me about Art Wolfe, or that David Middleton told me about the difficulties of photographing horses. Or the guidelines that Lucas Foglia gave me about pricing.
- It’s social. If you don’t frequently meet other photographers or go shooting in groups, it’s an interesting experience.
- It’s fun.
- I just like being able to say I met Jack Dykinga, dammit
That said, I have had better workshops and worse ones. Better instructors and worse ones. To a certain extent, you can teach yourself; a lot of the pros I met claimed to be “self-taught.” But that requires a good deal of discipline. And there is something to be said about getting one-on-one constructive feedback from an experienced pro.
Tags: Photography (writing)
January 3rd, 2013 · Comments Off
It is cold out. Who wants to go outdoors to take photos? You can photograph all these things indoors:
- Lego figures
- Water drops
- Tiny models that look like landscapes
- Abstract stuff, could be almost anything, shot close to become patterns
- Pills, drugs
- Frost on a windowpane
- Creepy stuff in your basement
- Food (shoot it, then eat it. Double the fun!)
- Any kind of collection (shells, bottle caps, etc … could be something that somebody in your house already collects, or but it on eBay and re-sell it when you are done)
- Self portraits
- Antiques of almost any sort
I have seen amazing photos of each of those things. Do a Flickr search for any of them. Go to your local thrift shop and look for cool stuff to photograph. Play with lighting (windowlight, desk lamps, whatever you have available).
When my kids were very young, I would have about two hours during naptime where I would set up a small shooting area and photograph random stuff in my house, on white background. I had windowlight and one cheap Vivitar strobe for lighting. I built up the baseline of my iStockphoto portfolio doing this. Fun times.
Tags: Photography (writing)
January 2nd, 2013 · Comments Off
Microstock is not a scam; nor is it a sure thing. It is what it appears to be: a marketplace where photographers sell images to buyers. I sell via iStockphoto and Getty, and I do pretty well at it as a lazy part-timer, but not as well as I could if I really put effort into it.
I’m lucky because I joined iStock back when microstock was a new thing, so I got away with a lot of stuff that wouldn’t work today. I uploaded the first photos of a blender to iStockphoto. They sold well because they were the only photos of a blender. If you tried that today, you wouldn’t do so well, because there are already a million photos of blenders there.
To do well at microstock, you need to understand that commercial photography is about supply and demand. If you shoot things for which there is a high supply and low demand, you will not sell. If you shoot things for which there is high demand and low supply, you will do well. You can’t just shoot what you like and expect that to sell. Try to figure out what sells and create that. It’s time-consuming, yes, but it can be very rewarding.
For an example of things for which there is an oversupply and limited demand, think of the things that individual hobbyist photographers do all the time: Macro shots of water drops or flowers. Landscapes of generic fields or beaches. Architecture or building shots of places that are not easily identifiable or recognizable. Your pets. Even if you shoot these really well, it is highly unlikely they will sell, unless they really convey a particularly clever message.
So, what sells? Clean, useful lifestyle imagery sells. Lifestyle is imagery of people doing things that reflect concepts. The images themselves are examples of things that people might write a headline around. Think “your local supermarket has a lot of options” or “our team is a winner” or “elderly people can’t afford medicines”. If you can summarize your photo with a headline about things people think or do, then it might be good stock. A really good example is Sean Locke.
This kind of shooting is impossible to do by yourself in your basement. You need lights, models, sets, and props in support of an idea or concept. If you can create imagery like that, imagery which is technically good and conceptually useful, there is a potential to make much money with stock.
December 30th, 2012 · Comments Off
When playing Nintendo Land on the Wii U, we received a message “point controller at the TV”. We tried several things to get the game to continue, but it was unresponsive. Turned out, the fix was to disconnect the sensor bar and plug it in again. Worked fine after that.
October 12th, 2012 · Comments Off
- Ice cream. Lots of great ice creameries. Most are probably closed in October.
- Lots of historic houses, windmills, lighthouses, mills to visit. Probably mostly closed in October, but you can visit the grounds.
- The walk out to Race Point Lighthouse is beautiful; do this at low tide. Fairly strenuous.
- World-class bicycle trails. Awesomeness on two wheels. Not sure if bike rentals are open during October, but I’d bet there are some. Province Lands Bike trail is particularly awesome.
- Lots of places for sea kayaking. Try Stage Harbor near Chatham.
- Sandwich Boardwalk is beautiful to walk any time of year. Easy-peasy walk. Great place to fly a kite, too.
- Visit the Marconi Wireless Station site
- Walk the trail at the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp. Very easy.
- Birdwatch or take a guided canoe trip at the Cape Cod National Seashore.
- Visit one of the bay beaches when low tide coincides with sunset, it’s awesome any time of year. Skaket or First Encounter Beach.
- Take a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard for a day trip. Rent a scooter. This is not a cheap day out.