Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Digital Adjustment

I'm still wading through all the photos I took while out in Seattle. I'm finding I've reached a point where I don't know how to proceed. On the one hand, I'd like to take the time to make minor adjustments to different pictures - adjusting the brightness, or color, or sharpness, etc. But the problem I'm running into is I don't know where to stop. There are just so many photos, I start to wonder what the point is. It's not like anyone is going to want to look at 800+ pictures. But at the same time, the part of me that likes to have things fixed and in order feels this minor compusion to go through all the pictures and adjust them. But it's starting to feel like it's just not practical to spend that amount of time. And that makes me also wonder whether this digital technology that makes it so easy to take photo after photo might have a large hidden cost I hadn't anticipated. I had the mindset that a digital camera was great because you could just take a large number of photos without the cost of developing any film. But, there is a a potentially huge time cost involved since you can spend hours playing with the settings on just one photo. Multiply that by the number of photos taken and there's a very large cost in free time.

Another thing I'm wondering is this - what is my rational for making photographs? Are they meant to capture a memory, or create a pleasing image? For example, the following is a photo I took in Seattle. It was a somewhat hazy day, but across the lake you could faintly make out Mt. Rainier. This picture is a fairly accurate representation of what I actually saw.

Since it was a hazy day, you really can't make out Mt. Rainier very well. However, if I adjust the color levels of the image, I get what appears to me to be a much more visually pleasing picture that looks like it was taken at sunset, but it isn't at all an accurate reflection of reality.

Is it still a photo, or has it now become something else? Should I care?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

My Brother's Wedding

I've been kind of busy since I returned from Seattle a week and a half ago. I haven't really had much idle time, hence the lack of writing. One thing I should mention is my brother got married this past weekend. Congratulations Rob and Alison!

It's a somewhat interesting story. Rob and Alison originally dated for about a year about 25 years ago (back when they were both teenagers). Things didn't work out and they broke up and didn't really have any contact with each other after that. In the time they were apart, they both got married, had kids, and later got divorved. They then recently met up with each other again about 2 years ago. My nephew (one of Rob's sons) gave a pretty funny toast at the wedding. He was talking about "second chances" and how it's good Rob and Alison got a second chance to be together, but at the same time, for the kids sake (himself included), he was glad their relationship didn't work out the first time. It took some people a few seconds to get the joke.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Whoa! Way too many jelly beans

I went out during lunch to get a large jar for the jelly beans, and it turns out I bought a jar that was way too small. Even after filling the jar, my desk drawer now looks like this:

Notice how the desk drawer hadn't been emptied of it's previous contents before it had been filled by the prankster(s)... At least now I can get to my toothpaste, which I suppose is appropriate given all this candy.

Like Jelly Beans?

In the software group where I work we often try to play some sort of prank on someone when they go away on vacation. It usually involves some sort of decorative addition (or subtraction) to their office. So, I was a bit surprised when I returned after a week-long vacation and didn't see anything out of the ordinary in my office. Even my comfy chair was still at my desk - no one had swiped it. I initially figured people must have been busy last week and didn't have time for any sort of pranks.

But, once I tried to start working, it didn't take long to discover what had been done. I initially couldn't log onto the computer network from my PC. I verified the network cabling hadn't been tampered with, but still I kept getting a logon failure message. I eventually talked to someone from the IT help desk and he reset my password for me - just in case I might have forgotten it while I was away for the week. Still no luck - I couldn't log in. So, the help desk guy came over to my desk to try to help. He then tried to log onto my PC as "administrator", but it kept appearing as "admunustrator". He looked carefully at the keyboard to verify he was hitting the right key, but whenever 'i' was hit, a 'u' would appear. Hmmmm.... I then realized what was wrong. It turns out someone had swapped the keycaps of the keys in the middle of my keyboard. 'i' and 'u' were swapped, along with 'g' and 'h' and 'c' and 'v'. It was very subtle and hard to notice from just looking at the keyboard. Since I'm not a touch typist, (I tend to glance at the keyboard every so often as I type), I was making the minor adjustment to hit a misplaced key when entering my password.

So what does this have to do with jelly beans? Well, later in the day I went to get something out of my desk draw and saw this:

The whole drawer was filled to the top with Jelly Belly jelly beans. That's a lot of jelly beans. I can now get very funny reactions from people when I ask if they want a jelly bean and open the desk drawer and show them the huge pile inside. The initial reaction is usually an exclamation like, "Whoa! You're crazy!"

Friday, February 10, 2006


Mmmmm... Russian pastry....

Today we stumbled upon this wonderful Russian pastry shop at Pikes Place Market. They serve these baked pastries called piroshky that are filled with varies items - like cheese, potato, mushroom, onion, various meats (bleck!), fish, etc. They also have more desert style ones with fruits and a cream cheese icing. Yum!

If you are ever in the Seattle area, it's definitely worth a visit to this shop.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Eagle Hunting 2

After yesterday's accidental encounter with a bald eagle, we set out today with the intent on seeing some more bald eagles. We had read that the Skagit River is a good place to spot eagles, so we headed for there. Surprisingly, we ended up seeing a bald eagle long before we even got to the Skagit River. After just a few minutes on the highway, we saw a bald eagle swooping and diving while being harrassed by crows. That turned out to be a very good sign, for when we got to aptly named Eagle Creek (off of Route 20 along the Skagit River just north of the town of Concrete), we saw about 8 or 9 bald eagles! We hung out along the river bank for a hour or so, trying to get some good pictures. At one point we even got to see an eagle catch a fish. I managed to get a picture, but it's a bit blurry. Rob took some much better pictures. Hopefully he'll post some on his site here. Below is my blurry picture.

I also saw a rather large bird gliding overhead. I'm not sure whether it was an immature bald eagle or some other species (perhaps an osprey?).

Backcountry Tonfa

Being a week away from karate classes, I need a way to still practice out here in the wilderness. Since I couldn't very well transport weapons on the plane, I've made an attempt to improvise. I call them "backcountry tonfa". Pictured above is one half of the pair I made while out in the woods. They're not quite as good as the tonfa you get from Shureido, but at least it gives me something to swing around. :-)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A Rather Large Mountain

As I mentioned yesterday, the sense of scale for mountains here in Washington is totally different than what I'm used to on the east coast. The mountains here seem to just spring up abruptly out of the ground. Plus, the mountains are much much bigger. The above picture is a good example - Mt. Rainier is so big it dominates the skyline south of Seattle. When I first saw it, I was totally stunned by how enormous it was compared to other mountains in the area - and I orginally tought those mountains were big compared to those I had seen back east.

A picture really can't do justice to capturing just how big this mountain really is. I had seen plenty of pictures of it before I came out here, but none of them prepared me for its massive presence when witnessed first-hand.

We have been having great luck with the weather - other than the first night when we arrived, it's been sunny all week. On Monday we went to Mt. Rainier park, got to experience some snow as we drove to a higher elevation portion of the park (Yay! Snow!), and got treated to a great view of Mt. Rainier along the way.

To try to give an idea of how big this mountain is, here's a zoom in on just a small piece of the mountain. Notice the clouds floating around it.

Oh, and we also saw a few large trees (for a sense of scale, note Jana standing next to the tree). Wowzers! That's a mighty big tree!

There is just way too much to write about and too many pictures I'd like to share. I'll have to save it for when I get back next week.
Note: as with almost all the pictures I post, you can click on them for a larger view...

Snowy Peaks

Coming from the east coast of the United States, I tend to think of a high mountain as being 4 or 5 thousand feet high. Heck, the highest peak in New England is just a little higher than 6000 feet, and I used to think that was high. Now I come to Washington and the place is littered with mountains that are 5+ thousand feet high. It seems the difference here (vs. the east coast) is the mountains seem to be much sharper and steep - as can be seen by the above picture of one of the 5000+ foot mountains in the Olympic range.


This is a view from the bluff at Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. Off in the distance is the north-western edge of the Olympic mountain range. To the right is the Strait of San Juan de Fuca - the bit of ocean between the Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island. It was nice to see and hear the ocean. This place is incredible - mountains, forests, and ocean all in one spot!

Plus, you just gotta love a place that has a sign that says, "Enjoy the spit!"

Oh Deer!

On the way to Olympic National Park today, we spotted two deer on the side of the road. I'm not sure what kind of deer they are, but one of them seemed to be a contortionist. They also appear to have great hearing since I could get them to look at the camera simply from the sound of the camera shutter, and I was about 50 yards away.

I'm thinking maybe they are mule deer. They definitely aren't the white-tailed deer I see in New England...

Eagle Hunting

Rob, Jana, and I went to the Olympic National Park today, and on the way back stopped at Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. It's on the northern coast of Washington, and is this odd shaped "spit" that juts out into the ocean. While we were walking along a high bluff, I noticed the sea gulls would occasionally fly along the edge of the bluff, at about eye level for us. So, I decided to put on the telephoto lens to get a nice close-up picture the next time one flew by. While I was waiting, I noticed a large bird approaching from off in the distance. It seemed a bit darker than a sea gull and a bit larger. It was a very pleasant surprise when we realized it was a bald eagle! And it flew right by us! Unfortunately, the lighting wasn't great (or my camera skills are lacking - or maybe it's a combination of both), so the picture is mostly just a silhouette, but I'm still quite pleased with my first eagle picture.

So far this week the weather has been great - relatively warm (in the 40s and 50s) and mostly sunny. I've taken a great many pictures these past few days at various national parks and forests. It's such a beautiful area - even nicer than Vancouver, and I thought that was the nicest place I had ever been. I wish I had time to upload more pictures. Hopefully soon...

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Some people don't like crows. I kinda like them. Since I now have a new camera, I figured I would try to get some picture silhouettes.

I liked how the shadow of this crow fell across the trunk of the tree.

Seattle Green

Not much time to write a lengthy description, so I'll try to let the picture speak for itself. I'm visiting the Seattle area with some friends and this is a view at a national forest nearby. It's amazingly green...

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The All Mighty

No, no, I'm not talking about religion. I'm talking about laundry detergent.  
I was shopping recently and came across this concentrated form of All laundry detergent. Gotta love the name they chose - "all small and mighty" - and in some clever marketing, they made the "all" and "mighty" in a larger font so if you glance at it you'll just see "all mighty". And who can resist a detergent with god-like powers? Heck, I was compelled to buy it for that very reason. Well, not really. I just liked the smaller size - less plastic packaging, less room taken up in my closet, etc. And the bottle is quite small compared to the equivalent portion of regular laundry detergent. In the picture above, both bottles contain enough detergent for 32 loads of laundry. The all mighty bottle is slightly less than 1/3 the size of the regular laundry detergent bottle (32 oz vs. 100 oz).

The only minor catch is the all mighty detergent is also all gooey. Since it is in concentrated form, it is quite thick. It's hard to think of something that has the same viscosity. It's similar to the consistency of slush, or maybe tomato sauce. (Hmmm... are tomato sauce and slush similar?) Hopefully you get the idea....

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Tracking Satellites

There's a very interesting article in Wired about hobbiests tracking satellites using just a pair of binoculars. If you skip to the last page of the article (page 4), they give instructions how anyone can start tracking satellites for fun. The article can be found here.

The following site is a great resource if you are interested in a chance to see stuff in orbit: You can choose the country you live in, then enter the name of your town and then select the satellites by brightness or other categories. Looks like if I get up at 5:00 am tomorrow I can see the International Space Station! How cool is that?