Sunday, December 12, 2010

Random Eye Dull Photo: Faucet Drip

It's a cold rainy day - what better time to take pictures of a dripping faucet?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Random Eye Dull Photo: Eye-closeup

I bought another new (used) lens for my camera, this time one for macro photography. It's the Nikon AF Micro Nikkor 105mm 2.8 D.

This being late fall, there's not really any flowers or insects to photograph outside, so I've been experimenting with the camera indoors. Again, Hiro was the test subject. He will generally sit fairly still while I put a camera lens very close to his face.

Took me a few tries to get his iris in focus... Coincidentally, you can also see my other dog Bodhi reflected in his pupil.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Random Eye Dull Photo: Hiro

I bought a new (used) lens for my camera, and was testing its ability to shoot wildlife in low-light outdoor conditions. Since there wasn't any actual wildlife in the area, one of my dogs had to play the role.

The lens is an old Nikon AF-D 80-200mm f2.8 ED. It's not as nice as the new Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens, but at about 1/4 the price, it'll do the job well enough.

The above photos aren't super sharp, but the sun was setting, I was in the woods, and I don't have the steadiest hand, so given all that, I was happy with the result.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Random Eye Dull Photo: Greenwich Bay

A picture taken with my iPhone last weekend

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Random Eye Dull Photo: Fledgling Blue Jay

Who you calling ugly?

I've been seeing a lot of young birds that appear to have recently left the nest - tufted titmice, cardinals, grackles, and now blue jays.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Random Eye Dull Photo: Rose Breasted Grosbeak

Not the best of pictures, but I managed to snap a picture of the visiting rose breasted grosbeak. It's a first time sighting of this type of bird for me. Growing up, I used to see plenty of evening grosbeaks but no other types.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Random Eye Dull Photo: Wild blackberries and peas

Went with some friends to a great spot for lots of wild blueberries, blackberries, and huckleberries. I even found some wild peas that tasted pretty good.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Giant strawberry plants

Not sure what's different this year, but these strawberry plants are
way taller than last year - over a foot tall. The strawberries are
normal size, but the plants are huge.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Random Eyedull photo: Bobwhite

While waiting for my Internet service to come back, I saw these two bird hanging out on the lawn at the edge of some woods. My best guess is a male and female Bobwhite.

Verizon using the GLADOS system for automated telephone support?

For the first time in years, I experienced a DSL failure with my Internet service. As a compliment to Verizon, it’s been so stable all these years, I’ve taken it for granted. And since I now work from home, when the service was down I felt completely crippled in regards to getting any work done.

After logging into my Internet modem, it was obvious the problem was with Verizon and not something local on my end. The DSL portion of the the connection was up, but the PPP portion of the link was down. So, with that info in hand, I figured I’d make a call to Verizon to get the problem resolved. And then the fun began.

Verizon, like so many other companies these days, is taking the cost-cutting measure of providing an automated telephone support system. It’s a helpful friendly sounding female voice, similar to the computer voice, GLADOS, from the game Portal. (If you aren’t familiar with Portal, you are missing out. It’s a very clever 1st person puzzle game from Valve Software and is available on PC, Mac, XBox, PS3, etc.)

First off, the automated system doesn’t just use touch-tones for answering questions. It attempts to implement a form of speech recognition. You can interrupt the computer voice (I’ll call her GLADOS) at any time with your reply, but the problem is, even background noise is attempted to be recognized. I bumped my leg on the table and GLADOS stopped in mid-sentence and said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that.” Then I had to wait for her to restart from the beginning and retell me a bunch of stuff I already heard before I knew how to proceed to the next menu.

As part of the automated system, GLADOS told me that she was able to perform a remote diagnostic of the problem. After hearing GLADOS repeat about 15 times, “I’m still waiting for the results of the test”, she finally told me there was a problem which required me to reboot the DSL modem. And this brings me to the second problem with an automated system. Unlike when talking to a real human, I can’t just say, “I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear what you just said, can you please repeat that?” Of course, GLADOS will say that plenty of times, but I can’t make the same request of her. In my case, as part of the automated system diagnostic, GLADOS asked me to walk to my DSL modem and reboot it. Near the modem, the mobile phone service is poor, so GLADOS’ voice began to get garbled (just like in Portal) and I wasn’t really certain what I might have missed in our “conversation”.

After rebooting the modem, and telling GLADOS, “YES, I really did reboot the modem,” GLADOS helpfully then asked if my Internet service was working. It wasn’t working, which was no surprise to me since I had also tried rebooting the modem several times myself before calling Verizon and each time the modem would fail on the PPP connection and would display a red error light for the Internet. Of course, I couldn’t actually tell the helpful GLADOS any of this, since she didn’t really understand speech, so instead I had to follow her next step in resolving the problem.

Since I answered “No” to her question on whether rebooting the router fixed the problem, and despite the fact that the modem was displaying a red error light saying the Internet was down, GLADOS then helpfully suggested that I reboot my computer.

The conversation went something like this:

GLADOS: Please reboot your computer. If you need help rebooting your computer, please say ‘I need help with that.’ If you know how to do it, say, ‘Skip this.’

Me: Skip this.

GLADOS: Ok, please say ‘Yes’ or press 1 when your computer has rebooted.

Me: (Seeing there’s still a red error light on the modem, I know rebooting my computer will have no effect so I just say ‘Yes’ without actually rebooting.)

GLADOS: Ok. Please try viewing a web page. Can you view it?

Me: No

GLADOS: I’m sorry this has not resolved your problem. Please reboot your computer. If you need help rebooting your computer, please say ‘I need help with that.’ If you know how to do it, say, ‘Skip this.’

Me: What? We just did this.

GLADOS: I’m sorry, I did not understand what you just said. Please reboot your computer. If you need help rebooting your computer, please say ‘I need help with that.’ If you know how to do it, say, ‘Skip this.’

Me: Skip this.

GLADOS: Ok, please say ‘Yes’ or press 1 when your computer has rebooted.

Me: (Thinking maybe she didn’t understand when I said ‘Yes’ last time, I press 1 on my phone this time.)

GLADOS: Ok. Please try viewing a web page. Can you view it?

Me: NO!!

GLADOS: I’m sorry this has not resolved your problem. Please reboot your computer. If you need help rebooting your computer, please say ‘I need help with that.’ If you know how to do it, say, ‘Skip this.’

At this point, it should be obvious there’s a problem with Verizon’s automated diagnostic system. Besides the fact that it got stuck in an infinite loop asking me to repeatedly reboot my computer, there’s something else wrong. First, they did a test and determined there was a problem. As part of the resolution, they had me reboot the modem. That makes sense. Then, where the test process broke down, however, is they didn’t do another diagnostic after rebooting the modem. Instead, they just assumed the modem was OK, even though I could see it was definitely not OK since it had a red error light on it. And then, they had me perform a completely useless step of rebooting my computer.

Were I speaking with an actual human, I would have been able to interrupt and try to explain this problem. Instead, I was stuck in an automated system.

I finally resorted to pressing 0 to speak with a real person, and after several minutes of being on hold, with GLADOS periodically chiming in to tell me I can probably resolve my problem by viewing their tech tips at (even though I have no Internet service!), the phone call went completely silent with no explanation. The call was still connected, there just wasn’t anyone on the other end anymore. Pressing numbers on the touch pad had no effect. Apparently GLADOS gave up on helping me.

Then, ten minutes later, my DSL Internet connection started working again. And I never rebooted my computer. Sorry I lied to you GLADOS.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Black Raspberry Brambles

There are a large number of wild black raspberry brambles growing in
the backyard and based on the number of flowers, it looks like they'll
be bearing fruit this summer, too.

I had noticed them growing last summer, but since they were just
thorny brambles with no flowers, I wasn't certain they were raspberries.

Now I just have to make sure the dogs don't take a liking to them as
they have with the strawberries.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Swamp dog

Guess who likes to play in the swamp...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Random Eyedull Photo: Mourning Dove

Snapped these pictures of a mourning dove sitting in a tree outside the window.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Random Eyedull Photo: Atom Ant

Based on a recent comment made in jest with some friends, I was trying to take a picture of an ant. It proved more challenging than I expected. First I had to find an ant, and for some reason all the usual ant hang outs were ant-free. Second, once I found an ant, it wouldn't keep still. And those ants that did keep still would be quickly eaten by one of my dogs.

So, the above photo is about all I have to show for my efforts. It's way overexposed. The ant was in some dark shadows, so I used the built-in flash on my camera, which at such close range reflected back and blew out the light levels. The end result gave the picture a weird radioactive look when I adjusted the exposure in Lightroom.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Random Eyedull Photo - Crazy Sky

There's a storm brewing!!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Photoblogging without a computer

The previous Random Eyedull Photo post was made using just my Nikon D200 camera and an iPad. No other computer was used.

I used the iPad Camera Connection Kit to copy to photos off the camera and then used the handy free iPad app called PhotoPad. This app let's you do a handful of image edits, including cropping. And for free, you can't beat the price.

This is good news for when I'd like to travel and take higher quality photos than my iPhone allows and upload them remotely, but don't want to also take along a laptop. It's now easy for me to sort through the D200 photos, edit them, and upload some to my blog, all without a full computer.

(This post was also made from my iPad. I snapped the photo using my iPhone and then used the Camera Connection Kit to transfer the photo from iPhone to iPad. I could have just posted this from my iPhone, but the larger keyboard on the iPad makes for faster typing.)

Random Eyedull photo - Buzzzzz

Tried to snap some pictures of a bee that is getting very territorial about my front deck.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Knot of the day: Monkey Fist

Working on learning a new knot each night. Today's is called the
monkey fist.

Originally used by fisherman for weighting a line (the knot can be
made around a lead ball or other weight), it also makes a nice
decorative knot.

Barcode scanning on iPad

Today I received the iPad Camera Connection Kit. As the name implies, it is designed for connecting a camera to the iPad for the purpose of importing photos. And that's the primary reason I bought it.

But, another point of interest for me was the kit provides a USB host port on the iPad. Although not really publicized, the USB functionality of the iPad allows it to act as both a USB function and a USB host controller (it is in function mode when docked with a PC/Mac and is in host mode when a camera or other device is attached to it).

As a result, when the camera kit adapter is connected, you can plug in all sorts of USB function devices, such as keyboards, USB headset, etc.

So this got me thinking... what other USB devices might work? One USB device I happened to have handy is an old Symbol barcode scanner. I plugged it in, and sure enough, it works!

This could potentially open up all sorts of ideas for using the iPad for workforce automation. Of course, this isn't an official use of the iPad Camera Connection Kit, and in fact, it does have some serious limitations as is. First, when the barcode scanner is initially plugged in, an alert pops up stating that the device is unsupported. Second, since the barcode scanner is identified as an input device, it prevents the onscreen keyboard from appearing. While plugged in, you are limited to only being able to input text data via the barcode scanner.

I don't expect to find myself keeping a barcode scanner plugged into my iPad all day, but if I did need to capture a bunch of barcodes while away from my PC, it is an option.

Now if they'd only come out with a version of Delicious Library for iPad...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A different perspective

"Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings."


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lego My iPad!

Inspired by someone else’s use of Lego as an iPad stand (, I decided to fish through my dwindling Lego collection to see if I might have any pieces suitable for making an iPad stand for myself.

I had long since given away all the cool technic pieces, but surprisingly I found I could make a decent stable stand out of just 8 Lego pieces. Granted, two of the main pieces are fairly non-standard Lego fair. They’re legs from some Lego set I’ve long since forgotten, but were the proper angle for acting as a back support for the stand.

Here’s the design:


The two black angle shaped pieces are the front of the stand and hold the iPad in place. It's not the most esthetically pleasing design - some of the blocks are a few pegs too wide and coloring doesn't match - but given I no longer have 1000s of blocks to fish through, I'm happy with what I was able to find.

Here’s what it looks like in use:

IMG_2029.JPG IMG_2030.JPG

I’ll probably add a few extra pieces to the front to reinforce the two black blocks and reduce the risk of them popping off, but overall even in its current form, it’s quite stable, even with the iPad in portrait mode.

I had been looking for something to use as a stand for the iPad in the kitchen. I have the Apple docking stand already, but it only works in portrait mode. I use Epicurious on the iPad in the kitchen and landscape mode is much more usable when following recipes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

First wildflowers of the season

Saw these today on a hiking trail in the Douglas State Forest.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Enjoying the game called "work"

I recently came across a very interesting article regarding the addictive qualities of video games. Specifically, it was talking about how some video game companies intentionally try to make their games as addictive as possible. The point is, they're not trying to make the games as fun as possible, but as addictive as possible. There's a big difference between those two goals.

You can read the full article here. It's well worth reading if you can spare the time.

One of the points raised in the article was how playing a video game tries to fill a void in another aspect of someone's life. For example, from the article:

"to be satisfied with your job you need three things: Autonomy (that is, you have some say in what you do day to day); Complexity (so it's not mind-numbing repetition); Connection Between Effort and Reward (i.e. you actually see the awesome results of your hard work). Most people, particularly in the young gamer demographics, don't have this in their jobs or in any aspect of their everyday lives. But the most addictive video games are specifically geared to give us all three... or at least the illusion of all three."

I find this to be true. I am currently self-employed and do freelance software development. I find lately I spend very little time playing video games (a couple hours a week) and will often instead choose to work on my own software projects in my free time. I guess the appeal of the definite connection between an effort and reward with software I can sell overrides the thrill of acquiring any virtual goods in a video game. Contrast this to when I used to work for a corporation a few years ago: the pay was great, but the job wasn't very satisfying and I would often spend many hours a week playing video games.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Not quite sure about this fortune...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Random Eyedull Photo: Dishes

This arrangement of dishes makes me chuckle every time I open the

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Random EyeDull Photo: Junco chirp

Random EyeDull Photo: Male Cardinal #2

Still not a clear shot and a lousy angle, but at least the feathers are in focus... (you can click on the image for a larger view)

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Ice Invaders

Some friends of mine gave me an ice cube tray that makes ice cubes shaped like space invaders (from the old video game). Surprisingly, even though I think they bought it in Montreal, Canada, it turns out to be made in Cumberland, RI!