Lens thoughts

I wrote a bit on the 70-200mm f/4 lens that Nikon produced fairly recently, but apparently never
got around to posting it.  Here's what I had to say:

I've been reading some reviews on Nikon's new 70-200mm f/4 lens with quite a bit of curiosity recently. Mostly, I've been wondering how well it will suit my needs, as the 70-300mm VR has not done very well for me, hand-held, and the 70-200mm f/2.8 is awfully expensive (yes, yes, why am I saying that when I shoot with a D4? Well, there are almost always limits).

Rockwell's preview (misnamed a review, since reading it reveals that he has not yet had one to actually use) says the extra stop shouldn't matter, as long as you're shooting digital. And I've seen similar comments elsewhere.

Well, one reason I'm fortunate (or, to put it another way, one reason I went with a Nikon when I wanted to get a new DSLR several years ago) is that my dad also shoots Nikon. And, happily, he has the 70-200 f/2.8 (VRI), so I was able to borrow it to get a feel for some things.

Bokeh? Yeah, that extra stop is noticeable, but not obtrusively. I certainly don't think anyone should be getting the faster lens for the bokeh. But the extra stop can make a difference. My daughter started gymnastics lately, and I was shooting her practicing.

I just couldn't get a good shot of her (moving; when she was pretty static, the shots were fine) with either of my longer lenses. Going back through the shots, I saw that I was getting 1/60th to 1/200th shutter speeds, even allowing the ISO to climb all the way to 12800. With that long a lens, and with her moving, that just wasn't working, even shooting off a gimbal. I think I should be able to get enough better with (lots of) practice to make it work off the gimbal, but handheld is definitely out. And carrying the tripod and gimbal is a serious pain (and infeasible when, as is usually the case, I need to watch my son).

Anyway, the point is, shooting with the 2.8 lens worked out just fine. I'm not sure where that leaves me, but at least I know a lot more. (Certainly, amazon currently offering 2% back with 24-month free financing on the VRII 2.8 lens is looking awfully tempting. If only I knew when the VRIII or VRIV model was coming out.)

So, after that testing, and with the deal mentioned (last December, I think), I ended up getting the newer 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.  And I've been very happy with it, although 70-80% of the time, I think I'd be fine with the f/4 lens.  Which, I guess, is my way of saying that you should be fine with either lens unless you're shooting moving targets in less-than-full lighting.

Immigration, redux

One note I forgot to mention about the immigration reform bill passed by the Senate. A couple of days ago, NPR talked to Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Representative, and, IIRC, head of the House Judiciary Committee. While I think he's mostly a bit crazy (more or less required of current Republican office-holders), I did like one thing he brought up that's been almost completely ignored in discussions about immigration control.

And that is that a large percentage (I believe he said 35-40%, although I've definitely heard much higher estimates) of undocumented immigrants are not people who came over the border illegally, they're people who did minor things like overstaying their visa. So this whole big push to spend tens of billions of dollars and equip a fair-sized army on the Mexican border (the Senate bill would increase that force to 40k people. Compare that to the 135k soldiers who were in Afghanistan at the peak of that conflict) doesn't even address a large percentage of the problem.

In fact, given that Mexican immigration has dropped by an immense amount in the last couple years (for economic reasons. To whit, Mexicans can make similar amounts of money working there as they can here), I'd be shocked if the percentage of immigrants coming in on legitimate visas hasn't been on a steady increase over the last four to five years.

Oh yeah, and I just looked at the Republic supporters on immigration:
Lamar Alexander of Tennessee;
Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire;
Jeff Chiesa of New Jersey;
Susan Collins of Maine;
Bob Corker of Tennessee;
Jeff Flake of Arizona;
Lindsey Graham of South Carolina;
Orrin Hatch of Utah;
Dean Heller of Nevada;
John Hoeven of North Dakota
Mark Kirk of Illinois;
John McCain of Arizona;
Lisa Murkowski of Alaska;
Marco Rubio of Florida.

McCain isn't a big surprise, he's supported reform before. Rubio's no surprise, as he was trying to solidify his support in Florida, and was one of the sponsors of the bill. Chiesa's a little bit of a surprise to me; I suspect this might bite Christie in the butt at some point in the future (as he elevated Chiesa to the position) nationally (though I'm sure it'll play well at home). I'm a little surprised about Collins; while she's broken with her party in the past, I don't remember her doing so since Bush was elected.

The others, I don't really know much about, as far as what they've been saying on immigration, although just on gut instinct, Hatch surprises me.


Focus on stacking

I just wanted to mention, briefly, that I've been playing around with two different focus-stacking tools, Helicon Focus and Zerene Stacker.  My trial period with both is about to run out, and I still haven't decided which one I'll get.

Neither one is clearly better than the other; at least, not if you don't need the advanced features of each (which, thankfully, I don't).  Both have trouble with hand-held attempts at stacking and give similarly-good results with mechanically-generated stacks.

I should also give a bit of a shout-out to the Camranger, which I've mentioned before.  That's what I'm using to generate my stacks, and it is just a fantastic piece of equipment.  My only reservation is durability potential.  No, I've had no trouble with it, but just wonder about the sturdiness of the plastic.

Still, I've been very happy with the results I've gotten out of the equipment and software.  Neat stuff.

Handling immigrants

I don't have a lot to say about the immigration bill that's been getting bandied about for a while, and that just passed the Senate today.  But I did want to point out the hypocrisy in adding $30B in border "security" spending to placate the same group of people who have been going nuts for the past several years telling us that the end of the world is coming if government spending doesn't get reined in, pronto.

All men are (not?) born equal

I don't know a whole lot about adoption, and just found out something that surprised me greatly.

It turns out that it is much more expensive to adopt a white child than a black one. I must admit that this just blew my mind.

The story mentioned that it is likely driven by there being less demand for black children, and the adoption agencies change the pricing to encourage quicker adoption of the black children. A noble goal, I think, but awfully disturbing in implementation (and implication).

I wonder what drives the lower demand. Is it a simple matter of racism in action, that most white people don't want to adopt black children? Is simple numbers, that there are more white people, and therefor more of them doing the adopting? Is it economically driven, that adoption is expensive and more white people can afford it? Does it have something to do with there being more unwanted children from black women (I don't know if this is the case, but I've certainly read many things that at least suggest that it might be)?

I have no idea, but I'd be very curious to find out.

DOMA delenda est

I'm not a terribly close watcher of the Supreme Court (the current court composition, especially Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas, tends to piss me off), but I was encouraged by what I heard yesterday.

They struck down DOMA, which was great, and halted implementation of Prop 8 in California. The latter was good, as far as it went, although I was a bit disappointed (not surprised, mind) that they didn't decide in a way that would keep other states from doing the same.

Essentially, they said that the defendants (various anti-gay bigotry groups) had no standing to defend the state's decision, if the state itself wouldn't defend it.

So a tiny bit of disappointment there, but mostly I'm pleased with the decisions.

Two minor bits of amusement, related. When talking about it, just before the announcement, I was stuck watching CNN, and they decided to show a graphic highlighting which states have approved same-sex marriage and such. What I found so amusing was that the states that allow same-sex marriage were colored RED. Very ironic decision, there. (The states that don't allow it were uncolored.)

The other funny bit came this morning on the radio, when they interviewed a woman who wasn't so pleased with the decision. She said that she was against it because she didn't think gays should be allowed to marry (unsurprising, a bigot), and, more amusingly, that the Bible said that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and that shouldn't change. I wonder how much of the Bible she's actually read. The only passages I'm aware of that specifically talk about marriage (beyond stuff like, "Jesus went to a wedding") talk about it as between a man and many women (stuff like, "If your brother dies, you must marry his wife", and the many early men mentioned as having two or more wives (Lamech and Abraham, for instance)).

Anyway, Yay, progress.


I've been reading comments on one of the articles I linked before, and I'm seeing some fairly common thoughts.

One is dealing with the size (understandable, as users really don't care all that much about the size of desktop computers), asking whether a unit merely 1/2 the size of the old Mac Pro (vs 1/8th) might have been better.

And the simple answer is that it wouldn't be. It would add expansion capability in some form, true. But your options are to go over, under, or next to the existing "core". None of those options work well. Going over means you're going to have some components getting a huge amount of heat thrown on them. Going under means you have accessibility (for repair/replacement) issues (and you're moving the most valuable parts into a less-stable position). And going "behind" means you break the thermal core, because it stops being symmetrical. Suddenly, some of that heat is escaping towards the side, instead of up.

I think the whole core is understanding that the heat sink drove the entire design, and that's why it's so forward-thinking, because heat requirements will have a hard time going down, while there are a few ways to improve the airflow with this basic design.

Plus, thunderbolt will cover just about any eventuality that you might need (assuming the graphics cards can be upgraded, which is, it's true, not a given).


Pro Power

I've been meaning to write about Apple's new Mac Pro since it was announced at WWDC. I'm not sure why I haven't.

I've been thinking about getting a Mac Pro for a couple of years now, mostly because of memory issues (my iMac tops out at 16GB, and while the upgrade to 16GB was substantial, I still find myself wishing for more). A lot of that is driven by keeping lots of things open at once, for sure, but especially by photo editing.

So, anyway, because of that, I've been checking the tea leaves for what to expect, and the new model still caught me off-guard.

Here are two reviews worth perusing (especially for all the pictures):
Ars Technica
Apple Insider

Having a rack in my house, I wouldn't've minded the thing being rack-mountable. Not needed, but would have been welcome. So a bit of a loss there.

Also only has four RAM slots. This is actually a bigger problem, as it seems likely to top out (for the next year or two, anyway) at 64GB. Not shabby, of course, but was hoping it would be expandable to more. We'll see what happens here. One thing I definitely wouldn't want to see is an inability to add larger DIMMs as they become available (assuming no additional pins needed, of course; if they are, then of course that wouldn't be possible); I've been screwed by that a couple of times.

The last potential problem I see is that it wouldn't be happy being stuck under a desk. Not only because the striking design would be wasted for lack of visibility, but also because it'll be pumping out a lot of hot air, and you need that air to get far away.

Beyond that, though, I think it's brilliant. It was, of course, entirely predictable, doing away with the optical drive, although I didn't think it'd be gone quite this soon. And I like the forward-thinking nature of doing all the expansion via thunderbolt (although there are definitely cost issues there). But I think the cooling design will work for a very long time, and they even claim that it'll share the cooling when one or more of the main processors is working at less than full load. I'm not sure about the latter part, but it looks very promising anyway.

This is definitely a forward-thinking machine, and I expect that other companies will put out copies pretty soon. Although I'm thinking Apple will have huge advantages of scale with it (especially if they come out with cheaper versions than the probably-$10k model shown at WWDC); it should be able to go from a fairly small processor up to the heavy workhorses in the model shown.

The one thing I worry about is if they'll have a model in my price range; I don't need two stupidly-powerful GPUs for my use and wouldn't pay for them. But, this architecture, if done right, could still put something into the sweet spot for purchase for me.

And the one bit of complete speculation. They made such a big deal about being able to drive three 4k displays with it. Will they announce an affordable 4k monitor upon release? That would REALLY get me stoked; I'd love to get one of those for photo editing.  In fact, that would be a bigger deal for me than anything they could do within the computer.  There are even intimations (screen backgrounds within 10.9 Mavericks) of a double-resolution 27" display; that would be even better.


Practical lighting

Most of the photography books have been long on theory, and short on practicality, but a book I just ran across breaks that trend quite well.  The book is Shooting in Sh*tty Light: The Top Ten Worst Photography Lighting Situations and How to Conquer Them (yeah, the title is a bit much), and it's focused on how to work with bad lighting situations.

The only negative I can say is that some of the solutions discussed require having an assistant to hold things for you (pretty unlikely, if you aren't a pro).

But I still think it's a pretty neat book, and I can't wait to read the rest of it (I've gotten through two of the ten sections, so far).

Update: I forgot to mention that one of the things I liked was that it said that the first thing you should do, is, if it looks like a sh*tty lighting situation in advance, try to convince the customer to change the setting (timing, placement, etc) so that it won't be so bad.  But then it acknowledges that sometimes you can't do it.


I've heard the suggestion that Federer is the greatest men's tennis player of all time.  I'm not sure that's true, but I'm also not sure it isn't.  Certainly, he's one of the only greats of recent times who wasn't heavily dependent on his first serve, and his tournament record is absolutely unbelievable in its consistency.

But I've also heard it suggested that Nadal is better, because his head-to-head record (especially on clay, where the bulk of their meetings have happened) against Roger is much better than even.

I've always been more than a bit skeptical of that, and watching Rafa go out in the opening round today to the Belgian Steve Darcis makes quite an exclamation point to it (I've also got other issues with the Spaniard, but I'm really not going to get into it today).  I'd be tempted to make a big deal out of it being straight sets, too, but all three sets were very close, so I think it'd be a mistake to read anything into that.

But the fact that Federer, even being five years older, had no troubles advancing (straight sets, with the closest being 6-3) is certainly a strong buttress to the argument of Roger being much better.

Update: I forgot to mention the Post's unfortunate headline over their top Wimbledon picture in today's sports section: 'Federer and Nadal set to meet again - in the quarterfinals'.


I was looking at a Ford (well, Lincoln, I think) model lately that offered Eco-Boost.  I looked at that, and was thinking, oh, they've got a more efficient engine on offer for it.  No, it wasn't more efficient; in fact, it was noticeably less so.

But they call it EcoBoost because it's more efficient than the old option for a bigger engine.  I guess the terminology must work (for upselling more cars), but it felt awfully misleading to me.


CNN "news" coverage

I had to get a new ID card this morning, and while waiting to get it, I was forced to watch CNN.  If they actually had real news, that would have been fine, but no.  They had half an hour or more coverage on Gandolfini's passing (no offense meant to him or his family, but two minutes would have been more than enough).  Once they finally got through all facets of that, then they had to go talk about whether or not LeBron would be wearing his headband for tonight's game 7.

Seriously?  That's the best you've got?

I mean, if this were ET, or some equivalent, then I could understand it.  But this is the best that CNN can do?  Sad.  And to think they were once known for the depth and thoroughness of their news reporting.

Thank goodness I was able to leave at that point.  I hate to think where they might have gone next.


Connecting Dots

I listened to Nina Totenberg's story about the FISA court this morning with some mixed feelings.  There was some good information in there, but there were some very important things missed entirely.

There were two critical items missed.  The first is that the FISA court approves almost all requests (99.97%, over the past five years.  100% over the past three.  This is several thousand requests, including, apparently, at least one request to monitor everyone).  So even if their purview has been limited, they haven't been fulfilling their duty within their sphere of operations.

The second point missed (repeatedly, actually) is that Congress doesn't have effective oversight.  They should, but there is substantial evidence that the intelligence services have directly lied to Congress about what they are, or are not, doing.

For evidence of this, look at what Senators Wyden and Udall were saying during debate, the last time the Patriot Act came up for renewal.  They knew (due to their positions on the Intelligence Committee) at least some of what was going on, and tried to tell others in Congress about it.

You could also listen to what a number of others (who were not on either of the Intelligence Committees) said during that debate, as it has been concretely contradicted by what has come out recently.

You could also check the testimony that the DNI recently gave, which he later admitted was "the least untrue" summary he could give.  Yeah, we don't want "least untrue".  We want the facts.

And one simple fact is that Congress has not been able to give effective oversight of these programs.  (There is, of course, the follow on question of whether Congress would, if given the opportunity, and that would be a fair question.  Color me skeptical, personally.  But that's neither here nor there, at the moment.)



There are several comic strips that I keep up with.  Unfortunately, my way of keeping up with them involves falling behind and catching up every couple of months.  I'm currently working my way back to the present in Non Sequitur, and ran into this strip.

The punchline has Jeffrey say, "So... I do all the work, and you get all the money?"
To which Danae replies, "Of course.  That's the standard CEO-engineer split."

I find that very interesting, on several levels.  The most important is it shows a lot about our current system.  I'm not sure it isn't that far off, for modern-day corporations.  But, for a long time (back when the country was far more successful), it wasn't at all the case.  In fact, it was frequently the case that the CEO was an engineer himself, where the company was created so that the engineer could make sure that things were done right.

But now we seem to have accountants and other bean counters running most of the big companies.  That looks like a good thing, as balance sheets are inspected, but it's actually a short-term benefit with long-term cost.

The short-term benefit is the accountant knows how to make the numbers look good.  The long-term cost is that they generally don't know how to improve the numbers.  All the effort goes into making things appear as good as possible, not into improving things.

For instance, firing people is a sign of massive failure, perhaps on several levels.  First, it means you hired too many people.  Second, it means you don't have enough work to go around.  Third, it means that you're probably bleeding talent that could help improve the situation.

Leaving talent on the sidelines is bad for everybody (except your competitors, of course).

This is one of the big problems that Microsoft has had over the last ten years or so.  Since Gates stepped down, they haven't had engineering running the ship.  They've lost an immense amount of talent, much of the talent they still have is demotivated, and they have no vision at all.  They still make money, but they seem less and less relevant as time goes by.


Rubber addendum

I just finished reading Frankowski's Conrad's Quest for Rubber, and I must admit to being pretty disappointed with it.  The first thing that hit me about it was that it was regurgitating the last couple of books from a different point of view.  Then came the anachronisms (that is, the use of terms that would not be every-day ones to someone from that time period used as if they were normal).

I think the final part was that Josip just wasn't all that interesting as a main character.

What I did like about it was that disease factored into it (anyone familiar with Jared Diamond would be expecting that).  I thought the diseases hitting the explorer's lasted an extraordinarily long time (I can't imagine how explorers in our world would have survived being out of commission for anywhere near that long.  For reasons of not having food, if nothing else), and found the resolution of that a bit... unlikely, for many different reasons.

So I guess, if I were just finding the series now, I'd stop at five.


Clean sweep

Without the Caps around, I've not been watching a lot of hockey, but I've caught bits and pieces of games.

I just finished watching the last two periods of the Bruins/Penguins game.  It was hard to watch, in a way, as I didn't really want either team to win (in the last round, the only team in the East I could cheer a little bit for was the Sens, and that obviously didn't work out well).

But I dislike the Bruins a little bit less than the Penguins, so I generally wanted them to win.  I must admit, beyond that, I was mostly hoping for a long and bruising series, preferably with a lot of overtimes.  Instead, we got short and bruising, with one double-overtime.

I really was hoping the Pens would win tonight to extend the series, though.  So it was with mixed feelings that I watched the puck fly into Rask's glove as time expired tonight.

So congratulations to the Bruins on their sweep (I was impressed, they did make the Pens look downright bad for two games.  And in Pittsburgh, no less), and I hope they get steamrolled by whichever team wins out West (which certainly looks likely to be Chicago).

And we should feel better, why, exactly?

Following up on the NSA getting call trap data from Verizon (and others, presumably), we find out the NSA (and FBI) is also getting all traffic flowing through a number of the larger web sites.

This is what I find particularly disturbing:
But James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said the program targets only foreigners. “It cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, any other U.S. person, or anyone located within the United States,”

Which begs the question: what protections are in place to keep it from "unintentionally" getting data from US citizens?  I'm betting on "nothing", personally (though I have no doubt the official answer is, "That's classified; trust us").



I PlexConnect.

That's because it is a lot easier to connect an AppleTV to my TV than to use a computer. I'm going to try this tonight, and if it works, I'm going to be in hog heaven. In fact, if it does, I'll probably have to get a second AppleTV for my projector.

If a tree falls in the forest, it is still heard

Well, it finally came out. No, I didn't know this was going on, but, given the hints I'd read (mostly via Greenwald), it doesn't surprise me a bit.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

I really don't understand how the FISA court approved this. I really don't. Maybe the judges just don't appreciate how much you can make out of knowing everyone that people talk to. Think of the kind of "friend"ing graph you can build off of facebook data. Well, this allows you to do the same thing, except with a great deal more accuracy (since being "friend"ed on facebook might or might not mean anything, while talking to someone tells a lot more. Especially when there's more than one communication).

I wonder if this carpet-sweeping surveillance might have helped lead to the case against the Fox reporter (although, about that, I see almost no one noting how the warrants in that case seem pretty appropriately narrow).

Maybe now, Congress can debate whether to allow this kind of omnipresent information gathering. Maybe we can finally get rid of the AUMF and (supremely cynically-named) PATRIOT Act?

Oh, and maybe now the more mainstream media will pay a bit more attention to Greenwald?  Ok, funny joke, but we can hope.


Found this awesome mapping via twitter page today (h/t Gruber). I especially love that you can make out train stations in Tokyo and individual streets in Manhattan.

Tax break nation?

Ran across this article on tax breaks on WaPo's wonkblog. It's a nice breakdown of how taxes favor different cohorts, based on income.

As you can see from the chart, the biggest breaks favor the very rich.

One thing I found surprising is that the mortgage interest deduction doesn't more heavily favor the very rich.  The only two possibilities I can think of for that being the case are that 1) the very, very rich get almost nothing from it (as a percentage of income, at least) and 2) the biggest gainers are classified in this chart as upper middle class (doesn't seem likely, but not impossible, either).

Also, two things you can't see from this are how breaks in the inheritance tax (or aristocracy tax, as I prefer to call it) go entirely to the top 1% (might even be the top 1/2%) and the carried interest loophole that allows hedge fund managers to get their entire salary at capital gains tax rates (also goes entirely to a portion of the top 1%).

Oh, another thing that doesn't come up, that just occurred to me.  You can't see the totals of the dollars for tax breaks vs income taxes.  IIRC, they're almost identical numbers.  How sad is that?


A close shave

I started out shaving (like most, I imagine) with a variety of electric razors.  They can give you a so-so shave fairly quickly, but take a while if you want to get a close one.  And since most of them need to be used dry, they're fairly limited.

Eventually I moved on to using disposables, although I think I use them a little differently than most.  I will use them for quite a long while; mostly, you just need to make sure to wash them every time you use them.  I started this when I found out that most razors are ruined by corrosion, not by dulling.  And this works pretty well; use them in the shower, wash them, and blow them dry.  It isn't really fast, but does give a very close shave with nicks and cuts being very rare.

But I've long been intrigued by the possibility of going to a real razor (I was even thinking about a straight blade).  After doing some reading, a double-edged safety razor seemed a better choice.  So I finally broke down and bought one a few days ago.  I tried it out today, and was pretty happy.  I actually used it about the same way I normally use my disposables, and it worked out just fine.

I surprised myself by not getting any cuts or abrasions, and it was a bit quicker than my normal.  I think it didn't end up being as close a shave, although I mostly attribute that to being in a bit of a hurry.  I suspect it will end up being pretty similar in both time and closeness, although most would argue that I'm still not doing it right.

That is, I'm not using a brush and foam to really set up the hair, and using them after the shower.  Perhaps an experiment for another time.

Neat photographic toys

I'll start this out by saying I don't have any of the tools I'm going to mention here.  I was looking at some focus-stacking software, and saw a reference to cognisys' StackShot.  It's interesting, and I wonder how well it works, but I don't think I'm terribly likely to buy it.

But after poking around, I also found their StopShot and RangeIR, both of which look very intriguing (odd that they don't have a kit with two RangeIRs and one StopShot, though.  I'd like to see about getting these for bird photography).  More intriguing, and yet less interesting, due to price, is their insect rig.  I'd really love to play around with one of those, but it's far too expensive for my purposes.

Anyway, if you've got some money, that's some really neat-o stuff.  I'll be keeping an eye on them (and hopefully buying some of their gizmos).

Farming Museum

I took my kids, today, to the Loudon Heritage Farm Museum.  A friend of ours was going, so we went along with them.

I wasn't too sure what to expect (thrown off by references to the Claude Moore Farm, which this was not.  This place is at Claude Moore Park in Sterling, however); I was expecting something with crops and brought only one lens, which would be good for that sort of thing.

The whole thing was inside, and dedicated to farming equipment (like an original McCormick Reaper) and kids activities (like a general store, and a fake cow that could be milked).  My son wasn't terribly thrilled for the most part, but my daughter had a blast once she found the kitchen with traditional implements (like an antique ice box, the second one I'd ever seen).  Although actually, the kids had as much fun with the door to the kitchen (which could be walked around, if the other kids weren't letting you in) as they did with the actual kitchen.  And my son did find some stuff to have fun with, it just took him quite a bit longer.

So despite the lack of good pictures (I'm just hoping I got some mediocre ones), we all had a good time.  And I was glad our friends were there, because, for once, the kids didn't want to do the same thing, so it was tough to keep track of them.  But despite the difficulty, they did stay out of trouble.

So we did end up having a good time; I just wish I'd taken a second lens (it would have been the only one I used).


Battleships are women

I've long been a big fan of anime, and an even longer fan of spoofs.  So when Kidou Senkan Nadeshiko came out, it was pretty much inevitable that I would like it (and I was subscribing to the Japanese NewType at the time, so of course I heard about it).

As a spoof of big-robot anime, with a lot of action and comedy, it was not exactly hard to follow.

The japanese title, which translates roughly as Mobile Battleship Nadeshiko (although it was given an English title as well, which was Martian Successor Nadesico.  I've never really understood that title, even if the Martian part does make sense), was also obviously an homage to Uchuu Senkan Yamato (Galaxy Battleship Yamato, released in the US as Star Blazers, which, although I didn't watch, was something of which I'd heard, growing up).  What I was unaware of until today, was that there was another layer of connection in the titles.

There's a concept of which I hadn't previously heard, called Yamato Nadeshiko which relates to the feminine ideal in Japan.  Yamato is a term I knew; it's an old name for Japan whose chinese characters render as 'Great Peace' (it's an ateji that looks like it would be pronounced Daiwa.  And yes, it seems a particularly ironic name for a battleship, given the kanji).  I wasn't aware that Nadeshiko is a Japanese name for a flower (since the word in the anime title was written in katakana, it didn't even occur to me to look it up).

Anyway, I wonder if the title might have actually been punning on the Yamato title as well, particularly given the female cast of the show.  Actually, it seems unlikely, but it'd be very cool if it was.

Now I need to go watch more of the show; it's been too long.

(As a side note: this was my first time looking at tvtropes.  A friend mentioned it to me this evening.  Really nifty site that I'm quite sure I could lose many, many hours in reading.)

Omnipresent advertising

I haven't had much luck getting up early to go take sunrise pictures, lately.  But I did manage once, a week ago, and took this picture on the way to where I was going (thinking about it, I should have come back here afterwards to take a shot of this with my good camera).

Anyway, I don't really know what's going on here.  It kind of looks like a building is under construction, and the owner allowed it to be turned into an ad in the meanwhile.

The one thing I wish about this is that it would have been an ad for a cube (I used one of those for my main server for a while, until something in it died.  Then I replaced it with a tiny linux box from system76).  That would have rocked.

Warbirds on the wing

Two weeks ago, my dad and I went down to the Virginia Beach area for an airshow.  This one was focused on WWII warbirds, and gave us some chances to try to perfect our technique for photography.

It was never going to be perfect, since WWII planes are not the fastest, but, for planes in the air, it did end up disappointing, as the rains came in just after the aerial portion of the show started.

But we still had a good time; we got some good shots of planes on the ground before that.  And I figured out how to tear down my telephoto setup in record time, to keep from getting it rained on.  It was a challenge to prevent (and my dad definitely helped), but we came through ok.

What I had the most fun with was playing around with my pole pixie and a painter's pole.  All of my good shots were taken with that.  I had an above-nose view of a B-17, a similar shot of a B-25, and even higher shots of a couple of fighters.  The most interesting, though, at least in terms of how I got it, was the cockpit of the B-17, where I was standing on the ground in the bomb bay, with the camera on the pole, shooting down the walkway into the cockpit.

Anyway, despite not getting as much practice as we'd hoped, it was still pretty cool.  I'm looking forward to further airshows, and experimenting more with the pole pixie.  I'm wondering, if we go back to the same airshow next year, if I'll still be the only one using one of those.

Not-so-tiny wings

We took the kids, last weekend, to the Delaplane Strawberry Festival, which was a lot of fun.  We got to try stilts, took a hay-ride, the kids rode ponies, we saw blacksmiths, saw some farm animals, and ate some good food.

But the highlight of the day for me, was that the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia was there with a hawk (see above), a mixed-breed falcon, a barn owl, and a kestrel.  I hadn't brought lenses in anticipation of this; I'd brought a mid-range zoom and my macro lens.  Happily, my macro is a 150mm, so that did a pretty good job with the birds (not perfect, because it didn't focus as fast as I would have liked, but not bad), taking all the pictures linked (I was particularly happy with the kestrel shots).

As something unexpected, this was very cool.  I wish I'd had a 300mm f/2.8 lens, though.  Those are amazing lenses, and would have been very good for this, I think (a little closer, a little sharper, and blazingly fast focus).  The only concern would be that the ropes around the birds might have gotten in the way with the longer lens.  Maybe I can arrange it another time; need to find out where else the conservancy will be appearing.

Anyway, we had a great time at the festival.  It would have been nice if we could have gone Saturday, instead of Sunday, as they supposedly had antique cars that day, but that wasn't a big deal.

Victory, mostly

Well, kind of.  I'd have to get something much closer to the maximum possible score (at the very least, finish the ninth island) before I'd really consider it victory, but getting all the missions finished on Tiny Wings did feel like quite an accomplishment.  Especially the last mission, getting through the entire fourth island in fever mode; I wasn't feeling like that was ever going to happen.

But one time, I checked up a bit to make sure I got onto the fourth in fever mode, then managed to keep it all the way through.  Haven't gotten close to repeating that.  In fact, I think I've only managed to beat the score from that one once, even with the better multiplier (and it wasn't by much).

Anyway, fun game, and I was quite excited to get there.