Time keeps on tickin, tickin, tickin…

So after seeing a few good examples of time lapse photography on Vimeo.com, I decided to try my hand at it. Unfortunately I dont have access to Yosemite or the Space Station, so I had to use something I could get to quickly and not have to drive very far. My back yard. And sometimes my front yard.

I tried several different times, each time something a little different, and I have to say I am learning, but I’m still not completely pleased with my results. For one thing, my stuff isn’t as clear as I hoped. It could be me, or the fact Im not using $1200 L-series lenses, but it’s probably more me. It could also be the nasty pollen haze and the light pollution in my area. I need to find somewhere uber-dark where there is little light and no cars driving by every thirty seconds.

I think some of it could be Adobe premiere, which is what I’m putting these together with. It lets you drag pictures together into a single set, and specify really quickly how long to display each image. For most of this, it was at one frame per picture (at thirty frames/second), but some of them were moving so fast I had to drop back to 2 frames per picture.

Its been fun so far, but I still have a lot of learning to go. So here’s my first attempt.

My time lapse test

You may have wondered why I switched to vimeo. They seem to have better video display and compression than youtube. Youtube compresses the crap out of their stuff, making the giggling babies, playing cats and barking dog videos look even worse than they are ridiculous. Vimeo seems to do better, and to me is for the more “artsy” crowd than youtube, which, without their collections of skateboarders hurting themselves doing tricks, would be completely worthless.

 

Kindle scares me.

The Amazon Kindle is a scary thing. I have two different kinds at home. One, an actual Kindle, the black and white electric ink thing. The other 2 are the Kindle Apps on my iPhone and my iPad.
First of all, I like Kindle books, sometimes. They are cheap, sometimes half the price of regular books. I don’t have to drive anywhere to get them. That saves gas and nerves, because when it’s 9pm and you finish book 2 of the Hunger Games, and you have nothing to read the kid before bed, having a book a click away is nice.
Kindle saves trees. Well, sort of. I’m sure there’s an argument that some trees were cleared for packing kindles and building kindle factories and maybe even burning them to make power to make kindles or something.
But you don’t have to print millions of books. You can even share books between kindles on your same account.

And that’s where Kindle starts to get scary. Because it knows what I’m doing. I was reading on my iPhone one day. Later I decided to read the same book on the iPad, let’s face it, the screen is bigger and easier to read. So, I opened the book. The iPad tells me “you were on page 57 on your iPhone, would you like to go to that page?”.

Woah.

Why is the Kindle app talking to anything else about what page I’m on? Helpful, sure. But seriously? That’s sort of creepy in a “the machines know more than I do” sort of way, not a “the government wants to know what page I’m on” sort of way. How far from the latter are we though, compared to the former?

Thats not its only scary thing. It will give you highlighted sections from other people. If someone likes a section of text and highlights that, it goes somewhere and you can access it by turning on the highlights.

A very useful feature though is its dictionary. Put your finger on any word and it shows a definition. Great for kids.

The last scary thing is Kindle’s ability to “pull back” books, the equivalent of the bookstore clerk chasing you down with a bat or breaking into your car while you are shopping in the Gap, to steal the book back. There was a story a few years ago. Someone bought a copy of a classic book. Evidently the publisher didn’t have the right to distribute the book electronically, so people woke up to find their copies of Chaucer had simply disappeared off of their Kindles. It ignited the debate, do I really own what is on my Kindle?

The thing about paper books, as easily damaged as they are by fire, flood, or persons who find themselves without toilet paper and in a desperate situation, is that the are yours. No one can tell you suddenly you can’t read them, or that you can’t resell them at your yard sale, or even give them to friends or libraries.

If books were music, people would be in jail. The RIAA would be suing grandmothers and book club members for “public performance” when books were read to other people. The good old paper book has always enjoyed a set of freedoms that many media lacked. Even (horrors) the xerox in the library so you can copy a research article to write a paper later. Can you imagine music stores with a tape deck in the corner and the cashier saying “oh sure, just pop the cd in that and dub a song so you can listen later”?

I really think the whole digital book thing is just a ploy to put the same controls on books that other media are under. After all, if they sell you a kindle book, your friend isn’t going to be borrowing your kindle, you are going to be selling the book at a yard sale, and the book won’t wind up in a library where people will read it for (oh, God no!) free.

Raindrops keep falling on my head…

Well, not really. I expected them to, but they didn’t. They stayed around the house. I spent the day back at 40 Acre Rock, trying to toughen up my leg muscles and potentially test out my rain gear. It did not go as planned. The rain gear stayed in the pack, however the leg muscles test went just fine.

First of all, there were LOTS of people there today. You couldn’t walk half a mile without running into people. All kinds, from the possible dopehead trio with the typical muscle-shirt bearded guys and the skank, to the family with kids, to the Peter Lik wannabe carrying the giant camera and tripod. It was a very interesting crowd.

I took some time to explore more than usual today, as the normal 40 acre route is not long or strenuous enough at this time of year (I won’t say that this summer…). My first detour was off the right of the trail near the pond. Found a large rock at the apex of the hill, looking down over the path and surrounding woods. Of course, it had a little graffiti on it, and signs of a fire ring underneath. No trash or anything else though, good job picking up after yourselves, graffiti vandals.

I proceeded to the big rock to collect my geocache, as I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to place one here. Once collected I decided to boil water for my cappuccino drink, but the wind started blowing and I thought I was going to get soaked from dark clouds overhead, so I just put the stove away and drank the cold water and ate my granola bar.

I walked around the perimeter of the big rock and then headed to the falls, but went to the top instead and tried to trace where the water comes from. The creek goes back a good way and it got so thick I couldn’t move. While I was up there, I could hear kids and a family at the base of the falls. Despite REALLY wanting to do some ‘squatch calling, I fought the urge and went down to the base of the falls instead. I ran into the family, and they asked me what was up there. I told them more rock and a creek, but be careful, it’s slippery.

With all of that done, there was nothing left but to hoof it the 3/4 mile back to the car. All in all it was a fun day, despite not getting rained on. I fashioned a GPS “don’t drop me” cord, which you can see in a few pictures. Its purple and is only long enough so when I drop the GPS it winds up at my waist. I feel like I’m finally getting some of this down.

Four more trips to REI and I might have enough crap to go overnight somewhere.

Make it five trips.

 

 

It’s comin’ up a cloud

That’s a southern expression, also meaning, “Hay y’all, it’s going to storm soon”. I’ve been southern all my life, but there’s some new thing I learn every week – like that.

I pretty much gave up on my “project 365 – end of the world” photo-a-day project. Its hard to think of something to photograph every day, especially when its pretty much the same stuff you photographed last time, plants, sky, trees, food, etc. Do I really need 57 pictures of plants growing? No – I can look at the last book.

I ran into a pretty cool time lapse of Yosemite park on vimeo (see my previous entries for the link). My iPhone’s pricey $4 camera controlling software (dslr.bot) crapped out, and despite numerous complaints from others, it hasn’t been fixed yet. I decided to bite the bullet and buy myself an intervalometer, essentially a camera remote with a built in timer. It only cost me $15, pretty cheap for anything camera related.

I sat the camera in the window at lunch and told it to take a picture every thirty seconds and went to work. When I returned, I had a few hundred pictures. I made a time lapse movie out of it. It was pretty dull, just clouds blowing by my back yard, but it was only my first one.

I’ve tried several others. Im getting better each time, and I’m getting more interested in stars. Its pretty wild to watch a time lapse of the stars, with something in the background like trees or a building that doesn’t move. We tend to forget that we are moving through space, and seeing the stars roll by is sort of unnerving.

Last night I wanted to get the stars off my front porch, along with the cars going by. Cars are fun at long exposures at night. You don’t see the car, only a streak of head and tail lights and whatever they light up. But the coming storm did NOT want to cooperate. I wound up taking a few lightning shots instead, before it started crashing right overhead. This was my best one (after I missed two because the intervalometer had taken over).

 

God's Taser.

It was too bright at first. I had to darken the shot. But is was full on dark and when it hit, the flash lit up all the trees like it was daytime. Pretty cool. Also cool it didn’t hit the large tree to the left. Taking lightning pictures is fun. Changing soiled underwear is not.

(NSFW)

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(NSFW)

That’s “Not Safe for Work” – traditionally put at the beginning of emails or web pages containing images or speech most employers would dislike, as a warning to anyone who might be thinking of perusing them on the job. Things like the latest finalists on the Hooters Pageant, some off-color Joke chain letter, or the Rush Limbaugh show.

There’s a big stink right now about employers asking for potential employees’ social media and email passwords. It’s such a big deal that Senator Blumenthal from Connecticut is writing legislation at the federal level to prevent employers from asking or requiring job applicants to hand over the information.

Good for him.

While perfectly acceptable for a company to hold its employees to high standards, requiring an applicant to hand over the keys to his virtual house is reprehensible. Make them swear on a job application that there is nothing inappropriate on their Facebook page, and if they lie, an employer can fire them for lying on the application.

I’m a bit more lenient with employers who ask applicants to sit down, log onto a computer and then, say, “show me your photos” or “scroll down and let me read some of your comments”. At least then the applicant has some level of control.

Unfortunately, Blumenthal’s laws don’t cover employees already on the job, just applicants. The attorney general for the US says that while employers asking employees for their passwords is a Federal Crime (!), they dont intend to prosecute anyone. But, current workers are left hanging in the wind by the proposed legislation. So, what to do about the state of things in Facebook land?

Clean out your dirty laundry. Sure, everyone has bad days. Everyone gets mad, and we all do stupid things. Have a picture from a party where you are sloppy drunk and holding a beer? Maybe that should be deleted. That time where you were on spring break and hanging (clothed) off the stripper pole for a laugh? Likewise, not something you might want the law firm you are courting to be looking at. The comment about your last boss being a big “doody-head”? Again, something that worries future employers. “Are they going to talk about me on here?” Free Speech laws protect you when you talk about the government, not when you say you hate your job. Say you don’t like working there enough, and they might free you up for other job opportunities.

Pare down your friends list. Really, you need 1000 friends? No you don’t, you narcissist. I use the carport rule. If you came to my house, would I talk to you for 20 minutes in the carport? If yes, you can be my friend. If not, I’m sorry… I just don’t know you that well. Watch out being a supervisor. If you have to discipline (or worse – fire) a subordinate, they may go on a data-mining expedition intent on taking you down in flames with them.

Make a “stealth” page. Want to be critical of stuff? Want to vent and yell and blow off steam? Don’t be you. Thanks to free email that’s anonymous (unless the feds want to snoop around for some reason), you can be A. Nonymous if you want. Not a good name choice if you don’t want the FBI and NSA after you right now. Maybe “Bob Everyman” would be better, but you get my drift. On your “real” page, you can have your work friends and family and pictures of your cat and the “repost this if you love your kids!” nauseating spam statuses. The problem is, if you go stealth, of course you cant let any of your friends know it. Otherwise, eventually everyone will know it, and you’re probably going to catch Hell for lying. Similarly, if your go stealth and blast your boss, or your company, someone will probably pick you out eventually. Don’t go there.

The other option? Delete your page. Facebook doesn’t want you deleting your page. They actually hang on to it for 14 days after you say “delete me”, so you can log back in and save your stuff. If you go on another site that offers “log in through facebook”, they reactivate you. The only solution I can see is to change your password to something you would never remember ten minutes from now. Something like 397bv39j4nnkl. Then tell them to delete you. If someone wants your password, you forgot it, you deleted your page. All true.

Then you can start over with family photos and cats fixing computers.

We’re going to Disney World!

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Not now. There’s still work and stuff to do, and the kid isn’t out for vacation yet. Public schools are such attendance Nazis that I couldn’t take her out if I wanted to.

So, the family is going to Disney World. We will be there —– to —–. Once again, some of you may be nefarious individuals and wish to make off with my microwave or something, so I’m not telling you when. Sorry. We were going over X-Mass vacation, but given how incredibly, inedibly busy it is, nix that. When they close the park because it’s full, I don’t want to be there. Although being in the Magic Kingdom on New Years eve would be awesome, we aren’t willing to put up with the crowds. Same reason I wouldn’t go to times square on New Years eve. Too crowded, with the added problem of all those darn New Yorkers milling about.

But, we get to plan. And planning a Disney Trip is half the fun. I’ll have to make up an email address and join the “Disney Board” again. I got kicked off last year because I referred to twitter users as Tweetards. They found it offensive to “the mentally handicapped”. They are a really sensitive bunch in that place. They are infected with “Disneyitis”, a condition making you think the world should never offend anyone at any time, and should always be rated G. When they aren’t freaking out over little things, they can offer some good advice, and give upcoming news about the park, trip reports, restaurant reviews, etc.

Our biggest challenge is always restaurants. Used to, many years ago, you could just show up and eat after a wait. But now, you have to decide six months early where you want to go, when, and make reservations. You also have to make sure you aren’t jumping park to park every night, eating up vacation time in a car or worse, on the Disney Bus. Enter, the Canonical Tour, an excel spreadsheet of everything we plan on doing, food reservations, which parks which days, where we plato eat, etc. Etc.

I do an iPad edition, a sample of our meal planning for the week. The excel version has more stuff. Of course, it’s all color coded, and even does calculations for money we need, gas, tips, etc, so we know how much to take. If you’re planning on being in the Magic Kingdom, you don’t want to plan dinner at Chefs De France and have to drive park to park.

Making clothes is always fun. Last year we had shirts made with some of my “Everything I need to know I Learned at Walt Disney World” phrases on them. See my May 2011 entries for that, but they include such gems as:

Even though I’m paying for it, I could still get really used to being called “my lord” by the people serving me dinner

The tramp stamp tattoo you thought was cool when you were 22 looks really silly now that you are 32 and bending over the stroller dealing with your squalling offspring

The best place for your party of ten to stop and adjust hats, cameras, children’s toys, or other accessories is the top landing of a narrow stairway, with half the park waiting behind you.

When you are waiting in line to eat for a long time, don’t bother trying to decide what to order, or making sure you have money. Wait until it’s your turn at the register before doing that.

Anyone with a stroller has the right of way. Anyone who fails to yield the right of way to stroller pushers may be struck in the ankles repeatedly until they learn the error of their ways.

My wife found Minnie Mouse logos and pictures on Google Images, printed some out and did iron on transfers. She made some very cute stuff like shirts and matching hair bows. They last well enough for the trip, but that’s about it, they don’t handle washing very well.

I hear Disney now gives free wi-fi in every room, too. That’s very nice. It’s about time they joined 1995 and offered what even the nastiest cheap motel gives you for free. they also have refrigerators in all the rooms, so we don’t have to continue to load the cooler with ice every night for a week. We were spoiled the last two years with refrigerators at their hotels, and didn’t want to miss out.

So between planning and doing, there’s a lot more to a Disney trip than just loading up the Family Truckster and heading off across the countryside.

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Occupy Wall Street comes to town.

Not really. There’s no reason for those morons to come to our town. It’s a small, isolated sort of place with no major population centers or landmarks for them to picket. Are they even still protesting, or did the trust funds run out and they had to go home or back to Harvard?

But it looked like they were moving in. My daughter and I took advantage of the warmish weather last night and tried tenting out in the backyard. She had my old two-man tent. Really it’s a two small people who are on exceptionally good terms with each other tent. It was a $49 six sided three pole Wal mart special I bought twelve years ago for saving money camping out at fly ins. As I haven’t been to a fly-in in quite a while, it doesn’t see much use any more. The bad economy killed a lot of flying clubs off.
I can fit in the tent from point to point, but only just. It has more head room that feet room, so while you can sit up and play cards or something and have plenty of room, it’s hard to sleep. Fortunately my child is much shorter than me, and she, the Angry Bird plush, and her sleeping bag fits just fine.

I have my hammock tent. I’ve hung it a few times, but never spent more than about two minutes in it, and never with a sleeping bag. It was also the first time I’ve hung the rain fly (I.e. The roof for you non campers) separately from the hammock. I could actually see out pretty good through the mosquito netting. When the fly is on the tent directly, it limits vision and blocks a lot of air movement, but it will keep you dry, like a cocoon.

So we did all the normal end of day stuff. Eat, bath, read. Then we went outside. There was a nice breeze blowing. Unfortunately, there was a 30% chance of rain. Kaylee got situated and zipped up behind her netting. Her tent has a netting roof too, and I asked if she wanted it exposed so she could see stars, or if she wanted the rain fly on. She wanted the fly on. Good choice. I told her if she got cold, just zip up the tent door, but for now she might feel better with only the netting closed. I lay in my hammock, which settled a foot lower than I had tied it, thanks to rope stretch and the fact that my knots might not be up to manufacturers specs. I need to watch the knot video again. I felt a little exposed in case of rain, worried it might blow under the rain fly, which was now a foot or more over my tent.

The first thing I noticed as I shifted around to get on my sleeping bag (you can’t just lay on the hammock, it’s thin and the Mosquitos can bite you through the material just like a t shirt), was that the netting let in a lot of breeze. Nice at first, but would get cold later. The fabric of the rain fly rippled a little in the breeze too.
The next important thing I noticed was that my idiot neighbors on the north side of me have about 3000 watts of security lights that light up the rainfly when it ripples, although down in the hammock they don’t shine directly on me. They do provide enough light in my kitchen that I can make a sandwich, though. With my glasses off the weird yellow green light reminds me of stories of alien probing. I keep waiting for the Greys to show up.
My neighbors to the south have two dogs, commonly known as LS Barkers, LS standing for Little…umm, crappy. That’s ALL they do. Walk into the yard, they bark at you, sneeze, they bark at you, turn over in the tent, they bark at you. They stand right at the fence and yap yap yap. So they bark at my kid’s flashlight while she reads. They bark when I say goodnight, and they bark when there’s a little sleeping bag rustle when we shift positions. Is it kosher to hire a hit man for the neighbor’s dog?
The last thing I remember about my neighborhood. There are a hundred houses here. There are two main roads in and out. I live at the corner of the outside highway and one of those roads. So all night long it’s like Grand Central Station. Cars in and out, loud mufflers, booming music, and the damn dogs barking. Where the heck is everyone going all night?
Then I see the lightning. I check my phone, which I brought with me, and the radar shows the storm is swinging north of us, which I confirm visually. My daughter sees it too, and announces we might get wet. I tell her to go to sleep and if it starts raining bad, we will go inside.
So with headphones on to drown out the sound of the dogs, but not loud enough so if my daughter wants something I can still hear her, sleeping bag pulled up by my head to cut out the security lights from Hell, and the gentle rocking of the hammock in the breeze, I try to sleep.

The hammock works well. I can imagine it would be nice being back in the woods in the middle of no where, no dogs barking, no traffic, only the sounds of animals creeping through the brush. I don’t hear any animals around us, only the occasional crunch of leaves here and there, likely tree rats (squirrel), which the dogs evidently ignore. I then realize I’m sort of a piñata for anything large enough to want to consume me, but thankfully in my neighborhood I doubt anything is that hungry.

The air cools off and the storm goes around us, and then it gets cooler and a little windier. If I was smart I would get out of my hammock, attach the fly to the rigging of the hammock and close it in a little, but I’m tired and lazy. I sleep a fitful sleep (with all the noise and lights and cars) through the night and around 5:45 I’m fully awake, and wrapped in my sleeping bag. My daughter gets up about 6:15 and asks if it time to go in. She announces that she is cold, and I’ve heard her several times rolling around. I look over and see the tent door is wide open, letting the cool air blow right through her mosquito net. She has no explanation for why she didn’t close the door. She informs me it’s raining. I tell her it’s probably just dew on the tent, and she says “I hear it hitting”. She’s quiet for a moment, and I hear it hitting my rain fly now. At this point I realize having her fly on was a good choice. Not wanting to get caught in a downpour (and since we are both fully awake) we go in, sleeping bags and flashlights in tow.

I learned a thing or two:
I need a pillow. Despite the angle of the hammock, the sleeping bag does not provide enough of a difference for those of us used to using pillows. A shirt in a stuff sack would work. But some sort of a pillow is something to add to the list.
I need a sleeping pad. My sleeping bag is rated to 20 degrees, but when it compresses under me it feels colder on the back, a common problem with hammocks. Thankfully I already ordered one, and it came today. I’ll have to try it out in the hammock later. It might need to be cut down a little, but it was ten bucks and it’s foam, so if I screw up I haven’t lost much.

I’m exceptionally proud of kaylee for sticking it out all night, even more so for being in the tent alone and not freaking out. I feel I can take her camping at a lake somewhere, as long as she has a flashlight and a book. I may even offer to take the neighbors dogs, so they can get out of the yard. I just need a few bricks and a short rope for the trip.