Friday, May 30, 2008

Peel P50

Stephanie's love of automobiles and of the BBC television show Top Gear has got me tuning in more often -- especially since we're in the summer TV dry spell. The other night we caught this segment below where Jeremy tests a 1960s era car. It's a cute segment that really had me laughing. Can you imagine commuting in a "car" like the Peel P50?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Cicadas Are Back

When Dianne and I were walking to the Blue Ash Memorial Day parade, Dianne noticed several cicadas and their exoskeletons on trees near the Hunt Road House. There wasn't any noise, so they must have recently emerged from the ground and started their climb up the tree. The first photo below shows one that had just shed the exoskeleton and was moving its wings in the sunshine. The second shot shows one trying to emerge. Actually, it was hard to tell if it was stuck or dead, but it was interesting to see how the back splits and they come out. If you want to brush up on your cicada anatomy, I found this site pretty interesting.

Just Emerged

Coming Out of Your Shell

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Obsession, Passion, and Addiction

That was the theme this week in the Macro Mondays group on Flickr. Dianne came to mind immediately. I worked that into a triptych shown below. I have to work on the eye photo technique, as there is quite the lighting reflection in the eye. I really like the hand hold macro.


For the other shot I went with wine corks to fit the theme. I used a combination of synthetic and cork, red wine stained and not. I played around with a few different arrangements before I came up with a composition I liked. The lighting also took some time to figure out. The main light was a flash with a grid (to diffuse the light a bit) from high left. To break up the shadow from that light, I used a softbox on the left. That still left some harsh shadows and the undersides were dark. I placed the corks on a white, opaque sheet of craft plastic supported on a piece of glass raised above the table. Underneath I placed a mirror on the table and bounced a flash off the mirror to illuminate the corks from the bottom. It makes the support whiter, lightens the shadows even more, and illuminates the undersides of the corks. I love that trick.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Plane Crash at Blue Ash Airport

There was a plane crash at the Blue Ash airport this weekend. You can read the story and see a photo of the wreckage here. It's amazing the pilot walked away. This plane was the backup plane I used during flight training when my favorite rental was being used or out of service.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend

Getting Ready for a RideMemorial Day weekend was pretty quiet for us. We stayed close to home.

Saturday was a beautiful day here. We ran a couple errands and made a visit to the lake part of the Sharon Woods park in the greater Cincinnati area. I wanted to get out and do a little walking. We didn't walk around the whole lake, but my leg is feeling much better and I'm better able to keep pace with Dianne -- compared to my shuffling of last week. This photo, from the top of the boat rental building, shows some people renting paddle boats. The place was packed and there were quite a few boats coming and going. Several folks were fishing and we saw a few catch some sunfish. The water seemed a bit muddy from the rain we had.

Color GuardToday we went to downtown Blue Ash to watch the Memorial Day parade. It's kind of sad we've been here well over a decade and this is the first time we went to the parade. There were the typical (for me) color guards, bands, National Guard vehicles, etc. A couple F-16s flew over (the speaker for the service at the veteran's memorial was from Wright Patterson AFB) and three of the Cincinnati Warbirds did a fly-by as well. Being an election year, there were LOTS of political candidate groups in the parade. All of them were tossing out candy for attention and the little kids were like vacuum cleaners sucking up the morsels. I don't remember the candy thing going on in Memorial Day parades when I was growing up.

The photo at the right shows the American Legion color guard that led the parade. The first shot below are members of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Pipe & Drum corps. The second shot is a Shriner clown car. The car was carefully balanced over the rear axle. It could drive down the street normally, but a slight shift in weight would make the front wheels come up. The car could spin around on the back wheels and the casters below the rumble seat. This is when they were spinning around and waving to the crowd. One of the clowns was riding a bike where the hubs of the wheels were off center. He was bobbing and rocking as he was riding along. That brought back memories of a similar bike my dad made. Too funny.

Blowing the Pipes

Clown Car

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Remember the Milk

Do you keep a 'to do' list? Is it scattered in many spots? Or maybe it is organized in one spot, but not one that you can always get to readily? If so, the site Remember the Milk might be for you.

In its simplest form, Remember the Milk is a web service that maintains your to do list. But it goes way beyond having to log in to see your list. The service interacts with many different sites and devices such as Twitter, Gmail, iGoogle, Google Calendar, Blackberries, iPhone, or the iPod Touch. I just set up the service myself yesterday. I like the interface with the Google Calendar as Dianne and I have a shared calendar set up already.

So if you're out and about and want to jot a to do item, you can send it to RTM (I do it via Twitter on my phone) and the item gets added to your list. You can access your list almost anywhere with a Blackberry or iPhone, or near a WiFi spot with an iPod Touch. If you establish contacts you can create todo items for others. That might be dangerous :^)

Anyone else tried Remember the Milk? Let me know so I can assign some to dos to you.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Film Noir Macros

This past Monday the theme in the Macro Mondays group in Flickr was "film noir." I've been watching a lot of film noir in the past year, so I was excited for the theme. Just earlier this week I watched a film noir classic In a Lonely Place with Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame. I thought it was a very good, but tense film. I'm biased though as I'm a big Bogart fan due to many of his film noir efforts like Dark Passage, High Sierra, The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, etc. and I've always liked Gloria Grahame. She played Violet in It's a Wonderful Life, but I liked her best in the film noir classic The Big Heat. I'm not a huge Glenn Ford fan, but The Big Heat is a great film and Gloria gives a solid performance.

Although I was familiar with the style, I wasn't sure how to do that in a macro. The film noir look is also a very different style of photography than I'm used to shooting so it was a challenge to get the right gritty, dark mood. I was happy with the outcome and the first shot made Flickr's Explore.

For my first shot I wanted to capture a murder scene and decided to use a bloody knife at the main subject. I used a piece of tapestry left over from this project as my background. I used concentrated cherry juice as my blood and used a stick to spatter some "blood" on the cloth. It took quite a bit to get a gruesome murder scene look. I also put some on the knife blade and on the handle where the bloody glove would have been holding it. To make the blood stand out in black & white, I used a green filter to enhance the red color (or darken it in b&w). I used a snoot on the flash to localize the light and did some post-processing to even enhance the vignette effect. Here is the result.

Reminants of a Murder

For my second shot, I tried to create a photo of items on Sam Spade's desk under light shining through the window from a streetlight or the moon. I wanted to create a shadow effect from the window pane or writing on the window. I was stymied until I discussed it with Dianne and she quickly suggested printing what I wanted on a transparency and then hold that above and shine a light through to create a shadow. She's full of great ideas! So what would Sam have on his desk? Probably a revolver, some cigarettes (which I had to buy), and matches. I used a flashlight with a tight beam to light the scene through the transparency of a skylight window pane. This is borderline macro -- maybe an up close still life. Again I did a little post-processing to enhance the vignette. Here is the result.

Sam's Desk in Moonlight

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sciatica on the Ropes?

I've been dealing with some bad sciatic pain these last few weeks that has really limited what I can do. I had an MRI a couple weeks ago that showed some degenerative changes in my lower spine that are causing some narrowing of the canals where the spinal cord travels and where the nerve roots branch off going to my left and right leg. The pain/tingling/numbness/muscle weakness is on my left side. It's been especially bad in the morning, consistent with the stenosis diagnosis and the third paragraph of the clinical description on this page. The physician's assistant for the orthopedist was most concerned about my lack of knee reflex on the left side. She even had me do the Jendrassik maneuver with counting backwards to no avail.

This morning I had my first epidural steroid injection. Except for a couple "bee stings" of anesthetic (see this post for my love of that -- this wasn't as bad as the dermatologist), it was just an odd feeling of pressure when the steroid solution was injected. They said it would take 1-3 days to kick in, but I felt considerably better later today (placebo effect?). I'm hoping the sciatic pain is on the ropes. I'm still far from 100%, but if the effect continues I'll be much better off this weekend. I'm hoping it'll be relatively painless to get out of bed tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Many months ago I signed up for a service called Tumblr. It's a service that creates a content stream that is made up of items pulled from lots of locations that you pick. I have a stream of consciousness site set up that shows everything I post in Blogger, Flickr photos, Twitter tweets, and my links in one spot. It puts out an RSS feed that you can subscribe to if you would like.

Aside from setting up a stream, I haven't done much else with the service. I've poked around at some other people's streams and some are nice. The ones I like are more polished and selective, maybe taking content from one spot or constructing info specifically for Tumblr use so it appears more polished.

Anyone else using it? If so, how?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I remember growing up my Dad kept a diary. It was always interesting to look back at the entries to help recall what he was doing and what his impressions were.

Are any readers using Photojojo? The service looks in your Flickr pool of photos twice a month and emails you a time capsule using photos you took a year ago in that period. I like getting the emails. I could just go in to your Flickr pool of photos and scroll back a year, but how often do you do that? Having the service sure makes it easy. And I don't seem to be getting spammed from it. Check it out if you have shots in Flickr.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Cincinnati Rollergirls -- In The Garden of Beatin'

On Saturday evening, Dianne and I went to the Cincinnati Rollergirls’ event called "In The Garden of Beatin’" at the Cincinnati Gardens. It was a double header event with the CRG team Silent Lambs taking on the Moonshiner team of the Black-n-Bluegrass Rollergirls and the CRG team Black Sheep taking on the Liberty Belles of the Philly Rollergirls. The Silent Lambs won by a score of 77 to 36 and in the WFTDA event the Black Sheep lost to the highly ranked Liberty Belles with a score of 35 to 102.

candyKICKass BreaksIn the Lamb & Moonshiner bout, I thought the CRG team showed a lot of improvement compared to their first match about a month ago. They seemed to be working together a lot more. Once again, candyKICKass (at right) was zipping around and doing a lot of scoring. Jammers Dr. McDerby and Jungle Lacy did a lot of work and Skates with Fists got to jam as well. The pack was doing a good job too. I have to say I miss seeing Sk8 Crime wearing the jammer star, but she’s becoming quite the pivot! I think GeezLouise won the hardest hit award when she gave a solid shoulder block to a Moonshiner and sent her into the suicide seats. Apparently Louise has been to the Juwana Hurt school of blocking. My favorite photo of the night is the shot below showing Ima Payne pulling Dr. McDerby with a great whip (thanks for doing that right in front of us). You can clearly see her braced and pulling through her shoulder.

Ima Gives a Whip

Stride For StrideThe other bout between the Black Sheep and the Liberty Belles was both hard to watch and amazing to see. The Belles had control from the start and it was tough to watch the Belle jammers getting through the pack and scoring while the CRG jammers were getting tied up. I wasn’t keeping notes, but there were at least of few of the early jams where the Black Sheep were scoreless. It took me a while to appreciate what the Liberty Belles were doing to hold the Black Sheep. I thought the Belles’ main strengths were coordination and teamwork in the pack. If their jammer was being held up, a couple skaters shifted position (sped up or slowed down) to throw some blocks, make a hole, and help them get the jammer through. The amazing thing was not all the Belle pack shifted, so there were still blockers to hold back CRG’s jammer. I couldn’t tell how they were communicating and maybe there wasn’t much – just the experience coming through. That ability to dynamically and quickly assess the situation, shift position, and work together was amazing and really fun to watch. The photo below illustrates the Liberty Belles positioned and looking to slow CRG jammer Hannah Barbaric (in black with the jammer star) while one blocker is available to help their jammer around the wall of pivot Sk8r-Kinney (at the right).

The Night in a Nutshell

Shoulder to ShoulderThe Liberty Belle skaters were all solid and good at blocking, but I was particularly impressed with Nina Knockout and the smaller skater Annie Christ. Technique can prevail over size as many small skaters show. Cincinnati did adjust during the break and came out in the second half looking much stronger. They had some good jams in the second half that excited the crowd. There were a couple times when the pack consciously slowed to create a 20 foot gap between them and a couple blockers holding back the CRG jammer. That forced the Belles to let them by. That sort of adjustment and smart skating just wasn’t consistent enough to bring them back into the match. While it’s sad to see Cincinnati go down, I know they’ll use this experience to improve themselves in future bouts. They have talent and just need to develop that extra telepathic communication to adjust like the Belles.

The halftime entertainment was a group from the Powel Crosley YMCA doing a Double Dutch jump rope demo. They were really good! That was a great choice for entertainment. In the shot below, one girl helped the other flip inside the ropes.

Double Dutch

Me With Dr. McDerbyThere were a couple noticeable changes in the event logistics that I really liked. First, I noticed they centered the track underneath the overhead scoreboard. I think that helped a bit with the light and also opened up a lot more seats to even views of the track. I know that was at the price of the large warm-up area, but I liked it. Also we all heard Professor Murder explain some of the calls via a wireless microphone. Of course I’m biased, but I loved it. There were a couple times where he explained what was going on – once was explaining there is a limit of two skaters in the penalty box, but the refs will send a third skater there when a penalty is within 10 seconds of finishing. Good job Professor!

Me With Sista SacAfter the match I was able to meet Silent Lamb skater Dr. McDerby (above) and Black Sheep skater Sista Sacrelicious (at right). Dianne very kindly took photos of me with each of them. I have quite a few additional photos in my Flickr set that you can see here. Of course they don't compare to Jason's shots that I'm sure you'll find here shortly and Jeff's photos.

The next CRG home event is on June 7th when the Silent Lambs take on the North Star Roller Girls from Minneapolis and the Black Sheep take on the lower ranked Derby Demons of the Steel City Rollergirls in Pittsburgh. Be there to cheer on all the CRG skaters!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Aircraft Collisions

This news story about two aircraft colliding in Dallas was prominent in the news. Here is a video showing how the Piper ended up perfectly balanced on the Cessna tail dragger. Fortunately no one was hurt in that accident.

That story reminded me of the mid-air collision just North of the Blue Ash airport that happened about a year ago. Read my blog entry about that accident here. There is a more detailed description of the accident here. Unfortunately all the pilots in that collision were killed. I just realized that the NTSB released their official report on the accident at the end of April. You can read the synopsis here. With both airplanes rolling and clipping wings, it would seem like they saw each other at the last moment when it was too late to avoid the collision. It's sad that the Beech pilot asked for flight following since he was maneuvering north of the field but was denied due to controller workload. That's not the controller's fault -- it is an optional thing for them to do. It's just unfortunate the controller was too busy at that particular time.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Bureau of Communication

The site called the Bureau of Communication has been around for awhile, but it's worth mentioning again. They have various stationary templates that you can fill out and send to someone via email. Kind of cute -- although I could see it leading to spam.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

CRG at Home This Weekend

The Cincinnati Rollergirls have a home bout, a double header, this Saturday at the Cincinnati Gardens. The CRG Silent Lambs will be skating against the Black-n-Bluegrass Rollergirls. In the second bout, the CRG Black Sheep will be taking on the Philly Roller Girls' Liberty Belles. Philly is ranked pretty high (#12 on the Flat Track Stats site), so it's going to be a tough match. Be there to cheer them on!

Also, tomorrow there is a pep rally at Quatman Cafe in Norwood from 7-9. Get psyched for derby action this weekend.

By the way, you can read about CRG's away match last weekend against Boston (ranked #17) on the Roller Derby Diva's blog.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Honda's FCX

You may have seen the TV ads for Honda's new hydrogen fuel cell car, the FCX. I saw the ad several times before I saw the url of the website for the car. It's a neat concept that uses a hydrogen fuel cell to power an electric motor. Unfortunately, because you need a hydrogen refueling station, the distribution in 2008 is only in a few cities in Southern California. Seems like an expensive, nationwide ad campaign to create the buzz for a small region of the country. It'll be interesting to see how the safety stats turn out for the car -- both when in operation and when refueling. The website also mentions work on home refueling stations. That would be cool. Use solar energy panels on your house to run an electrolysis apparatus to generate hydrogen from water. Fill up your car and you're ready to go. With gas prices on the rise, the economics might not be that bad.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Ault Park

Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day here. We decided to make a visit to Ault Park -- one of the larger parks in the Cincinnati area that we had never explored. It was good for my back to get out and walk around a bit. Here is a satellite view of the park.

There is a large pavilion that was closed due to a private event -- a wedding reception. Walking around we saw four wedding parties there taking pictures at various spots in the park and in the late afternoon there were quite a few prom couples there for photos.

I had Dianne sit on a park bench with her back to the sun to experiment with some fill flash techniques that I've been reading about on the Strobist blog. She was playing with her Nintendo DS lite so she was a patient subject. If you look at the photo below, you see her back is in direct sunlight and there is a distinct shadow on the concrete. Her face was in a distinct shadow and so she wouldn't show up well in a regular photo. I used a flash on the ground, pointed toward her, to get rid of the shadow. The flash is just outside the right of the frame. I had to experiment a bit to get the right exposure. This shot was with the flash set at 1/4 power. By the way, thanks to her for helping carry stuff too!

Dianne in Ault Park

My next project I thought I'd try is to get a 360 degree panorama shot from the center of the Observatory Circle area in the park. That's something easy to do while standing up straight. The photo below is a planet view of the panorama with the tripod at the center of the photo along the iron fence. If you want to see a traditional view, click here to see a large version on white. If you look closely at the bottom of the globe or on the right side of the panorama, at the base of the fountain in front of the pavilion you'll see one of the wedding parties getting their picture taken. You can't miss the satin, bright blue dresses the bridesmaids were wearing -- ones that will never be worn again. It was a beautiful day at the park.

Afterwards we stopped on Hyde Park Square to have dinner at Indigos and walk around the square a bit. Indigos is one of our favorite stops in Hyde Park. The square was hopping with everyone sitting outside enjoying the Spring evening.

Ault Park Planet

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Strawberry Memories

Growing up, one sign of late Spring or early Summer for me was the first ripe, native strawberries appearing. My aunt had a large strawberry patch and she would make the absolute best strawberry jam on the face of the planet -- Brenda knows what I mean. Nothing like fresh strawberry jam on one of her homemade buns. Yum!

The fever for the opening of strawberry season carried over into graduate school. For at least a couple years a group of us went to a local strawberry farm and picked a boat load of strawberries. We cleaned them up and prepared them for a strawberry get together. We made everything strawberry for the Chemistry folks -- strawberry shortcake, strawberry ice cream, strawberry daiquiris, etc.

I like strawberry flavors year 'round, but the sight of the first fresh strawberries still makes my mouth water. I picked up some at the market (shown in the photo) and made some strawberry shortcake last week. They weren't local, but they looked great and I couldn't wait. I love The Fresh Market in Kenwood.

Cleaned and Ready to Eat

Friday, May 09, 2008

How Long Would You Survive?

Thanks to Erika, I ran across this site.

How long could you survive in the vacuum of space?
Created by OnePlusYou

Thursday, May 08, 2008

You'd Never Guess...

After the looking at my picture that I had a minor procedure done at the dermatologist today. That bandage is huge! By the way, those are my new reading glasses.

I never had any major skin problems growing up -- except for the occasional sunburn. I didn't have to deal with acne issues. Quite a while ago I had a small black spot on my cheek that I thought was maybe an ingrown whisker. I was at the dermatologist for something else and had him look at it. Nope, it was a blackhead. Go figure. He cleaned it up and warned me this was a large pore and that it could possibly happen again. Sure enough, as predicted, it did. I went back a few months ago and he cleaned it up again and suggested just taking out the pore to eliminate the problem. He takes a punch biopsy and puts a couple stitches in to close it up. Today was the big day.

The worst part was the injection of the local anesthetic. "OK, you'll feel a little stick" said the nurse. Yeah, when you hear that you know they're trying to downplay the stick. The problem I discovered is the nerve that feeds that area fans out so she had to move the needle around to make several "little stick" injections. That gets old pretty fast. After a couple minutes she checked the skin with a needle to make sure everything was numb. I still felt the needle in a couple spots so she made a second round of injections. Even after working that in, one spot just wasn't getting the drug. So yes, you guessed it, another "little stick" series of anesthetic injections. The nerves in your face are pretty sensitive!

After that, the rest was just a little pushing for the biopsy and some pulling for the stitches. No discomfort though. I have to wear this pressure bandage for a day and then keep changing things until next Wednesday when the stitches come out.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Spring Memories

We had a huge maple tree in our backyard where I grew up. I had a tree house and sandbox at the base of the tree. Every Spring the seeds would appear, dry up, fall off and spin to the ground around the maple. There were seeds everywhere! I was always intrigued by their shape and how they resembled a helicopter blade spinning when they fell.

Dianne and I were out for a walk on Sunday, trying to get my back loosened up a bit, when I saw those seeds on a small maple tree in the neighborhood. I grabbed a couple to take some pictures. I like the way this turned out. I used a grazing flash to accentuate the texture of the seed. I don't remember them being so fuzzy -- maybe this isn't so apparent when they are dry or perhaps it's a different type of maple.

Click here to see a larger version on a black background.

Helicopter Seed