Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Energy Sword

After our visit to TDI, we each got a ka-bar knife to carry if necessary. They come with a tight clip for your belt that is very difficult to yank off.

While that is nice, all Halo fans know that type of knife is like a pea shooter compared to the power of a Covenant energy sword. Well, you can get your own energy sword at this site. OK, it's a replica. It's probably not sharp or sturdy. But it still looks cool and might intimidate any attackers.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Graphic Science

The Make Magazine blog had an interesting post a while back about Science comics. I might have to get some of these.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Asters, Beetles, and Fungus

AsterThe asters in Michele's garden have changed a lot in the past week. The central disk flowers have opened up completely and in the process have changed from yellow to a more purple hue. Compare the photo here to the one in my post from last week.

I also noticed in one aster plant there were several yellow/greenish beetles crawling around the blossoms. Dianne's Google skills revealed that they were spotted cucumber beetles. As explained in the information at this U Conn site, the beetles feed on pollen and go for certain types of plants. It also says that when a beetle finds a good food source, it emits a pheromone to call other beetles to the feast. That explains why I saw several of them on one pot of asters. The photo below shows one of the beetles walking on an aster blossom. It was originally near the center of the flower, but started moving away when my flashes kicked in. Sorry guy!

Spotted Cucumber Beetle

Bird's Nest FungusMichele discovered a bird's nest fungus this week and set it aside for me -- I never would have seen it otherwise. She explained that the members of the order Nidulariales have cup shaped "nests" and they have their spores in little structures that resemble eggs. You can see that structure in the top down view shown at right. When raindrops hit the nest the eggs are dispersed from the nest to spread the spores. It is a neat structure. I should carry a ruler in my photo bag. Each of the nest structures is smaller than a dime. The photo below is a side view that gives a better feel for the cup like structure of the nest.

Bird's Nest Fungus

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lemony Chickpea Stir-fry

Lemony Chickpea Stir Fry CloseupA few weeks ago Dianne suggested we have more vegetarian dinners. That's kinda hard to do given the small number of vegetables that we both like. I ran across a recipe for a chickpea stir-fry at the 101 Cookbooks site that fit the bill nicely. The photo on the right shows my dish. It turned out well. The lemon balances out the bitterness of the kale. I think maybe some ginger might be a nice addition next time. Dianne suggested adding almonds for some extra crunch.

What is your favorite vegetarian dish? I'm always looking for ideas.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Keep Your Pants Safe

Dianne and I got bicycles a few weeks ago. My bike doesn't have a chain guard, so I have to be careful about not getting my pant leg caught in the chain/sprocket. That hasn't been a problem so far since it has been too hot to wear long pants when riding.

I saw these unique pant clips on the Swissmiss site. You can order them from the MoMA store. They are made of reflective material and when you wear them you'll look like the Greek god Hermes. Sure you could use a rubber band, but it wouldn't look as cool.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Pot of PurpleMichele has a beautiful pot of asters near her front porch. Of course a purple flower is always going to catch my eye. I had no idea what they were -- just that they sort of looked like a daisy. As she explained, the aster is a member of the daisy family (Compositae). Not only is it fun to try some different photo techniques to get some shots of her garden, I learn some botany and entomology in the process.

The flowers looked fantastic in the morning sun. Surprisingly, the asters didn't get much attention from the bees and butterflies. The photo to the right, of the whole plant and pot, was taken using my fisheye lens. The close-ups below were taken with a macro lens using only the natural sunlight.


Purple Petals

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Little Produce Problem

About a month ago this story surfaced about a hard-nosed, greater San Francisco area mayor who put a stop to a produce stand being run by a couple little girls. From just the info in that article, it sounds like the mayor was taking the situation immediately to the extreme.

Whew! Apparently I just dodged being busted with a lemonade stand when I was a kid.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Toad Lily Blossoms

Toad LilyOne of my favorite Fall flowers in Michele's garden is the toad lily. It has a unique shape and a hint of purple (which is always a plus). It is a small blossom that is just a bit bigger than a quarter. The particular plant I found that had the nicest flowers was in partial shade. The photo to the right is taken using the natural light that was available. For the two photos below I used a couple of flashes to add to the natural light. That let me use a much smaller aperature that gives a larger depth of field so more of the blossom is in focus. The main trade off is you lose the background. Which do you prefer -- the natural light or the flash? Click on any photo to go to Flickr to see a larger version (click all sizes above the photo in Flickr).

Toad Lily

Toad Lily Close Up

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Black-n-Bluegrass Rollergirls' Heartbreaker Bout

Lead JammerOn Saturday night Dianne and I went to watch the Black-n-Bluegrass Rollergirls team the Moonshiners take on the traveling team of the Bleeding Heartland Rollergirls from Bloomington at Sportsville in Florence, Kentucky. It was their last home bout of the season and I wanted to see some of my favorite skaters back in action. The event was billed as "Heartbreaker" and the BBRG Moonshiners did break Bleeding Heartland by beating them with a score of 115 to 67.

The first period was a see-saw battle. Both teams have some speedy jammers and good blockers that were doing their best to stay on their feet on the slippery gym floor at Sportsville. On the Bloomington team, I was impressed with the efforts of Bad Mudda Trucka and KaKa Caliente. Right near the end of the period, Roseanne Scarr (shown at right as lead jammer) had a 10 point jam (with zero for BHRG) that put the Moonshiners ahead by a couple points.

Help From JuwanaIn the second period, the Moonshiner blockers effectively shut down the Bleeding Heartland jammers. I think Bloomington managed to score less than 10 points the whole period! Great job to all the BBRG blockers. Not only did the BBRG blockers shut down the offense, they also helped their own jammers through the pack. The photo at right shows Juwana Hurt moving in to position to help Pinup Pussycat. While Bloomington was stymied, the BBRG jammers (including Morgue Ann le Slayer, Petal to the Metal, Pinup Pussycat, and Roseanne Scarr) continued to rack up the points. The photo below shows Morgue Ann le Slayer going around the outside to score. At the end of the second period the score was 70 to 48 in favor of the Moonshiners.

Morgue Ann Trying to Score

Most everything continued to go the way of the Moonshiners in the third period. BBRG was trying some different things like letting Buckhead Betty take a turn with the jammer star. Petal to the Metal did take a hard fall right in front of us after a block knocked her off balance -- we were in the middle of the Petal fan club and there were a lot of gasps. The photo below shows her fall.

Petal Takes a Fall

Roseanne and MeAfter the match I was able to chat with Roseanne Scarr in her BBRG garb. It was nice to see her back in action. Dianne got this photo of us after the match. Roseanne racked up quite a few points during the bout and it looked like she was having fun doing it. She also took her turn as a pivot and blocker.

I also got the chance to meet and talk a bit with the BBRG jammer Pinup Pussycat. She also did well last night -- when, as she herself said, she wasn't in the penalty box. She was speedy on the slippery floor and got her share of designations as lead jammer. Dianne took this photo of me with Pinup.

Pinup and MeYou can see several other photos from the match in my Flickr set by clicking here. The crowd seemed a bit thin and hopefully the Moonshiners will get a larger following next year. There was quite a contingent from the Derby City Rollergirls who were doing some scouting for their upcoming bout on October 4th in Louisville. Congrats to the BBRG group on a great win!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bees, Bees, and More Bees

Yesterday I finally made another trip over to visit Michele's garden. There is still a lot going on this time of year. Just like last year, the remaining bees and butterflies are visiting the sedum blossoms and other flowers in her garden to get the last bits of nectar for the season. I got a relatively early start and it was fairly cool overnight. I think that made the bees a little lethargic and that helped me get set up for photos.

There were several different species roaming over the plants. I focussed on the larger bees as they were moving more slowly. This bee (maybe a carpenter bee?) was the same species I saw last year. The green pattern in the eyes and the yellow mark on the front of the head is pretty distinctive.

Happy Bee

Here is a close-up of the head. I was using a bare flash for fill so you can see some glare on the eyes. Reflected light next time.


Below is another type of bee I saw. In this photo you can see the additional 3 eyes on the forehead. I used a fill flash on this macro as the plant was in partial shade. Click here to see a larger version of the photo below. I think this is my favorite of the bee macros.

Many Eyes

Here is a side view of the same bee.


You can see a bunch of bee photos in the Flickr set here.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Capture Cincinnati Mini-Contest

The Capture Cincinnati photo contest is coming to an end quickly. During the voting, the organizers have tossed in some mini-contests where they ask contributors to submit photos on specific topics. Rather than having open voting on the entries, the organizers judge the entries and select their favorites.

A couple weeks ago they called for photos related to Fall, to Winter, and to Spring. I submitted a few of my photos. A couple days ago they announced their favorites. Check out the top photo in the Fall category -- click here. That photo looks familiar! I'm psyched!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Windstorm in Cincinnati

Things have been crazy in the Cincinnati area since last Sunday. On Sunday afternoon the remains of hurricane Ike passed through the area. We didn't get any rain, but the wind was some of the worst I've ever seen. The paper reported consistent gusts in the upper 50 mph range with peak gusts in the upper 70 mph range. Trees were down all around the area and lots of shingles were blown off buildings. Over 600,000 customers were without power. Gas stations couldn't pump gas, traffic lights weren't operating (and people apparently don't know the intersection becomes a 4 way stop) -- it was nuts.

We were pretty fortunate. We only lost our power for about 18 hours. Several of my friends at work still don't have power today. We just got our cable TV and Internet access back today, so this is the first chance I've had to post some photos of the damage in our neighborhood.

After the storm passed we went for a quick walk around the neighborhood. Just a few buildings away a tree fell and damaged a second story deck and broke the glass on a sliding glass door. One of our neighbors got out his chainsaw and started the cleanup. Click here to see a larger version.

Cleaning Up

A couple blocks away a large tree fell across the road and took out a lot of electric and telephone wires in the process. Click here to see a larger version.

Road Closed

Finally, this tree trunk snapped at the base and when the tree fell it just missed the corner of a house by about 6 feet. It took out quite a few wires too. Dianne is there for scale. Click here to see a larger version.

Just Missed the House

Hopefully crews will get power restored to the rest of the customers within the next couple days.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cubicles Aren't So Bad

I work in a cubicle environment. It's nice for co-location of work groups (although I spend a lot of time on the phone working with other sites or partners), but the distractions can sometimes be frustrating when you're trying to focus.

But then I see a photo like the one here, found on the Shorpy Photoblog, and it reminds me that life in a cubicle isn't so bad after all. Go here to see the post and the description. The Shorpy site posts old, mostly B&W photos that illustrate what life was like in years gone by. There are some interesting photos -- made all that much more amazing when you think of the photography equipment used in days gone by. Check it out!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ancestry Map

Below is an interesting map based on data collected in the 2000 US census. Click here to see a large version. The map shows the ancestry with the largest population by county for the US states.

Lots of Germans around the Cincinnati tri-state area. Not a surprise since it is the home of the world's largest chicken dance held at Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati (which by the way is next weekend).

Also not surprising is the huge pocket of folks with Norwegian ancestry around the Fargo/Moorhead area. I lived that for 4 years at Concordia. If you were a Norwegian immigrant to the US say 100+ years ago, wouldn't you have settled someplace warm instead of picking a region where the average low temperature in January is about 2 below F?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

You Could Win $25 at Best Buy!

Not here...you have to check out Erika Jean's blog and her contest. She is running a contest to celebrate having nearly 700 posts on her blog. This post is my entry for her contest -- although I've had her listed on my often read blogroll (see my sidebar) for ages.

I'm not 100% sure how I stumbled on her blog -- I think I was looking for local Cincinnati blogs on the MyBlogLog site. Erika grew up in the area and she recently graduated from UC and is now in Arizona. She has lots of posts about the Cincinnati area. But her blog has interesting life stories, lots of art work (she has some amazing doodles) and photos, and just crazy stuff she finds on the web.

However, my favorite set of her posts has to be her Friday Flashbacks series. Each week she writes a post about some past memory. It's a great idea for a blog post. You have to check out her flashback post this week about Castle Skateland. The results of her Google search are hilarious.

Erika also has photos on Flickr here -- she is in the middle of doing a self-portrait a day. Oh, and I should mention she has been a past guest contributor to our Songs In Haiku blog. That is an honor (?) that hasn't been given to very many folks.

Quite the creative gal and a very interesting blog. If you haven't already been to her site, check it out!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Evil Gadgets?

With great power comes great responsibility. Wired magazine had a post a couple weeks ago on the top 5 gadgets that will get you arrested. Of course that's only if you use them improperly.

My personal favorite of their choices is the handheld laser marking system that can etches materials with a 2 mJ laser. How cool is that? The flyer from the makers (Laser Photonics) says it is capable of 2D matrix codes or bar codes. I suppose that's what a lot of people use it for. But they also say it can handle AutoCAD, Illustrator, or other vector/raster file formats so you could etch just about anything you wanted into an object. Go here for the details.

Friday, September 12, 2008

MySpace's Raison D'etre

I have a MySpace account, but I don't use it much. I look at some general bulletins that some "friends" put out, but I find Facebook a much better social networking site. That is until today.

Many thanks to Kyle for pointing out the Internet find of the decade! MySpace has a video section called MySpace TV that I never explored. Kyle found out that MySpace TV has old episodes of ALF available! How cool is that!?! If you are a member, check out an episode here.

I would find it hard to believe, but if you're not familiar with what is probably the best sitcom of the late 80s (and maybe even the best sitcom ever) click here. You can watch ALF with Willie, Kate, Lynn, and Brian (and even Lucky the Cat) in all their glory. I watched a couple episodes this morning and they hold up well and are as funny as ever.

Thanks, Kyle!

P.S. I know there should be a circumflex in the title, but it is too much effort.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Enhanced Podcasts

I like the new Apple iPhone -- although not as much as Dianne who absolutely LOVES her iPhone. Rather than move my music from my iPod over to the phone and suck up all the phone memory, I decided to leave my music and photos where there were and use the phone for podcasts. I never have been much of a podcast listener. It seemed like too much effort to subscribe and download the latest and greatest (even though it is really simple). Since I'm connecting the phone to the computer a lot, that barrier goes away. The podcasts also give me something to listen to if I have some down time while waiting somewhere.

I enjoy the standard audio podcasts. I listen to several science podcasts, the news from Lake Woebegon, etc. But it wasn't until I started poking around for other podcasts to get some variety that I appreciated the value of an enhanced podcast. The enhancement is that the creator can display images and synchronize them with the podcast audio. You can view them on-line or mobile if you have an iPod capable of displaying video.

The two podcasts that really drove that home for me are both from Jeff Curto, a photography professor at the College of DuPage. One is called Camera Position and consists of fairly short commentaries on one or a small handful of photos. Jeff uses the enhanced podcast very well to show the whole photo he is talking about or to zoom in on a region of the photo to make a point. I'd highly recommend this series if you're in to the history and the creative side of photography.

The other podcast Jeff does is called the History of Photography. These can be longer podcasts from his college lectures, but again he uses the video iPod images very well to enhance his presentation. The summer series of podcasts was a bit more condensed. I wish I would have had something like this when taking art history in college!

With my new found appreciation for enhanced podcasts, a recent post on the Swissmiss site about a video podcast on origami sounded pretty cool. Has anyone been following this series?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Let's Improve Our Aim

A couple months ago I moved from one area of the building at work to another. That means a change in bathrooms. Unfortunately, this change was for the worse.

If you go in one of the men's bathroom options I have now after mid-morning, it always smells of urine. It seems that in general the people in that area of the building have the worst aim ever when using a urinal. It's not like they are exceptionally small. I just don't get it and I feel sorry for the janitorial staff. C'mon people, let's focus for a minute and make life better for everyone.

So this Boing Boing post that has a link to this original Good Magazine post about motivating change in human behavior is interesting. Let the urinal etching begin!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Photos From Eden Park

Standard LantanaA couple weeks ago while Dianne was at a Sunday morning practice, I went down to Eden Park in Cincinnati (technically Mount Adams, I think) to look around. It was hot and humid that morning, but there wasn't too much wind so I was hoping to get some nice macro photos.

The park is where the Krohn Conservatory is located. Although it was very dry here in August I was hoping there would be something in bloom. There was a nice large plant (a Standard Lantana) loaded with yellow flowers just outside the entrance to the conservatory. Click here to see a larger version on black. I love the fisheye lens!

Rather than go inside the conservatory, I decided to try and take some photos of the water tower in Eden park. It is a 174 feet tall brick structure that was completed in 1894. Eden Park Water TowerThe challenge I came up with was to get some photos of the tower that excluded other towers or buildings from the background. I was limited in angles that were well lit because of the relatively low angle of the sun.

The first photo I took was from a bit of a distance as I hiked up the hill. I adjusted the exposure to lighten the shadow under the tree in the foreground. Unfortunately, that also washed out the color of the bricks (compare it to the other photos below). I used the trees to both frame the tower and mask a building on the right side. You can see how brown the grass is from our lack of rain. Click here to see a larger version on black.

The second shot is taken a little closer to the tower. By moving up the hill and closer, I got the interfering building out of the frame. Eden Park Water TowerI also didn't worry about the detail in the dark shadow at the bottom of the photo, and this helps give a richer look to the colors.

To avoid getting some type of transmitting tower in the photo at the left side, I cropped the image so the tower is off center in the frame. In the original photo, the tower is centered in the frame so the vertical lines on the tower are straight when using the fisheye lens. However, this off center crop gives an uneven distortion to the trees on the left and right sides of the frame. This isn't too evident with trees, but still this isn't my favorite photo. Click here to see a larger version on black.

The last water tower photo is my favorite. This is taken near the base, just across the road that circles the base of the tower. Compared to the other photos above, this view is looking more at the left side of the water tower. Instead of having the sun at my back as in the photos above, the sun is now at the right rear, so you can start to see some shadows on the left side of small cylinder and on the bricks. Eden Park Water Tower

I like the depth that the shadows create. I also like the framing from the trees. Like the two photos above, I centered the tower in the lens to minimize distortion of the vertical lines on the tower. But with this photo I cropped it evenly left to right. I think having the distortion balanced results in a better effect. Quite an impressive structure. Here is a larger version on black.

After getting my fill of water tower photos, I walked across the bridge that starts near the base of the tower and goes over the top of Eden Park Drive toward the Ohio river. I had never been on that road before. It takes you to a wonderful overlook of the Ohio river, just upstream from Cincinnati. There were just a couple people there enjoying the view of the Sunday morning boaters on the river. All in all a nice visit to Eden Park.

Overlooking the Ohio

Monday, September 08, 2008

Desparate for Wine

Have you ever been somewhere and wanted to drink some wine from the bottle you brought along, but forgot a corkscrew? Personally, that's why you carry a Swiss army knife. The folks from Wired posted this article about how to open a bottle with a screw, screwdriver, and a claw hammer. Yeah...like if I don't have a corkscrew I'll have all this stuff with me!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

She Called Us!

We had a phone call today from Sarah Palin. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to pick it up. But she left a very nice voicemail message reminding us that she is going to be at the historic Golden Lamb in Lebanon, OH on Tuesday morning. I'm sure the kman will be there.

I bet if I had talked to her directly, she would have mentioned her views on banning books from the library and also her stance on teaching creationism in the classroom. I really want to ask her what deity and what view of creation she would want in the textbooks. I can only assume she is a Pastafarian and a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. RAmen!

Fertility and the Didgeridoo

Apparently Sarah Palin's oldest daughter does not play the didgeridoo. See this story.