Archive for September, 2006

27
Sep
06

Merry Christmas

I was looking at the photos on my online photo gallery today and I noticed what appeared to be a dead pixel in the full-size version of one of the pictures.  Disconcerted by this, I checked a few other pictures with dark backgrounds to see if, indeed, this pixel was white in all of them.  It was.  Grrr.  I checked pictures from just after I got the camera and the dead pixel wasn’t there.  So, I decided to try to figure out exactly when the pixel died.  By scouring my digital photos I found the last photo in which it wasn’t present and the first photo in which it was present.  The last photo before the pixel died was taken on December 25th, 2005 and the first photo with the dead pixel was taken December 26th, 2005.  What a great Christmas present…  Obviously, it’s not a huge deal since it took me about 10 months to notice it.  That said, it’s still annoying.  Added to that, I found another dead pixel in my images.  I haven’t figured out exactly when that one died, but I’m beginning to wonder if maybe it isn’t time to get a new camera.  I’ve been wanting a digital point and shoot with a better movie mode for a couple of months now.  Maybe this Christmas?

23
Sep
06

It’s that time of the month…

That’s right, tonight my 90 eMusic downloads would have disappeared if I hadn’t used them.  However, I got all my songs downloaded in time and I actually changed my subscription.  I was finding that there was no way I could digest 90 songs a month.  I like to listen to an album a lot of times in a row to get acquainted with it before I move on to the next one and having to download the equivalent of 8-9 albums a month was just way too much.  In fact, I still have a backlog of albums I haven’t really listened to from the last few months of eMusic downloads.  I initially tried to cancel my subscription, but to prevent me from cancelling, they offered me their “eMusic Lite” plan, which gives me 20 songs/month for $5.99.  That I can manage.  After 3 months it gets ramped up to the 40 song/month for $10 “basic” package.

Anyway, here are the albums that I downloaded:

  • Jose Gonzalez: Veneer
  • Denison Witmer: Are You A Dreamer?
  • Denison Witmer: Philadelphia Songs
  • Half-Handed Cloud: Halos and Lassos
  • Half-Handed Cloud: We Haven’t Just Been Told, We Have Been Loved
  • Portastatic: Bright Ideas
  • godspeed you! black emperor: Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
  • godspeed you! black emperor: f#a#infinity
  • Sufjan Stevens: “The Friendly Beasts” from See You On The Moon!

Lately, I’ve been listening quite a lot to Half-Handed Cloud and Denison Witmer (both of which were impulse buys last month), so I decided to get more of their stuff.  Also, I was flipping through the channels tonight and I saw the last 45 seconds of a Jose Gonzalez video on MTV.  I had heard some of his stuff by way of Adrian and I liked it pretty well.  We’ll see how I feel about this album.  Portastatic is an old favorite of mine from the mid-90’s.  I had lost track of them at some point so I got the most recent non-soundtrack album to reconnect.  At this point I had 8 downloads left.  It turns out that you can download 2 entire godspeed you! black emperor albums using only 7 downloads.  The tracks are like 20 minutes each.  This makes up for the fact that Half-Handed Cloud songs are like 1 minute each.  Trying to figure out how to use my last track, I decided to look for songs that people had put on compilations.  Fortunately, I found a Sufjan Stevens song that I didn’t already have.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to listen through all of these albums soon.  The fact that my 4GB iPod mini can’t hold my whole music collection at once is really starting to bug me.  Whenever I download new music, I have to clear out space on it so that there’s room for the new stuff.  This makes for difficult decisions about what to delete.  The difficulty of the decision often delays me putting new music on my iPod for awhile, which makes it difficult to listen to new music.  Maybe I need to get a 30GB iPod.  If they had come out with a 12GB Nano, I might have wanted that instead, but the 8GB Nano is still not going to solve my problem.

21
Sep
06

Pirates win, take series from Dodgers

These West Coast games are killing me. It’s after 1am here and I’m still up. But, it was worth it. The Pirates beat the Dodgers tonight, surviving a nail-biter bottom of the ninth.

By winning tonight, the Pirates claim the series victory and look toward a sweep. Does this sound familiar?  The Pirates are now 65-87 (.428) for the season and 35-27 (.565) since the All-Star Break.

A little less than a month ago, I outlined various scenarios for how the Pirates’ season could end up.  At the time, I was very pleased with their performance, since their record was at .526 since the All-Star Break.  I’m happy to say that their record has improved.  As noted above, they are now .565 since the All-Star Game.  Amazingly, they are .700 in their last 20 games, which is made all the more extraordinary by the fact that many of the Pirates’ recent wins have come against very good teams, like the Mets and the Dodgers.  As I noted in a previous post, it is now impossible for the Pirates to have a 100-loss season.  Tonight’s win made it likewise impossible for the Pirates to end the season with a win percentage lower than .400.  The worst they can do is .401 if they lose all 10 of their remaining games.

One suggestion I got in the comments to the post mentioned above was that the Pirates might keep up their then-.526 2nd-half win percentage for the rest of their games this season.  In the 24 games since that post, the Pirates have lost only 9 times, leaving them with a win percentage during that span not of .526, but transposing the digits, .625.

Anyone in Pittsburgh still paying attention to the Pirates must be encouraged by the performance of the team.  First of all, it’s exciting to see your team win – especially against tough competitors.  Secondly, it bodes very well for next year.  I feel like we have a core of good, young players who could make the Pirates competitive next year.

Finally, tonight Freddy Sanchez extended his lead in the NL batting title by going 4 for 5.  His average now stands at .346, compared to Cabrera’s mark of .338.  With only 10 more games left in the season, Freddy has a very solid chance of winning the batting title this year.

20
Sep
06

Pirates: 100-loss season now impossible

In previous posts I mentioned the possibility of a 100-loss season. I’m happy to say that that is no longer a concern. The Pirates have 87 losses this season, but only 11 remaining games. So, even if they lost every single game left this season, they would still finish the season with 98 losses. Whew.

In other news, the Pirates are hot. They are .700 in their last 20 games, including tonight’s win over the Dodgers.

18
Sep
06

America’s Police Force Runs on Dunkin’

The other day after getting my new camera bag at Calumet Photo, Dan and I stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts near Kendall Square. I got my iced coffee and he got his regular coffee. We split one of the giant new peanut butter cup cookies as well. Shortly after we finished paying, a pair of Cambridge police officers came in. I had to chuckle, given the stereotype of police and doughnut shops. It seemed funny but not that noteworthy. However, a few minutes later, another pair of Cambridge police officers came in, ordered, and sat down near the others. As if this wasn’t enough, another few minutes passed and a third pair of officers – this time, MIT police officers – came in. At this point, there were a total of 8 customers in the place and 6 of them were police. I know that stereotypes are often untrue and unfair, but evidently, the stereotypical police appetite for donuts is quite accurate.

Take home message: if there’s ever an emergency but you can’t get through to 911, call the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts and you’ll be all set.

17
Sep
06

Weekend Update

To atone for hardly posting at all last week, I’m posting thick and fast this weekend. On to the first item:

Pirates sweep Mets. What can I say? I love it. The Pirates are now 63-87 (.420) for the season and 33-27 (.550) since the All-Star Break.

In other news, I had my first 3 rolls of film taken with my “new” Pentax K1000 developed today. I got the pictures on a CD, so I can share them with you. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with them. The color isn’t that great and varies a lot in different lighting conditions. I’ll have to learn how to deal with that better. Also, the second roll has strange light-colored bands which are pretty distracting in some pictures. I think I rewound the film in the wrong direction on that roll. Could that be responsible for my problems? I didn’t get that problem on any of the other rolls, so I don’t think it’s a problem with the camera. Anyway, my pictures will be here probably some time later tonight.

I went to MIT’s “Swapfest” today with my friend Scott. This event is generally either called Swapfest or “Flea @ MIT” in the signage that the sponsoring group posts. My wife and Scott’s wife have come up with their own names for it, like “Nerdfest” and “Geekmart”. Whatever you choose to call it, it takes place on the 3rd Sunday of each month April through October. This month I got what is probably the coolest thing ever made: a Telex Caramate 4000.

slide_projector.JPG

What you see above is a slide projector with a built-in viewing screen.  Opening or closing the little door above the screen controls whether the image is projected on the built-in screen or on an external screen or wall.  Not only that, it has a cassette player, remote control, and microphone, so you can host the most awesome slideshow viewing event in history, complete with mix-tape soundtrack and narration by microphone. Now that I have a slide projector, I’m going to get some slide film – maybe the Fuji Velvia that Adrian can’t stop talking about – shoot some slides and host some awesome slideshow nights.

17
Sep
06

A slight upgrade

In a couple of previous posts I’ve talked about how I bought a Pentax K1000. It finally came earlier this week. The seller on eBay had asked me if I wanted her to include a camera bag that she had lying around, primarily for shipping purposes. I said, “Sure, why not?”. When the package arrived, I understood why she asked. Here’s a picture of the bag:

old_camera_bag.jpg

Today, I visited Calumet, a local camera store, with my friend Dan and found myself a replacement. It’s a Tamrac Velocity 7. It’s a nice little bag. It fits my K1000 body, plus my 50mm and 135mm lenses nicely. I think it probably has room for the 28mm or 24mm lens I hope to buy soon. I may also look into getting a zoom lens to give me up to 300mm. I think the bag should accommodate that as well. Anyway, a picture is below.

new_camera_bag.jpg

So far, I’ve taken 2 rolls of Fuji color print film with my camera. I think I’ll try to get them developed tomorrow. Once I get it developed and scanned, I’ll post a link to the location of the pictures. I think I got a lot of nice shots in the two rolls I’ve taken. I hope they turn out well.

17
Sep
06

Pirates win series against Mets, look for sweep

I love late-inning dramatics and today’s Pirates game had just enough. The Pirates and Mets were tied at two apiece after 8 1/2 innings of solid pitching. In the bottom of the 9th Jason Bay struck out and Xavier Nady grounded out, leaving Joe Randa at the plate. He drew a walk from Mets pitcher Aaron Heilman, bringing Ronnie Paulino to the plate. After Paulino’s first swing the Mets announcers started talking about the problems with Paulino’s swing – how he opens up his front shoulder too quickly. Paulino responded to this criticism by drilling a line drive off the wall in deep left-center, bringing in the winning run. His hit sealed the series win for the Pirates and prevented the Mets from clinching the NL East pennant for a second straight night. You can say that I’m mean, but I loved watching the game and seeing all the disappointed Mets fans in the stands at PNC Park. Welcome to Pittsburgh.

The Pirates’ victory tonight leaves them 62-87 (.416) on the season and 32-27 (.542) since the All-Star Break. Since they have 87 losses and only 13 more games to play this season, they need only one more win between now and October 1st to avoid the dreaded 100 loss season. I think they can pull it off.  The series win against the Mets marks the 10th series win (out of 18) the Pirates have had since the All-Star Break, including series sweeps of the Giants, Cubs, and Cardinals.

In other news, one of my fantasy players, Chone Figgins, hit for the cycle tonight. This comes only days after the Rangers’ Gary Matthews Jr. hit for the natural cycle in Thursday’s game against the Tigers.

10
Sep
06

Buying and Developing Film

With the arrival of my Pentax K1000 imminent, I’ve been wondering about what film to get, where to get it, and how to get it developed. Do any of you order film online? I’d like to shoot some slide film sometime, but I’ve heard that getting slide film developed can be difficult these days. If you shoot slide film, where do you get it developed and how much does it cost?

10
Sep
06

The Official Rules of Baseball

Last week I finished reading The Official Rules of Baseball: An Anecdotal Look at the Rules of Baseball and How They Came To Be by David Nemec. While the book is very interesting, the level of detail and the amount of time spent on subtle, seldom-invoked rules probably make it too esoteric for the casual fan. However, for students of the game – those interested in better understanding the infield-fly rule or other widely-misunderstood concepts – it is ideal.

The book basically follows the structure of Major League Baseball’s Official Rules document, with chapters titled Objectives of the Game, Definitions of Terms, Game Preliminaries, Starting and Ending a Game, Putting the Ball in Play, The Batter, The Runner, The Pitcher, The Umpire, and The Official Scorer, respectively. In a narrow column on the left side of each page, the relevant text from the official rules is included. On the right, a description, often accompanied by an anecdote describing the rule’s evolution or a noteworthy instance in which the rule came into play, is included. This layout is logical but because the rules are not meant to read like a book, the result is that this book reads more like a collection of brief articles than a cohesive whole.

Because the book deals with the same concepts repeatedly, the author tries to add some variety by using different words for the same concepts. This is a common practice in sports writing, where authors use words like “dinger” or “tater” as a substitute for “home run”. However, I found the author’s efforts to avoid repetition somewhat annoying.

Despite the book’s shortcomings, I found myself mesmerized. It is thoroughly researched and presents many highly interesting examples of obscure rules making a huge difference in important games. In addition, it paints a picture of baseball as it was originally: gritty and rough around the edges. In the early years of the game, all sorts of trickery was employed by managers and players in order to gain a competitive advantage. Many of today’s seemingly inexplicable rules were written in order to explicitly forbid the most prevalent or most philosophically objectionable of those tricks.

If you consider yourself a student of the game and you’re interested in understanding many of the game’s most subtle and confusing aspects, this is a great resource. It certainly has some shortcomings, but overall it is a very interesting book.

Other books that I can recommend to those with a keen interest in baseball include The Numbers Game by Alan Schwarz and Curve Ball by Jim Albert and Jay Bennett.

Having completed this book, I have moved on to another. This time, I’m leaving baseball behind and have started reading a photography book, so I’m prepared to take pictures when my Pentax K1000 arrives. I checked out two books on Tuesday, I think, and I’ve already finished the first: Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. Today I’ll be starting on the second: Learning to See Creatively: Design, Color & Composition in Photography, also by Bryan Peterson.




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