Archive for the 'holidays' Category



30
Oct
07

Pumpkin is done

I spent this evening working on the details in the face and scraping out the inside some more so that more light would shine through. Here’s a picture of the end product:

finished_pumpkin_blog.JPG

I’m not really sure why the colors look so bad. I’m guessing it’s a white balance issue. Anyway, even if the picture doesn’t look that great, I’m really happy with the way the pumpkin turned out.

29
Oct
07

A Halloween Project

We’ve had 2 pumpkins in our apartment for a couple of weeks now and they’re begging to be carved.  With Halloween coming up in 2 days, I thought that I better get cracking (or, carving…).  Anyway, after watching lots of postseason baseball and not getting too excited about the Red Sox, the fact that the Pirates are “my team” was confirmed again.  So, I decided to carve a pumpkin with the Pirates’ logo on it.  Here’s how I did it:

  1. I got out my Pirates hoodie (with a nice, embroidered logo) and photographed the logo:

    hoodie_logo.jpg

  2. I opened up the GIMP and applied a Gaussian blur to make the colors a little more uniform, then I posterized the image to get just white, black, red and yellow (plus a little residual junk):

    pirates_logo_blog.jpg

  3. I printed out the image and cut out the details in the face so I could use it as a template on the pumpkin:

    logo_cutout.JPG

    Seen here taped to a little curtain thing we have.

  4. I taped the template to the pumpkin and, using a permanent marker, marked in black all the stuff I was going to carve away.  I still have a lot of work ahead of me, but I’m pretty happy with it so far.

    pumpkin_in_progress.jpg

When I get it all done (hopefully before Wednesday night), I’ll post a picture of it all lit up.  I hope it’ll look decent.  I may wind up needing a giant lightbulb to put inside it in order for a decent amount of light to shine through.  We’ll see.  Anyway, it’s been awhile since I’ve worked on a project that involved using my hands in ways other than pressing keys on a keyboard, so I’ve had a good time with this.

25
Aug
07

SLR photography: a retrospective and a new chapter

Almost a year ago, I wrote a blog post asking my readers about digital SLR cameras. I was theoretically considering getting a digital SLR because I wanted to learn to take beautiful pictures. A former member of my research group had recommended learning SLR photography using digital SLRs because you get instant feedback. However, in the comments responding to my post, a couple of people suggested getting a fully manual film SLR instead – at least initially – so I would be forced to learn how to use an SLR properly. Then, once I had mastered taking pictures manually, I could move on to a digital SLR and actually take advantage of its features, rather than treating it as an expensive point-and-shoot. I took their advice and got a Pentax K1000 from eBay. I took lots of pictures with it and even entered my first photo competition with a picture from the Omaha Zoo, taken with my K1000.

Since last August, I have aquired 2 other film SLRs, both as gifts, in addition to my K1000. The first – a Konica Autoreflex T – was given to me by my wife’s uncle during our trip to Omaha this spring. I’ve probably taken 3 or 4 rolls of film with that camera. I like it, but I don’t know how to use it as well as my K1000. This mostly hinges on the metering system, which recommends the correct aperture to use rather than telling you whether your currently selected settings would produce a properly exposed picture.

In addition to the Konica, when my friend Scott moved out of Cambridge, he gave me a Canon EOS IX Lite, which uses APS film. This is a much more full-featured SLR than my other two, including auto-exposure, auto-focus, aperture- and shutter-priority modes, fully automatic shooting, and other goodies. He also threw in a Canon 22-55mm f/4-5.6 wide-angle zoom lens and a Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 telephoto zoom lens. These are both auto-focus lenses with built-in motors, so it’s a very nice package. I used this camera primarily when my brother-in-law and I took our Photowalk in the Back Bay. I like it a lot, but the APS format is dying and both the film itself and the developing is getting expensive and hard to locate.

By the time I develop all the film I have, I’ll have taken 25 rolls of film with my various film SLR cameras. I feel like I’ve gotten much more proficient at taking pictures. I’ve developed an eye for what constitutes a good photo and I have a sense for how to compose pictures. I’ve learned about the effects of shutter speed and aperture. I’ve experimented with different film speeds and types, including black and white print, color print, and color slide. In short, I think I’ve accomplished what I had hoped to accomplish with my foray into film: I’ve learned how to use a manual SLR. Sure, there’s room for improvement, as there will always be, but I’ve definitely got the basics figured out.

In addition to having accomplished much of what I hoped to accomplish through the use of a film SLR, lately I have become more keenly aware of how expensive using film is. The cost of film plus the cost of developing has been preventing me from experimenting and I felt like my photography was beginning to stagnate. So, I began to think about a digital SLR again. Unlike many of my friends who, by virtue of the many lenses they already owned, were locked into buying a digital SLR of a particular brand, I haven’t invested much money in lenses, so I was free to consider cameras from many different manufacturers. After spending lots of time on dpreview.com and reading many reviews written by camera owners, I came to the conclusion that the Pentax K10D is a great value, providing many advanced features that are only available on significantly more expensive cameras from Canon and Nikon.

This summer, Pentax instituted a rebate program, which could give buyers a rebate of up to $150 if they bought the camera along with one of couple of possible accessories. The last day of the rebate was July 31st and, in the days leading up to it, I agonized over whether I should take the plunge. I like to keep my options open, so I find decisions like this stressful. Anyway, in the end, I bought a K10D with the kit lens and a telephoto zoom lens from Willoughby’s in New York. I’m suspicious of many of these New York-based camera stores because they have a reputation for ripping people off, however, so far, I’ve been happy with Willoughby’s. I had to have one of the lenses replaced because, at some point during shipping the lens cap had become loose and had been rubbing on the front glass of the lens, producing small scratches and scuff marks. They were helpful on the phone, paid for the shipping to return the lens to them, and got me a replacement very quickly. So, all in all, it’s been a positive experience.

So, long story short, I now have a digital SLR and I’m learning how to use it. There are a lot of things to master, even if you’re not shooting manually and I’ve gotten pretty good at using the delete button. However, I’ve also taken some pictures that I’m really happy with. Unfortunately, while we were in Pittsburgh, it was overcast much of the time and I have lots of pictures in which the sky is overexposed. If people have any recommendations on how to minimize this problem, I’d be interested in hearing them. Also, I may try to set up some kind of photo blog on my server, so if people want to give me recommendations on what software I should use, I’d be interested in that as well.

20
Aug
07

Pirates games

During our trip to Pittsburgh we went to two Pirates games and saw the Pirates put together two come-from-behind victories.

On Thursday against the Mets, the Pirates found themselves in a 5-0 hole after 3 innings but scored 3, 1, 1, 2, and 3 runs in the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th innings, respectively, to win the the game 10-7.

Yesterday, the Pirates were losing 4-0 up until the 7th inning, when they scored 7 runs, all with 2 outs. That was a crazy inning. This is how the inning unfolded:

  1. Adam LaRoche flied out to right. (Nobody on, 1 out)
  2. Xavier Nady singled to left. (Runner on 1st, 1 out)
  3. Jason Bay struck out. (Runner on 1st, 2 outs)
  4. Jose Bautista singled to center. (Runners on 1st and 2nd, 2 outs)
  5. Pinch-hitter Josh Phelps drew a full-count walk. (Bases loaded, 2 outs)
  6. Pinch-hitter Matt Kata hit a 3-run double to center (Runner on 2nd, 2 outs, 3 runs in)
  7. Nate McLouth doubled to right. (Runner on 2nd, 2 outs, 4 runs in)
  8. Jack Wilson drew a full-count walk. (Runners on 1st and 2nd, 2 outs, 4 runs in)
  9. Freddy Sanchez doubled to left. (Runners on 2nd and 3rd, 2 outs, 5 runs in)
  10. Adam LaRoche was intentionally walked. (Bases loaded, 2 outs, 5 runs in)
  11. Xavier Nady singled to left. (Runners on 1st and 2nd, 2 outs, 7 runs in)
  12. Jason Bay grounded into a fielder’s choice. (2 runners left on base, 3 outs, 7 runs in)

So, in just one half-inning, the Pirates went from losing by 4 runs to winning by 3 runs. In the bottom of the 8th, they tacked on another run and eventually won the game 8-4. This marks the 5th consecutive game in which they have scored 8 or more runs. Interestingly, the Pirates lead the majors in runs scored so far in August. Who are these guys?

Anyway, though I had prepared myself for disappointment, these games proved to be exhilarating and very satisfying. I couldn’t be more pleased. Maybe a walk-off home run would have been more exciting but a 7-run, 2-out rally is pretty good, too.

Amazingly, Sunday’s game was the 2nd game I’ve attended this year in which the home team scored 7 runs in the 7th inning, all with 2 outs.

14
Aug
07

The fate of the Pirates’ season

The Pirates have 46 games left in the season and their record is currently 49-67. The inquisitive reader may be wondering, “What has to happen for the Pirates to break their streak of consecutive losing seasons?” Well, since the season consists of 162 games, in order for the Pirates to have a winning season, they need to win 82 games. They currently have 49 wins and they need 82. Thus, they need to win 33 games out of their remaining 46. This means that their record during the remaining 46 games must be 33-13, for a win percentage of 0.717.

Given the Pirates’ performance during the 2nd half of the season, this seems pretty unlikely.  However, they have won 4 out of their last 5, so they’ve obviously turned things around a bit in comparison to a few weeks ago.

Fortunately, in order for the Pirates to have another 100-loss season, they would need to lose 33 or more games out of their remaining 46, which also seems pretty improbable.  Heather and I will be at their games on Thursday against the Mets and Sunday against the Phillies, so hopefully, these two games will net the Pirates another two wins.  It’ll be pretty depressing, though, if they lose both games.  In any case, these games will give me an opportunity to wear my Pirates jersey, which I don’t normally get much opportunity to wear since we live in Boston.

10
Aug
07

Happy Anniversary, Heather!

Today is our 5th anniversary. In some ways, it’s hard to believe it’s been 5 years already.  On the other hand, to an extent, it feels like we’ve been married forever.  Anyway, I’m very grateful for our time together and how Heather has enriched my life through her companionship and support.

30
Jul
07

New sandals

Since Adrian is showing off his new footwear, I thought I would write about my new sandals.

When I was in college, I had a pair of sandals that I wore all the time.  At some point, the sole began to separate from the upper and they were unofficially retired.  Since then, I hadn’t been able to find a pair of sandals that I liked and didn’t give me blisters.  However, during my last trip to Pittsburgh, my mom wanted to help me look for a pair of sandals as a Father’s Day present.  We looked all around Robinson Town Center and finally managed to track down a pair of sandals that I liked and seemed to fit me.  I’ve worn them all day 7 or 8 times since I got them and I’ve yet to develop any blisters, so it looks like they’re going to be a success!  Plus, they ended up costing $5 since they were on clearance for $20 and Sears had a $15 off deal if you opened a Sears charge.  Not bad.

sandals.jpg




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