19 August 2007

Crappity Crap Crap Crap!

(Note: I was going to use a different word than Crap in the title, but since this is a family blog, I, despite my feelings, used a softer word)

Saturday started bad. I couldn't sleep. So I was awake at like 5. That's early for a Saturday, but not that much earlier than planned. You see, I was leaving for a business trip at 8. So it was about 2 hours earlier than I wanted. But probably significant. The drive to Frankfurt was uneventful. The wait at the Frankfurt airport was worse than typical airport waits (the only thing I despise about travel).
When I got on the plane, I couldn't sleep (I usually can't, but thought being tired would help). Why is it that people always have to kick my seat on the way to the bathroom. Or lean on my head.

There was a 5 hour layover in Chicago. My coworker and I had a couple Sam Adam's at the Chili's bar to wait it out. Then the flight to San Jose was mostly sleepless. But I probably had the two best conversations on the plane that I ever had with strangers on an airplane. And my bad was the first one out at the baggage claim. Cool. After a short wait for my colleague, we tried to find the rental car. There was a bus that took us there, and it waited to fill up before taking us there, so the saved time of being first at baggage claim was pretty lost.

We got to the Avis counter at about 23:00. That's in California. My body was still on Central European time, which is 9 hours later, or 8 in the morning. And only a hour or two of low-quality sleep. I blame what happens next on the lack of sleep. I really felt like I could have collapsed at any second from exhaustion.

Anyway, as we reached for credit cards & driver's licenses, my camera bag slipped off my shoulder and thudded on the floor. It seemed oddly loud, but not anything that worried me too much (other than the "damn! I need to not be doing that, because someday it will break") When I eventually got checked in to the hotel, I did a quick visual inspection of the camera and lens. Everything looked OK.

Since our class doesn't start until Monday, we decided to head into San Francisco and enjoy the day. Eventually we got the car parked and I immediately saw something picture worthy and whipped the camera out. The GPS was locked in, and I was ready to shoot in this target rich environment. But something was wrong! The part that is supposed to twist to adjust the zoom would not twist. Uh oh. The fall did bugger something up. My standard lens, the 18-200 VR, the (relatively) tiny lens with the incredible 11x zoom range, the perfect travel lens because it goes from respectable wide-angle to respectable telephoto in only one lens is now effectively a doorstop. It seems to be optically OK,and can probably be repaired for less than the cost of a new one. But I don't get to San Francisco often. I wanted my perfect travel lens for my travel!

As I was packing for this trip, I debated whether or not to bring any other lenses. The 18-200 really covers 95% of what I need. The 80-400 was out. Traveling with that beast is not fun. And it almost requires a tripod. (I think it would be great to have for photographing the sea lions in San Fran, tho). I thought about the new Macro lens. If it was me & Jeannette alone, then probably. Jeannette is the perfect wife in may respects, one of them is that she puts up with me taking wacky pictures. If one of those is a macro shot of a sewer drain, she wouldn't care. She might have her own wacky macro shots (or at least suggestions for me to try), but she wasn't coming with, and someone who may not be so tolerant of my photo hobby was, so I left the macro lens. I debated the 10-20 wide-angle lens. It isn't needed often, but when it is, it sure is nice to have. Like when you are in a tight European city, where that beautiful Gothic church is only 10 meters from a castle wall, and I want the whole thing in one shot, 10mm just might do it. I debated this lens, and decided it isn't too big & heavy, so why the heck shouldn't I? Now I am glad that I did.

It's hard to shoot San Francisco with a 10-20mm lens. There are so many things that I wanted to do but couldn't. I get spoiled by my ultra versatile 18-200mm lens.

To make the day worse:
1) Somehow some sticky glop got on the working lens (luckily not on the glass parts). I think it was sap from a tree or something. I's still trying to figure out how to get it all cleaned off.
2) We have something like 37 tubes of chap stick at home. I have one with me all the time at home or work. I forgot to bring one on this trip. My lips were killing me bby the time I got off the plane. So I had to buy chap stick tube #38. I should buy some stock in the company.
3) It was a beautiful today. I had my hat, but forgot to pack sunscreen. Again, we have around 18 tubes of sunscreen at home. Why didn't I bring any? Cuz I'm an idiot that drops expensive cameras & lenses. Might as well just get skin cancer too.
4) We have at least two giant vats of post sunburn treatment (one is aloe based, and one is something we picked up in France that is magic-based, or something). Guess where I am going with this.
5) We were wandering the streets of SF and it eventually got to be lunch time, like it does. But there were no restaurants anywhere. Finally we stumble across an Italian place that was expensive, but had a lunch specials on the high side of reasonable, so we stopped and ate. It was tasty-ish, but quite tiny. I would have been satisfied, but after we walked one more block and turned the corner, there were bazillion restaurants to choose from.

I think some of the pictures I took today were good. Maybe if I have time tonight, I will upload one or two to ipernity. But I might just sulk all night about my lens.

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05 August 2007

Must Read for Iowa State University Alumi

Jeannette has posted on her Blog about the new ISU Alumni Online Directory called CySpace. It's available to all alumni, whether or not they are members of the Alumni Association, until Homecoming this year. Jeannette wrote a lot about it already that I don't want to duplicate, but I think it would be nice if all ISU Alumni could check it out, and make sure their stuff is up to date. And get in touch with us if you knew one of us. Read Jeannette's post for more info about it if you didn't get an email from the Alumni Association already.

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Within the span of just a couple hours, I was invited by two different friends to join two different book-related social networking sites.

The first invitation was for GoodReads and the second, about 3 hours later, was for Shelfari.

Not sure which one I like better. Both have minor problems with my browser of choice, Omniweb, which means that there are likely problems with Safari as well. In GoodReads, I am greeted with a blank page when I try to rate a book (I verified that all works well in Firefox). In Shelfari, various pages don't render properly - the shelf, for one. And my friends page is empty, yet my home page says I have a friend, it even shows a picture. Weird.

Both had the standard social networking features (friends, commenting, etc.), but Shelfari has bright colors and that "je ne sais quoi" look that says to me "we're trying to be hip and cool" while GoodReads has a subdued monotone look that says "we're trying to appear intellectual". I don't like GoodReads' font. Maybe it's not the font, but the fact that they don't put a capital letter anywhere in the site. So maybe I can't put my finger on it (cue Ween song), but something just looks wrong with GoodReads. Shelfari scores more web 2.0 points in the name department. Which probably reflects the "hip & cool" vs. "intellectual" thing as well.

Which one is better? Too early to say. By look alone, I am more drawn towards the Shelfari. I guess I just like the candy colors. But for an objective test, I did a search for the author Greg Stolze. GoodReads gives 15 results, all on one page. Nice. Shelfari returns 100 results across ten pages (ugh) unless I refine my search to "author" (not available in the search bar - in other words, I have to search and then refine the search to search by author name. Yuck.) Trouble is, refine by author doesn't change the results. And there is no way to return all results on one page. And there is no way to skip to an arbitrary page, just previous and next. On the first page of results, "previous" is a hot link that goes nowhere. Oops. Oh, and remember I searched for Greg Stolze? Why am I getting hits for a book called "Greg Noll" by Drew Kampion. Oh, it must be OR-ing my search terms. Not cool. Putting "Greg Stolze" in quotes drops the results to 5 pages, and gives me only results of books that are authored by Greg Stolze, either as the sole author or one of multiple authors. That's something that GoodReads doesn't give me. That is, what happens in GoodReads if I do a title search on one of the books where Greg Stolze was listed as author 9 of 11 in Shelfari? Well, the book exists, but only the 1st author (as listed in Shelfari) is in GoodReads. So if I want all of Greg Stolze's works, even where he is not the primary author, I am out of luck with GoodReads.

Neither site had Greg Stolze's book "Scary Face", which was has no ISBN and is available from Lulu.com. Jeannette was able to add it quickly & easily in GoodReads. I couldn't find any way to add books like this in Shelfari.

International: I entered the ISBN of my German version of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" into both search fields. GoodReads churned for a while and then returned 15 results of things that weren't even remotely close. It found the right book when I removed the dashes from the ISBN. Shelfari found the book without problem with or without the dashes.

One last comparison. My browser always has multiple tabs open. Shelfari nicely puts "Shelfari" in the web page title, and therefore the tab name. With GoodReads, I only get "find books". Popping back and forth between these experiments and writing about them, I always had trouble finding the GoodReads tab. "find books" just doesn't jump out at me. "Shelfari - Search..." does.

Here's the summary after a mere 15-30 minutes of use:
Shelfari: Colorful. Frustrating search. Minor rendering problems in Omniweb. More complete book details. No obvious way to add books not currently in the database. Better ISBN search.
GoodReads: Monochrome. Nice search (except with ISBN search). Javascript(?) problems with rating books. Allows users to add books. Does not seem to support multiple authors of books. Do you think you could title your web pages with GoodReads?

Which is better? Dunno. They both have bugs that put me off at the moment. Maybe by the time I finish off the stack of Discworld books I just picked up on the cheap, one or both of the sites will have matured enough for me to be able to really use them.

What a strange twist of fate that brought me invites to both of these sites on the same day...

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02 August 2007

More Tigers

Here they are, by request.
Here they are, more Stuttgart's Finest.


Tiger in the Jungle

Mom & Baby

Just Relaxin'

Tiger Cubs

Tiger Family

Mama's Watchful Eye

Whatcha Doin' Mom?

Tiger Fangs

Tiger Cub

Tiger Family

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Wilhelma Zoo

Infiltrating Heron

This is my first blog post since my move from F****r to Ipernity. Hopefully it all works out OK. Ipernity is pretty nice - it does the essential photo hosting that the former photo site did, but it also allows other media - video, music, whatever. The sharing via groups feature is missing, but supposedly coming soon. I'm happy, except there are a couple bugs and interface quirks (mostly relating to geotagging), but overall I am satisfied.

Tiger Cubs

Last weekend we went to the Wilhelma Zoo in Stuttgart. I took so many pictures, I filled all of my memory cards (5 & 1/8 GB is only ~320 pictures since I am shooting RAW) before we even finished seeing everything. Part of the problem was the baby sumatran tigers. They were just so cute & playful, we spent a long time watching them and I burned 25% of my photo capacity just on them. Not that it wasn't worth it!

Sumatran Tiger Family

Here are a few more shots from the zoo.



Mama Tiger

Monkey Family

Laughing Polar Bear

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