31 August 2010

Bi-weekly Background - 2010.08.30

Yeah, another late post... Hopefully this awesome butterfly makes up for it. This is a Chalcedon Checkerspot butterfly (according to my limited knowledge of butterfly families.. who makes an identification website and groups species by 'Brush-footed Butterflies'? I didn't see the feet!). I found this while hiking in Bothe-Napa State Park.

28 August 2010

Bi-weekly Background - 2010.08.27

Sorry for the late post... My wife and I visited Southern Oregon/Northern California last weekend and I'm still trying to catch up photographically. Going to have some new pics in my Picasa once I get through them all. In the meantime, I decided to continue my leafy green background thing for my Friday background this week. Enjoy.

23 August 2010

Bi-weekly Background - 2010.08.23

I felt it was time for something a bit more abstract. Today's background is a common plant around the bay area. I took this while walking around Foster City, CA. I'm not sure what exactly this plant is, but it's everywhere. I'll try to fill in with more details later.

20 August 2010

Bi-weekly Backgrounds - 2010.08.20

As promised, another bird post, and from Yosemite, too. This is a Stellar's Jay, in resplendent blue colors. I love how this guy blends in with the background, despite being such a different color. The out-of-focus background is rather nice as well.

18 August 2010

Beloit Mindset List

Beloit has posted their 2014 Mindset List, intended to categorize the differences between the mindset of the incoming freshmen class and their teachers. For the most part, this is always fascinating reading, in particular documenting the slow, inexorable change of life through the ages. The list is generally a smattering of cultural, historical, and other milestones that occurred before the current class was born. For example, from this years list, Number 32 is "Czechoslovakia has never existed."; mentioning this fact to an incoming freshman would probably be met with disinterest or rolled eyes, unless they have a particular interest in this part of Europe.

My personal favorites:

1. Few in the class know how to write in cursive.
Humorous to me because although I spent years learning cursive, all I can write in it is my name.

2. Email is just too slow, and they seldom if ever use snail mail.
Also humorous to me since I send around 40-50 emails per day.

10. A quarter of the class has at least one immigrant parent, and the immigration debate is not a big priority…unless it involves “real” aliens from another planet.
I thought this was a huge priority for most people...? Also, given that almost everyone in the US is immigrant descended, I'm surprised this is new...

27. Computers have never lacked a CD-ROM disk drive.
Until netbooks. Expect this one to change again in the future.

28. They’ve never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day.
I thought I was the only one who didn't wear a wrist watch.

58. Beethoven has always been a dog.
A clear sign of the United States decaying cultural heritage. Or something.

71. The nation has never approved of the job Congress is doing.
Apparently times never change, no matter how much they seem to based on this list.

17 August 2010

Bi-weekly Background - 2010.08.16

A bit late -- forgot to upload this yesterday. This is a shot I took of a bird (what kind of bird? I'm a satellite engineer, not an ornithologist... apparently a White Headed Woodpecker; who would've thought?) in Yosemite National Park, while waiting for a bus. I love the faded background and parallel lines in this shot. Taken with my telephoto lens on maximum focal length, so as not to frighten the little guy. Yosemite was a great place to take pictures of birds -- I may use another bird picture on Friday.

13 August 2010

Bi-weekly Background - 2010.08.13

As promised, another marine animal, this time a sea anemone. I'm not sure what I do right with aquariums and the like, but I always end up with phenomenal pictures of sea creatures. It doesn't matter that the lighting isn't good, or that there's a glass wall -- it just works out. This extreme close up was taken at the Exploratorium, using my 18-50mm lens. I love the curled tentacles on this guy -- and their clarity -- as well as the mouth. As an added benefit, I discovered that inverting the colors, it looks like a space alien. I'm providing both images for your enjoyment.

09 August 2010

Bi-weekly Background - 2010.08.10

My third background comes from an exhibit at the Exploratorium. I loved these little brine shrimp, and the color of the water in the exhibit. This particular photo caught my eye because of the curved shapes the shrimp made, as well as the background element. I'm not entirely sure what the background groove is for, but I like the composition. This is likely to be a marine photography week -- I always seem to have good luck with marine animal photographs.

08 August 2010

Background Index

I threw together a little page that allows you to browse the backgrounds I've posted. Of course, only two backgrounds thus far, but more are in the pipeline. I'll be posting them on my blog first, of course, but they'll go into the website as well.

Also, some of my beta testers have mentioned that my copyright notice on the images is, uh, 'huge'. I'll be working on that later this week if I have time. I'll put up another post when I've corrected the already generated images.

06 August 2010

Bi-weekly Background - 2010.08.06

Going to be busy with work and other stuff tomorrow, so I decided to post this a bit early... Here's my second free background, Real Bliss:

Taken somewhere in the Palouse when I visited Palouse Falls. I couldn't help but notice the similarity with Microsoft's iconic "Bliss" image, which I always thought was over saturated and not particularly blissful. Having seen the hill where the original image was taken, I think the Palouse is quite a bit prettier. Using this as a desktop background produces some interesting double-takes, particularly when people know your computer is running Linux or Mac OS. This was actually taken from a moving car, using a low shutter speed - a technique that I've found works pretty well for hard-to-access scenery.

01 August 2010

Bi-weekly Background 2010.08.01

So a while back, I was trying to decide what to do with my photography library. I like having the photos in Picasa and sharing them with friends and family. I also like seeing my pictures in use, but I'm not quite ready to release them to wilds on the interweb for all to consume. After a few weeks of chewing on this, I came up with an idea: Every week, I'd release a few of my pictures, cropped and resized as desktop backgrounds.

My tentative plans are to release two pictures a week -- probably Monday and Friday, schedule permitting -- free of charge, as a Creative Commons, No derivatives, Attribution content. Any picture I take is fair game for this, except those of friends, family or other clearly recognizable people (distant crowds are okay). Some days might be nature or scenery pictures, others my attempts at astrophotography, or even abstract art that I think would look good as desktops.

Keep in kind that I'm an amateur photographer -- some of these are going to stink -- and I don't have the photoshop knowhow to churn out great pictures by the dozen. Initially, at least, I'll be releasing cropped pictures in reasonable desktop sizes, but otherwise untouched from my camera. Schedule is liable to be subject to change; I have a busy job, and I travel frequently, so there may be delays (foreseen or unforeseen).

Eventually I'll place an archive of these on my website, but for now, I'm going to use my blog to do that.

Anyways, without further ado, here is my first free desktop, Purple Flowers:

This was shot with my trusty telephoto 55mm-250mm lens on my Canon Rebel EOS XSi. Although this is a telephoto lens and typically doesn't focus well at close distances, I've found it can take some great macro-like shots at its maximum focal length from my standing height. The flowers themselves were found while hiking along the Tomales Point trail out by Point Reyes, just north of San Francisco.

Exploratorium & Galilieoscope

Yesterday Urmi and I went to the Exploratorium in downtown San Francisco. Being both science inclined folks, we're both suckers for science museums (even the ones which are aimed primarily at kids) and the Exploratorium was no exception. Unlike many of the science museums I've been to, the Exploratorium is mainly a hands-on sort of place. They have exhibits demonstrating pendulums, echos, optical illusions (including on that gives you the illusion of being in a rotating barrel), and all manner of scientific principles. My personal favorite was one demonstrating the Curie Point, a temperature at which a ferromagnetic material becomes paramagnetic and loses its ability to be attracted to magnets. The Exploratorium is also set in a gorgeous location, with a lake (full of ducks, swans, etc) and small park. I took plenty of pictures, which are available on my picasa account.

While there, I picked up a Galileoscope, which is a cheap, low-powered, DIY telescope based on the same model that Galileo used to observe Jupiter, the moon, Venus, and Saturn. In its default configuration, it's a 25x zoom telescope, good enough to make out a lot of detail on the moon, see the moons of Jupiter, and more. The telescope also comes with a Barlow Lens attachment, which doubles the 25x zoom. I haven't quite made this Barlow lens attachment work, but I used the default configuration last night to view several stars (sorry, no clue which ones -- I used whatever I could see from our apartment) and the moon. I took some great (if slightly blurry) shots of the moon as well. My best is below.

Clearly visible are several impact craters and maria, as well as Copernicus crater. This was taken about a halfhour after moonrise, so the moon really was this color. I took this using the highly scientific method of sticking my camera up against the telescope and snapping pictures. I don't recommend this -- it was very hard to get shots in focus, and if I bumped into the telescope, all bets were off.

Metro App v1.0.2

My Metro App for Android has been updated to version 1.0.2. The only thing fixed in this release is a rare bug that occurs if the phone has disabled the location services (GPS and Wifi-network based location) and the user tries to sort stations by distance. I've added a warning message if this occurs as well.