21 June 2010

The Oatmeal does Legos

This guy is a genius. You should spend some hours going through his stuff.
Start here:

16 June 2010

Garden Ramble: In the Weeds

I find I have more to say on the matter of gardening.

I have window boxes affixed to the railing of our front porch; originally they held petunias that were meant to grow thick and lush, spilling down the sides to be an attractive component of our otherwise drab city porch. The petunias baked as the morning sun heated the brick of our house and tore the moisture from the air. I later tried numerous alternatives from my flower seed stock - I currently have an interesting mixture of seed planted in the front boxes that I couldn't recount, only to say that it was in my seed box and is about as likely as not to sprout anything. What I have done in the third box, however, is embrace weeds.

There is a weed that looks similar (though much less corpulent / robust in shape) to the jade plant, but with a reddish tint. I think it's a portulaca variety. I've been yanking it out of the cracks of my sidewalks for years, but always thought it looked nice. I have decided that since it is so hearty I will let it grow, heck, I'll water it and cultivate it, to see the result. So far the result is promising. I'm keeping an open eye for other interesting looking weeds that I might wish to cultivate. I recently learned that the blue flower I've seen growing from pavement cracks and abandoned lots for lo these many years is actually chicory! I am very excited to obtain a sample for cultivation and cooking (and drinking with / in place of) coffee. Any other weeds I should know about? If the "weeds" prove to be truly attractive, I will pursue that in the other boxes as well. The portulaca is appearing in other outdoor pots as well, so I may choose to cultivate it indoors as well.

In established plant news, my rubber tree plant has new sprouts at the base of each trunk, this is a sign to me that the plant is thriving, and I feel like it had kittens or puppies or something! The resurrected pepper plant is likewise flourishing, and I am hoping to have a pepper or two to enjoy this year. This plant is on my list to be moved to a new pot from its current plastic abode, since it appears that it will become a perennial.

I made a decision recently to more carefully curate the pots what hold my plants, as I move to a more container-based strategy ahead of our impending move. The Mrs. and I want the containers to be as decorative and pleasing as the plants. The plastic pots I have been using will be replaced with ceramic, metallic, and whenever possible inventive containers. That said I have a large collection of gently used plastic pots of varying sizes that have suddenly come available. So let me know if you need one.

I did use a chunk of those pots - 8 identical pots I bought some years back - to plant cuttings from my Swedish ivy. Keeping them moist, by Christmas I will have 8 wonderful little gifts to give! I might add in a snake plant cutting to the pot at some point, since I feel the two plants work well together: both require minimal water and can withstand a variety of lighting conditions.

Along the lines of pots and cutting, my sister's husband recently indicated that he wanted to add some house plants to their home. Luckily I heard him and let him know that I would provide him with cuttings to prevent an unnecessary expense on their part! I need to tackle that project ...

Finally, just when I thought it was safe to cut the grass, I took a walk down through the yard, and a volunteer tomato and a volunteer vine of another variety (cucumber, by the look of it, maybe cantaloupe?) has sprouted and grown with great speed. I intend to let them grow, and see what we get out of it. I won't provide much in the way of additional watering, but I also won't attack them with the trimmer. I can't do harm to those intrepid botanical treasures.

02 June 2010

30 Second Photography

Here's one from my old MySpace blog, from before I made the jump.

A friend of mine is looking into a camera for his Alaskan adventure, wants to use a DSLR, but doesn't know anything about the lenses &c. I decided rather than just turning him loose on Wikipedia I'd at least try to give him some basic knowledge to cling to once he goes looking for those more detailed answers. Following here is the 30 second breakdown I gave him. If anyone out there who really knows this stuff happens to look at it, please tell me if and where I got it wrong. I'm hoping I steered him right, and I really dig photography so I'm always looking to improve my knowledge and my skill. Thanks for reading!

F stop (f numbers)
  • The f-stop is how wide open your aperture is; the aperture is the iris/hole that controls how much light gets through to the film or sensor.
  • The bigger the hole the smaller the f number (i.e. f/11 is a small hole while f/1.8 is WIDE OPEN).
  • Something to remember is that the more open your aperture is, the smaller your depth of field is (Depth of field is how much stuff is in focus. Say there are 3 people, 1 10 feet away, 1 15 feet away, 1 20 feet away. A shorter DoF means that only one of these people is going to be in focus, but the more you close your aperture (bigger f number), the more depth you will have in your field.)

Shutter Speed (the 1/x numbers)

  • Simply put, it's how long the shutter lets light hit the film/sensor when you press the shutter button and take a picture.
  • This is measured in fractions of a second (e.g. a shutter speed of 100 is actually 1/100 or .01 of a second).
  • The longer you leave the shutter open (your exposure time), the more likely you are to have a blurry photo.

Lens size (the mm numbers)
  • Lenses are measure by their focal length, in millimeters (mm).
  • The shorter the focal length, the more zoomed-out (wider) you are.
  • About 50mm or so makes an object appear in your view finder about as big as it does to the naked eye.
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  • >50mm gives you zoom-in capabilities.

Bonus: ISO numbers (film grain)
  • The ISO number on a digital camera is how sensitive the sensor is to light; film has an ISO rating related to the size of the film grain that also tells how sensitive it is to light, which is where the numbers come from.
  • The ISO number is changeable in digital cameras.
  • The bigger the ISO number the more sensitive the sensor is to light (shoot ISO 200 in sunlight, but ISO 1600 in a dim room).
  • The drawback is that more noise / weird pixels creep into your images at higher ISO numbers. Many cameras have Noise Reduction (NR) technology to help with this, but only so much.

Iron Man 2: Don't Hate the Player

After my fawning review of Iron Man, you'd think maybe I'd hold Iron Man part deux up to a ridiculously high standard. You'd be sort-of right. I've read a lot of reviews that say it's not a good movie, lacking in whatever it is people who are paid to be critics and know a lot about movies like to complain is lacking from movies. I've also read it intimated that RDJ himself was less than happy with making this movie, artistically.
I enjoyed the movie (btw, guy sitting behind us? it's "Captain America", not "Mr. America". Mr. America is a DC Hero. You fail at being a comic book nerd. Hang your head in shame, dork) as did the Mrs. About the only movie I can remember NOT liking is that Twilight abomination fro ma few years back, but I'll go so far as to say I couldn't find anything to laugh at in the trailer for the upcoming installment of that fran ... I was talking about Iron Man. Sorry.
This feels like a set up movie. This feels like a movie that should have been about 30 minutes longer. I needed to see some more of Tony Stark really dealing with the fact that he was dying, in a fashion different from using a high tech glucose meter to check the level of his blood toxicity, and then mugging for the camera in the mirror (btw, did you catch the "mirror shot" where he lifts his hand and the "reflection" decides to join him in the new pose about a beat later? Hidden homage to the Marx brothers?).
What the first Iron Man and the 2 new Batman movies have shown us (and the Hulk movies have thus far failed to show us) is that movies based on comic books are a unique opportunity to explore the humanity of these characters beyond the page. Don't get me wrong, I love me some pew-pew and WHOOOSH and bang-smash clank VRRROOWWRRRR BOOOM!!
I think it's more that there was a missed opportunity here than a bad movie. The third Iron Man should be fantastic; all of the actors associated with the franchise are fantastic. Give them something to chew on, people. RDJ looks hungry.

Oh, and I still want JARVIS in the worst way. At least his interface. That sweet, sweet holographic interface.

01 June 2010

Total Personal Worth Formula

I can't believe I've let this one go so long without sharing. This came to me as I was pondering how difficult it is to offload an item because of a memory attached to it, or some perceived utility.

I came up with this back in January; maybe it will help you de-clutter. Maybe you can offer refinements or helpful criticism to make it better?

Garden Ramble: 2010 Special Edition

My garden rambles have always been centered around the doings of my vegetable garden. As the Mrs. and I are hoping to sell our house before the year is out AND my new commute eats up most of the time I would have used for vegetable gardening, I sacrificed my patch of hard-worked land to grass seed. So no vegetable garden this year. My herbs are growing like crazy - some volunteer basil and cilantro have even joined the party - and I planted all of the flower seeds I'd collected in years past into pots, a decent number of which have sprouted.

My efforts have largely turned to houseplants, and praying that the grass continues to fill in - this 4th Summer in our house and I feel like the yard is actually looking like a yard, not some guy's head in desperate need of Propecia. Houseplants because they are portable and year-round, and the yard because it's easier to sell a house with a decent looking back yard than a house with a back yard that, well, you already know. Bald spots. Also, I know that all-grass lawns are ridiculously bad for the environment, so I am pleased to report that there is a healthy "weed" component to the burgeoning lawn, and it looks fine when cut. Environmentally friendly AND aesthetically pleasing.

The most exciting news is that a plant I had thought dead and gone, and was only a bored Sunday afternoon away from the compost bin, has actually returned to life! My father gave me a hot pepper plant that I took to work with me when the weather turned foul and nursed it through the winter; the poor thing lost its last leaves some time in February or March. It has sat, a sad stalk, in its pot on my back porch (to the Mrs.' consternation) ever since. While watering the living plants yesterday I noticed that it looked suspiciously green. My friends, a miracle! The pepper plant has sprouted new leaves along the stem, and maybe by my birthday it could even sprout a pepper or two!

My birthday is in September.

Yes, every year.

So no lengthy commentary on how my squash are looking this year, but know that I am still keeping the thumb green, and that wherever we next call home, I plan to implement some form of vegetable garden. Some friends have one of those upside-down tomato grower gardens where you can plant stuff on top of the tomatoes, and it really works. Maybe that will be the next go-round; it all depends on how much room upon which I'll have to ramble.

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