Distressed Ghost

August 08, 2012

Pac-Man must have just eaten a power pellet.

Lightning Off The Back Porch (August 2nd, 2012)

August 07, 2012

A summer lightning storm blew through last week. I was driving home for most of it but managed to make it back in time to catch one nice shot off the patio.

For the photo nerds: This as a 66 second exposure at ISO 400 with the aperture set to f/5.6.

There was barely any rain for most it. Some sprinkles started toward the end. Since I don't seem to own an umbrella anymore, I had to improvise a cover for my rig. Two Magic Arms1, some Super Clamps2 and a piece of mat board assembled together did the trick.

It wasn't windy at all. If it had been, I would have used a light stand to hold the jerry-rigged shelter. Otherwise, there would have been motion blur in the trees.

Now I'm off to buy an umbrella. I don't care about getting wet, but I'd prefer my gear stay dry.

Links and Notes

  1. Bogen/Manfrotto Magic Arms - Indispensable tools for your lighting and photography arsenal. These things, along with the multitude of clamps, brackets and studs, allow anything to be attached anywhere and pointed in any direction. Highly recommended.

  2. Super Clamps - You'll want at least one of these for each Magic Arm. As with all clamps, there's no such thing as having too many.

Turn Spare Change Into Music

August 06, 2012

For the past several years, I've been following Dave Ramsey's1 advice and using cash instead of credit or debit cards2. Every time I come home I throw the change in a little container on the counter. After several months, this results in the accumulation of lots of coins. I used to take these to the bank, but have started taking them to Coinstar3 machines instead.

When Coinstar machines first appeared they looked interesting. After throwing spare change in the machine, it spits out cash. The catch being that Coinstar takes a hefty cut of ~10%. At some point, they started offering gift cards as well as cash. Unlike the cash though, Coinstar doesn't gouge you when calculation the value of the gift cards. You get 100% back on what you put in.

Here's what the process looks like: Start with a few months of loose change.

Like, 14.8 pounds of it.

Visit your local Coinstar machine.

Check out the cash option first.

They want almost 10%, so back out and start over.

Try the 'No fee' option.

Check out the options on page 1.

Check out the options on page 2. (I tried 'Amazon MP3' in the past. As far as I can tell there was no difference between that option and the regular option. The credit appeared to show up in the same place.)

Stick with plain old Amazon. Getting a friendly reminder that you won't be getting cash.

Go through some legalese.

And more legalese. Once you hit accept, you're ready to go.

Put coins in the hopper. Then, lift the handle and dump them in.

The machine churns and churns. Every now and then, it will. It drops a little gate somewhere inside preventing more coins from entering. Once it's caught up, it opens again and the process continues.

After it's done counting, it give you another chance to loose ~10% of your money.

You have to take a survey before they'll give you your money. This time, it was only one question.

And they want your email address, just like everyone else.

A few seconds of a progress bar.

Seems like it should know if coins were returned or not.

In my case, some were.

And that's it. You get a nice message that seems to indicate you now have more coins than you started with.

The gift certificate prints out on a little slip.

In this case, 14.8 pounds of coins came to $193.82.

Just punch the number into Amazon and you're good to go.

I use these cards as "fun money". Specifically, I get Amazon cards and use them mainly to buy music. When the funds from the card run out, I stop buying songs. It provides a nice throttle and makes it clear how much I'm spending on music. And since it's coming from spare change, it feels like I'm using money that was already spent.

Overall, the process is quick and easy. If you're not already saving your loose change, I recommend you start doing so.

Links and Notes

  1. Dave Ramsey - A powerhouse in the personal finance education industry (and a great self-promoter). I'm not always a fan of his views outside of personal finance, but I recommend everyone follow his Seven Baby Steps to Financial Peace. If you have any debt, it's a solid way to work yourself out of the hole. It takes work, but you'll be better off for it.

  2. Some exceptions: Gas, Online shopping.

  3. Coinstar - The makers of the machines that turn your cash into gift cards (without charging you a fee).

Raving With Lasers

August 05, 2012

I don't frequent clubs but ended up at one last night called TSI1. There's some nice lighting in there.

I shot these with my Canon S1002. I was just messing around last night, but now I want to go back and shoot for real. Time to go buy some glow sticks.

Links and Notes

  1. Club TSI - According to their website: North Florida's Premiere Dance Club. I don't have anywhere near enough knowledge on the subject to know if that's true. I can say the light show is well done.

  2. Canon S100 - My current everyday carry camera. If you're looking for a point and shoot, I can vouch for this one. It's great.

Never Be An Asshole

August 04, 2012

My iteration on the "Always Be Batman" meme.

Infringement In Sound Clouds Terms

August 03, 2012

Some derivative of the word "infringe" occurs 29 times in the Sound Cloud Terms of Use.

I'd be interested to hear stats on the amount of stuff they find that infringes. And I'd be more interested to hear about the number of cases where a third party permits the infringing material to stay up.

In Which I Pretend To Be A Time Lord

August 03, 2012

Two days ago, Techno-Geek Nerd Princess1 make a late afternoon post saying the TARDIS2 had been spotted at Jacksonville's Downtown ArtWalk. Her actual words were: "SOMEONE NEEDS TO GO TO ARTWALK WITH ME AND TAKE A PICTURE!!!!"

Alan to the rescue3.

We met up, found the TARDIS and chatted a bit with the 17 year old student of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts7 student named Abby 6. She built the TARDIS last year when she was in the 11th grade4. She was, of course, cool with people taking pictures. I surprised her with my dedication to getting a good TARDIS shot when I broke out my gear. Tripod, light stand, wireless strobe, umbrella. The works5. We spent the next hour shooting on and off while letting other folks get their shots as well.

I couldn't be happier with the results.

Self portrait as a Time Lord.

Techno-Geek Nerd Princess checking to see where the TARDIS landed this time.

Techno-Geek Nerd Princess with a Sonic Screwdriver. Me with a Not Sonic Screwdriver

Sonic or not, I'm sure it'll work.

In case you're wondering where I fall on the geek spectrum, not only did I go through the hassle of setting up a full lighting setup for the shot. You are seeing the first time in 2012 that I've worn a tie. I put it on for the sole purpose of taking these shots.

If you're interested in finding out how to get the TARDIS to show up at your place, check out the Facebook page for details.

Links and Notes

  1. Techno-Geek Nerd Princess - The ramblings of a self-professed internetophile chick. To whom I owe a drink for letting me know the TARDIS was in town.

  2. If you've ever been a fan of Doctor Who you're already familiar with the TARDIS. For the uninitiated, she's a fantastic time machine who's bigger on the inside. Evidence of the prominence in geek society is the extended length of the TARDIS Wikipedia page.

  3. Like I wouldn't have gone anyway once I knew the TARDIS was there.

  4. I was no where near ambitious enough to build a TARDIS in high school. Good on her for kicking ass so early in life.

  5. I should have shot the lighting setup. I was so excited about the TARDIS I completely forgot. There was nothing special about it. Just an umbrella on a stand with occasional fill light from an on camera strobe. The reason I should have shot it was for the entertainment value of seeing it in the middle of the ArtWalk.

  6. I updated the post with additional info about Abby provided via a commenter below.

  7. Douglas Anderson School of the Arts - A Jacksonville Public School for students grades 9 through 12 with a desire for intensive study in the arts. That place sounds awesome. My high school wasn't that cool overall, but our band program kicked ass. I'd be a much less intersting person if I hadn't been in it.

I Need To Eat Better And Get More Exercise

August 03, 2012

Just took an "Online Health Assessment" for work. Here's an overview of the results.

Coming as a surprise to no one, the tech guy needs to eat better and do some more exercise. I'm a little better off on the exercise line though. One of the factors was this set of questions:

They aren't taking into account that I have a Geek Desk that converts between sitting/standing and I stand for about half the day. That's gotta be worth something.

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