Eneloop batteries

May 11, 2008

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Eneloop Recheageable BatteriesBack in October, I wrote an entry about better rechargeable batteries I had recently discovered. At that time, I hadn't bought any, but I finally got some before the wedding I shot back at the start of March. There are a few different brands out there. The ones I got are from Sanyo. The brand name is Eneloop, and they rock. After living with them for a few months, I'm happy to report that they work as advertised. The key feature that makes them valuable is their low "self-discharge" rate. The previous sets of rechargeable batteries I've used apparently had a much higher rate. Basically, what this meant is that if you charged the old type batteries and then didn't use the for a little while (say a week or two), they would have lost a lot of their juice. When you put them in, say, a flash to do some photography, you could easily be in trouble. So, in order to make sure they were ready to work with, you effectively have to charge them the night before you want to use them to make sure they were topped off. These newer versions with their low/slow self-discharge hold onto their power much longer. Their marketing state that if you are simply storing them, they will maintain 90% of their charge for 6 months and 85% over a year. I haven't had them long enough to figure that out, and frankly I'm not really going to try to test it. What I'm interested in is if they ready to go when I need them. I can deal with charging them if I know I've got a lot of shotting to do the next day, but it's when I haven't shot for a few weeks and I just want to fire off a few shots that is the real test. I just put a set that was charged three or four weeks ago in a strobe and it charged as if a completely fresh set was in them. I highly recommend these for everything except smoke alarms (just in case). The more batteries we can keep out of land fills the better off we'll all be. You can purchase them from Amazon (link) and I'm sure other places have them as well. The batteries come in at least two flavors: "800 mAh" and "2,000 mAh". Make sure when you're getting yours you get the highest "mAh" available at the time (currently the 2,000 version). Especially if you are going to use them in a flash or digital camera. While this rating isn't as high as some of the other rechargeable batteries out there, the fact that they hang onto that charge for a long time is more than an even trade off. You don't have to worry about the mAh difference that much unless you are really an intense user. For example, I shot an entire wedding (roughly 1,500 frames) and only used two sets of the eneloops in my main flash which was shooting into a lumiQuest most of the time. So, they work great from that perspective as well. As a final note, if you want to get a better charger than one of the basic ones, the La Crosse Technology BC-900 is expensive, but very nice. Advantages include the fact that it allows you to charge batteries at different rates (to help them last longer), "recondition" them if they are behaving badly, and also reports when the batteries are fully charged so you don't have to guess. Most folks probably don't need those features, but it's certainly handy.


Reusable bags

May 11, 2008

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ACME Workhourse 1500 bagIn college, I took a seminar course on environmental studies. In addition to the overall theoretical education, a fair amount of practical advice was provided as well. One key point that always stuck with me was that we should reuse bags when we shop instead of carrying stuff home in the store provided bags only to thrown them away after they are unpacked. The specific recommendation from the course was to use one bigger cloth bag, like a small laundry bag, for transport. I've tried this a few times and it never really worked out. The volume was simply to big for the job at hand. The bag could get too heavy very quickly and without some ability to separate things, it was inevitable that a 2 liter bottle would crush any loafs of bread. Enter reusablebags.com. I heard about these guys a few months back and was excited to check them out. They sell a wide variety of bags for reuse. Most of them are geared toward women with various designs and images on them, but thankfully there is at least one that won't make guys fell uncomfortable: the ACME Bags - Workhorse Style 1500. The base price is about $8 per, but if you get 4 or more that price drops to $7 per. Also, the have a a href=-"http://www.reusablebags.com/store/acme-bags%E2%84%A2-workhorse-style-1500-special-p-258.html">buy 3 get one free special right now. The price is a little higher than I really like. Especially when I've seen some similar type bags for sale in grocery stores for just a few dollars each. What sold me on the ACME bags was the fact that they were a little bigger and didn't have logos all over them. Since I plan on having these for a long time, I'm willing to pay a premium to not have company logos and slogans on them. Originally, I got 4 bags, but I'm happy to report that after using them for a little while, I'm getting four more. Each bag holds probably twice as much as a standard plastic shopping bag. I know they will hold four 2-liter soda bottles easily. I don't necessarily recommend having them packed like that. The bag doesn't have a problem with the weight, but it's a bit heavy leaning over to pull them out of the car. I'm pretty sure that I'm currently one of a very few people using these type bags in my area. Every time I had them to a bagger and explain I want to use them in lieu of their standard ones, the have that look like they aren't really sure what's going on. It still takes me some getting used to as well. I've taken to always throwing them back in my car when I unpack them so they are always there. Much easier for me than trying to remember to grab them before I make a run to the store. I hope that other folks who see me using these bags decided to get a set for themselves. I encourage everyone do to the same. To add one more note about the cost, the good feeling that I get every time I use them makes the price seem even more reasonable.


IronMan, Worth the price of admission

May 10, 2008

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Saw Ironman last weekend. Even at $9.50 FL movie prices, it's worth seeing on the big screen. Saw a preview for the new Indian Jones too. Gotta say, the trailer actually made it look pretty good. Of course, that doesn't mean anything, but I'm at least hopeful. Also saw a preview for The Dark Knight. Totally looking forward to that one. High probability I'll be seeing that one opening weekend.


Old School Marketing Done Right

May 10, 2008

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Large companies often run sweepstakes or contests offering a a prize in exchange for filling out a form or making a purchase. The odds of winning one seem about as remote as hitting the lottery. The prizes? Generally tchotchkes. Overall, not very enticing. The photo web site Luminous Landscape has run a few contests and just announced their most recent one. Unlike their rote corporate siblings, the Luminous Landscape ones have a refreshing feel. To start with, the site's ambiance is much more like a small labor of love than a monster corporate site. The natural implication is significantly fewer visitors than the big boys meaning there is at least a slightly better chance of winning. Still probably measured in the thousands, there's not that great a chance, but it's way better than when there are a few million other folks entered with you. They aren't screwing around with their prizes either. The latest contest is Win The lens of Your Choice. There is a little fine print, but most of it is in bold near the top: Any Lens For Any Camera Valued Up To $2,000. So, you can't get a $6,800, 12 pound, 400mm f/2.8 L IS USM, the $2,000 limit is more than reasonable, and will allow for the vast majority of lenses to be in play. And let's face it, while I'd LOVE to have one of those lenses, it's way down the list for the type of shooting I do. Two other refreshing aspects: 1) the fact the reason for the contest ("To entice you to purchase one of our products") is put right out there in front, and 2) the way to enter is to purchase something that is actual of value. I've been interested in one of the tutorial offerings (called "From Camera To Print") for a while, but never pulled the trigger. I haven't been shooting that much recently because of my work schedule and at almost 7 hours, it's a pretty big tutorial. I probably would have ended up getting it at some point, but adding the (remote) possibility of winning a new lens is enough to make the purchase. Chalk one up for marketing strategy. A final note, I appreciate the upfront 'no purchase necessary' statement:

And finally, to satisfy the law in some countries – no purchase is necessary. You will be entered into the competition by simply registering your name in our store. But, if you do this, while within the letter of the law you are of course defeating the purpose of the whole exercise. You must decide if that's really what you want to do.

If this was a big company, I'd consider the no purchase option. Since it's more of a guy running a site on a subject he's passionate about, there's no way I would do that.


How to say it

May 06, 2008

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The tag line for the web site Forvo.com is "All the words in the world. Pronounced." Using the power of people who want to contribute, they are creating a catalog of audio recordings of how words are spoken. You can contribute too, if you like. Behold yet another awesome tool provided by the intertubes. The site could use some better bablefish type cross-referencing. Even without that, a creative person could probably assemble a pretty good foreign language course using this as a back bone. Sentence construction would be tough, but for the simple individual word standpoint, there's some nice potential. Now that I think about it, the potential of the internet to provide foreign language education is HUGE. A quick search makes it look like at least one site is working on this: phrasebase.com. Using a Wikipedia approach to foreign language teaching/learning should be well within the realm of possibility.


NATO Phonetic Alphabet

May 06, 2008

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In case you ever want to know what the official telephony pronunciations for letters are, Wikipedia has an article up for ya here. It includes a handy, dandy cheat sheet.


Cognitive Surplus

May 06, 2008

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This article entitled "Gin, Television, and Social Surplus" has come up a time in the various sources I visit. While I don't buy into it completely, it's got more than enough interesting concepts to warrant a recommendation. Key concepts that caught my eye are the idea that the entire Wikipedia represents ~100 million hours of human thought and that we, in the U.S. spend 200 billion hours watching TV each year. In other words, 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television. I think we'll always tend towards relaxing entertainment when it's available, but I like it's fun to think about what we might come up with by using a small portion of the surplus. Or, more to the point, if somehow we shift towards "active" entertainment. Check back in five years.


Sync

May 06, 2008

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For those of you wanting to sync up multiple mechanical metronomes, this looks like a good way to do it: Ahhhhhhhhh…. Physics.


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