Archive for May, 2010

Fixin’ the Garage

Slideshow of the repairs I made, with help from some family/friends, in my parents’ garage. You can click here to read the captions for each photo, or click on them in the actual show to see the captions. If you’re readin this on Facebook, you’ll need to go read it on my blog itself (click “view original post” down by the comments box) to see the slideshow.

Flickr Slideshow

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

Test drive with a new lens. Kate was kind enough to sit still and let me take a few photos.

straight out of the camera

Straight out of the camera

Above is my favorite of the bunch. Lighting is provide exclusively by our friend the sun. I do have one of my tri-grip reflectors against the wall to her left for some fill light, as you can see if you check the highlights in her eyes. The one thing I’ve noticed thus far is that I’ve got to be a lot more stable with the 85mm, medium-telephoto, focal length than I do when shooting my 50mm or 28mm primes. Throwing motion blur into the mix certainly kills any sharpness. I’ll keep messing with the lens, but I do like the perspective, and the additional standoff I get when doing headshots and other portraits.

Summer’s done

Memorial Day weekend, for me, marks the end of my summer. First, I’ll get this out of the way. Do not wish me a “Happy Memorial Day,” it is not a happy day. Someone ought to come up with a better greeting, because that one really irks me and others like me. Granted, those of us bothered by others treating it as a “happy” day do not need a publicly declared holiday in order to remember our fallen brothers and sisters at arms. We do it every single day. I won’t go as far as to say the ones who did not come home are the reason you get to enjoy a cold beer and some messy barbecue ribs; some other holiday surely would have come along to allow such to happen. I will say to remember that they’ll never get to do that again.

With that out of the way, I think I’m ready to get busy on this whole engineering degree thing. While I have no idea what it is I intend to do with said degree once it’s complete, I’m more focused on finishing than ever. Taking phys2 in a six-week summer session is not going to be easy. Neither will cal3. Somehow, I’ll make all of that work. If I’m lucky I might even get to enjoy some fun in the sun while I’m at it.

Three semesters

Earlier today, I realized I seem to have changed my major every two semesters of my colorful college career. After this past semster, I will finally stick with one major for three semesters. The challenges I’ve faced with this choice have been many, and will only grow as I progress towards graduation, but I really need to stick this one out. If I could make it through Spring ’10, I can get that degree.

My physics grade posted earlier in the week, and I managed to pull down a B-. Paired with the B I earned in cal2, I’m ready to take a step up the ladder. When June starts, Summer ’10 will bring me a heavy dose of cal3 and phys2. I will not have time to mess around or procrastinate.

The summer will be brutal, but it will be the first time I have ever stuck with a major for three semesters. When I finish those classes, I will finally start taking actual engineering classes. Fall ’10 will be a tough one as well: Engineering Computing, Thermodynamics 1, Statics, and Mechanical Design 1. Hopefully, by the time I get there, my brain remembers how to do this whole science thing.

Summer in Boston

Never has it been a secret that I enjoy my travels. The opportunity to see new places, meet new people, and escape from everyday life as I know it is always welcomed with open arms. When finals finished up, I seized that opportunity again. Destination? Boston!

One of my oldest friends, Sheehan, goes to Boston University. My old Battle Captain, Leo, attends Harvard. Flickr friend, Meg, goes to Northeastern. Over the course of my five days up north, I got to see them all.

Meg was kind enough to invite me to Cape Cod with a group of her friends. The trip started great, but a medical monkey-wrench got thrown into the works early on. The first morning at the beach house started with an unfortunate trip to the hospital for Meg. I won’t go into other people’s medical business, but I will say if you have to go to a hospital make sure it isn’t on Cape Cod. I wasn’t even the sick one, but I still wanted to choke half of the staff. Color me unimpressed.


Meg pre-hospital

Once Meg’s parents showed up, and we handed off all of her things, the rest of the group decided it was time to head to the beach. I decided it was time to call on an old friend for an extraction. The group was nice, and did a lot to make me feel welcome, but I just didn’t feel right sticking around. Leo said it best, so I’ll just say what he said. There are some people you just help when they need it. Convenience isn’t a factor. If they need help, and you can provide it, you just do it. I’m glad he counts me as one of those people; I’d do the same for him.

Meg's friends in the ocean

Meg's friends in the ocean

Leo and his wife took me to dinner, gave me a place to stay, and showed me the sights of Boston. I’ll let the pictures tell this part of the story.


Random lonely chair in a field



Boston Massacre Cemetery


Memorial for OIF/OEF casualties


USS Constitution mast

The rest of the photos can be found here.

The Cape

Cellpic from my trip to Cape Cod. More about the trip later.

Happy Birthday Mom

Today is my Mom’s 50th birthday. I hope she enjoys many more, because there’s never been a more loving and supportive mother. I’ve made more than my fair share of stupid mistakes in this life, but through all of them she’s been there loving me just the same. Heck, I even made her spend her first wedding anniversary in labor with me but she forgave me even for that.

Anyway, she’ll read this eventually. I love you Mom.


Houston, I don’t think we have a problem.

Cal2 tried valiantly to destroy me. A few times, I thought it had won. When I stood up to turn in my final that thought vanished. The countless hours of studying seem to have paid off. Obviously, I won’t know for sure until grades post but I feel good about it anyway.

Physics and I will do battle again tomorrow morning. Hopefully, my final in that course goes the same way my Cal2 final went. I do not need to do nearly as well on it as I needed to do in Cal2, but I plan on doing just as well.

A few hours after my final is finished I’ll be boarding a flight to Boston. I trimmed my beard a little to avoid the cavity search likely to result from my being a) brown, b) having a beard, and c) having traveled to the Middle East in the last 5 years. I will probably still be pulled aside for a more thorough searching. I intend to dress accordingly.

Colby and Lauren

My friends, Colby and Lauren, asked me to take some photos last week. The sun was shining brightly so I went with natural light and had some fun with both my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, and my Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM. There were even a few frames shot on my film body, with the 50mm lens, on Ilford HP5+. I’ll get those developed at some point.

Since I was rocking the sun as my main light, I broke out one of my 4′ reflectors for some fill and kept the sun behind my subjects. Eventually, we ended up using a large (oh, 80′ or so) white wall instead of my reflector. It didn’t get blown around quite as much as my reflectors were. Giant reflectors require an assistant, and I did not have one with me. Remember that if you plan on using reflectors. They’re great lighting tools, but you need a stand or an assistant (probably both).

There were quite a few keepers from the shoot, but below are four of my favorites.

Them Shades

Them Shades




Fight - Colby using the force.



The rest of the set is here.

Apple != Quality

If you’ve somehow convinced yourself that Apple is some paragon of quality in the computer world you should stop reading now. Back in 2006, I converted to the Apple camp by purchasing a 15″ Core2Duo Macbook Pro. Shortly thereafter, I took that same laptop with me to Iraq. In the event one or more of my soldiers found themselves needing a laptop to borrow, I also brought my trusty old Fujitsu Lifebook P5020D.

Somewhere around two months into that tour, I started noticing hardware problems with the MacBook Pro. The screen was incredibly dark in the middle. This was especially true at startup. My FW800 drive would randomly disconnect. More often than not, the SuperDrive proved it was not so super after all. It lived a sheltered life, given the conditions. My P5020D was subjected to very harsh treatment, just as it had in many training exercises and even my first tour. The MacBook Pro got worse, the Fujitsu kept on ticking.

Apple was kind enough, when I got home, to replace the logic board, the super drive, and the screen. A few months later they got to do it all again. A few months after that I spilled a beer in the machine and finally killed it for good. Truth be told, I was more upset about losing a third-pint of a very excellent Texas-brewed springtime seasonal ale than I was the problem MacBook Pro.

Unfortunately, I had recently photographed a wedding and still needed to process those photos. Given the circumstances, I needed a new machine immediately. Since my Creative Suite 4 license was for Mac, and I had backed my MacBook Pro up a few hours before I killed it, another Mac was the clear choice. A few short days later I took delivery of a shiny new 24″ Core2Duo iMac. I was very impressed with its speed, and the screen.

My love affair with the screen ended after maybe six months. It took several more months for the burn-in problem to get to the point I could no longer tolerate it at any level. Even doing homework was becoming a chore when anything left on the screen longer than two minutes would stay around as an outline even after the window was closed. Thank goodness for AppleCare.

The kind people at the Genius Bar were skeptical of my claim of an LCD with image burn-in. That’s just not supposed to happen. My demonstration took about five minutes, and they agreed I needed a new screen. Fast forward a few days. My screen problems have been replaced with a new problem. Something did not get put back together correctly, as it now sounds like my computer is trying to take flight off my desk. It’s louder now than it was before with all fans at top speed because of heavy use. The noise is there immediately. I am not amused.

Before anyone jumps in with “well PCs fail more often” I’ll remind you of a few things: #1 Macs are PCs. #2 I worked for an AASP, and we had just as many Mac machines dropped off for repairs (hardware) or reconfiguration (software) as we did anything else.

Update: I had the “about to take flight” noises fixed. The Geniuses determined a sensor had broken during the screen replacement. That happened maybe three weeks ago. Burn-in is back in town now. That was a short life for this screen. What’s most annoying about these problems is that I need the screen real-estate for both my studies and my photography. Having downtime is not only killing my ability to effectively get my schoolwork done, it cuts into my ability to process any photoshoots (which happen to be my only source of non-VA income).

Click the above to load the Flickr page, see the notes describing the burn-in patterns – and get a link to the full resolution file. There’s one spot of dust on the sensor for my 5D and the screen’s surface is spotless. Those lines/marks are all inside the panel.

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