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Final Simple Assessment 2011

A simple assessment of personal milestones and deliverables.

Photography

I started the year off a member of a 365 photo-a-day group. I had grand ideals, hoping that by applying a little personal self-discipline that I could improve both quantity and quality of my photography. I had collected a fair amount of gear, built around the E-3 and the E-P2, and it was beginning to sit around more than it was being used towards the end of 2010.

I managed to keep it up until mid-year (July), at which time my daily publication became erratic, and I dropped out of the 365 group. In total I published some 1,400 photos to my Flickr account, with a smattering to Google directly. Although I failed to achieve the goal of a photo specific for every day of the year, it did serve it's overall purpose of getting me to photograph far more often, and of far more varied subjects. I'll carry this on into 2012 and beyond (see below).

Blogging

This has been a blow-out year for me with regards to blogging. …

Late Lunch

One of the reasons for carrying a camera like the Pen is because it's small, discreet, and non-intimidating — everything a full-blown DSLR isn't. So when the Wife and I went out for a late-afternoon lunch at the local Chipotle (where else), I started to practice discreet "street" photography with the E-P2 and the Panasonic 20mm. The key to this kind of photography using this kind of camera is to hold it in a non-photographer stance, meaning you don't call attention to yourself by lifting the camera up to your face, or putting on the V-F2 and focusing with your eye like, well, a DSLR.


Instead I hold the body non-chilantly down around my chest, and just far enough out to see the screen out of the corner of my eye. If I'm standing near something like a waist-high wall, I lean against it casually and make sure the lens is pointing out, then reach over with my thumb and trip the shutter. I can do that one-handed because I have fairly large hands.

Over the decades …

Contrasts and Transformations

Orlando is a central Florida city with over 200,000 occupants (as of 2010 according to the U.S. Census). While the Great Recession might have slowed down the growth and thus the construction business, lately there's been a long solid series of projects popping up around the city, such as road projects on and around the 408. Going into 2012, my meta-project is to better document how Orlando is growing, how it has grown, and how the various sections within the city compare and contrast with one another.


These were taken late morning at the I-4 and 408 interchange, right before Division goes underneath the 408. The upper picture has the Sun Trust building sandwiched between the 408-to-I-4 exit above, and the main 408 below. The lower is the start of that 408-to-I-4 exit, with another unfinished ramp start on the left. The 408/I-4 spaghetti junction has grown quite large and complicated over time, with several other junctions (408 and 417, Turnpike and 429) getting just as complicated…

Can't Tell The Players Without A Scorecard: Florida Politics 2012

I'm the Decider. At least I am in my own little microverse. Most of the time. Today I have decided to track all the Florida federal senators and representatives of both parties. They all need to be kept an eye on. As time goes on I'll use this list to track their use and abuse of power at the federal level. As for the state senate and house, I don't see much use at the moment. They're a rubber-stamp for Scott (or is Scott a rubber-stamp for them? Who can tell?).

Florida Representation as of December 2011
Governor, Federal Senators and Representatives OnlyNameElected OfficeParty AffiliationRick ScottGovernorRepublicanJennifer CarrollLieutenant GovernorRepublicanBill Nelson Sr.SenateDemocratMarco RubioSenateRepublicanSandy AdamsHouse (Orlando)RepublicanGus BilirakisHouse (Palm Harbor)RepublicanCorrine BrownHouse (Jacksonville)DemocratVern BuchananHouse (Longboat Key)RepublicanKathy CastorHouse (Tampa)DemocratAnder CrenshawHouse (Jacksonville)RepublicanTed DeutchHouse (Boca…

Nifty 45

It's still a lazy time to hang around the house and do all those house chores, inside and out, that have accumulated of late because of work and my bum knee. The knee is actually healing, and I'm able to get out and Do Something Useful, like raking up bag after bag of leaves that have fallen and continue to fall as our extended fall season continues. We really don't have a real winter in central Florida, we just have a very short spring, a long hot summer, and a mild fall that runs from November to March. I've actually gotten some of my best fall foliage photos in early December up in Tallahassee.

Max and Ruby like to hang with me in the back yard while I work; it's a dog thing. I've had Labs do that since I've had Labs going all the way back to when my wife and I first married nearly 30 years ago. So in between filling trash bags with leaves I grabbed the E-P2, quickly mounted the M.Z 45mm, and went back out to grab a few shots of the Old Man watching ove…

Driving In Orlando

On the way home from a doctor's appointment on Orange Avenue, I happened to pass this interesting wreck on Conroy at Conroy and Turkey Lake. There lay the red Isuzu up on its passenger side, pointing in the opposite direction of travel on the edge of the west-bound lane. How it would up that way is anybodies guess, but I have a theory that the Isuzu was turning onto Conroy from Turkey Lake, and for some reason the driver swerved and then lost control, causing the vehicle to spin and then flip on its side. I have no idea what the state of the driver of the Isuzu is, although I certainly hope the driver wasn't hurt. I have no idea how long the wreck was here, but the lack of highway patrol or ambulance leads me to believe the driver is in reasonably good shape.

The image was taken with the E-P2 and the new M.Zuiko 40-150mm 'R' zoom lens. I'd been stopping to take test images on the way back, and this is just another. The sun was close to setting, I wanted to shoot a…

Breaking the Rules

There should be no doubt in anybodies mind that I am firmly and forever an amateur photographer and will remain one for as long as I carry any kind of a camera with me. There's no getting around that. Whatever opportunity I had to develop into a paid commercial photographer has long since passed.

And with that realization comes another realization, that I don't need heavy expensive equipment for my style of photography. I just need something that's reasonably flexible and Good Enough. By any measure you care to honestly use, µ4/3rds cameras in general and the Olympus digital Pen series in particular are very flexible and more than Good Enough for me.

The new M.Zuiko 40-150mm 'R' turned out to be something of an epiphany for me. It is an example of something light, cheap, fun, and more than Good Enough. I got it over Christmas and from what I've used of it so far it's the kind of lens that can travel with the E-P2 and a few other M.Zuiko and Panasonic µ4/3r…

Christmas with the Critters

This was the first Christmas day when neither of the girls were home. All we had were a collection of Labs and cats to keep us entertained. And for the most part we stayed in the house and entertained ourselves with the various gifts we'd gotten each other. My wife was very pleased with the Nook Tablet I'd gotten her, and kept remarking how easy it was to use compared to the Nook Color I'd gotten her last year. I'll put a review of it up on thewsreviews in short order.

All of these except for the first were test shots taken with the M.Zuiko 45mm and the 40-150mm R lenses on the E-P2, under various lighting indoors, out, and mixed.





I'll be doing more detailed personal reviews of the three lenses I got in December, but for the now let me say that the two new Zuikos were light and whisper quiet. And for what I paid for the 40-150 R ($160 on sale this month), I have to say that the 40-150mm R is an incredible bargain considering how good it is. From what I can see, it …

The Day Before Christmas Eve

The day was split between work and just getting ready for the weekend and Christmas. I had my two doctor appointments for my knee today, a morning acupuncture session and an afternoon physical therapy session. While riding around I had a chance for a few oddball photographs, and then the photo above with Lucy.

Lucy has been fascinated by the Christmas tree ever since the decorations went up and the lights were turned on. See sits in a chair facing the tree and stars at all the shiny bobbles and lights. So far she hasn't tried to climb into the tree, but I've watched here batting at the decorations on the lowest branches. This is the first year she's done this.

This was taken by setting the focus zone to the very far right, over the back of her head. I then held the camera out to the side at arm's length behind Lucy, just checking that the green focus area lit up around her head and pressed the shutter. I was able to get a reasonable composition. I just wanted to someh…

Seasonal Blimp Migration

The DirecTV blimp returned to Orlando this week and moored in the big empty field at Excutive Airport next to the 408. The blimp and crew are here for a couple of Christmas basketball games, then they're heading on to other cities around Florida and up the east coast.


This year the DirecTV's skin had been completely refurbished with all-new decaling over the outer surface. When I last saw this blimp, it's nearly-five-year-old former surface was peeling badly, especially around the bow. This new covering, while using the same basic color scheme, is simpler, with the mid-blue continuously covering both sides and across the dorsal side of the blimp. The ventral is now a solid darker blue, with cyan areas on the lower bow and stern. This is fundamentally a reverse of the earlier color scheme. The cleaner design along with the new livery makes for a handsome looking aircraft.



I was met by Airship Bill again, and it turns out he's actually part of the airport staff. He came…

A Trivial Tuesday with the Pany

There's something enjoyable about a new lens, that feeling of discovery, of what you might accomplish with the new lens that you couldn't accomplish with whatever it is you currently have. So today I mounted the Panasonic 20mm on my E-P2 and took it with me as I walked and traveled around Orlando to document a few more mundane moments of my life.

The local office finally got a batch of the new polar bear regular Coke cans today, and I was able to see what the tempest in a coke can was all about with certain diet Coke consumers who either can't, or have forgotten how to read. One version of the regular Coke can with the polar bears is white and silver, similar to the diet coke can, which is actually a lot of silver with a few spots of white. The regular can sports the Coca-Cola script, while the diet can is simply Coke in regular blockier font. Note also that the diet coke can has 'Diet' in big black script. These are all cues I use to easily distinguish one from th…

New Glass, New Month Part 2

Some new µ4/3rd lenses have been delivered in time for Christmas. One of them is the Panasonic Lumix 20mm 1:1.7.

I've been wrestling with what kind of system to use. If I should sell all the Olympus equipment I currently have and purchase another manufacturer's equipment. In the end I decided to stay where I'm at. The equipment's capabilities I currently have still exceeds by a wide margin my own limited capabilities. No matter what camera brand I elect to purchase the final result will still look as good or as bad as it currently does.

I'm fleshing out my µ4/3rds system for airline travel. The two other µ4/3rds lenses I will get this season will give me all I need. The only other µ4/3rds lens I might consider in the future is a macro lens, but I can still use the regular 4/3rds 50mm with adapter if I need a macro. The larger systems will stay at home and be used when I can travel by car. Some users say they're two system users. In a way, so am I now.

What is going on with Apple?

Over the last 24 hours I've been running into this huge banner ad from Apple on a number of websites I visit. Presented here are two screen captures from Wired and Yahoo! I've soured on Apple over the last 12 months or so, after realizing just exactly the kind of limited universe Apple has in store for those who consume their iDevices, especially the iPhone, iPad, and iPod. As a consequence I stay away from the Apple store and those sites that tend to advertise Apple. Until I started to hit these huge animated banner ads.


While I'm not surprised to see such ads on the Wired site, I was a bit surprised to see it on Yahoo! Regardless, I'm now very curious as to why Apple has to advertise for the iPod touch. Has the bottom completely dropped out of iPod sales? At least that's what the press has been reporting since July here, here, and here. With the touch being the premier iPod, it makes some sense to try and boost its sales. It's the only way to buy an iPhone w…

Contemporary µ4/3rds Zoom Lens Comparisons

µ4/3rds Zoom Lens ComparisonsManufacturerMinimumMaximumPanasonic7mm @f/414mm @f/4Olympus9mm @f/418mm @f/5.6Olympus12mm @f/3.550mm @f/6.3Olympus14mm @f/3.542mm @f/5.6Panasonic14mm @f/3.542mm @f/5.6Panasonic14mm @f/3.545mm @f/5.6Panasonic14mm @f/4140mm @f/5.8Olympus14mm @f/4150mm @f/5.6Olympus40mm @f/4150mm @f/5.6Panasonic45mm @f/4175mm @f/5.6Panasonic45mm @f/4200mm @f/5.6Olympus75mm @f/4.8300mm @f/6.7Panasonic100mm @f/4300mm @f/5.6I love charts. I guess that comes from being a combination engineer and bean counter. My day isn't complete until I've created some chart somewhere, preferably as a spreadsheet using Excel or whatever equivalent is handy.

I was motivated to do this chart to your right by all the moaning and groaning coming from the Great Photography Forum Commentariat about how Olympus is releasing all these slow zoom lenses for µ4/3rds. So I meandered over to the Micro Four Thirds Lens Produce page and cobbled up the chart to your right.

Allow me to outline a few qui…

What Hath Olympus Wrought?

It's been 24 hours since Olympus announced their latest µ4/3rds lens, the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm 1:3.5-6.3 zoom with macro capabilities. And based on comments coming out of mouths of the commentariat you'd have thought that Olympus has delivered a lens that's dead on arrival. Being the contrarian that I am, I think they're all full of it.

Let's do a quick run down of this lens' capabilities:
Dust and splashproof, similar to 4/3rds HG (High Grade) and SHG (Super High Grade)
Macro capability, 1:3 (roughly), 8 to 20 inches closest focusingElectronic zoom for smoother zooming capability during video captureMechanical zoom for stillsFly-by-wire manual focusExtremely quite autofocus (MSC, Movie-Stills-Compatible)$500 suggested price.Max aperture range 1:3.5 (12mm) to 1:6.3(50mm)A weight of 211 gramsAfter listening to all the forum monsters moan and groan about its "obvious limitations," especially compared to the 4/3rds Zuiko Digital 12-60mm, you're l…

Searching for God

You're looking at the Spirit of Joy Evangelical Lutheran Church on Rouse Road, just north of the intersection of Rouse and East Colonial. I don't know how long this church has been here, but I've passed it coming and going to work when I take the Rouse Road exit off the 408.

This church is unusual in that it's right up on the road, across the street from a 7/11 store and gas station, in the midst of heavy traffic on East Colonial. It's unusual compared to many other churches that are hidden away in the suburbs, surrounded by landscaped properties. This church, with its simple but effective face, is right up there in the middle of urban life.

I think of this church and all the ways that we, as Christians, approach religion in America. We're keen to make sure our politicians, especially our Presidents, are Christian. Yet we keep our churches segregated and isolated, except for the interesting differences such as Spirit of Joy. As Christmas approaches its inevita…

Recovering? We're Not Even Close

This past Saturday I dropped the two Labs off at a PetSmart for their sorta-monthly grooming. I say sorta-monthly because it takes four to six weeks for the Labs to reach a point where a certain head-turning aroma begins to waft up from their yellow bodies. When I can tell they're around without seeing them then it's time for a bath. And being close to Christmas I didn't want stinky dogs to ruin the occasion, so I was doubly motivated to drop the characters.

On the way back out of West Oaks I drove through the section of the mall property where there used to be a Toys-R-Us, Chevy's Tex Mex, and Border's stores. Over the last twelve months I've watched the Toys-R-Us and then the Borders shut down. On the way out I stopped and captured a few photographs of this now out-of-business Chevy's


It has been a long harsh slog these past five years in the section of town around Ocoee. I've watched one major store after another shut down and move out. The Toy'…

A Bit of Wiimote Magic on Fedora

A followup to the prior post about using the Wiimote away from a Wii. As I just wrote it appears to work with the Asus Transformer Android tablet. Now I wanted to work with it on the old Dell Latitude D630 running with Fedora 14. I won't go into full detail about what to install on Fedora, except to say in general terms to pick up the Bluetooth driver and utility packages, as well as wmgui to be able to check out operational features in some detail.

I was a bit surprised to note that the nunchuk didn't show up on wmgui. I have no idea what that means. The application did show the motion sensors (three-axis accelerometer) and the tuning fork gyroscope (MotionPlus). I have the source and some USB debugging tools, so I can look a bit to find out if the data from the nunchuk is actually coming across. Since I'm fairly new to this it will probably take me longer to figure this out than someone who is "skilled in the art." There's a lot of DIY information about us…

Checkout of the Asus Transformer Tablet

This is a simple smoke test to see if several technology bits I'm interested in would work with the Asus Transformer and its Android load, v3.2.1 (Honeycomb). Those technology bits are Nasa's WorldWind SDK and the late-model Wiimote with built-in Wii MotionPlus.


Getting Nasa's WorldWind running on the Asus was extremely simple. The downloadable bundle comes with pre-built APK's in the examples/WWAndroidDemo folder (WWAndroidDemo.apk). All you have to do with the Transformer is plug it into your Android ready developer system and side-load the APK onto the device. In this case all my work was done on my Fedora 14 system.

The README.txt file in the root folder has all the directions for loading the apk file. I chose load WWAndroidDemo, so I simply ran: adb -d install examples/WWAndroidDemo/WWAndroidDemo.apk, then ran the WWAndroid Demo under Apps. Easy-peasey. This was the simplest way to test this lashup before investing any significant time and energy, and I was very p…

Mornings

I've been telecommuting since Thursday. I've still got the bum knee, and working from home reduces the stress and strain of driving cross town to work, then clomping up four floors to my office (even if I do use an elevator instead of the stairs). Destinations such as a kitchen area and bathroom are a lot closer at home than in an office building. I can't wait until the 15th and my official audience with the orthopedic surgeon. I can't believe this has been going on since my trip to Detroit before Thanksgiving.

Right now I'm the only two-legged creature in the house. It's not that you can say you're alone when you have two Labs and three cats to keep you occupied. I've been sleeping out on the La-Z-Boy lounger in the back of the house these past weeks because it can keep my leg and knee at a proper angle, and I'm close enough to the kitchen and the freezer to grab ice packs for the knee. But I still have to rise and shine each morning and go to wor…