Thursday, December 24, 2009

Weekend To-Do List

Long weekend! Lots of stuff to do.
  • Register for "classes"
  • Apply to schools - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
  • Shovel sno - 1x 2x 3x
  • Clean out e-mail
  • Vacuum, mop, sweep
  • Fix plant stand
  • Order "Christmas" presents
  • Sort/blog photos from the past week
  • Fix Thermarest(s)
  • Repair and test camping stoves
  • Test filter
  • Put together chlorine dioxide kit
  • Make pouch for bus pass
  • Inquire about returning photo map
  • Send note to trip members
  • Do trip tasks
  • Write eBay feedback
  • Fix snow shovel
  • Celebrate Christmas with Erin
  • Play Plants vs. Zombies
  • Complain about bonehead lawyer
  • Exercise

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Here's the current Minneapolis weather forecast from wunderground. Hmmmmm.

Snow. Snow accumulation around 4 inches. Lows around 25. East winds 10 to 15 mph.
Snow. Snow accumulation of 5 to 6 inches. Highs around 30. Northeast winds 10 to 15 mph.
Thursday Night
Snow. Areas of blowing and drifting snow. Snow accumulation of 6 to 7 inches. Lows 25 to 30. Northeast winds 15 to 20 mph.
Christmas Day
Snow. Areas of blowing and drifting snow. Snow accumulation of 3 to 4 inches. Highs around 30. Northeast winds 15 to 20 mph.
Friday Night
Snow. Snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches. Storm total snow accumulation of 19 to 21 inches. Lows around 20. North winds 10 to 15 mph.
Cloudy with snow likely. Snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches. Total snow accumulation 20 to 25 inches. Highs around 25. Chance of snow 70 percent.
Saturday Night
Cloudy with a 50 percent chance of snow. Lows around 15.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Olympia Trip

Last weekend, we flew up to Olympia, Washington to visit my granny. My mom met us there. Here are some pics.

Erin at the "Beach House" on Steamboat Island, where my Granny Lou and Papa Frank lived when I was growing up. One of my favorite places.

Dinner at the beach house: my mom, aunt Zina, Granny, cousin Darby, cousin Bridgette, me, wife Erin.

Weekend Imbecile Report

Last night I heard a loud "crunch" and looked outside to see some unidentified junk hanging off the rear bumper of the rental truck that's been parked next door for the past week. Then, a gray sedan with the passenger door missing backed into view and drove away.

I went outside to find our neighbor, Tim, on the phone with the police and so I went around the corner a bit to see if he'd stopped close by (he didn't).

Indeed, someone had (a) crashed into a parked object, (b) left their passenger door hanging of that object's bumper, and then (c) driven away.

A few minutes after the cops arrived, I overheard them saying that they'd found the car but not the driver, and there was blood in the car.

Frankly, I don't have a lot of sympathy for people whose behavior is so incredibly stupid. I hope they found the guy. I wonder if the car was stolen and that's why he ran.

The truck was bent up a bit, but probably not enough to merit any repairs.

Incidentally, this image was 2.5-3 stops underexposed and I managed to recover the above. I'm pretty impressed.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Weekend To-Do List

  • Reboot
  • Work on trip stuff
  • Vacuum, mop, sweep
  • Fix plant stand
  • Blog/sort zoo pics, Olympia pics, truck pics
  • Order battery
  • Order Christmas presents
  • Profile schools & send to reccommenders
  • Go to REI, Ax-Man, grocery store
  • Clean out e-mail
  • Phone calls
  • Go to library
  • Dry spaghetti sauce
  • Shoe goo Erin's boots
  • Shovel sno
  • Take out trash
  • Do dishes
  • Exercise

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Grad Student Review

Every year, the CS department does a performance review for each of its Ph.D. students. Here's mine.
We are very pleased with the quality of your work and with the pace of your progress. We want to congratulate you and encourage you to continue doing such an excellent job. We especially note the unusual and significant achievement of having originated and led the development of Cyclopath, a system that has (a) earned significant real-world usage, (b) resulted in deep collaborations with local government and non-profits, including a sizable grant from the Metropolitan Council, as well as (c) serving as a platform for carrying out excellent research. We also note the unusual and significant leadership role you have taken on the Cyclopath project, engaging in extensive informal and formal mentoring of less experienced students as well as doing large amounts of software project management. We understand that this work certainly has taken away from the amount of "pure" / narrowly construed research you could have done -- that is, you probably could have published more papers if you had not done this. However, you *still* have published a good number of very high quality papers, and the amount and type of effort you have put in have led to accomplishments are much more substantial and longer lasting than just a few (more) research papers.

We congratulate you an reaching an advanced stage in your degree program. At this point, we think you should be ready to finish and defend your thesis within the next year. Please consult closely with your advisor to develop a detailed timetable and verify that your examining committee is appropriate. You also should be seeking career guidance from your advisor if you have not done so already.


Loren Terveen
Director of Graduate Studies
on behalf of the Department of Computer Science & Engineering
The University of Minnesota
The tone is interesting to me, as Loren is my advisor in addition to being the DGS.

Monday, December 14, 2009

B&W pics

Couple of images that have been floating around for a while. Both of these were taken in November. Isn't black and white fun?

These were converted using the iNDA film simulator plugin for Bibble 5.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Weekend To-Do List

  • Apply to NMSU
  • Search for jobs & update bookmarks
  • Upgrade Cyclopath
  • Prep for PFF class
  • Clean out e-mail
  • Reboot
  • Call MSR, Marmot
  • E-mail scale vendor
  • Order maps for trip
  • Work on trip stuff
  • Vacuum, mop, sweep
  • Fix plant stand
  • Schedule exercise
  • Exercise 2x
  • Blog B&W pics, zoo pics
  • Order battery?
  • Go to play
  • eBay K200D body
  • Invoice St. Martin's
  • Order Christmas presents?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

St. Louis trip

For Thanksgiving, Erin and I drove a long 11 hours down to St. Louis to visit Joanna and Steve and their new baby Anya.

Anya being cute.

Walking in Forest Park. Joanna lost her phone, but a woman picked it up and Steve recovered it a couple of days later.

St. Louis has the City Museum, which is a jungle gym for adults plus about a zillion other things, including...

... a school bus 10 stories up where you go in and look around ...

... a 7-story slide ...

... and a Gothic watchtower, plus two airplanes you can climb in, an artificial cave with an organ in it, a giant white whale, a human hamster wheel, giant ball pits, smores, etc.... the list is basically endless. I have no idea what fraction of it we saw.

Anya being cute.

Joanna and Anya.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Weekend To-Do List

  • Revise job portfolio
  • Apply to Denver
  • Prep job portfolio for other Dec 1 deadlines
  • Prep for PFF class
  • Work on wedding photo book
  • Write 5115 syllabus (cancelled)
  • Clean out e-mail
  • Reboot
  • Call Katadyn, MSR, Marmot
  • E-mail scale vendor
  • Order maps for trip
  • Work on trip stuff
  • Vacuum, mop, sweep
  • Fix plant stand
  • Schedule exercise
  • Exercise 2x

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Vignetting Analysis: Pentax DA 18-250 vs. Nikkor 18-200 DX

One of my key beefs with Pentax was the nasty asymmetric vignetting (falloff), and one of my hopes with switching to Nikon would be that I could have a superzoom that doesn't have that awful behavior.

The Nikkor is much better, though still not perfect -- I'll still need to stop down significantly to shoot blue skies, but the horrible gray fleck in the upper-right corner that plagued me on both copies of the Pentax that I had is gone, gone, gone.

Here's a falloff analysis of the Pentax and Nikkor at 30mm and f/4. Each color band is another 3% luminosity falloff, except for the red band which is the limit of the visualization, so red = serious bad. Pentax is first.

And here's the images that produced the above. Quite a difference.

Verdict: Pentax SMC DA 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 ED AL [IF] = fail. Note that the Tamron AF 18-250mm F/3.5-6.3 Di-II LD Aspherical (IF) Macro is the same lens, so also fail I would assume.

Weekend To-Do List

  • Vacuum, mop, sweep
  • Clean out e-mail
  • Reboot
  • Call Katadyn, MSR, Marmot
  • Go to library
  • E-mail scale vendor
  • Order maps for trip
  • Complete draft portfolio for one job
  • Write 5115 syllabus?
  • PFF prep
  • Celebrate Erin's birthday
  • Help Erin prep for birthday
  • Recover from birthday
  • Analyze falloff for 18-200

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Bibble 5 - First Image

Bibble 5
is still in "previews", and the interface changed a lot from 4 and confuses the hell out of me, but it does seem to produce nice images from my NEFs (and the subtle red tint in the shadows seems to be gone).

The above is some barley and brewing tanks of some kind at Surly.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Pentax K200D vs. Nikon D90

Some of you may know that I've been making pictures with a Pentax DSLR for the past year. But, now I've switched; a new Nikon D90 and used Nikkor 18-200 lens arrived a few days ago and I hope to have the remaining Pentax gear sold and out the door soon. (Fortunately, it looks like the financial loss will be modest.)

Why? Well, that's a long story and one I'll tell later. Suffice it to say that I managed to get ignored and blown off by all levels of Pentax USA, from customer service on the phone to Mark Davis in management.

Anyway, here's some impressions of the new device. Not comprehensive obviously - you want a multipage review, click here. ;)

The Pentax has far better ergonomics. It fit my hand quite well, while the Nikon is somewhat clunky and actually gives me a blister. I'll have to add padding in some strategic places. Another major fail is the exposure lock button - if you're left-eyed and have a nose (like me), then it's extremely hard to reach this important button without poking yourself in the eye or moving back from the viewfinder. There's a number of other warts as well, like the buttons that can be remapped having a very limited set of remapping choices, and other useless buttons not supporting remapping at all (so I'm stuck with the AE-L in its stupid place).

The Nikon also doesn't fit in the small bag I like.

However, there are lots more things one can do directly with buttons, without needing to enter the menu system. For example, it has two adjustment dials instead of one, making manual mode (where one needs to be able to easily adjust both shutter speed and aperture) quite feasible - it wasn't on the Pentax (though the next higher Pentax does have two dials).

The Nikon system is roughly 50% more expensive in general, as far as I can tell, for "about the same" stuff - maybe, since I haven't figured out yet really what's comparable.

Another thing that seriously bugs me - and this one isn't Nikon's fault - is that Bibble 4 (my raw processing software) doesn't support the camera, even though it is hugely popular and not particularly new. This is because Bibble Labs massively screwed up the Bibble 5 release schedule - it was due Q4 2008, but it's still in "preview" releases - and quit adding new cameras to Bibble 4 some time ago. I'll install one of the Bibble 5 previews and hope it's not too horribly buggy.

On the other hand, the Nikon is clearly a higher spec camera. In addition to the many more buttons, it has a much more capable autofocus system which I don't really understand yet, and max ISO is two stops higher (6400 vs. 1600, i.e. four times more sensitive to light).

The image stabilization on the Nikon is far superior. First off, the experience is great - you're looking through the viewfinder watching the world wiggle around, and then when you push the shutter release halfway and the stabilization activates, bang! it's suddenly rock solid. It's viscerally satisfying, and the sensor-shift stabilization in Pentax cameras simply can't provide this (because corrective elements aren't in the viewfinder's optical path).

User experience aside, it works. I was able to take respectable snaps at 1/4 second and 200mm. For comparison, without VR (that's what Nikon calls it), that kind of exposure looks like complete mush, and the "rule of thumb" for handheld captures at 200mm is 1/250s. The Pentax is completely and utterly outclassed.

Other nice things about the Nikon: it uses a normal USB cable instead of a stupid proprietary one, and the screen is super high resolution (640x480) and gorgeous.

I guess the conclusion is, there are some major annoyances, but overall it seems like a very nice machine, I think it will be an effective tool, and for the most part I suspect I'll be able to work around or get used to the annoyances.

Weekend To-Do List

  • Vacuum, mop, sweep
  • Clean out e-mail
  • Do dishes
  • Reboot
  • Call Katadyn, MSR, Marmot
  • Go to library
  • Blog about new camera
  • Yard work
  • E-mail scale vendor
  • Order maps for trip
  • Play with new camera
  • Deal with dead bird
  • Pack up 18-55 lens, bump sale thread
  • Work on job portfolio website
  • Search for job ads
  • Clean up boxes
  • Secret item
  • Think about a bag for D90
  • Chinese food and movie with lovely wife
  • Install Bibble 5 preview

Friday, November 6, 2009

Surly Brewery Tour

Today, Erin and I visited Surly Brewing Co. and took their once-a-week tour.

Sunset waiting for the ride from Erin behind the CS building.

Tasting room before the tour. It was a pretty popular event (these things are free, but you have to make reservations and it's hard to get a spot).

Surly has some pretty dramatic warning signs.

This is the airlock for one of Surly's great big fermenters. It was bubbling quite vigorously & frequently spilling over the side.

Incidentally, these are the first photos on this blog from my new Nikon D90. A future post will explain why I have a new DSLR so soon after the Pentax.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Third Roll of Film

My third roll of film came back last weekend. I'm really pleased with the results. Enjoy!