Monday, July 25, 2011

Five Photos has a new home

I'd started doing the five photos sets as a way to keep me motivated to take pictures, edit them and post them. Since I've been posting them regularly for almost a year, and since I plan to continue to do so into the foreseeable future, I figured it'd make sense to give them a dedicated blog at

That blog will be just the photo sets; everything else (stray photos, writing, videos) will stay on this page.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Your next visit to Barnes and Noble

I recently purchased another book on my Barnes and Noble Nook, and the e-mailed receipt had the following as its tagline:

We appreciate your business and look forward to your next visit to Barnes & Noble."

It is strange to read in an e-mail the same phrase that you would hear a cashier say at a brick and mortar store.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bend your fingers

One summer when I was a kid (about 7, I think), I took a few piano lessons from one of my grand aunts in the Philippines. I was alright, but had a bad habit of sitting and plunking my fingers flat against the keys. She always corrected me, saying "Bend your fingers" as she corrected my hands with hers. Sitting up straight, hands above the keyboard, fingers bent.

I hadn't thought about this in years, but I recently listened to an episode of the podcast Hypercritical, in which host John Siracusa discusses how he's dealt with repetitive stress injury (RSI) stemming from working behind a keyboard for so many hours a day (keyboard of the clack-clack-clack, not do-re-mi variety). I hadn't thought about RSI as a legitimate concern for me before, more a mere annoyance. But the thought that it might cause long-term damage got me thinking that I should try and be a bit more proactive in dealing with it.

It sounds silly to complain about, but I get a good amount of aches and pains in my wrists (after all, I'm at a keyboard and mouse just about 8 hours a day, then a few hours more after I get home). I picked up an Evoluent Vertical Mouse about two years ago. It was somewhat helpful, though the ache moved from my wrist up to the inside of my upper arm, so it might be time for me to switch back to a normal mouse.

Sometime soon I'll try to get a keyboard tray under my desk, but in the mean time I'm working on my posture.

So I've once again been sitting up straight, hands above the keyboard, fingers bent.

Not much more to this post than that- just a current problem that reactivated a 21 year old memory.


I've been listening to the podcasts incessantly these past few weeks, so it's no wonder material by their hosts are on my brain. I realized after finishing this post that I had unintentionally imitated some of the structural elements of Merlin Mann's great essay 'Cranking', which used a similar past-memory/present-circumstance/past-memory structure and vehicle (albeit much more developed and serious a piece). While I'm sure his essay is not the only piece of writing to have used this format, it's the most recent example of it that I've read, so it seemed to warrant citing. And it's definitely worth checking out.


In the harsh light of day, I see all my typos and grammatical errors.
I've corrected them. There may be more, but I'll leave those alone.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Five Photos (11): Philadelphia

During one visit home in late May, I had a chance to spend a more than usual amount of time in the city itself. Because I'd moved to New York for college, I really hadn't spent a lot of time exploring the city as a grown up, so this was a neat change of pace (thanks in particular to my sister Jamie for showing me around).


Whenever I see an expensive car parked on the street, particularly a convertible with the top down, I can't help but imagine that the owner can't not be less than 20 feet away, and keeping close eye on it.

Sometimes, I start to imagine that this might get tiring for an owner.

Then, I start to imagine that as an owner of a really expensive car, there are some burdens in life that you're just going to have to deal with.

Big Ship
Big Ship

Nice view from the cafeteria of the Ikea on Columbus Boulevard.


My sister took me out for lunch/brunch at Honey's Sit 'n Eat. This place was great. Nice ambience, great service, and delicious food.


Philadelphia Sidewalk
Philadelphia Sidewalk

Not all sidewalks in Philadelphia look like this, but it sure is a nice one.

This is right by the Belgian Cafe at 21st and Green Street. We had a chance to eat there as well, also really good.


More photos from this set posted on flickr

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Video Short: Washington Square Park

July 1, 2011
Canon HF200 | Final Cut Pro 7 | Apple Color 1.5

I had wanted to put together a quick video, and also wanted to get more experience with color grading, so I figured that catching some shots of performers in the park would be perfect.

Once I started shooting, I realized that I couldn't just do the usual of taking a bunch of shots and then cutting them to a pre-existing music tracks. Since it's musicians playing music, the only good choice would be to use the sound from their performance. So shots would have to linger longer in between cuts in order to catch any appreciable amount of music. I tried to take advantage of the HF200's optical zoom to move back and forth in order to keep these long shots interesting.

By way of disclosure, in the pianist section, I use the audio from the third shot as "master" and cut between shots before and after that were not filmed in sequence, though it gives the appearance of continuity. It's fudging reality a bit- not enough for me to think it an outright problem, but enough to at least warrant mentioning.

Color grading also provided an interesting challenge. I was down there around "golden hour", with some nice warm lighting of sunset coming in. All in all this was fortunate, but when I got into Apple Color in post, I found myself conflicted between the instinct to try and "correct" the warm light out of the picture entirely, and the desire to retain that golden look. Because I got the sense that the footage leaned almost too heavily toward orange, I wound up correcting it out to neutral, and then adding the warm bias back in in Color's secondary rooms. I imagine that this could be handled any number of ways, though.

I've gotten more used to Color, and the round-trip workflow back to Final Cut, but still find myself feeling a little wishy washy about the results in the final grade. Something feels missing, or at least, I wouldn't give it any credit as a particularly impressive grading job (though arguably it may be a good thing for the color adjustments to be unnoticeable). At the same time, there's nothing guiding just what this should look like (no director or DP but myself), so it's mostly up to my own tastes. Which, based on the material I've done on my own so far, seem to be pretty conservative.

I'll make it a task that for my next impromptu video project, I'll try to shoot something that will require a little more punch or stylization.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy Independence Day

I was about to post on Facebook: 'Happy July Fourth'. I figured I may as well use the proper name, though, so then I typed 'Happy Independence Day'. I thought this sounded strange, in fact I don't think I've said 'Happy Independence Day' before.

I'm not aware of any other holiday that we colloquially refer to by its calendar date.

Towards the end of last year, when the holly and the ivy decorated our family's banister, I didn't wish everyone a Happy 25th of December. A month prior to that, while gathered around the dinner table, I didn't wish anyone a Happy Fourth Thursday of November.

I don't know the origins of the 'July Fourth' usage, but I'd suggest that 'July Fourth' describes the celebrations of the day, the whole package (hot dogs, hamburgers, fireworks and the like).

'Independence Day' names the reason for those celebrations.

If you told a young child "We are celebrating July 4th," they may accept that that's just what you do on this calendar day.

If you told them "We are celebrating Independence Day," then not only have they gained more information, but they will hopefully have reason to ask a follow up question.


UPDATED 07/05/11: I revised this a bit for tone. My intent is more observation and less proscriptive, so I tried to lean more in that direction.