Miisu shows her tougher side. Will be away for almost two weeks in Europe so this blog will be dormant for a while. Hopefully will get some good pictures, though.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Sunday, December 16, 2007
This is a first post of something I hope develops into a sort of series. I guess we are more or less defined by countless, often small, objects that surround us. People who carry three different hand-held devices wherever they go and people who can appreciate a good sharp ax. People who swear by Leatherman and those who go the MacGyver way.
I'm one of the latter. This particular piece has been with me about 6 years. My colleagues gave me one for a birthday. I thought I had lost it so my wife gave me a new one which is pictured here. As you can see, it has been in heavy (ab)use showing wear and tear but I wouldn't be surprised it would serve my grandchildren.
The most difficult task I have undertaken with one of those was to assemble a IKEA computer table out of a pile of 50 odd pieces (this included hammering some nails) and it was the most handy when I broke a pedal basket 10 minutes before a MTB marathon and fixed it using an empty Red Bull can.
You truly can call this the mans best friend.
In addition to the fancy backdrop set and table featured in the previous shot, I have now created a light dent out of a cardboard box and several sheets of tracing and drawing paper. Thank you, Strobist! (http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/07/how-to-diy-10-macro-photo-studio.html). I won't post a photo here of my setup as it looks exactly like the original. The only hints I have are that they don't package TVs in huge boxes any more but they do package light shades in those. And, two layers of tracing paper (one on the inside and the other on the out) is better than one.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
So what do you need:
- two paintbrush handles of the telescope kind (~150.-)
- four toilet pumps of the primitive kind so the handles can come off (~100.-)
- one broomstick of the modern aluminum kind (~40.-)
- the cheapest possible piano chair (390.-)
- one 500w building projector (270.-)
- one small desk lamp (~150.-) + bulb (~70.-)
- two clamps from the supermarket (35.-)
- Tesa Cable Managers (~50.-)
- Backdrop from the arts stroe (~20.-)
- A wooden plate from a DYI store (~200)
I'm yet to figure out the right white balance for this setup. The Custom WB feature of my 10D seems to be way off, probably because the temperatures from the two light sources are different. Without further due, here's a picture I took with the setup, will be adding more (hopefully):
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Sven and Jaak did a very good workshop on nature photography in Kõrvemaa last weekend. This is my favorite from the session. Incredible, how the guys could work with both me and the people who had barely held a camera before and how communicating with professionals distorts your sense of self-criticism. This is _not_ a full frame shot, cropped it to vertical :(
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Monday, August 27, 2007
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Monday, July 30, 2007
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Monday, May 21, 2007
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Ah, home sweet home. Boarded my flight home and the first sign was there. During all my flights with all those various airplanes and all those different people for the first time my personal space was invaded mercilessly. That was not done by a 200 kg British bachelor with a couple of pints under the tie (which I would have at least understood) but by a normal-sized Estonian girl in late teens. She quite obviously _needed_ to open that newspaper as wide as possible and obviously needed to have her elbows reaching exactly as far as she found comfortable. Not in a condition to pick a fight I drew to a corner and tried to sleep.
Second thing about home were the newspapers. The main articles of "Eesti Päevaleht" were about a bear cub growing up in a refuge, an essay about history of parliament in Estonia (inspired by a three-week old incident where a member of coalition was given a beating for targeting a question towards the member of government) and endless ravings about Pronkssõdur (a bronze statue of a Red Army soldier that represents the glorious victory of Soviet Union over fascism that has been turned into a pilgrimage site and a source of international turmoil by reckless actions of the government). Oh, there were also a couple of paragraphs on elections in Nigeria and France, but that was about it. How come there are thick interesting newspapers produced every single day all over the world but the ones in Estonia are full of week-old crap plus selected international news.
After arriving in Tallinn, I was greeted by a huge passport check queue. You see, only one officer was there to do the work. And so, my arrival to Estonia took longer than my admittance to the US of A. Brilliant, welcome to Elbonia!
Was driving happily along US-101 when the Hertz Neverlost (tm) thing went "proceed to the route" and positioned the car on its on-screen map somewhere near the eastern border of the State of California. Frustratingly enough it kept doing that for the rest of the day. Sometimes coming to its senses immediately, sometimes requiring somewhat longer to recover. Very strange.
Marine Headlands is such a beautiful place. Spent what was left of the day on a beach (should look up its name) that was a such a peaceful place. Strangely, the fact that it was pretty crowded did not change that impression. The ocean, cliffs on both sides of the beach and rolling hills in the background. Beautiful. There were surfers in the water but for some reason (being lame?) they didn't do much actual surfing, I only saw two guys manageing to stand up for a couple of seconds.
The place was also a paradise for dogs and those were present in all shapes and sizes. From a tiny chiuaua in lila outfit two a rather large rotweiler. Made acquaintance with most of them, took as many pictures as I could (yes, Margus, your new lens is perfect for dog-shooting) and exchanged smiles and a couple of words with the owners.
At some point I felt tired. Just bloody tired, hungry and homesick. Farewell to California it was, then. It managed to grab me for the last half an hour when a huge grey waterbird (could not make out what exactly it was) flew across the road just in front of me and landed in a pond nearby. In an attempt to get closer to it I discovered a dragonfly heaven and was stuck for some photography. The light was very harsh (it was close to midday) but there's a hope for some imagenary. Got one of a big dragonfly munching away on a smaller one, lelt's hope my hand didn't shake too much.
Then it really was it and after a futile attempt to find a parking space in town for some food I headed towards the airport.
You've got to love the San Francisco International Airport. It's international terminals are big and airy. It is never too crowded, there are plenty of places to charge your laptop and even food both in and outside the security gates is tasty.
So it is done now. Gave the car back to Hertz, checked my bulgeing bag in and am sitting at the gate. Even the US Government knows that I'm about to leave the country.
Time for conclusions, then.
The car, Mazda 6 from Hertz, was good. The steering felt strange till the very end and it was surprisingly sensitive to side-wind on one occasion on the coast. However, the gearbox was very good, ergonomix spot on and fuel efficiency reasonable. What did they do to the poor v6 under the bonnet, is unclear, however. If felt like it was missing a pair of cylinders: below 4000 nothing was going on and even above that there was no real shove. All in all, it was OK. The navigation system was also good despite the hickups and I actually prefer its graphics to the one from Garmin.
Travel arrangements were terrible. There's no other word for it. Jüri and Bertrand were forced to spend a night in Frankfurt, also courtesy of Estravel. Maybe next time I'll just go and book the whole trip through the internet myself?
People were generally very kind and the meetings I had were very useful. I'm proud to work with these guys.
Weather was not so good. The rain on Saturday and the cold cloudy wind in Washington should have not been there.
Photography was good. How good exactly, shows when I get home to my big monitor and can do some sorting. In general, I think that the second time on the Big Sur yielded some spectacular images. The Washington zoo was cool, too. What is obvious, though, is that my 10D is not cutting it any more. It's slow on bursts (the Lexar card, despite being a 133mhz one, is also of the slow sort), takes far too long to start up, the screen is too small, the sensor magnification is limiting (you shouldn't have to lug an additional ultra-wide zoom around every time there's a chance for some landscape-worthy light), minimum ISO is 100 instead of 50 and above 400 only black and white images can be produced due to the noise. It's time to start saving for the 5D or whatever will have replaced it by the time I get the funds together. The fact that I now own sensor-cleaning equipment (Sensor Swabs + accompanying liquid) is pleasing: some of the shots from Washington were ruined because of dust on the sensor, this will not happen in the future, I hope.
As a summary, I'd say that (although am not home yet, any of the airlines could still loose my bag or I could still be late to the flight home despite 5-hour delay) the trip was a success. Both personally and for the business. This blog will now revert back to it's normal, more photography-oriented self and your's truly hopes to start publishing on humararchitecture.blogspot.com on a more regular basis once the jet-lag has worn off.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Today we planned to go out and play with Jüri and Bertrand in their hilariously large rental car. It's a Mercury Grand Marquis and a quite new one. The fake wooden inserts! The uncovered wires leading to rear screen heating! The ancient green lighting and only a little younger buttons on the dashboard! I have heard, that American cars are poor on packaging but this was just ridiculous. The car is actually bigger than a long wheelbase 7 series BMW (5361 vs. 5179 mm) but has no more legroom in the back than a 5er. How do they do that? Also, I'm highly suspicious of cars I can push down 10 centimeters with one hand and that have bumpers that actually bend while I do so.
Anyway, we started off to a place called Fry's that was literally jaw-dropping. It's the single largest electronics store I have ever seen, roughly the size of a really big supermarket back at home. Very good selection, too. However, they didn't have, and apparently did not know of, the IR-blaster thing I was looking for (allows your media center to control an external device via its infrared sensor). What they did have was an xbox 360 with Guitar Hero running on it and I was instantly hooked. Hooked, I tell you! They also had Lego Mindstorm but I could carry myself out of the place before forgetting the size of my luggage and the limit of my credit card.
After that, it was back to the cool photography store I had discovered and after finding out that stuff actually costs 30% less than in Tallinn, severe shopping was done. Excellent.
Next item on the agenda: Mythbusters. Finding their address was easy (do your own googling, will you?) and getting there was a toddle thanks to the Garmin device Avis had given to the guys (not the hideous Motorola I wrote about earlier, must check it out). We got there, I took the camera and... no CF card. Checked the bag, no CF card wallet either. Damn. This is just me: you go off for a day full of photography and you forget all of your media. Jüri had been more considerate and I hope I will get a picture of me and the M5 Industries logo. From the moment on, me and Bertrand shared a quest to find compact media (he had just bought a camera) which we completed at Ritz Camera on Market street completely blowing my photography budget in the process.
By that time, our adventures had made us hungry, the next stop was for some steak (Joe's Grill, near Union Square. Questionable service, questionable prices, questionable steak, not recommended). After we had finished, it promptly started to rain heavily. Which destroyed my hope for photography and the need for that 2 GB Lexar card I had just purchased. Oh well, you can't have too much storage these days. We headed back to base.
Decided to spend the evening at the movies. Hot Fuzz was supposed to be good and, guided by google, I ended up at Century Berryessa 10. Admittance cost reasonable $10 (wee bit cheaper than in Tallinn, would not dare to compare standard of living, though) the medium-sized popcorn was humongous and so was the mid-size coke. The movie itself was a mediocre one. Good old English language, good old English countryside, a tad weak storyline and some good action sequences. Good laugh, though.
Tomorrow I'll be off to Tallinn. I do think I will find time for some closing thoughts during my 8-hour stay in London but you never know. Seeya!
P.S. Some idiot has started posting spam into the comments here, will switch moderation on.
Friday, April 20, 2007
There was this horrible massacre in Virgina Tech at the beginning of the week and this brought me to two thoughts I'd like to share.
Firstly, it was the press coverage. Was sitting on my bed at the hotel watching CNN (or fox or cbs or whoever, they all had the same basic information) when they were about to reveal the identity of the shooter. Went and checked upon Estonian news later and turned out most of the bigger sites had published the news about the identity a couple of hours before CNN had it. Heck, they even knew it was because of a unhappy love story. Makes you wonder, how come an Estonian newspaper had news like this before any of the big US stations that were on the story like ravens. Until you read the Estonian articles more thoroughly. One of them said the guy was Korean at the beginning and Chinese at the end. The other said that each of the victims had at least 3 "showers" of shots ("valang" in Estonian) which the gun the man was using is just not capable of. So my theory is that they just acted upon some rumor going around and not facts that the US stations were waiting for. Used to think that Äripäev was the only crappy newspaper in Estonia but seems the general level of journalism is way lower than what I thought.
Secondly. You see, every liberty a society enjoys, has a price attached. You get democracy and you also get the chance that a charismatic idiot gets elected. You get freedom of speech and you also get people claiming there was no holocaust. You get freedom to carry a gun and you also get lunatics running amok with them. And there's the unfortunate catch. With the last one, the people who actually enjoy the liberty are not the ones paying the price. Because, well, they own a gun and are therefore pretty unlikely to get shot at (or at least can retaliate rapidly). Instead, kids at school and people on the streets will suffer. Just stating the facts here, people in the US have to make that choice.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Got a real good hint today: besides the gym on our campus, there is a nice running/biking trail close by. And true it is: go along the Hamilton, cross the Bascom and before the bridge go down the stairs. There you go, Los Gatos Creek Trail. According to locals, it goes basically on for ever in both directions. Certainly was long enough for me. Whether you prefer that to the running mill in an air conditioned gym is a different story, though.
Saw a new BMW 3rd series cabrio in the parking lot. Saw new x5 near a mall yesterday. Why is it that the people here get new beemers before we do? Something seems to be wrong with the concept of Americans knowing nothing about cars, too. Saw a Porsche Speedster 1600 super, a Diablo, couple of Miatas, old Porsches and every man and his dog seem to drive a 350Z. Weird.
One other thing. Why the heck do they build showers like this? Donald A. Norman is clearly not popular around whoever designs these things. Imagine a clock that has "blue" written from 6 to 10 (left side) and "red" from 2 to 6 (right side). Now imagine that the long hand is pointing at 6 and the short one on 12. Of course, the hands are fixed to a line and are part of a knob. Now, where do you turn this thing to get a warm shower? To figure it out, you need to make following assumptions:
- You can't adjust the volume of water, just temperature. How would you know that?
- The shower will start to spit out cold water (not hot) as the first thing. A splash of ice cold water, anybody?
- The temperature is indicated by the _short_ not long end of the knob
Monday, April 16, 2007
Just beside the Oakley store, the is the local Borders which had a section dedicated to Kurt Vonnegut who has recently passed away (his Slaughterhouse 5 was one of the most influential books I read in my teenage years). "Breakfast of Champions" is now here on the table. They also had a massive two-volume The Complete Far Side (~$120) which was deemed very desirable but too expensive and heavy.
Then it was off to Monterey Aquarium which I have sought to visit several times in the past but always something happened. It was not such a big deal. Surely, they had penguins and otters and _three_ gift shops and approximately gazillion educational games for kids but all in all nothing very spectacular. Also, they had some sort of Mexican day which meant there was a large band of youngsters playing Mexican music in the center of the aquarium. I have never ever heard three people sing and so utterly miss each other and Greenpeace ought to look into what was done to these two trumpets.
After a small unhealthy lunch of some pastry and apples the sun was low enough for some photography so I headed for the Big Sur. As usual, I did not get far and got stuck quite soon at some breathtaking bay where I sat and took photos for almost three hours. Got almost swept away by the incoming tide, too. Despite the relatively low wind the waves were spectacular, hopefully some photos will escape the bin. This one is a good candidate: A nasty hair has appeared on several of my pictures, need to get a sensor cleaning kit ASAP.
Landing in Chicago is truly magnificent: You can see the whole town with a tiny island of skyscrapers on one end and the rest is just a featureless checker board of suburbs as far as the eye can see. Scary. If you step out of the plane, you immediately sense the difference from the Dulles airport. Where the latter is a fairly dark, gloomy and joyless place the former surprises with light, room and happy people. The biggest difference, though, is food. In Dulles you can't find anything better to eat than hamburgers and sweet mass-produced pastry. In Chicago, there is a outlet selling apples, bananas, yogurt and such after every 50 meters. Very nice. After spending three more hours in that relative weight-watchers paradise, I was finally off to San Francisco where we landed 4 hours later. Then, after waiting for my bag for an hour (some idiot had put a set of random bags aside in a far corner behind the carousel) I rented a car, drove to the hotel and immediately fell asleep. From hotel to hotel, the total trip duration was 22 hours. Usually, it takes roughly 19-20 hours from Tallinn to SF via Frankfurt!
Ah, car rental. Decided to choose Hertz over Avis this time as the Avis GPS thing (its sort of a mobile phone with GPS inside that talks to a server that calculates routes) really sucks whereas Hertz Neverlost thing is a decent big-screen Magellan unit that actually works and has a usable interface. Turned out that besides this, Hertz has a very nice selection of cars, too. In the parking lot, there was a nice row of Z350s, a Corvette, some Volvo S80s and nice Caddies. Next time I'm here I'll pay the difference and take a 350. Wheeee! Not this time, though. Have to do with a Mazda 6 which is a huge improvement over the Jeep monstrosity we drove last time. It has decent suspension that actually stops wobbling after you leave the steering alone (not so the Focus I once drove) and a smooth 6-speed auto (as opposed to hideous 4-speeders American cars usually get). The steering is strangely over-amplified and feels very artificial. Could that be a US-thing as Brits have gave Mazda6 very high grades for the whole drivetrain.
One more thing I have to get off my chest. It's the Dulles airport. I just can't figure it out. The thing is that you travel between planes and the terminal and between terminals using very strange buses that are short, wide and can be risen up to the second floor level. So to go to terminal C, you step into this thing, it is lowered to ground level, driven around the airport and then risen up. Didn't it ever occur to the designers of this thing that if they built the whole terminal on _ground_ level, they could make do with standard buses and not these undoubtedly expensive custom developments?
Friday, April 13, 2007
I'm still angry but about to go jogging which usually calms me down a little bit.
Spent the day sleeping and shopping. Went to a mall at Pentagon City with a hope to find a Discovery Channel store and maybe some place to get something to clean the extremely dusty sensor of my D10. Found the former (which was almost devoid of any Discovery-channel related stuff, no Mythbusters t-shirt this time unfortunately) but not the latter. At the mac store I stumbled upon Bose headphones attached to an iPod. Boy, are they good. I have never ever ever heard such audio quality and the noise cancellation is amazing: the whole background rumble of a big mall just went away on a flick of a switch. They are portable, too, which is important for me. But they cost $300. Still longing, but at the moment, they are just too expensive.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
The rest of the day started off in a very slow and jetlagged manner. We were given a tour of the Jefferson building and I honestly tried to take pictures. Just nothing I came up with didn't do the place any justice so here's a picture of the neighboring Supreme Court instead. Aren't we just ants?
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Oh, one more thing. The basic message of Washington seems to be "if you don't live here, you don't belong here". Hadn't I protested the hotel would have made me move rooms for just one day. After which I would have stayed in another hotel for one day. Why would anybody do that? Also, the metro is just driving me nuts: the ticket machine is happy to sell you a day pass 8AM but nothing indicates that these things do not work till 0930. The fare system is also quite cool: when buying a ticket, you need to enter the price of your journey. Which is not indicated anywhere. After talking to the guy in charge I learned that my trip would cost me $1.35 (at least it's cheap), thank you very much.
Another day of the seminar awaits, and this time I'll bring the camera.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
To get to the zoo, I decided not to walk but try out the metro. Boy, is it different from the one in London. Where the tube is a tight but somehow light and lively and vibrant place, Washington metro is a huge, gloomy, dark place without any decorations: the walls are plain concrete.
The zoo rocked. It was run by the Smithonian Institution, like all of the museums around the Mall, and was free. Turns out in 1826 mr. James Smithson figured donating his legacy to "increase and diffusion of knowledge among men". Well, there's a plan that has worked out just fine. Although the place was a tad cramped, the exhibition was well layed out and nicely accessible. Even photography was possible (which is not true in Tallinn, for example):
I was especially impressed by the giant pandas and the place where they keep the butterflies. Fabulous!
Monday, April 09, 2007
After I had frozen my butt off taking pictures of all the landmarks of the Mall (could not figure out a way to properly picture that corner of the Reflecting Pool where Forrest met his Jenny, seen far right on the picture above) I declared retreat and went to the National Air and Space Museum. Which was very cool. It did not contain a SR-71 Blackbird but there was a real U2 barely fitting into a huge hall dedicated to all sorts of espionage affairs. The coolest parts of the museum were various places where one could try out different laws of physics that apply to flight and astronomy like see how various telescope systems work and how wind angle affects the turbulences . None of them could have cost much but boy, were they cool! Why the heck can't every darn school in Estonia have at least some of them? Four laser diodes, 6 lenses and 4 mirrors can't be that complex to obtain, can it?
Anyway, Spaceship One was also there in it's full glory right beside The Spirit of St. Louis. On it's tail, a writing: "a project of Paul G. Allen". Dang, you might be rich and all and sponsor numerous cool undertakings and what not but this ain't a show'n'tell back in the elementary, you know. Unbelievable!
Anyway, here I am, totally exhausted from the day (of course the clouds disappeared at once after I had arrived at the hotel making for perfect evening light) and ready to hit a very early jetlag-induced sack. The trip indeed did take a turn for the better.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Anyway, the next step was booking a hotel. Turns out the only way to stay in Washington is to change hotels, too. Oh well.
Having digested all that I figured that an upgrade to business class using the points on my EuroBonus card would sweeten the plot up. Not so. Turns out you can only do that when a) you fly SAS b) they have free places in business class c) for some reason they also have more supplies available than the passengers need (why would anybody do that?). So economy it is.
Being pretty much in peace with the situation, I arrived at the airport in an ungodly hour. To be greeted by a sign at the Estravel office that stated that due to the Eastern they would not open before two hours after my plain has left. A few panic-laden phone calls later (sorry, Triin!) I was given my tickets and could finally get some shuteye on the plane.
The take-off did not wake me. However, a Russian company occupying two rows right in front of me decided that the best thing to do 7AM on a Saturday morning is to drink cognac and have a jolly loud good time all over the plane. Which indeed woke me.
Arriving at Gatwick I figured the safest thing to do is to find a way to get to Heathrow and settle down there. The next coach would leave in 40 minutes and take an hour an twenty minutes to get there. A quick calculation (30 minutes Gatwick Express, 20 minutes tube, 15 minutes Heathrow Express from Paddington) yielded a promising chance of some quality photography in Hyde Park with not much more time spent. Not so. Turns out there is nowhere to leave your suitcase in the Paddington station. So much for photography and soon I was on my way to Heathrow.
So here I am, waiting for the check-in to start, sitting in a Cafe Nero that charged me 10 pounds for a coffee, sandwich, yogurt and cookie, writing this post in a good hope that there is a turn for better somewhere around the corner.
Friday, April 06, 2007
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Friday, March 30, 2007
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Monday, March 26, 2007
Saturday, March 24, 2007
the road there was long
finally got there
with some help from Ramones
I went to the altar of friendship
and there were familiar faces
god, I was glad
and so were they
I went to the altar of friendship
and I brought a sacrifice
it was accepted
I don't want to do without
I went to the altar of friendship
some of the faces were sad
that will come to pass
that will come to pass
I went to the altar of friendship
and found out
not everybody is on a quest
for dead presidents
Friday, March 23, 2007
What kind of sick people do stuff like this? If you want to make a head-shaped bump into your windshield, be my guest. If you attempt this with your kid, the kid should be taken away from you and you would be forced to drive without the belt till the kid is 35 years old.