December 5, 2009

New Blog -- Please Update Your Links

Howdy all,

I'm consolidating Web sites ;-) I migrated all the content from here to my existing Web site. So I won't be posting anymore here -- it'll all be over there. Please update your bookmarks and RSS feeds accordingly.


November 8, 2009

Fun Fun Fun Fest, Day 1

These are some pics from Day 1 ... it rained today (Day 2) so I didn't bring my camera out.

Pink Eyes from Fucked Up

The Sword



Divorce & Baseball

If you and your wife own a baseball team worth $421 million, and you get a divorce .... just exactly how do you split up that asset? As Frank and Jamie McCourt, owners of the LA Dodgers, are finding out, it depends on how you raised the money to buy the team in the first place:
Even among the cadre of super-wealthy folks, it's just not that easy to drum up $421 million in cash. The McCourts didn't simply hand News Corp. a check drawn on the family's WaMu account. The process behind financing this purchase is especially interesting in the McCourt case, and is particularly relevant for the upcoming battle for the Dodgers.

October 28, 2009

Hiking on the Barton Creek Greenbelt


More here.

Google Goats

Just one more reason to love Google:

At our Mountain View headquarters, we have some fields that we need to mow occasionally to clear weeds and brush to reduce fire hazard. This spring we decided to take a low-carbon approach: Instead of using noisy mowers that run on gasoline and pollute the air, we've rented some goats from California Grazing to do the job for us (we're not "kidding"). A herder brings about 200 goats and they spend roughly a week with us at Google, eating the grass and fertilizing at the same time. The goats are herded with the help of Jen, a border collie. It costs us about the same as mowing, and goats are a lot cuter to watch than lawn mowers.

October 21, 2009

Just About The Coolest Thing I've Ever Seen In My Entire Freaking Life

Okay, maybe not, because we all know I speak in hyperbole a lot. But check this out:
Given information commonly available online about many games — the box score and the play-by-play — the system automatically generates the text of a story about that game that captures the overall dynamic of the game and highlights the key plays and key players. The story includes an appropriate headline and a photo of the most important player in the game.
Yes, that's right. Input: stats & plays from a baseball game. Output: AP-style story.

So awesome.

Photo jacked from Joe Y Jiang.

Nicholas & Jordana Taylor: First Dance

First Dance

More to come as I "develop" the pictures I took at their wedding in WV. But I really like this one. Nicholas needs to do a better job shaving for big days like these ;-)

September 29, 2009

Digital Similarities

So those of you who know me know that I used to produce digital music ... techno ... or attempt to :-) It was basically a four-year process/ordeal where I tried way too hard to create music with the goal of DJing it out, getting a song signed to a label, or something along those lines. I gave it up in late 2007 right before I moved to China for various reasons, one of them being I was finding I was having to force myself to sit down at the computer and do it. I gave it up and haven't stressed out about it since.

Now I find myself getting more and more into digital photography. I downloaded a thirty-day trial of this program called Adobe Lightroom, which is essentially a digital darkroom (hence the product name) for raw image data from your camera. e.g. it gives you lots of control over how the image turns out. It also features an extensive "asset management" system, which is a fancy way of saying it helps you organize and categorize your photos to find them easier later or to share w/others (via a slideshow, web album, etc). It's such an intuitive and easy-to-use program. I opened it for the first time last week and began touching up some of my existing photos; I was able to see the results immediately, which was great positive feedback and led to me using it more and more over the weekend. I'm pretty sure I'm going to buy it when my trial period is up. Unlike a lens, it is useful in a variety of situations :-)

Then this weekend I was working in the program when I realized how similar the light histogram was to a parametric EQ. They literally are the same thing -- a graphic representation of how your photo/sound is composed of different frequencies (of light or of sound, it doesn't matter which), and which you use to adjust the particular frequency content of your material. From there a tumble of realizations came out. The whole process is the same! You generate some input data (either a picture from a camera or a sound from a synthesizer or sampler), fire up a software program or two to tweak and arrange it, combine it with others, get it just how you like it, and then you have the output data which you share with other people.

So I started thinking, why do I feel so good about photography whereas music was a struggle? Probably several reasons:
  • I've been practicing the process for generating pictures (photography) for the past few years, whereas I had to learn how to generate sound all from scratch, and all at once.
  • I'm a visual person, and viewing photographs comes more intuitively to me than listening to music.
  • I get more immediate positive feedback from photography, because I see the faces and places that I shoot and that triggers memories.
  • Pictures are more easily accessible to your average person than a techno track :-) Which means I can share photos with everyone, the whole world, whereas w/music the only people who really cared were other friends of mine who were techno DJs.
  • I am coming to this on my own terms (more naturally/holistically) instead of the rush & stress I put myself through w/digital music (e.g. get rich & famous as a techno DJ). In fact the whole reason I bought this laptop was to make music! How quickly that went away, haha.
  • I tried to do way too much too quickly w/digital music. I tried to not only learn how to generate and shape sounds, but also how to arrange them into a cohesive track. That is a REALLY complicated task; you're talking music theory and sound engineering at the same time, both of which are pretty advanced topics for your average lazy bastard (me :-)
  • Photography is a very social activity; you're out in the world, taking pictures of people and places and things. W/digital music you're stuck sitting at a computer for hours a day -- it's only when you have a finished product that you get to share it in a social environment (at a gig).
  • It takes a good 5 minutes to listen to a song and decide if you like it. Whereas w/a photo I pretty much know instantly -- I have a strong gut reaction to photos & other pieces of visual art that I like.
It's been a pretty interesting realization. I discussed it with some friends and they see what I'm talking about. So who knows. Maybe I will pick up digital music again someday. But for right now I'm having too much fun with photography :-) But I can occasionally combine the two, as in this photo I took at a rave last Saturday (and subsequently edited in Lightroom):


I really like the way that one turned out.

September 23, 2009

Google Reader Trends

Soon after I got to China, I consolidated the many websites I read into a single one: Google Reader. It aggregates RSS feeds from my favorite web sites all in one spot. I check GR pretty much daily and use it to catch up on the things I find interesting. Having one central location to check the most important news to me is very, very convenient. It means I don't have to type in lots of URLs or click tons of bookmarks in order to keep up to date on my favorite web sites. And because GR exists on's servers and not on my desktop, I don't have to worry about having a laptop with me when I travel.

Google Reader keeps track of what I read and when, so I thought I'd post some of that information here for shits and giggles.

This is what greets me on the main screen. I get RSS feeds from ("subscribe to") 27 web sites/blogs/whatever. Now, this changes all the time as I add and remove feeds based on what I find myself reading the most of. In fact I removed 5 feeds and added 2 feeds just this morning. But you can see that I read an average of 36 posts/articles a day. Keep in mind that I rarely check any other news sites -- or web sites in general -- so this is the equivalent of my daily paper-reading. The only other news source I listen to frequently is NPR in the morning. And whatever I happen to overhear from friends :-)

Also keep in mind that the length of these posts varies from blog to blog. Daring Fireball's posts are very short; usually a paragraph at most. However Joe Posnanski often writes long-winded, rambling posts about baseball -- several pages on average.

It also seems that for each subscription, I read on average about 40 posts in any given 30 days. Within those 30 days, on which day did I read the most items?

In the past 30 days, I read the most items on August 30th. The total for that date (which you can actually see in Google Reader) is 100 items. 8/30 was a Sunday; looking back through my calendar I didn't have anything planned for the day. So, no surprises there :-)

The next-highest total was on 8/25, which was a Tuesday. I read 75 items that day. And the third-highest total in the past 30 days was when I read 66 items on 9/19, or this past Saturday. That's a little confusing to me because I had a lot of stuff going on this past Saturday! I guess most of it might have come from early in the morning, when I got home late from a party on Friday night but wasn't that tired. Interesting.

Now in any given day, when am I most likely to be reading stuff on Google Reader?

The answer is between 8 PM and 9 PM -- that's when I read the most. In the past 30 days I read 154 items around 8 PM, 198 items around 9 PM, and 140 items around 10 PM. I'm not positive how they quantize their times; I'd bet that anything between 8 and 8:30 gets counted at 8 PM, while anything between 8:30 and 9 gets counted as 9. Just a guess though. And you can see I hardly ever read during the day at work unless it's between 12:30 and 1 PM ;-)

What about that last tab -- Day of the week?

Seems I read the most on the weekends -- no surprise there. On the weekends I often wake up and have a few cups of coffee while catching up on RSS feeds I've missed during the week. What's interesting is that I read the least on Fridays -- perhaps proof that I actually have a social life, since we can see above I don't read in the morning and only occasionally during the day :-) Wednesday nights I understand too -- many Wednesday nights I'm at BD Riley's playing trivia with some friends. That runs from 8 - 10 PM, which as we've seen above is prime Google Reader-reading hours for me :-)

Well, I hope you've enjoyed this peek into my reading habits :-)

September 22, 2009

Teaching Someone How to DJ

My friend David will start a job at an international law firm in a little over a month ... in the meantime, he's decided to use his (then-remaining) 40 days to learn/do something new each day. I participated yesterday (Day 7 for him) by teaching him how to DJ.

Teaching David How to DJ

Teaching David How to DJ

I really enjoy close-up, shallow depth-of-field photos.

September 13, 2009

I Lied

No sooner had I posted about losing some Project365 pictures, then I re-opened Picasa and it decided to find them! How crazy. To celebrate, here's one of the photos I thought I lost:


My cousin Max, who lives in Philly, visited me over Labor Day weekend. We had a real blast -- I think he enjoyed his time in Austin and hopefully I've convinced him to move out here :-)

The photographic technique in the above photo is called a rear-curtain flash sync (also known as a second-curtain sync, which is what Canon calls it. In it, the flash fires twice -- once at the beginning of the exposure (to assist w/focus) and again at the end of the exposure. This means if you have a long enough shutter time, your picture will contain trails/blurs -- like all long exposures do -- but because the flash fires at the end of the exposure, the picture also has at least one sharp image in it. In this case you can see that Max moved his head to the right during the exposure, but because the flash fired at the end (freezing the action for a still shot), the whole picture isn't blurry.

I love this effect -- I also used it here.

September 12, 2009

One Month of Project365

Well, amazingly enough I'm over a month into Project365 and have hit every single day. Talk about commitment. The only snag has been that my camera-to-PC transfer lost a few photos from last Saturday & Sunday, which kind of sucks because there were some good ones. But since I actually took the photos, I'm not too upset :-)

Here's a nice picture to add to the "sky" collection:

Our Roof

It's been fun so far ... and it's definitely been doable because of my macro lens. Because of that, I can come home after work, take a picture of something at extremely-close range, have it fill the lens, and have the picture turn out halfway interesting. I don't have to think too terribly much about it.

Still, I'm already getting tired of that practice and it's only been a month! What I'm going to do is start taking my camera to work and then going different places after work to take pictures. I'm a big fan of variety, and that should help :-)

I'm still lagging behind in uploading photos, but I'm confident I'll get them all up eventually.

September 7, 2009

Participatory Government

The HHS crowdsourced PSAs about washing hands & staying hygenic (to prevent the spread of H1N1). The YouTube channel where you can vote on the finalists is here. I think that's a pretty neat idea.

(H/T to Freakonomics)

August 30, 2009

Project 365 Continues

Seems to be the thing to do 'round these parts on Sunday nights.

Note: The shot w/the car was made possible with my new macro lens that arrived Friday :-D

Toy Car

Sunset @ The Congress Ave Bridge

Two Turn Tables & A Mixer (And Some Headphones)

And of course more here.

Just Because

Jesus Bandages & Salt

August 23, 2009

Project 365 Rolls Right Along

Cake in a Bowl

Cake in a bowl.

Bill & The Ball

Bill enjoying his new light-up ball toy that my parents got him.

Diana's House

Diana's outdoor plants that I watered while she was away.

August 16, 2009

Eyes and Books

So I woke up this morning and my right eye was all crusty. I looked in the mirror, and this was staring back at me:

A Sty

Kinda looks like I got knocked around in a bar fight or something, haha. But really it's a sty. I went to the hospital and got some medicine for it, in addition to advice about warm compresses every so often. Good times! My parents didn't even mind that it canceled our planned trip to Salado. Instead, we went to Half Price Books where I ended up blowing some money on this stuff:

The Spoils

Oh, yeah, more stuff to add to the backlog of items to read. I'm currently reading this, then I have to read and review this (I promised the author I would; she is a fellow technical writer/blogger in Austin), and then it's on to other things. Oy!

In other news, you will likely be seeing a lot more pictures from me in the coming ... year. I've decided to do something called Project365, in which I take at least one picture a day for the next year. I probably already average at least one picture a day, but of course I skip most days and make up for those w/photo-intensive days, like trips to NY (or China!) or whatever. But this will be a daily thing. I officially kicked it off on August 10th and, so far for the first week, have been keeping up with it quite nicely. The photos will be archived here on Flickr. I won't lie; part of the motivation here is to convince myself it's worth it to buy a nice macro lens or maybe an external flash :-) But I swear that's only part of it ...

August 15, 2009

Less than Zero

This ad makes me shudder ... for two reasons.


August 10, 2009

Bill x3


This photo screamed B&W.


Interrupted during a snack.

Passed Out

Passed out.

August 9, 2009

Pets in the Heat

I never used to pay attention to this sort of thing ... but I stopped off at HEB today, the Hancock center one, and right next to it is a Petco. As I walked down the sidewalk into HEB, I saw a large cage out front of Petco with like six or seven dogs & cats passed out in it. The cage was under a tent (so, marginally in the shade) and it was apparent that they animals had been sprayed with water at some point, but, c'mon -- it's over 100 degrees out today!! The animals were not even remotely moving. The whole scene made me really sad.

A sign out front said they were collecting donations for food for the pets ... maybe they were some sort of charity? I wasn't really sure and I didn't ask. I was appalled that in this day and age someone would subject animals to this sort of treatment. I stood out front there debating whether to go talk to them ... but I'm pretty non-confrontational ... so I didn't say anything.

If I see that again (and that's likely, given that I do most of my grocery shopping there) I will definitely inquire as to what is going on. I'm not the smartest person alive, but even I know that in this heat it's best to minimize your time outside ...

In other news, Bill is doing just fine.

August 8, 2009

... a Beautiful Sky Blue

After a year of being in the dirty, smoggy mess that is Shanghai (and lots of other areas, like Beijing and Xi'an as well) -- with its metallic-gray skies, rainy weather, and towering skyscrapers that blot out the sun -- I find myself paying much, much more attention to a beautiful deep blue sky than ever before. Why do you think I bought the polarizing filter for my camera?

View from the Plane

Manhattan Bridge from the Brooklyn Bridge

The City I Live In

The UT Tower

Red Bud Isle Park

Lake Austin @ Mozart's

Lake Austin

Incense Burning

Sky Outside Lhasa

Sunset in Potala Square

... and so on.

July 29, 2009

Proof that Nirvana Played a Show in Austin, 1991

This makes me happy.

In other news, you might notice that I'm up at 7:17 AM ... that's because Bill woke me up (again) and I decided to just stay up this time. Good news though!! I watched him take a dump and, without ANY help from me, he squatted properly on the toilet seat like he's supposed to do. Huzzah! All four legs on the seat, didn't miss at all, didn't fall in. I could tell afterwards he was confused about covering up his mess, but I took him off the seat before he could investigate any further and foul things up. Much petting, and a treat, followed. He's now passed out on the sofa.

This means training will go so much easier, since I don't have to teach him how to stand on the toilet seat. I just need to slowly decrease the amount of litter in there (it's already pretty low) and then slowly fill it up with water. I'll probably keep a small amount of litter in there for a few weeks to make sure he gets used to it.


July 26, 2009

Toilet Training Moves Forward

Because I know you want to hear this --

For the last month or so, Bill had been using his litter box as it sat on top of the toilet seat, w/the lid up. Yesterday I removed that and bought a metal mixing bowl and suspended it (via duct tape -- most indispensible tool ever) in the middle of the toilet and filled it w/some litter. I stayed home all afternoon to hopefully catch Bill when he uses the facilities, because I need to teach him how to squat on the seat w/all four paws. (Being a pet owner is demanding, eh?)

Unfortunately I missed his business-time (and basically wasted an entire afternoon at home), but fortunately I came home from a party to find he peed very properly in the inner bowl and didn't spill a drop. That's an encouraging sign, at least! He apparently made the switch from box to bowl with no problems.

The next step is to fill the bowl with decreasing amounts of litter. But before I do that I want to make sure he knows how to squat. So this might be a month or so of me spending my time at home in front of the bathroom, instead of out in the living room, to catch him on his bathroom run. Nurse, cancel my one o'clock ...

July 25, 2009

More NYC Pics

Richard on the Cyclone

My friend Richard on the Cyclone at Coney Island.

A Ride in Progress

Another ride in progress at Coney Island.

Wonder Wheel

The Wonder Wheel, the ferris wheel at Coney Island.

Liberty Island

I shouldn't have to explain this one ;-)

View from the Plane

Plane rides aren't all bad ...

July 20, 2009


Well, on kind-of-a-whim, I went skydiving yesterday. Hot damn! It was scary, intense, and amazing. I'm definitely going to do it again. Some pictures my friends took:

This is me, beforehand, demonstrating the worst possible outcome of our little adventure.

The plane we went up in -- there's room for five people: the pilot and four passengers. For us, that meant two students and two tandem instructors.

Pre-jump. Note the stylin' gear.

On the way down. At this point I'd finished a 50-second free fall and been gliding w/parachute for about 5-6 minutes. We jumped from a height of 10,500 feet.

Coming in for a landing ...

The post-landing adrenaline-fueled hat throw! Yeeeeeeeeee-hah!!

Chatting with Brady after the jump.

If I had to pick one, I'd say the scariest part of the jump was the part where the plane door is open and you're sitting on the ledge waiting to jump off, just looking down at the ground, and what you're about to do hits you full in the chest -- you're about to pitch yourself out of an airplane, into the wild blue yonder, strapped to just another human being who just has some backpack on their back. Everything you normally associate w/air travel -- rows of seats, noisy people, and hell, a floor and some walls and an engine or two -- is gone. And you'll be falling earthward.

That part still makes me nervous just sitting here on the ground, even though I know I did it already. It's the part I don't fully remember; my brain must have blocked it out :-)

After that, once you're out of the plane and you're in free-fall, then it becomes beautiful. You're looking around you in amazement, the wind rushing up at you. You don't even feel like you're falling, because you're too far away from the ground to see it getting closer. There's no drop in your stomach like on a roller coaster. And I thought I'd be yelling in excitement, but I actually was robbed of the power of speech for awhile. It was very peaceful.

Then the instructor pulls the ripcord and you start floating. The wind noise falls away and you can have a normal chit-chat conversation with your partner. You can yank the handles of the canopy to steer, and if you pull hard on one direction you will spin around in the air. (It's fun.) And landing is a breeze, as gentle as can be.

Next time I'll try and take a small camera up ...