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)