Category Archives: Thoughts

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 22,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 5 fully loaded ships.

 

In 2010, there were 33 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 548 posts. There were 12 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 582kb. That’s about a picture per month.

The busiest day of the year was January 6th with 322 views. The most popular post that day was Swimwear, Africa Style.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were eolake.blogspot.com, righthealth.com, twitter.com, health.kosmix.com, and search.aol.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for gallstone, green point stadium, african women, african beaches, and south african women.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Swimwear, Africa Style December 2007

2

Abscess April 2008
5 comments

3

New Green Point Stadium May 2007
5 comments

4

Surf Phosphorescence in False Bay March 2007
4 comments

5

Romancing The Stone January 2008
3 comments

HD Video: is it the new megapixel?

video_camera Previously it was megapixels that marketing materials used to influence the less well informed into thinking one camera was better than another. Now it seems to me that the megapixel war is over, or has at least been forgotten for the moment. It’s HD video capability that is the latest feature used to market cameras and camera-equipped mobile phones.

Not that I’m denying that these HD video claims refer to valid, useful features. The point is that the marketing claims lead the less experienced buyer to assume they will be able to produce professional looking videos all by themselves, using just their shiny new camera. This is clearly not the case.

I don’t yet own an HD video capable camera nor have I any experience of making videos beyond quick, jerky clips grabbed with my non-HD compact camera or cell phone. But listening to podcasts like TWIP I have come to realise that just because we hear that some TV show episode was shot with an HD-capable digital SLR camera, we can’t make the assumption that they used just the camera. After listening to these podcasts I’ve come to realise that many accessories, often very expensive accessories are used as well. Professional quality external audio recording equipment, a variety of rigs to steady the camera or move it smoothly and devices to allow a focus puller to focus the camera are just some I have heard mentioned. Learning this has made me realise that just buying a new DSLR that shoots HD is not going to let me produce anything approaching decent videos; not without learning a lot about how movies are made and buying more equipment any way.

This was brought home to me on Monday when I came across a blog post highlighting Apple of My Eye, one of the first HD videos to be shot with the new iPhone 4. The movie is short and deceptively simple and the blog post says “Shot and edited entirely on the iPhone 4 / iMovie App (in 48 hours)”. This doesn’t mean that some guy just grabbed his phone and fired off a quick video though. At the end of the movie is additional footage showing how the movie was made. This makes if abundantly clear that without specific knowledge and extra equipment, you are not going to be producing quality video.

So, go ahead and buy yourself a new, HD capable camera; but realise that you will have to go through a steep learning curve, invest in buying or renting more equipment, and enlist the help of friends before you will be able to produce that hit movie you dream of.

Creative Commons licensed image courtesy of Damon Duncan.

Don’t photograph me, bro!

censored A strange thing happened to me on Thursday afternoon.

I was at the V&A Waterfront, walking around with my camera; shooting my usual mix of people and objects. As it began to get dark I bought a drink and snack and sat on a bench to eat them. When I was done I got up and was walking towards a dustbin when I was approached by a young guy; perhaps 17 years old.

He said that his mother had noticed that I was photographing her; she was uncomfortable with this and he asked that I stop. He wanted me to delete any photographs of her from my camera so I scrolled through the images showing to them so he could identify the relevant photo or photos. I must have had at least a hundred photos on my card so this took a while. He eventually spotted just one in which he said you could see her back. I remembered the shot and was doubtful that the subject was what he thought it was but deleted it anyway, knowing that I could undelete it later if I wanted.

And undelete it I did, to find the main subject of the photograph was four young women leaning over a bridge railing, photographing the seals below. In the background were two men and half the back of a black woman. Of the females in the photograph, four were too young to have a child of the age of the guy that approached me; the other was black while the guy that approached me was white so she probably wasn’t his mother either. Rather odd then that he wanted me to delete the image. Perhaps after flipping through many images he began to realise that I may not have photographed his mother after all and picked a random image rather than admitting error. Or maybe the LCD on the back of a camera is just too small to positively identify the subjects of a photograph.

Besides the son who approached me, it seems the woman had also complained to a security guard. He approached us just as we were about to part company and wanted to know why I was taking photographs. I told him it was a hobby, that I belong to a photography club and had already deleted the photograph that was pointed out to me. He was happy with this, saying that I was allowed to photograph there, it’s a major tourist spot after all, but that he had to take heed of complaints from customers.

Some days later, as I write this I wonder what prompted this. Clearly the son could not identify his mother in any of the photographs on my card. What made his mother think I was photographing her then? Did I perhaps photograph something near her causing her to mistake where my lens was pointing? Is she simply paranoid? Perhaps the strangest question of all; why didn’t she approach me when she thought I was photographing her, or even just wave and shout “Please don’t take my photo”? Why have both her son and a security guard approach me some thirty minutes after I took my last photo and a good distance away from the spot I took it? It’s all rather odd.

Riding Again

My gout has finally settled down to the point where I was able to go for a ride this morning before it got too warm. I rode just under 4 kilometres; not a lot but better than nothing.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

The_gout_james_gillray So much for my commitment to cycle at least a short distance each day. Yesterday, towards evening, my gout and arthritis started to flare up. Cycling then became an impossibility as just shuffling around the house sent waves of agony radiating from my right big toe joint and left ankle. My back was sore too, as was my right elbow and thumb joint (hello RSI). I took some Cataflam and went to bed. Being immobile helped the pain but it took me a while to fall asleep. Although I wasn’t uncomfortably hot (the fan helps) it felt as if I had waves of heat radiating off my face. Thinking I might have a fever it crossed my mind to take my temperature but the thought of getting upright on my sore feet again to go to the bathroom for the thermometer put paid to that idea.

This morning I am still sore but thankfully not as bad as last night. I have somewhat blocked sinuses and a post nasal drip so I probably have some virus that is causing all this to flare up. I’ll do my usual of trying to ride it out but if the gout persists without getting much better I’ll go along to the doctor on Tuesday or Wednesday for a Voltaren shot; that always does the trick, giving rapid relief. In any case, it seems my cycling aspirations are on hold for at least a day or two.

Image from Wikipedia Commons, is a 1799 cartoon depicting gout.

Inspired To Ride

If you’ve been following this infrequently updated blog for more than a few years, you’ll know that I have a serious weight problem. You may remember a time when I followed a weight loss, or lifestyle modification plan; losing 30kg before falling back into old habits. I have been steadily packing on the kilos since then and am not quite sure what I weigh now as I passed the 150kg limit of our scale some months back; my guess is I’m somewhere around 170kg now. I get very little exercise and am extremely unfit. A walk to Pick n Pay at lunch time invariably ends with me out of breath from the slight uphill slope on the way back. I almost always enter the building through the basement parking entrance and use the lift rather than continuing up the slope and climbing the single flight of stairs.

I’ve been well aware that I need to stop this cycle of weight gain and diminishing health but as one does I’ve always put it off for another day. Today is that day. Sitting in the waiting room this morning while Mela had an ultrasound, I picked up a cycling magazine and found an article about Scott Cutshall. Scott is an American that was in even worse shape than I am when he turned his life around. He weighed 238kg at his heaviest and doctors had given him just six months to live without having bariatric surgery; even that was no guarantee as he had just a 50-50 chance of surviving the surgery. Sitting at his window one day he spied a man swooping through traffic on a bicycle and was inspired to begin cycling. After some trouble finding a custom cycle builder that would take him seriously he had his new cycle, one that could support his bulk, and started cycling daily. As you can imagine this was no easy feat but he persevered and aided by a meal plan of his own design, the weight started to fall of. Today he weighs just 78kg and continues to cycle many miles per day.

Reading this article was a tremendous inspiration to me and I told myself that I will follow his example and begin cycling every day. This evening I began, dusting off the bike that I haven’t touched in at least three years and getting out for a short ride around the neighbourhood. I only rode 2.74km today but it’s a start. As I increase my fitness I’ll increase my distance too. We are already makign a point of modifying what we eat so that will help too. If Scott could do it, I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to do it too.

He never got the memo

I had to laugh this morning while walking from the car into Somerset Mall. I heard a crow having a good old squawk; looked around to locate it and you guessed it. It was sitting on the roof above Pick n Pay, right next to one of those shiny, whirly pyramid things that are apparently meant to keep birds away. So it seems they may not work quite as well as advertised.

Feedback from Sony

As mentioned in my previous post I contacted Sony asking about a simple memory upgrade voiding the warranty. Here’s what I said to them.

I purchased a Vaio VGN-NW23GE notebook from the Somerset Mall branch of Dion Wired today and asked that an additional 2GB of RAM be added to the standard 2GB. I was told that this could not be done for Sony Vaio machines without invalidating the warranty, and was given a name and number of someone at Rectron that would be able to arrange the upgrade for me. I thought this a little strange and on getting home and starting the machine I noted that the hardware manual contains a section explaining how to add and remove memory. As this procedure is explained in the user manual it seems unlikely that doing so would void the warranty. You may wish to look into the reason for your retailers having this seemingly incorrect information. I would be most interested to receive feedback on what you find out.

To their credit they replied with the following.

Dear Steve

Thank you for contacting SONY South Africa. I am happy to assist you with the memory upgrade query. When upgrading any of VAIO electrical components it is highly advisable to send in the machine to the authorized service center, this ensures that the upgrade performed is according to the service guide precaution and standards.

The procedures described in the Adding and Removing of memory modules under the hardware user guide, assume familiarity with the general terminology associated with computers and with the safety practice and regulatory compliance requirements for using and modifying of electronic equipment. SONY does not

Kind Regards

Your Sony customer care Team

Unfortunately the response has been truncated, probably by a web based contact system (I had submitted my question via a contact form on their web site). It seems that the act of upgrading the memory alone will not void the warranty but that Sony may refuse to honour the warranty if it is obvious that failure is due to incorrect memory being installed or that damage was caused by the person installing the memory. Dion Wired have probably chosen not to allow their staff to do any work on Sony products to prevent any warranty claim issues from arising as their in-store technical facilities are must not be Sony authorised service centres.

I’ve joined the mobile computing world

vaio Despite my statement that I would think twice before shopping at Dion Wired again, yesterday saw me there again making a fairly large purchase. As you’ve probably guessed from the title and image, I’ve finally succumbed and bought myself a laptop. I got a fairly well specified, fast but not super fast Sony Vaio VGN-NW23GE in black, as pictured.

I don’t intend using this as a development machine and will be using it for downloading and processing photographs when I’m away from my desktop machine and for giving me the ability to access the internet when away from home or the office. It will also be great to have access to Google and IMDB while watching movies and TV shows to answer those weird questions that always come to mind. It will also allow me to attend photography workshops; something the lack of a laptop precluded before.

Unlike my previous experience I received great service from Keanon (hope I’m spelling it right) at the Somerset Mall branch, who gave me good advice that allowed me to save R2,000 by buying a slightly lower specified machine than the one I first considered. He also threw in a R300 laptop bag as a freebie.

One curious thing though is what happened when I asked if they could upgrade the machine by adding an additional 2GB of RAM to double the memory. I was originally told this would be no problem. However, after checking with someone, presumably the techies that do upgrades and repairs, Keanon said they couldn’t do it. Seemingly they can for any laptop other than Sony ones, where doing so would void the warranty. Considering that memory upgrades are a common practice and that the hardware user manual contains a section explaining how to add and remove memory, I fail to see how their doing so would invalidate the warranty. Anyway, Keanon gave me the name and number of someone at distributors Rectron, that I can contact to arrange the RAM upgrade. I have e-mailed Sony, via the contact page on their site and am awaiting feedback from them on whether there is any truth to the warranty voiding story or not.

RIP Dave Stock

Dave Stock at AFB Ysterplaat in 2005

Dave Stock died in a crash at AFB Overberg on 14 November 2009 while doing what he loved, flying the English Electric Lightning.

He will be missed, not only by family and friends, but by thousands of air show fans like myself; who were entertained by his marvellous displays over the years.

This photograph was taken at AFB Ysterplaat on 3 December 2005, shortly after Dave and the Lightning had set a new African time to altitude record. I believe this record still stands.