Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The journey up

Chapel IR

It's cold here. That's not the worse though - its windy. The cold I can handle: I borrowed a jumper from a friend, and packed on the layers. Unfortunately, all the layers in the world couldn't keep out the wind, which sliced through everything. I finally gave up fighting the weather and went out and bought a windbreaker. And then it started raining, so there you go: Thank You, English weather.

(The wind. The chimney in my room is bricked up, but it whistles with the wind. All the time. How I will sleep tonight I do not know.)

The journey up

From London to Cambridge was a bit of an Amazing Race: I felt my colleague and I deserved to have a red square to stand on and whatshisname to announce "You are the first team to arrive!". We made every connection with incredible serendipity and speed: landing at 0520hrs, we made the 0615 Heathrow Express to Paddington, thence immediately on the Circle line to Kings Cross, hitting the 0715 to Cambridge, arriving at 0815 (a delay due to faulty signalling equipment: otherwise we would have arrived at 0800 sharp), thence by taxi to St Johns by 0830.

Of course, arriving early only meant I discovered early that the conference organisers didn't seem to have me registered. That little bit of a snafu took about one hour to sort out, after which my existence was recognised, I got a pile of reading materials, a name tag, and a room.

We're being put up in rooms recently vacated by students for the Easter holidays. It was strangely comforting to open the cupboard and discover an Apple sticker on the mirror - another sympathetic soul out there. It's also strange to feel the presence of someone else having vacated the room recently, almost as if they had just stepped out, and left a whole bunch of size 12 hangers dangling in the wardrobe. We were told that our room assignments would be random, and that we might have to share. This caused me no end of worry when I realised I was given a double room: at any moment I expected to come back from one of the lectures and find a swarthy greek man sitting on my bed. This has not happened yet, which comforts me to no end.

bridge of sighs panorama

The room itself is otherwise very nice, and is just next to the Bridge of Sighs. In fact, the Bridge overlooks it - as I realised when I was halfway through getting out of my pants, and suddenly had a strange feeling I really should've drawn the curtains.

Handphone charger not working - thank god the USB cable also charges the camera. Score some points for Sony Ericsson - someday, all cameras will be like this.

Speaking of which, I only just discovered that SE K750i has a really nifty panorama function. It shows you the rightmost bit of the last photo you took, so you can overlap it and match the panorama. It does this for 3 photos, and then stitches them together in-camera to produce a somewhat crude but very effective panorama.

I'm sitting here with a cup of hot chocolate because I'm desperately trying to fight off jet lag. It's 1.37 am in the morning back home, where my body and circadian rhythm still thinks I am, and not even 7pm here. I have to last through dinner before I can allow myself to sink into bed. The bright side: I'll be so tired the whistling from the chimney won't keep me awake tonight.

***

Dinner's done. If they feed us like that every night, I'm going to go to sleep well fed and very happy. Dinner was old-school, dark dining hall, flickering candles and bright shiny cutler. Someone described it as "Harry Potterish". No owls though, which must always be considered a good thing. Almost got hit in the head by the waitress, due to air traffic control problems - she was serving me from the left, I thought she was coming from the right and dodged left. The rest of the table teased me and her relentlessly the rest of the dinner.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Pre-emptive homesickness

I've been informed that the weather in the UK is currently miserable (thanks tscd!).

That only adds to the rather unexcited feeling I have towards this trip. In the first place, I don't really travel well. I got over the excitement of foreign lands a long time ago (besides, I spent 3 years in Birmingham, so the UK isn't all that foreign), and since marriage have been a completely homebody. I love the comforts of domesticity and the familiarity of home, and don't really have any inclination to wander or meander. Add to that the fact that I've barely just returned from two weeks in the army, and haven't quite had the time to soak up the warmth of home, and you get someone who's pre-emptively homesick, even for a relatively short journey. As for the abovementioned weather ... well, this is England, so one can only throw up one's hands in resignation. I'll pack an umbrella. I mean, a brolly.

The bright side? Two of my old friends from my last workplace are also going to be there, so I'll have some company. "There", of course, is this. Conference aside, it looks as if I might have some good opportunities to practice my photography ... if I have time, which I suspect I won't till the conference ends and I move down to London, where due to a lack of flights, I will I have to wait one day more. The plan is to bunk over with tkd for the night, and buy bovril for ru. =)

(It's a measure of how dependent on the Internet I've become that, in reading the details of the conference, I glossed over every sentence in the description of the accomodation looking for the one that said "internet connection")

SE K750i (or, The New Phone In Review)

So I've had my new phone for 2 days now.

Cat Montage

In that space of time, I've taken 10-odd photos, 3 or 4 videos, recorded my voice, uploaded some mp3s, sms'd (or texted, if you prefer) a bunch of people, and played games.

I have not made or received a single phone call yet. In fact, while I've explored the Sony Ericcson K750i's capabilities in every other respect, the one aspect of its performance I have not measured is its nominal primary function - how it makes phone calls, its raison d'etre.

This would be a good point to insert some comment about how fast things change, but we already know that. 10 years ago, the idea was to own a handphone, and the idea of a handphone was to make voice calls. 10 years later, the idea is to have a sort of personal tricorder, so everyone can be their one-man away team.

I meant this post to be a review of the SE K750i, but after 2 days of use, there's really nothing to say about it that I didn't already expect. It takes photos. Photo quality is as can be expected - not up to scratch if you are used to a DSLR, but fantastic for snapshots, and probably better than any other cameraphone out there. Images are noisy under anything but good light, but the camera comes with a very impressive bright light of its own (and if that's not enough, a separate attachment allows for even brighter illumination or flash - all at the expense of battery life, but hey, we knew that). Auto-focus, white balance, and a macro mode all add up to a cameraphone that's closer to a camera in performance.

One irritating discovery was a grid-like pattern of pixelation in some photos (I appled a fair amount of Guassian blur to smooth it out but you might still be able to discern it in the photo of Patch, top left in the montage above), but not others - I haven't discerned a pattern yet, but I suspect it is most prominent in low light. For those interested in this sort of thing, check out the original sized image here, and compare the top left image with the one to the right.

In the end, the gap in image quality between this and a DSLR is (a) an unfair comparison and (b) somewhat irrelevant, since the phone is intended for snapshot photography. In fact, it's better than my D70 in this respect, by virtue of being in my pocket all the time, and being faster and easier to use.

I didn't buy this to record video, so I have no expectations there, and therefore no critical comments to make. As for interface issues, I've been a die-hard Nokia user for almost 10 years, but the transition wasn't too difficult. The most serious problem so far (if you can call it that) is that space bar button for texting is different from the Nokia's, and so a decade of muscle memory will have to be re-programmed. In other words, there aren't that many problems with SMS.

The one thing I will say about the interface is that the file system, menus, and hierarchies should be structured like a computer operating system - because that's what this is. As it stands, the menus don't really make it clear whether a file (like a photo) is on the memory stick, or on the phone's hardwired memory.

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Philosophy and the Rabbit


philosophy and the rabbit, originally uploaded by Wahj.

A peek at my crowded bookshelves. These two shelves hold about 8% of the total collection of books me and my wife have.

The stuffed bunny has a long history: when I first joined my army unit 10 years ago, way back when I was doing my national service, they gave me this horrible bunk that was filled with all sorts of rubbish. In the middle of clearing everything out, I found this stuffed toy, which looked out of place in a military context, so I rescued him. He now sits with Philosophy hanging over his head, and Modern Fiction on his left and right.

Clearly, judging by his posture, the weight of philosophy is bearing down a bit heavily on him ...

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Final exit


final exit, originally uploaded by Wahj.

If you ask me, this is a pretty ominous sign to greet hotel guests with as they exit the car park.

Anyway, I'm back from reservists, I'm off to the UK in two days, and I've bought a new phone - the Sony Ericsson K750i - courtesy of which this photograph right here.

Friday, March 10, 2006

More photos from a hot day in the Botanic Gardens

When I think back on this photo jaunt from two weeks ago, the one thing that I remember is how hot the day was. That's probably why when it came time to process the images in GIMP, I tweaked so many of these photos with a bright, overexposed, sun-on-your-retina look.

Turtle, ripple, cloud

This turtle clearly had a good thing going - he could sink down into the cool depths of the pond any time the heat became too much.

The path

There were cool shaded paths to follow, and places to hide from the sun, but when you stepped out from the shade into the light, it was like the sunlight was burning you up from the outside in.

coconut trees

This last shot sums up the feeling of heat for me: the sunlight seems to be burning through the cocount leaves and the edge of the cloud, and the whole scene seems to be bleeding into over-exposure.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Seven

OK, I have been remiss in responding to this meme from malefactor, so here it is, late, but better than never. I've done a seven meme before: I'm trying hard not to consult my previous choices (slightly different meme, but with some overlaps) in answering these though.

Seven dreams before death:
  • get organised
  • get enough money to stop thinking about money
  • finish reading all my books
  • write a book
  • direct a movie
  • finish painting all my miniatures
  • get organised (this is obviously important, this)

Seven things I can't do in this lifetime:
  • get organised
  • lie
  • stay angry very long
  • give up on people
  • bungee jump
  • stop worrying
  • stop dreaming

Seven things that attract me:
  • elegance (in thought and action, as well as form and)
  • integrity
  • kindness
  • beauty
  • honesty
  • simplicity
  • huge tracts of land

Seven things I say:

Seven books that I love:

Seven movies that I've loved:
  • Labyrinth
  • Star Wars (Episodes IV,V and VI)
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • Casablanca
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail (close run fight with Meaning of Life though)
  • The Piano
  • The Princess Bride

Seven people I'm tagging:
I think most of my limited circle of friends are all meme-d out. So I'm stopping here.

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Sunday, March 05, 2006

16 most interesting (according to flickr anyway)

According to flickr, these are the 16 most "interesting" of my photographs (the whole concept of "interesting" according to flickr is one that's heavily criticized in many quarters, but I won't go into that here).

1. tree-IR-composite-D70, 2. "rats! rats! help!", 3. Dark Clouds, 4. prata breakfast, 5. dark woods, 6. Lone Tree 3, 7. Twinkle Desktop 3, 8. Vitruvian Cat, 9. Black Kitten, 10. black cat at boat quay, 11. the office, 2, 12. New Kitten 1, 13. Walking skyscraper, 14. Incense, Angkor Wat, 15. Ta Prohm, 16. Pinhole shot of Ta Prohm

The picture above, and the list, were generated by flickr toys.

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Saturday, March 04, 2006

Lilies

lily pond (infra-red)

More lily pads - this time from the Botanic Gardens here rather than Bali. Two shots of the same scene - the first in infra-red, the second in colour. Couldn't decide which one I liked better, so I've put both up on flickr.

lily pond (colour)

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Friday, March 03, 2006

The Symphony Lake at the Botanic Gardens

Symphony Lake Composite

A composite of the Symphony Lake at the Botanic Gardens. I took 46 shots of this, of which I used 30: the file got so huge that I ran out of hard drive space! If you look carefully, you can spot monster-ru taking her own panorama somewhere in the photo ...

When it comes to making panoramas and composites, the person I look to for inspiration is panaromatic, (flickr profile here), who has some of the most amazing panoramas.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Bamboo

Bamboo 3

It's been a hectic term, and the new job hasn't left me much time to take photographs, but today MonsterRu and I managed to get away early enough (half-day off for the whole school - courtesy of the last cohort's good examination results) to shoot some photos at the Botanic Gardens.

Bamboo 2

I took 11 photos of these bamboo trees, of which I picked 3 to work on further (an unusually high success rate for me). Ironically, the ones I picked in the end were where the leaves were blurred by the wind, because it injected some life into an otherwise static shot.

Bamboo 1

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