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Blog #271



Happy Father's Day


   On Father's Day we went for another paddle; our last one for the next two months since we leave for Alaska early Thursday morning.  Svea and Brigitta each took turns paddling the Kiddiyak and seemed to get the hang of the rudder.  The Kiddiyak rudder will turn about 60 degrees with just a three inch push on one rudder strap; it is very sensitive and the girls tend to step full left or right.  They are now finding the middle zone and are getting the boat to go straight or generally where they want it to go.
















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Blog #270



Canal Fulton Canal Boat Ride


   John and Jean are visiting from Atlanta.  Yesterday we went on a 2.5 mile horse-drawn canal boat ride in Canal Fulton, Ohio.   We had a nice break in this rainy week and had the canal boat to ourselves.  I brought the new camera and tested the auto-bracketing feature and made a few HDR pictures.


Our guide



The captain's cabin; his entire family would live in this one room.


Towed by two horses on The Tow Path


Lock Four



Brigitta entering the Captain's Cabin




Ice cream afterward; the new camera can shoot a seven shot bracketed set in less than two seconds.  This makes it much more possible to shoot people in a bracketed set for HDR.  Our Nikon CP8400 would take about 30 seconds to do a five shot set. 


A Canal Fulton street.


In a local Harley shop.


My favorite stop was The Toys Time Forgot.  This store was just amazing and jam packed of very cool old toys.  If you are looking for your favorite toy from your childhood they likely have it here.





We also drove into Massillon to view the murals of Eric Grohe; this was our favorite of the ones we found.




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Blog #269


Late Night Paddle & Row


   We went for the first family paddle/row of the summer last night; it seems that summer has only just begun even though school got out nearly two weeks ago.  It was a nice paddle and row; neither Svea or Brigitta capsized.





The Cleveland Zoo Sucks!


   Well, at least the parking lot at the zoo sucks. We went to the Cleveland Zoo on Joan's birthday.  We parked almost in the back of the main parking lot.  A row count and some multiplication and estimation in Google Earth shows that this parking lot hold about 2,000 cars, that all exit through one lane in one exit.  If you try to leave around closing time, all of the cars parked closer to the exit get into the exit line within a couple of minutes.  Those in the back don't move.  When we got into our car, the parking lot was well over half full.  By the time we left the parking lot 50 minutes later the lot was 95% empty.  In that time I walked the four tenths of a mile from the back of the lot to the entrance and spoke to the manager who seemed oblivious that there was a problem and insisted that there were workers directing traffic.  I explained that we had moved one car length in 25 minutes, what was wrong with the parking design and that I had just walked the entire length of the lot and traffic line and that there were no zoo workers on duty.  He said that he would send people out; they came but really didn't know what to do because there clearly was no plan.  I already had borrowed several huge cones and blocked a few lanes in attempt to give those folks who had been waiting 30 minutes a chance to move over those who had only been waiting three  or four minutes.  I'm still amazed that a zoo that has been around for 127 years can't get something so basic.  I can't believe that I'm the first person to notice this or to point it out; I can't believe that people don't complain every busy summer day.


We did have a nice time until we left, however. the zoo featured animatronic dinosaurs on display for the summer so we made the trek just to see them.  It was a nice weather day, not too hot and partly sunny.  





Brigitta took this one (above)











Joan took this one (above)









The DVD Yearbook is Done!

   The 2008-2009 IHM DVD Yearbook contains: almost 12 hours of YouTube quality movie footage, six and a half hours of VHS quality slideshows and 18 minutes of animations.  There are also over 550 pages with nearly 5,000 images and probably over a quarter of a million words.

   After the school year ended I finished the DVD Yearbook, burned a master disk, tested it for accuracy and scanned it for viruses.  The new DVD duplicator worked perfectly.  In ten minutes it will duplicate five copies of the master; the doors then open and another five disks can be loaded.  I had planned on stamping/labeling the disks with a custom made rubber stamp; my test with an old stamp and pad showed that a rubber stamp works very well on DVDs or CDs and does not rub off easily.  The while-you-wait 10-minute Copy Max self inking stamp was completely different than a regular rubber stamp and permanent ink, however.  It never really dried and would wipe off after an hour.  I took it apart, cleaned it and tried reloading it with different inks.  It was a disaster and I made a huge mess.  I called a real stamp store the next day and had a true rubber stamp made at Sackman Stamp and used their recommended ink; it worked beautifully.  On Monday I dropped off the DVDs at the IHM rectory where families can pick them up.  What a relief.  Note to self; arrange help and delegate some of these tasks for next year's DVD Yearbook.


Annika and the Bird Bath Shark


   We were wondering why birds stopped using the bird bath; perhaps Annika's guard shark was scaring them away:








Nikon D200


   I bought a new camera, a digital SLR.  I am very frugal, shop mostly at garage sales and have a difficult time purchasing anything at more than 10% it's original price.  Photography has been a major lifetime passion and hobby of mine; I even have a degree in it.  In the past three and a half years I've taken about 24,000 pictures with our Nikon Coolpix 8400 and thousands of other with our Canon SD1000 point and shoot and my other garage sale cameras and probably thousands more with the school's cameras.  I love the Coolpix 8400, it's been a great camera and still works well.  It has severe limits, however. There is no precise control over focus for one.  When I shot Joan's butterfly necklace last month I had to bracket the focus because you can't really tell if something is perfectly in focus via a LCD screen.  It may have taken me 20 minutes of shooting several shots, removing the memory, checking the results and repeating the process.  With an SLR camera you look through the same lens that takes the picture, focus is precise and not digitized.  SLR cameras also tend to shoot almost the instant you press the shutter; I hate missing shots while the camera is trying to figure things out that don't always matter. 

   I didn't know much about DSLR cameras two weeks ago; the price tag always seemed out of reach.  I researched the Nikon and Canon DSLR camera lines.  I settled on the Nikon D200.  Nikon makes about eight lines of DSLR cameras that range from very inexpensive consumer grade entry models to high end professional grade that cost thousands.  The D200 is about in the middle; it's the least of a camera that most professionals would consider using.  Many pros consider it a good back-up camera.  The main reason I chose the D200 was its full manual control potential, advanced features and greater compatibility with older Nikon film lenses.  One feature example is that the D200 has an auto-bracketing feature that allows a choice of 3, 5, 7 or 9 shots.  As far as I could tell, every other DSLR under $1,000 (and many well over $1,000) only offer 3-shot auto bracketing.  I'm sure most of my shots will be ordinary family shots, but I like the idea of being more able to do some of my experimental projects.  The D200 also has a metal body; pretty much all consumer grade DSLRs are plastic (not that I plan on dropping it).  The D200 isn't being made anymore, it's been replaced by the D300.  I bought an affordable body-only on Ebay. 

   Generally, DSLR cameras and lenses are separate purchases.  I love wide angle; they are especially great for landscape and architecture.  The lens I bought was an ultra-wide Tokina 11-16mm auto-focus.  Its angle of view is 104~82.  Several reviews rate it as being sharper and better than anything made by Canon or Nikon.  They are very hard to find and are sold out nearly everywhere in the US.  Because are rated so well, the used ones fetch 95% of what new ones are listed at.  Although it cost more than the camera, it was an easier decision than my camera body choice. 

   As luck would have it, while garage sailing this passed weekend I found a new $40 battery for this camera for $2 and an old Nikon film camera with a Nikon 70-300mm auto-focus lens and a Nikon 50mm prime (non-zoom) lens.  I'm pretty sure they will work in some modes on my camera and got them both, with the camera for $20.

   I am so glad to be done with my camera and lens research (so is Joan).  It's been like finals week in college because I needed to get everything ordered so that it would arrive in time for our Alaska trip.  The USPS online tracking shows that the camera is at the Tallmadge office; I expect to get it today.  I have the lens and my spare batteries and charger are in the mail.


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Blog #268



Bizarre Alaska Flashback!


   We have thousands of books.  They are reasonably organized on ten typical 30" to 48" by six foot tall bookshelves, but if a book gets mixed into a different category it can be nearly impossible to find.  I've been wondering what happened to a particular book that was not with the rest of our Alaska collection.  Joan has been rearranging the basement and unloaded a bookshelf to move it and found the book that I was looking for. The picture below is mainly why I was looking for it and I don't think I've seen it as long as we've had this blog. 

   This was my first experience surfing.  When I lived in Spenard there was some pretty good flooding one spring, 1991 I believe.  I had picked up a surfboard at a garage sale and thought the flooded streets would be a good place to get my feet wet and attempt to surf.  I figured a car with a long tow rope could provide the thrust that the surf naturally applies.  My roommate, Tim, worked for Mr. Whitekeys at The Fly By Night Club which was a local comedy/vaudeville/show with songs and slideshows nightclub.  Tim did much of the photography for the show and saw a photo op.  Back then life was full of stunts and this was one of the few that was documented.  Anyway, it's one of my all time favorite photos of myself:





Also in the book is one of the few color Spam photos from my shooting/exploding food series. 

See more here.



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Blog #267




School's Out for Summer!


   School ended on Thursday but I still have much work to do.  The DVD yearbook is about 94% done.  On a project this big, however, the final 6% represents quite a bit.  At this point the yearbook contains 230 .wmv movies, slideshows and  animations totally 15 hours, 37 minutes and 21 seconds.  A few movies are VHS quality, most are YouTube quality and several are very compressed sub-YouTube quality.  A search also shows that there are 551 .htm webpages which are mostly the 440 student "about me" pages.  Searching also finds that the word "dog" appears on 259 of those pages; this does not include pages where a student might only identify a dog by breed and not with the word dog.  Cats are less popular at 164 occurrences and hamster was mentioned by only 41 children.  I'll pick up the last DVD Yearbook files on Monday and then do the final tests and master burn.  A DVD holds 4.37 GB of data and I knew that we would we would likely exceed that amount without great effort to compress files.  Based on file space, .wmv movies, slideshows and animations take up 86% of the 4.0 GB that the yearbook presently consumes.  I published the largest movie files at small, medium and large and/or low/high resolutions and quality settings so that I could swap files if and when we exceeded the 4.37 GB of DVD space.  I've had to swap out several files to make it all fit.  The yearbook would exceed 10 to 15 GB without such compression.  With the DVD Yearbook sales money I purchased a one to five DVD duplicator.  It has a DVD ROM that reads the master, a 250 GB hard drive for burn project images and five DVD burners.  It will duplicate five copies of a DVD in a few minutes.  I'm hoping to knock out 200 or so copies next week after I'm sure I have everything just right.  As I predicted in my last blog in May, this project has consumed countless hours over the past few weeks.  It is really cool though.  




   Joan planned to take the girls to the zoo after the last day of school, which was only a half day.  After school Joan was talking with a friend who told her a story about locking her keys in her car, along with her very small children, while her hand was caught/smashed in the closed door.  An hour later, for the first time that I recall, Joan locked her keys in the car at the zoo.  Fortunately, she had the zoo pass, snack bag, all three children and her hand wasn't smashed in the door.  She borrowed a phone and called me at school.  We figured that I could work for a couple hours, drive home and get the extra van keys and then meet her at the zoo.  Since I hadn't been to the zoo in awhile I offered to take any of the kids for a second trip around the Akron Zoo.  Annika and Brigitta were game so we did a speedy lap while Svea and Joan headed home to prepare dinner.





New Maca Water Park


   The old Tallmadge pool at Maca Park was torn down and rebuilt over the past two years.  Opening day was yesterday; we were there.  I expected horrendous crowds but the cool weather and breeze must have kept the numbers down.  The pool/water park is fantastic; the kids just love it.  It seems to be made for kids with most of the water 3.5 feet or less and a zero entry shore.  We went back again today; the pictures are from both days:




Maca Water Park sports a huge dump bucket that fills and dumps once every minute or two.  It has a series of baffles so bathers are doused instead of getting pummeled.


Safety break


At the shallow end there's a kiddies ship water slide with a padded submerged landing pad.


The main features are the water slides.  The blue one is pretty long and relatively slow.  The yellow one is pretty fast and exciting.  I like the yellow one.  Brigitta tried it once and is trying to work up the nerve to do it again.  Svea also is thinking about it.  They each rode the blue one a few times today.




Alaska in 19 Days!


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