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Macs, Movies, Games, Books, etc. The Rants of a Mad Man.

Integrating Facebook comments

January 12th, 2011 by Raj

Love it or hate it Facebook is more and more becoming the backbone for social tools across the net and for this reason I’ve spent some time now debating over whether or not to integrate it into my blog. So now with 2011 upon us I’ve made the decision to take the plunge, which if you’re reading this will be blatantly obvious as it’s staring you in the face.

What does this mean for people who want to comment? Well nothing really. If you use Facebook and you’ve logged in to it recently then you’ll see your Facebook profile picture and a box for you to write your comment. If you don’t use Facebook you’ll still be allowed to comment anonymously just as before. Easy peasy.

For those interested, to do all of this was extremely easy because of a wonderful WordPress plugin called “Facebook Comments for WordPress“. It takes care of pretty much all grunt work and I’m very thankful to its author, Graham Swan.

Filed under Other, Tech having No Comments »

Safari Extension: Google Bookmarks Autocomplete

January 2nd, 2011 by Raj

As with many of you I was shocked by Yahoo’s recent decision to begin closing Delicious. Having used Delicious for years I was now left searching for a replacement online bookmark service.

Not looking too far I decided to even further consolidate my online persona by importing my precious bookmarks in to Google Bookmarks. Unfortunately like the majority of Google’s services whilst reliable and functionally sound the UI sucks and it looks like it was designed 20 years ago by an engineer. The biggest functionality I missed almost immediately was the fact that the search function focused more on a plain text search through your bookmark’s names rather than tags (or as Google calls them, labels). All of your labels are listed on the left hand side and are clickable to perform a search on them but I’ve become used to being prompted when typing in the search field a selection of tags I may be looking for. Hence my first published Safari Extension is born, the “Google Bookmarks Autocomplete” extension.

The extension will prompt you with label matches based upon what you’re typing within the search box. Selecting one will automatically complete the search field along with Google’s required keyword to indicate you’re doing a label search. (ie. label:”label name”). You can then continue to type and be prompted with more labels or simply enter any text to further refine your criteria for results.

I have submitted it to Apple’s extension gallery or you can download the extension by clicking here.

Filed under Mac, Tech having 1 Comment »

Bilbao: Chasing the Guggenheim

November 18th, 2010 by Raj

Not a city many would rank amongst Spain’s greats; a Barcelona or Madrid it is not and barring those of you whom are not architecture geeks I would happily wager you’re completely unaware of its existence. Hell, the Spanish news doesn’t even include it in it’s list of forecasted cities so who am I to expect you to have heard about it.

That said, it’s not a small place by any means, the population pushes upwards of 350,000 and hosts what is deemed to be one of Spain’s best universities, Duesto. Remnants of Bilbao’s shipping history line the central river, which acts as a natural division between the city’s historic hillside and its newly formed modern life.

The city’s division is personified by it’s uncontested crown jewel, the Gehry designed, Guggenheim museum which takes prize position upon the river’s banks in an almost directly opposite position to the original town hall.

Lonely Planet intro aside there is but one reason for someone to visit Bilbao and in case you hadn’t guessed already it’s for the giant-fuck-off-metal-distortion that is Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim. Old Gehry is one of my favourite architects and his work is admired by around the world. The last piece of his I visited was the Toronto art museum which opened whilst I was living there a couple of years ago and for anyone even remotely interested I highly suggest you watch one of Sidney Pollack’s last pieces of work, “Sketches of Frank Gehry”, a documentary of Gehry’s work.

There was another reason, beyond man-love, for me to see the Guggenheim; which is that simply I’ve never seen one… well not properly anyway. Each time (and it’s been three now) that I have been to visit the Lloyd Wright designed Guggenheim in New York I’ve been greeted with no more than a scaffolding clad structure obscuring any chance of appreciating it’s external facade first hand.

So what if it meant an hour long flight to the complete opposite side of Spain that I had flown in to, to a place most people had never heard of, I was doing it (and I’d checked there was no scaffolding on this one).

Excluding a hail ridden thunder storm and hideous grey skies that consistently haunted each photograph this Guggenheim reconnaissance mission was a success. I suppose. I could have sat and stared at the building for hours (should the weather have allowed it), its contents and exhibiting pieces bored me to tears, mostly, but I got what I came for.

As for Bilbao, well if you Google “things to do in Bilbao” every list I came across basically had the museum at number one and then quickly turned in to a random list of bars and cafes. It has a nice shopping mall that seems nice but never has anyone in it and they’re building a giant sky-scraper that sticks out a bit.

Yeah. Unless you’re an architecture or art buff I can’t recommend this one, but if I was ever nearby again I’d be back to Bilbao in a heart beat.

Hamilton, Ontario: A time lapse

November 10th, 2010 by Raj

Two reasons behind the video above. Number one, I hadn’t gotten my camera out of its bag once since leaving on my trip and I felt rather guilty about that. Two, I wanted to try out doing a time lapse series with the remote I’d borrowed from a friend (Thanks JP) and the neutral density filter (ND8) I’d bought before getting to Bilbao and seeing the Guggenheim, of which I plan on doing the same.

This is the last one from Canada folks, flying to Barcelona via Frankfurt now (well actually yesterday as I wrote this and forgot to post it before I left).

I ate a Double Down and survived

November 5th, 2010 by Raj

KFC Canada have recently introduced what would at first glance appear to be one of the least healthiest products in fast food history. The KFC Double Down does away with all that pesky bread replacing it with two KFC coated slabs of chicken breast and filling the centre with bacon, pepper jack cheese and the Colonel’s own special mustard/mayo sauce. Naturally I had to try one whilst visiting and did so only a few days ago, a picture of the adventure below. I was, of course, filled with a mass of “Dirty-bird-regret” having consumed what I’d considered to be a heart stopping mass of cholesterol and spent the next 24 hours with a rather unusual churning sickly feeling in my stomach.

Needless to say this morning when I read an article headlined “Eggs worse than KFC Double Down” I was a little surprised. It turns out that KFC’s creation contains a mere 150mg of cholesterol whilst a single egg yolk gives you 200mg! Shock, awe, horror! I’d always known egg yolks weren’t particularly high on coronary specialist’s lists but for it to be worse than this monster I was flabbergasted!

Cholesterol aside the Double Down does contain a massive 1400mg of Sodium (around your daily recommended intake) and is still considered a dietary disaster by specialists worldwide so I can hardly recommend it in any way; nor would I from the after effects I suffered but if they had a t-shirt for eating one surviving I’d no doubt wear it proudly.

Your mum loves Halloween

November 2nd, 2010 by Raj

Halloween is, as with most celebrated events today, an over-commercialized event where it gives the populous of western society another excuse to spend money for a tradition that is now devoid of any of its original meaning whilst having the distinguishing factor that it does not exist out of Christianity, ala Christmas & Easter.

This is not to say that Halloween isn’t fun, far from it, in the two I’ve had the ability to witness first hand in Northern America it seems that it’s to be celebrated (as an adult) in one of two ways, each requiring some form of personal humiliation/enjoyment by being dressed in an outfit deemed “appropriate”.

Version 1: You get wasted. The very important difference to this being any other party or weekend boozer is that you’re getting wasted, via the poison of your choice, in a costume. Sure you could probably do that any weekend of the year with the odd look or ride in the back of a police van but on Halloween anything goes, and I do mean *anything*. It would seem that for women Halloween is somewhat of a topsy-turvy world the likes of which I can only compare to a Valentines where it was traditionally the only day a woman could propose to a man, because on Halloweens it’s perfectly acceptable to dress as slutty as one might feel without fear and unfortunately self-conscious. It what could be a reoccurring nightmare or Playboy fantasy Halloween doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination.

Version 2: You don’t get wasted. It may look like I’m saying one thing and it’s opposite but this little umbrella covers a few scenarios that I assure you have a little more to do with the title of the post. Unless of course you’d prefer to imagine your mother roaming city bars in a mini skirt and calling herself “Nemo“?
Walking around the suburbs of Hamilton, Ontario for a couple of hours last night (I got lost trying to find where I was staying) I passed home after home decked out in Halloween paraphernalia, some up to the nines complete with cobwebs, skeletons, tombstones, pumpkins and even giant snow domes filled with dancing scarecrows but what struck me was not so much the decorations and families walking the streets going house to house in search of “candy” but the people (majority of which were women) in these houses waiting longingly for the next round of children to run atop their stoops and scream “Trick or treat!”. For all the fanfare of parties and costumes it was seeing these people, proud of their homes’ spooky appearance, candy baskets at the ready beaming with smiles and open arms to hand out their wares that made the experience far more appealing to me, even if I was on the receiving end of an odd look from time to time as to why a grown man was walking around without costume or child in tow.

I remember being told years ago at Christmas that for the time between you’re a child until you have one of your own Christmas day is just that, another “day” and I guess you can easily apply the same logic to any child-centric event, Halloween example in point. So happy Halloween everyone and remember as I read on Twitter earlier today, Halloween is a day trannies call… Sunday.

Filed under Travel, World Trip 2010 having 1 Comment »

Canon EOS Photo5 Entry 5: “Beware of falling lemons”

October 22nd, 2010 by Raj

What is Canon EOS Photo5?
EOS Photo5 is Canon’s annual creative photography competition that begins with a brown box. Inside there are 5 separate photographic briefs to challenge photographers. Visit the Photo5 website here: http://canon.com.au/worldofeos/photo5/

Brief 5: Inspired by Sound
This brief is about your creative interpretation of a sound. The task is to listen to the sound bite at the link below, and create a photo inspired by it – using any technique you want.
Sound bite link.

My Entry
The first thing that popped in to my head when I heard the sound for Brief 5 was the old Road Runner cartoons. I kept seeing Wile E Coyote falling off a cliff for what seemed an eternity before finally hearing a tiny “poof” as he hit the ground. The sound from Canon however didn’t end with that final thud and for that reason I wanted to capture an object falling but not actually at the point where it’d hit the ground like an egg broken on the ground.

My original concept did however involve eggs; my lounge room was again transformed, newspaper covered the floor beneath an old outdoor table, light stands either side focusing on an area above the table through which I could drop eggs and remotely trigger the camera & flashes. It worked pretty well I could capture the egg mid fall but it didn’t really look like anything was happening, I could’ve just taken a photo of an egg sitting on a table and you’d have the same photo.

It wasn’t until a drunken conversation with a workmate that evening (and half a dozen broken eggs) that I ended up with the idea of a toy riding an egg to the ground cowboy style and capturing it mid flight. Again the frozen image had no point of reference, not to mention the figurines I had handy didn’t bend too much and it looked more like they were laying an egg than riding it.

I decided to use the toy as a focal point and provide reference for something actually falling, more importantly I purposely dialled back the lights and shutter to capture some movement. The blur of the lemon (I’d run out of eggs) as it fell conveyed the sound more meaningfully to me, again the frozen image looking like some weird set shot of a toy and a lemon with no obvious meaning. Lastly having the table visible ever so slightly was again on purpose and served to again reinforce the object falling to an inevitable end.

Equipment used & settings
Canon 7D with 15-85 kit lens
ISO 100, 50mm, 1/320, f22
Bowens Gemini 500 with Soft Box attachment
Bowens Gemini 500 with Umbrella
1 toy figurine
1 lemon

View the other entries

“Ink Mole”

“Bubble Gum Hair”

“A Tree of Smoke”

“Confetti Explosion”

“Beware of falling lemons”
Filed under Photography having 3 Comments »

Canon EOS Photo5 Entry 4: “A Confetti Explosion”

October 21st, 2010 by Raj

What is Canon EOS Photo5?
EOS Photo5 is Canon’s annual creative photography competition that begins with a brown box. Inside there are 5 separate photographic briefs to challenge photographers. Visit the Photo5 website here: http://canon.com.au/worldofeos/photo5/

Brief 4: Confetti
This brief is a bit of a celebration. Your task is to capture the confetti in motion. you can use the confetti we’ve included or any kind you want. If you need more add as much as you want. It’s about motion, so your image must convey a sense of movement.

My Entry
For this brief I wanted to capture a confetti filled balloon popping, freezing the balloon & it’s compacted confetti explosion in time. It sounded so simple and straight forward I really didn’t come up with any other real concepts but when it came time to shoot it, well lets just say it was somewhat of a nightmare.

To begin with getting old school tissue paper confetti is not easy to buy anymore! Sure Canon provided a tiny amount and party stores everywhere store the now favoured foil confetti junk cut into shapes for particular occasions like “21” or birthday cakes but after a four day search I finally found some boxes at the Vic Markets.

Next hurdle; getting the confetti inside the balloons. It’s harder than you think and unbelievably annoying! Had I owned a funnel things may have been slightly easier but in the end I spent over two hours using a teaspoon and my fingers to stuff large hand-fulls into about 30 balloons one hungover Sunday morning. It wasn’t pleasant.

Lastly and most importantly I had (which I didn’t even think about before) the issue of capturing everything at exactly the right moment. A triggered flash whilst perfect for freezing time because of it’s concentrated sharp light proved useless as its recycle time was too slow, the camera had to be using its high speed drive so I could take at least 8 photos a second and the flash would only light the first. I ended up using an array of desk lamps kitted out with massively bright white bulbs (5500 Kelvin) position less than 5cm away from the balloon that I’d hung from my ceiling with a piece of string. I had to use a prime 50mm lens so that I could open up the aperture more then normal to let more light in allowing me to use a fast shutter speed (1/2500 second) to freeze everything and even then I had to raise the ISO up to 800 which is why things are a little grainy in the shot.

All that was left to do was to pop the balloon, hold down the trigger and hope for the best but then how was I supposed to pop the balloon without being in the shot myself?? For what I wanted to capture my hand was always going to be in the shot so I ended up sitting next the camera (on a tripod) and throwing pins at the balloon whilst at the same time pressing the trigger to fire the camera. Sound nuts? It was!

I fired more than 450 shots that night, sometimes the balloon wouldn’t pop, the pin would bounce straight off! Others I’d have 8 shot of a pin flying towards a balloon and the next there’d be nothing at all. The actual “popping” was over in less than 1/2500 of a second that I could use without jeopardising image quality any more so I just kept on going, balloon after balloon after balloon. 35 balloons later I ended up with this one. The confetti is balled up barely moved from where it was laying inside the balloon, fragments of the balloon are hitting the wall and the string attached to the mouth of the balloon is swinging out of picture at the top.

I’ve had a few people ask why I’ve included the confetti covered floor in the picture rather than keeping things on a plain coloured background. The answer is that without it a lot of people had no idea that a balloon was involved at all, the pieces of the balloons popped prior litter my lounge room floor and I think it adds to the story behind the image.

Equipment used & settings
Canon 7D with 50mm lens
ISO 800, 50mm, 1/2500, f2.2
4 x Desk lamps with 30W 5500K bulbs
1 bag of coloured balloons
3 x boxes paper confetti (very hard to find I might add)

View the other entries

“Ink Mole”

“Bubble Gum Hair”

“A Tree of Smoke”

“Confetti Explosion”

“Beware of falling lemons”
Filed under Photography having 2 Comments »

Canon EOS Photo5 Entry 3: “A Tree of Smoke”

October 20th, 2010 by Raj

What is Canon EOS Photo5?
EOS Photo5 is Canon’s annual creative photography competition that begins with a brown box. Inside there are 5 separate photographic briefs to challenge photographers. Visit the Photo5 website here: http://canon.com.au/worldofeos/photo5/

Brief 3: Incense
This is a moody brief. Use smoke from the incense to create ambience and atmosphere in a black and white photo. It’s not just about shooting smoke, but capturing the essence of black and white photography in a dramatic way.

My Entry
I was pretty excited about this brief, it was only recently that I’d played around with some smoke photography because I was interested in it so it was relatively fresh in my mind how to go about setting things up and what I could expect. This time around though I went a little further securing an external flash (a Canon 580EX II) that I borrowed from a friend which I snooted with a cut up piece of cardboard that would ensure I had no light spilling and save any post work cleaning up the images.

I pretty much knew exactly what I wanted to achieve with this shot before any of the others. The concept was to capture a pair of dark or grimy hands interacting with a plume of smoke in an interesting way. In what configuration I wasn’t exactly sure, you’re somewhat left to the whim of the smoke’s desires in most ways but the general idea was to capture something rather mystical looking.

Firstly I focused on getting my hands the way I wanted them, setting up the two lamps as modelling lights, one directly below facing up, the other off to one side angled down into my palms gave me the desired effect of them emerging from nowhere. To ensure you couldn’t see my arms or body I cut a couple of holes in an old black bed sheet to poke my hands through and wore it like a poncho for the 4 hours I took photos. To make my hands look all grimy I bathed them in a watered down drawing ink that settled in the lines of my skin extremely well.

The smoke was relatively straight forward, the snooted flash sat to one side and fired directly across my poncho covered self while the incense stick(s) burning away below the sweet spot for my hands. The problem I had though was the flash over powering the modelling lamps on my hands and completely blowing them out. I had to bulldog clip pieces of cardboard to my poncho to sit almost on top of my hands sheltering them from the flash.

Leaving the camera tethered to my laptop set to remotely fire every 10 seconds all I had to do then was set up different poses and let the smoke do its thing, replacing the incense sticks as they burnt out. Slightly singeing myself a handful of times I continued to have issues with blowout from the flash and ended up almost separating the two elements of the shot completely and doing a small amount of post work bringing the two together. It was nigh on impossible to get the shot any other way.

To me it looks like the old Landcare logo, a pair of well gardened hands holding a seedling or a tree. Entirely up to your own interpretation though, that’s the beauty of smoke photography.

Equipment used & settings
Canon 7D with 18-55mm lens
ISO 200, 50mm, 1/250, f22
580EX II Flash & 3.5m PC Sync lead
2 x Desk lamps with 30W 5500K bulbs
1 sheet of black cardboard cut to snoot flash
1 sheet of black cardboard to absorb flash over hands
5 x Incense sticks
1 black bed-sheet

View the other entries

“Ink Mole”

“Bubble Gum Hair”

“A Tree of Smoke”

“Confetti Explosion”

“Beware of falling lemons”
Filed under Photography having 5 Comments »

Canon EOS Photo5 Entry 2: “Bubble Gum Hair”

October 19th, 2010 by Raj

What is Canon EOS Photo5?
EOS Photo5 is Canon’s annual creative photography competition that begins with a brown box. Inside there are 5 separate photographic briefs to challenge photographers. Visit the Photo5 website here: http://canon.com.au/worldofeos/photo5/

Brief 2: Bubble Gum
This brief has one rule: feature bubble gum in a portrait. How you or your subject use the bubble gum is up to you. If you need more gum, visit your friendly local convenience store.

My Entry
When reading the brief for this shot there was one thing that stood out in the “Judges Notes” that kept grabbing my attention…
Consider how the light interacts with your subject and try to tell a story. I kept hearing that over and over again as I planned my shot throwing away the countless ideas of bubbles being blown and popped. To me they took away from the portrait and while I may be able to convey my friend’s bubbly nature there didn’t seem to be any story behind it.

It wasn’t until I was shaving one day when I had the idea of the horror stories you’d hear as a kid where someone got bubble gum stuck in their hair and had no option but to cut it out. A quick ring around of mates who normal shave or clip their hair left me empty handed as they’d all recently cut their hair not to mention none were to keen to let me squish bubble gum in for real.

Thankfully another opportunity presented itself with me getting around the issue by buying a rather cheap (and awful) wig from the local party shop and mooshing the brightest coloured goo of a bubble gum I could find into its wiry strands. I took quite a few shots of Caitlin cutting the gum free and the resultant hacked portion but none showed the emotion of the situation better than this. Her eyes and check red (most likely from chewing so much gum all afternoon for other shots that didn’t make it), the dimpled chin and quivering lip it all worked out really well.

Lighting wise I’m making use of a Bowens Gemini 500/500 kit with a soft box attached to one to soften her skin and umbrella on the other to evenly light the scene and make the colours pop.

Equipment used & settings
Canon 7D with 18-55mm lens, soft filter
ISO 200, 50mm, 1/250, f22
Bowens Gemini 500 with Soft Box attachment
Bowens Gemini 500 with Umbrella
White cardboard reflector
2 packets of Hubba Bubba bubble gum
Cheap wig from local costume shop
A pair of scissors

Thanks to
Caitlin, my model, for chewing countless pieces of gum and being a good sport.

View the other entries

“Ink Mole”

“Bubble Gum Hair”

“A Tree of Smoke”

“Confetti Explosion”

“Beware of falling lemons”
Filed under Photography having 5 Comments »

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