Archive for June, 2009
Perhaps Robbie Burns came to Thailand. With a slight amendment, his poetry rings so true here:
The best-laid plans of mice and men go
oft always awry.
Never mind the mice, whatever you try and undertake always gets screwed up at some point.
Take my condo reflooring project, currently on day two of an estimated four (probably five, maybe six). Having rejected the rather cheap offerings of an obvious alcoholic, we decided to go with Boonthavorn, probably the largest tile supplier in the country, with a monster outlet in Pattaya. They come and measure the rooms, we choose the tiles, they give us a price that is more than the alcoholic, but not too steep, and we say yes. Tiles are all paid for and on Monday at 0830 the Boonthavorn project manager arrives on site, complete with crisp shirt and clipboard. Confidence is inspired and the workers duly arrive and rip out the floors.
No sign of the manager this morning, but here come the workers and here come the tiles; similar but slightly different tiles for each of the rooms. They start work and before too long there are tiles on the floor in both rooms. This is all going rather well. Then the phone rings.
It is she who must be obeyed in a state of some panic. The salesgirl from Boonthavorn (not the manager), has noticed that only the tiles for the bedroom had been delivered to our condo. Which means that the tiles they were happily laying in the computer room onto quick-drying cement were the wrong tiles. Pass the phone to the chief worker who gives that “oh god I have fucked up but I am going to smile anyway” grin, and then rushes to lift up the tiles in the computer room and transfer them to the bedroom before they have to be chiseled off the floor.
So now the computer room looks like this:
I think I will cancel the tiles that have not been delivered and go with the “hastily scraped away in a panic” concrete look.
She who must be obeyed is close to fluent in English, but on occasion it all goes wrong.
When I updated my iPhone to 3.0 firmware, she decided she didn’t want me hacking her phone yet. This evening we were sitting in a restaurant having dinner and I was showing her the new search function.
“That’s very good”, she announced to the cafe full of diners, “when we get home I want you to update my spermware”.
We got some strange looks.
Another early start as I am called to the polo club with the promise of coffee and brownies. The subject is a pony with an attitude, and my role is to snap it as it jumps around like a mad thing.
Job done and back home by 0830 to take she who must be obeyed out for her daily caffeine fix.
She who must be obeyed knows exactly how to handle me. Mindful of my hatred of early mornings, we have the following phone conversation:
She: Would you like to photograph some monks?
Me: But of course, light of my life.
She: I will register you as a photographer at this special event then.
Me: Thank you, oh reason for my being.
She: So you are OK to do this?
Me: Definitely, my sweetness.
She: Good, we have to get up at 0600.
At which point she puts down the phone before I can change my mind.
Turns out it is to be a repeat performance of the 2,000 monks in Pattaya, only this was in Sattahip, and only 1,000 monks were planned.
The arrival of the monks was keenly anticipated…
..and after waiting for nearly an hour, they arrived:
Monks have photogenic faces:
She who must be obeyed had brought along a trolley loaded with gifts for the monks, which she duly unloaded into the proferred bowl, which in turn was then emptied into a big sack carried by an assistant.
All in all, a pleasant experience and worth getting up for. Merit made, she who must be obeyed is in good form and regales with monk related stories from her youth, all the way back to Pattaya and morning coffee.
What a fine country this is to live in.
Khun Tawatshai was getting pretty fed up with people stealing stuff from outside his shop. Perhaps the simplest solution would have been to put everything back inside his shop when he closed up at night; but that was too much work for Khun Tawatshai.
Instead, he bought a security camera. Then he parked his car right outside his shop, to make sure that both would be covered by the camera during the night.
The next morning he awoke and checked the footage from the night before, to discover that someone had climbed onto the roof of his car and stolen a 150 baht inflatable dolphin that had been hanging outside his shop.
Interpol have been alerted.
It’s all been too much for the entertainment industry. After a day of hunting down a journalist so they could be quoted on how much they admired Farrah Fawcett (she was blonde, she had breasts), fresh outpourings of grief were required following the sudden death of the king of pop (bit of a dancer, bit of a peado, could hold a tune).
Madonna reported, via her agent and PR machine, that she couldn’t stop crying (how many of us felt the same way when we heard her last album?). I would like to report that I marked the passing of the great man by playing Plants Vs. Zombies.
You live in a house. You have a wide lawn. There are zombies who want to cross your lawn and eat your brains. You have to gather sunshine and set down plants that will attack, hinder, explode and generally thwart the zombies in their quest for your brain. This is the simple premise for Plants Vs. Zombies, but PopCap Games have taken the premise and turned it into one of the most entertaining games I have played for a long time.
It starts simply enough. There are plants that fire goo that will eventually remove a zombie’s head. There are rocks to block the zombies; and the zombies are simple shuffling creatures, sometimes with a bucket perched jauntily on their head for extra protection. But as the game progresses, the plants get weirder, there is night, there is fog, there are swimming pools, and the waves of zombies getting progressively stranger and funnier.
There are zombies with bobsleighs, pole vaulting zombies, zombies with ice-making machines; and best of all, there is a Michael Jackson zombie.
In true Thriller style, complete with appropriate music, spotlights and a team of back-up dancers, he jerks his away across your garden. Brilliant, if a bit challenging to stop.
I think we should all mark this sad day by dedicating ourselves to an extended session of Plants vs. Zombies. Downloadable at $9.99, you will get at least six hours of entertainment from playing through the main game, and there are hours more to be had from all the sub-games, including Beghouled, a zombie version of Bejeweled.
Some might say that playing a game where you knock off Michael Jackson’s zombified head with pieces of vegetable is not an appropriate token of respect; but, you know, I think it’s just the sort of thing he would have appreciated.
For those that didn’t know. Michael Jackson passed away yesterday at 14.10 (that’s when the large hand touches the small hand.. oh stop it).
At pleasant start to the morning when I join my wife for coffee and a pork soupy breakfasty thing on Theppasit Road. She seems in no rush to get to the office, and I am in no rush to go anywhere; which is of course how life should be.
After breakfast I head on out to Nong Nuch to try out the LX3 in their orchid area. I have now spent a few minutes perusing what passes for a manual and have discovered a few new tricks. As a result I have the camera set to take a standard colour photo, a slightly modified standard colour photo, and a black and white photo; each time I press the shutter. Obviously this leads to a proliferation of shots, and after ninety minutes shooting I have 748 photos on the card. Before some smart ass points out that 748 is not divisible by three, I also took a few “pinhole camera effect” shots, like this one.
Of course I could always just take a colour shot and then process it to black and white, but it is useful to have the camera do it, and then compare which shot I prefer. This one….
..or this one?
Here’s a few more. All were taken this morning with the LX3; apart from one which was taken a while ago with a 1D, a 100mm macro lens and ring flash. Does one stand out as being significantly better than the rest (no exif peeking allowed)?:
This little camera continues to impress me.
On the way out there was a sleeping cow which I thought would benefit from the “pinhole camera treatment”. But once I settled down to take the shot, she decided to check me out.
Not quite the composition I was aiming for.
If you have no interest in cameras, please move along, nothing for you here.
The Canon 1D is by far the best camera I have ever owned. With the right lens attached, there is nothing it can’t tackle. It’s massively capable. It’s also massive. The body is more than a kilo, with a 300mm lens attached you have nearly 4 kilos to lift and point; and if you fancy a day out with a few lenses, you can have a backpack weighing close to 10 kilos for company. If you are going out to take photos, you just suck it up and manage the weight and the bulk. But what if you are just going out…?
If you enjoy photography, you really want to be able to take photos any time, not just when you happen to be carrying all your camera gear. What you need is something smaller, a carry-anywhere camera for all those moments when you would otherwise say “I wish I had my camera with me”.
The camera shops are awash what are popularly known as point and shoot cameras. There are two problems with most of these cameras. The first is that the concept of point and shoot does not extend to “set up the camera for how I want to take the photo, and shoot”. There are limited settings for those who want some control over how the shot is taken, you just select “sunny day” mode and press the shutter. The second problem is more fundamental; the photos they take are shit. And the culprit is megapixels.
Go into a camera shop and the description of each camera will highlight the number of megapixels, with the clear marketing message that more is better. It’s bollocks. The ever increasing megapixels are being crammed onto tiny sensors, meaning that each pixel is getting smaller, meaning that their ability to capture light and detail are reduced, which means that the resulting photos are horrible.
Why can’t someone produce a camera with a good lens, a sensor that is not overly stuffed with pixels, and a range of controls to satisfy the casual shooter and the enthusiast? There is a market waiting for this camera.
The Sigma DP1 is almost such a camera. It’s got a large sensor which produces stunning photos from a beautiful fixed length lens. The whole effort is spoiled by appallingly slow focus, impossibly delayed shoot times and a control set which is very limited. When you do get a shot, it is lovely; but you miss many and the frustration levels are high.
Then last year Panasonic introduced the Lumix LX3. A Leica lens with limited zoom; enough to be useful, not enough to spoil the quality. Sensor slightly increased in size and pixel count slightly reduced. Image stabilisation and a lens that opened to F2, meaning you could shoot in low light without bumping the ISO too high and creating noise. And a fully featured control set with some cool options. Easy to carry and quick to operate. Was this the camera that people had been waiting for?
Apparently so. One year from release and demand consistently exceeds supply. DSLR owners are finding that they are leaving the DSLR at home and taking the LX3 instead. Forums overflow with love for the camera (rather than the usual complaining), and great photographers are producing some great photographs.
Of course, I had to have one. And it is great. I always enjoy photography, but the LX3 really makes it fun. Not only does it take excellent “ordinary” photos, but the macro mode is just crazy. You can get the lens really close to the object and it will still focus.
Why so far away?
I can shoot RAW, I can shoot JPEG. I can shoot RAW and JPEG. I can shoot RAW and three separate me-defined JPEGs, all with one press of the shutter. Right now I am enjoying setting the JPEG to “Dynamic Black and White”, which explains the recent surge in B&W images. Even some of the scene modes are fun, “pinhole camera” for example:
I can shoot images in 16:9, 3:2 or 4:3. I can have complete control over every setting or let the camera decide (which is rather cleverly manages, based on what you are pointing at). I can stop making this read like a review, there are plenty of those available elsewhere.
If you are serious about photography and want a carry-around camera, consider an LX3. If you are not serious about photography but want a decent camera that will both assist you and encourage you to go further, consider an LX3. Can be found in Bangkok for around 15,000 baht and for an equivalent amount in the rest of the world, although they disappear fast.
Go on, you know you want one.
I have used the pages of this publication on more than one occasion to mock the handbag buying tendencies of my beloved wife. There was a time when not a week would pass without the courier company delivering yet another bag shaped dead cow, to be followed soon after by a posting on eBay and the departure of the bag to another owner.
This cycle of bag acquisition and disposal (admittedly at times, at a profit), ceased several months ago. When I queried she who must be obeyed, she stated she now had a handbag collection she was happy with and would require no more. Astonishing.
But now we have another problem in the Spike household, but this time the problem is cameras and the instigator is me. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I give you exhibit A, the current Spike camera collection:
At the back we have the Canon 1D, the big daddy. With an accompanying collection of lenses (not shown ‘cos they wouldn’t fit on the table). This is the camera I use when I want to get serious about taking photos. Next to the 1D is a Canon 30D, the camera I used before I got the 1D. Now it sits around as “back-up”, and is used on occasions by she who must be obeyed when she thinks she wants a DSLR (she finds the 1D to be too heavy and too intimidating).
In the next row there is a Leica D-Lux 3 which I bought in Singapore after too many beers. It never turned out to be as good as I hoped it would be; but it does come in a gorgeous leather case, so she who must be obeyed was happy to adopt it as her camera.
In the middle is the Panasonic TS1 which is used exclusively for getting videos in the water. Unfortunately, two of my three camera mounts have disappeared, so it is not seeing much action at the moment.
Then there is the Sigma DP1, an absolute horror of a camera to use, but capable of lovely images should it decide to actually take one for you.
Finally, at the front, there is the Panasonic Lumix LX3, which arrived quite recently. My response to the arrival of handbags was a combination of mocking and abuse. The arrival of the LX3 led to a slight rolling of the eyes and a sigh from my understanding wife. She knows there is no cure. I know there are many more interesting cameras on the market. And look, there is still some space on the table.
Technical note: The more perceptive amongst you (that means all of you of course), will be wondering how I took the photograph given that all the cameras were on the table. Well, it was the same approach as when you want to take a group photo with yourself included. I framed the shot and put the camera on a ten second delay; then quickly moved the camera to the table so it could be included in the shot. Simple!