Archive for June, 2010
My idea to produce a photography guide is getting a little out of hand, and it’s all Albert’s fault.
He came round last weekend to ask some questions about cameras. He was planning a purchase and foolishly thought I knew enough to give an opinion. Of course, my current enthusiasms meant that I strongly recommended a Micro 4/3s camera, such as the Panasonic GF1 or Olympus EPL-1. Apparently I was convincing because today he went to Bangkok and bought both! Good man, he won’t regret it (or at least I hope he doesn’t or else I am in deep shit).
During our chat he was honest enough to admit that he knows bugger all about how a camera works, other than you turn it on, point it at something and then press a button. He wants to learn how to use his new cameras properly, and I want to help him So I kicked off the idea that had been brewing for a while, a guide to the basics of photography.
And, with breaks for essential shopping and popping down to immigration to make my pointless 90 day report, I have been working on it for the last two days. I even went out to a temple yesterday to take some illustrative photos. These two show the impact on depth of field from using apertures F2 and F8 (if it is not clear which is which, you need the guide).
Also been trawling through my archives to find some shots to use. This one illustrates something to do with using a low shutter speed (this was at 1/20th of a second). Actually, I am not sure what it is illustrating, I just like it.
Up to page 30 now (sorry Billy) and covered the basics. Now planning a “little bit more than the basics” section; not sure if/when I will finish.
A fundamental required skill of my previous life was to use PowerPoint. I have produced hundreds and sat through thousands. For my guide I am using Apple’s Keynote which is similar in concept. Some aspects are easier and more fun to use than PowerPoint, but there are a couple of PowerPoint features I miss (grouping objects for example). Anyway, the end result can be output as a PDF, so that is how I intend to share it with anyone that might be interested, down-loadable from this site.
Was going to go and create some more wise guidance now, but they have just released an update for the Angry Birds game on the iPad, so creativity will have to wait….
When I was eight I fell in love for the first time. Her name was Mary and there was little doubt that we would spend the rest of our lives together. I recall walking down a beach in the moonlight singing choruses from the musical, South Pacific. Very romantic, except Mary wasn’t with me; I was far too shy to proclaim my passion.
The years passed and, even as life became more complicated with the arrival of spots and hormones, Mary lingered in my memory as an example of female perfection. Finally, in my late teens, we met again. I’ll admit I was excited at the prospect. Maybe we would finally walk hand in hand down that beach in the moonlight, (although the music would have to be updated), and then we could practice some of those things I had recently learned that you could do with girls.
But Mary was a disappointment. The flaxen-haired waif of my childhood had grown up; but had also grown out to an alarming proportion. Her spots were of higher density than mine and her hair appeared to have been treated with lard. But worst of all, she was an I-Spy fanatic.
I-Spy books were a fad in the UK for many years. Your parents would buy you a little book called I-Spy On a Car Journey, with the hope you would spend the entire five hour trip to your Granny staring out the window looking for some object that you could then tick off in your I-Spy book; rather than asking “are we there yet?” every five minutes and your parents thinking “shut the fuck up”. There was I-Spy Birds, I-Spy Flags and I-Spy Pedophiles (or at least there should have been).
The object was to tick everything in the book and then send it off to Big Chief I-Spy who would send you back a feather and a piece of paper which purported to be an “order of merit”, but which actually announced “you’re a wanker”.
I-Spy was fun when you were in primary school; but they soon became boring and you ended up just ticking everything and sending it off to get the feather. By mid-teens you would openly mock anyone with an I-Spy book. So to discover that your dream girl was carrying round the complete set of I-Spy books in a small satchel and was keen to discuss her latest sightings, rather than handing out pills and suggesting we go back to her place and get laid; well, it would be an understatement to say I was disappointed. Mind you, had she offered me a pill and some sex I would not have been able to cope; but at least she would have garnered some respect.
Since that time, I have developed a sneering disrespect for the spotter community; so that would include anyone who bought this book:
There were four copies available at the B2S bookshop in Royal Garden Mall, and it was of no surprise that they were all for sale at a reduced price. It was a bit more of a surprise to discover that every book in the shop was on sale.
This branch is being used as a dumping ground for every book that they can’t sell anywhere else. Browsing the store leaves you wondering at the mentality of the buyers for B2S. The lighthouse book is a good example. Apart from being a feeble subject to start with, all the lighthouses are in North America, which rather limits the appeal to Thailand based lighthouse spotters. And there are plenty of other examples of books that you cannot imagine anyone in Thailand, or in their right mind, would ever buy.
But she who must be obeyed insisted on a browse so I spent about an hour looking at hundreds of cheap books that were of no interest to me at any price. In the end I acquired a 2007 photography annual which used to be 2,700 baht and was going for 300. Glossy and full of great photos. Plus another book whose title I seem to have forgotten…
Probably not too late for you to rush down to B2S and grab one of the
four three remaining copies of the Lighthouse Spotter’s Guide.
Woke to no internet yesterday morning. Disaster.
It has been some three months since I had my condo unit rewired to the telephone junction box on the edge of our condo, and since that time the wide wide world of web has been presenting itself on our various screens with a pleasing reliability. Until yesterday.
Tried calling my internet provider but the line was busy; so sent them a “please help me” e-mail via my phone and before long they were calling me and being sympathetic. But they couldn’t do anything because it was a line problem, which meant placing it in the not at all reliable hands of TT&T who operate the phone lines. I was assured that TT&T would phone me back; but of course they didn’t and the day was spent firing off “what the fuck is going on with my problem” e-mails and receiving solicitous but useless responses.
Still, in the absence of internet, I decided to embark upon my latest and greatest project, The Spike guide to how cameras work ™. Attend any photogenic event and it is noticeable how many more people are carrying around DSLR cameras. Such cameras offer the opportunity to creatively control how the camera is operated; rather than just pointing and shooting. But check how most of these cameras are being used and you find they are set on auto mode; because the owner does not know enough about basic camera settings; and the 74 page, badly written manual is no help. These people have wasted their money and need guidance.
Enter The Spike guide to how cameras work ™. An as yet to be decided number of page manual which will tell you how to use the features of your shiny new toy to ensure you capture the images you want; rather than a blurry blobby mess (unless you were aiming for the blurry blobby mess look).
In the tradition of all great designers. I started with a blank piece of paper. Not in the tradition of all great designers, a cat came and lay on my blank piece of paper, so I fired up Keynote and used that instead. Fiddled around for a while and then decided I needed a side-on shot of a camera. In the absence of the opportunity to steal one from the internet, it was out to the balcony to take a photo of one camera with another camera, whilst fighting off the cat which had temporarily abandoned the piece of paper to jostle for inclusion in the camera shot. Then I needed a photo of a control wheel, so more photography took place; and eventually I had a few pages which looked something like this:
The more pages I added, the more topics I decided I could cover, and The Spike guide to how cameras work ™ is now further from completion than it was when I started it; and I will probably just get bored and ditch the whole idea; but it was a fun way of spending an afternoon.
Come evening and still no internet, how could things get worse? One way was for my man flu, which appeared to be easing, to kick into overdrive and become bronchitis. Thus ensued a nearly sleepless night of coughing, and around dawn it dawned on me that my lack of internet might actually be internal to the condo, rather than in the TT&T lines. It also dawned on me that it was time I saw a doctor.
Bleary-eyed and coughing, it was out with the test gear this morning to discover that the line leaving my condo was in perfect working order, but that the 100 metre, three month old piece of cable which made an exciting journey round the swimming pool, through the underground car park and into a junction box outside my condo, wasn’t. Bugger.
She who must be obeyed took my weary broken body into town where I acquired a box of antibiotics from a doctor who cleverly confirmed I had bronchitis, after I had staggered into his office and coughingly said “I have bronchitis.” On the way home we acquired a 100 metre length of cable and, with the help of the gardener and Nik, my internet was duly restored. Whizz.
Now feeling pretty shit about having felt pretty shit for nearly two weeks. I can spend the rest of the evening developing more of the exciting Spike guide to how cameras work ™, or maybe I will just slump and watch Lady Gaga videos. Bad Romance here we come.
The youth of Pattaya are no angels. A popular way of being rebellious is to join a gang, drive around on scooters, and shoot guns at other gangs. Thankfully this tends to happen when most of us are safely tucked up in bed, even if in some cases (hello Ghost) it is another person’s bed. But you won’t find groups hanging around corners, playing at being intimidating; and acts of vandalism are rare. Graffiti, for example, is rarely seen.
But if the local lads with spray cans discover an abandoned building…..
Panasonic GF1, 20mm lens
After ten days of feeling like shit, I awoke this morning with almost a spring in my step and a considerably reduced flow of unpleasant substances from the nasal area. Not quite up to windsurfing, which was a shame because it was windy, but how about a little stroll with the wife?
The wife agreed, and this afternoon we headed out to Nong Nuch to wander around, have a cup of coffee and take a few photos. She who must be obeyed had not bothered to charge her camera battery since returning from our trip to Loei, so the photo session was rather short; and the light was awful. Still, just to prove that I went out of the house:
Panasonic GF1, 20mm lens
Some time ago, I read the not at all pithily titled Crossing The Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil. The book highlighted the coming of peak oil (“the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline”), and argued, amongst other things, that the American government was complicit in 9/11 to justify the subsequent invasion of Iraq as part of a move to secure oil supplies. There was something about the CIA and drug money and a whole lot of other stuff which I can’t remember. But I do recall it was a good read and every claim was substantially supported (it was a very thick book).
The author was Michael C. Ruppert and he went on to predict the global financial crisis, a couple of years before it happened. Now there is a documentary called Collapse. It’s about 90 minutes of Ruppert sitting in a cellar, chain smoking and telling us in how many ways we are screwed.
The core argument continues to be peak oil. First he spends some time reinforcing how our current lifestyles would cease to exist without the black sticky stuff. He debunks alternative sources of energy and highlights the increasingly difficult search for new reserves. He is convinced that peak oil is almost upon us (there again, he used to be similarly convinced that it would arrive in 2008, and it didn’t).
There is a discussion on the world economy which he reckons relies on continual growth; an impossibility in a time of increasingly expensive oil.
Then he flashes up a slide of world population growth which looked something like this:
He argues that the industrial revolution and the arrival of oil has fuelled the frightening growth in the last couple of hundred years.
The overall cheery message is that the oil is running out, world economies will collapse, and the huge population of the planet is in for a very hard time.
It is hard to say he is wrong about the eventual outcome; unless the timing is more elongated than he suggests and we humans find other ways to provide energy. What is for sure is that Mr. Ruppert believes it, with a passion that has him in tears on more than one occasion. It makes for interesting viewing and I was concentrating pretty hard on what he was saying, until I was distracted by a snuffling noise to my left. She who must be obeyed was having a little sob. I had not realised that she had been watching, and absorbing, and believing; and was now convinced we were going to die very soon.
Still, she is a pragmatic lady, and was soon making plans to help ensure we would survive the coming storm. I am advised we will need to acquire a plot of land where we can grow vegetables and fruit. Solar panels. A well operated by a hand pump. A simple house.
I felt it was prudent not to mention the machine gun towers that would be required to keep away all the people hadn’t planned in advance, and would be now very keen on taking our fruit and veg. The fundamental need for a high-speed internet link was also not raised; necessary in case the world doesn’t go to shit and I need something to conquer boredom, in between long days hoeing the turnips or whatever nonsense this self-sufficiency lifestyle will require.
Personally all I think we need to do is move closer to Central Food Hall; so we can walk when there is no fuel left to put in the truck. Problem solved.
Both sexes have afflictions they could do without. Women have a monthly event which I prefer not to consider in too much detail; but I know that it makes she who must be obeyed a little grumpy for a day or so; and she complains about back pains; but then women are so weak compared to us men. They even moan about popping out an occasional baby, how hard can that be? You should see what I delivered to the toilet bowl last week; or perhaps you shouldn’t.
Anyway, all this female stuff is of nothing compared to the rigours of man flu. Women may get the occasional head cold, but we guys really suffer; and I am suffering now.
A sweaty day in Dan Sai, a long drive home in an air-conned car and extreme tiredness all conspired to deliver a sniffle, a sore throat and a general feeling of misery. Within a couple of days the whole thing had made the journey to my lungs where it currently sits, leaving me hacking like a twenty a day man and unable to sleep properly. I am not a happy Spike.
Still, every cloud etc. and she who must be obeyed has moved into full Florence Nightingale mode and has been administering assorted potions and tenderness, just the sort of sympathy that the rigours of man-flu demand. On the downside I have been banned from cold drinks, ice lollies and chocolate; all of which are apparently bad for me. Not sure about the chocolate embargo, but she “read it on the web” so it must be true. When I go to bed I have vapour rub applied to the soles of my feet and then I have to wear socks. I am not sure whether this “cure” came from the internet or a mad auntie; but her heart is in the right place and I love her for caring.
So, the inherent male need for sympathy and attention in times of chronic illness (Ed: stop exaggerating) is being attended to. But I still have to keep myself amused in my weakened state, which can be summarised as “slumped”.
Most of the day is spent in an easy chair. My only responsibility is to emit a low groan on a regular basis to ensure that SWMBO realises the extend to which I am suffering. Other than dozing, which I am rather good at, I direct a rather reduced attention span to the iPad. I have read the latest issue of Rolling Stone which contains a very interesting article about the oil spill. BP may have screwed up; but the American government did little to stop them. There have been a few Angry Bird gaming sessions where I have tried and failed to gain three star status on level 2-12 (trust me, this if important; I have to get there before SWMBO). But mainly I have been playing Carcassonne.
Carcassonne is a fortified town in France. Then, in 2000, a German decided
to invade it that it would be a good name for a board game, and now it is available on the iPhone, iPad and Xbox. The rules are extremely simple. You draw a tile and place it on the board. The tile may contain a piece of a city, road, farm or a combination of these. You place the tile so it matches against other tiles; and then optionally you can place one of your followers on either the city, road or farm section of the tile. You only have a few followers and they will not be returned to you during the game unless you complete a city or road. When all the tiles have been laid the scores are added up and I lose.
The rules are simple, but the strategic options are many, and the computer opponents, even at the easy level, are too good for me. Optionally, I could find human opponents on-line; but I am not ready for the inevitable humiliation that would follow (see previous reference to weakened state).
Well, typing all that has worn me out. Off for another “see how easy it is to have a baby” demonstration in the toilet and then a little sleep perhaps. Later I am going to sneak out to 7/11 and get some chocolate.If SWMBO is correct, I expect my condition will worsen by the morning.
This from Reuters, hard to believe that something didn’t go wrong with the translation:
German student attacks Hell’s Angels with puppy
A German student created a major traffic jam in Bavaria after making a rude gesture at a group of Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang members, hurling a puppy at them and then escaping on a stolen bulldozer.
German police said on Monday that after making his getaway from the Hell’s Angels club, the 26-year-old dumped the bulldozer, causing a 5 km (3 miles) traffic jam near the southern town of Allershausen, local police said. He then fled to his home nearby where he was apprehended by the police.
“What motivated him to throw a puppy at the Hell’s Angels is currently unclear,” said a spokesman for local police, adding that the student had lately been suffering from depression.
The puppy was now in safe hands, the spokesman added.
A hot and tiring morning at the festival, and after coffee and food we return to the resort where we are booked to stay for a second night. Trouble is, there is nothing else we want to do around Dan Sai, so we get some sort of value from our booking by making full use of the bathroom, check out, and hit the road. A sort of a plan to check out the dok krachiao flowers near Chaiyaphum collapses when we realise that we will arrive too late. So what to do? Drive all the way home was the answer, and some 600 kilometres later we were back in Pattaya; conveniently just in time for the Canadian Grand Prix.
It was fun taking photographs with she who must be obeyed. Now she has her own, decent, camera; she is happy to wander around places that would previously have bored her. The only downside is that she has liberated my zoom lens, leaving me to use my 40mm fixed lens for almost every shot. But in a way it is liberating to be restricted in this way and I don’t feel I missed much. Certainly didn’t miss carrying around a DSLR, I am seriously considering selling all my Canon equipment.
We didn’t get lost as much as I thought we would, and she who must be obeyed kept me awake on the drive home by playing excerpts from Eddie Izzard concerts on YouTube and stuffing a steady supply of snacks into my mouth; you couldn’t ask for better support.
A good trip, although the mini-adventure has left me with man-flu, so it feels like death is near. Goodbye cruel world etc.
One final shot from the weekend: