"Ideation" is lacking

I was on LinkedIn yesterday and I was looking at some ad agency creative type's profile, and "Ideation" was the job title... as in one who comes up with ideas. (It's also a term used in psychology, and usually is associated with a patient's first contemplation of suicide). "Ideation" is a good succinct summary for what I am lacking at this point in the ongoing development of this online document. It seems to have become more of a burden, like an annoying, never-ending, rather juvenile homework assigment, than anything else.

The local red squirrel contemplates why a grubby, unshaven schlub in a ratty bathrobe insists on pointing a big black camera at him. I have been playing with my new camera quite a bit and am posting frequently to my photoblog account. I know that the images are prosaic and boring but it's really just part of the learning curve and the photoblog account is a useful place to display some of the slightly more memorable images.

One thing about this blog, is that it has now been up and running long enough, so that it records changes in people (ie, myself) and places over time. When I first moved to Waterbury in August of 2006 I bought myself a camera as a small reward for the aggravation of moving. One of the first things I did with that camera (Canon s3is) was a series of photos of Waterbury Dam & which I posted here. On Saturday I went back to the same locale with the new Pentax and a 70x300mm lens and took some more images, the results can be viewed here.

August 2006:

January 2008:


On the (January) Waterfront

I don't have the energy to write anything so just some quick photos of the Burlington waterfront from yesterday. There's not a trace of ice in the broad lake or even in the enclosed Burlington harbor... if you look around, changes are evident. I can remember skiing across the broad lake to the New York side, and once riding a mountain bike (very precariously -- no studded tires) on the ice from Oakledge Park to North Beach. I think that such activities will soon be consigned solely to the realm of memory: When I'm old and gray I'll be muttering to myself in some corner about the 'old days' with 'real winters' while crocuses blossom outside my window in January. Kind of a scary vision of the future...

I'm still learning ins and outs of the new camera. One thing that I do like, is the wide angle of the kit lens, it is a new perspective.

An easy winter for the waterfowl so far.


Sir Edmund Hillary: The Legacy

“The whole world around us lay spread out like a giant relief map. I am a lucky man. I have had a dream and it has come true, and that is not a thing that happens often to men.” Quote from the NYT obituary of Sir Edmund Hillary.

"That's a technical mountain" -- Lakpa Sherpa, my trekking guide in Nepal, after seeing this image on a little flickr card I had printed -- the image is Boot Spur on Mt. Washington.

Sir Edmund Hillary died recently, I'm not an expert on Nepal, or on development issues in the 3rd world, etc., but I would say this: In this celebrity drenched age, where it's all about Brad and Angelina and the strange rantings of Tom Cruise, the sad downward spiral of Britney Spears, the lonely death of Heath Ledger, etc, celebrities often adopt causes with varying degrees of seriousness, from the very committed to (Bono on poverty) to the trivial, like the current crop of Hollywood bad girls...Sir Edmund Hillary made a long term commitment to Nepal, particularly the Sherpa communities of the Everest region.

Hillary's achievement (along with Tenzing Norgay) made him an international celebrity -- quite a change for a for a beekeeper from New Zealand. He remained deeply involved with the Sherpa communities in Everest region throughout his life in a very hands on way, and from what I heard, probably did more than any Nepalese government ever managed in terms of helping to build infrastructure that would make people's life better and open up new opportunities: The schools he helped build are known as "Hillary Schools" in Nepal. Nepal is a very poorly governed country (corruption & inefficiency are bywords) and the country's infrastructure verges from the poor to the non-existent. Hillary's ability to get things built and keep them running and make an ongoing positive difference in people's lives is a very impressive achievement.

Lunch at 4200m: Lakpa, our guide in Nepal, was an excellent all round guide.

Lapka, our guide in Nepal, was born in the village of Khumjung, in the Everest region, and attended the "Hillary School" there. Lapka was a great guide, I think the most interesting part of trekking in Nepal, was experiencing Sherpa culture up close, their hospitality made me feel rude, repressed, and inhibited in comparison.


Red light

I bought an inexpensive (Vivitar, and it's almost all plastic) manual focus 50 mm f/1.9 lens on Ebay for my new camera. It's pretty crazy what the camera & fast lens will do in in low light...I can now take photos in the dark. And I'm finding that I really like the camera in full manual mode (manual aperture, manual focus, manual shutter speed), it doesn't feel like a digital set up at all, more like a old film SLR. And the setup is light and quiet except for the clunk as the mirror goes up when a photo is taken.

Another perspective on this sign here.


Central Vermont Saturday night: Harwood vs. Northfield (hockey)

Vermont in January: It's cold and dark. There was a huge thaw that melted most of the snow and now the weather is turning dry and sharply (as in below zero) colder. It's not very pleasant to be outside.

With this in mind, I took my new camera to the local ice hockey arena for a high school game tonight. It was pretty fun even though compared to the division 1 college hockey games I used to see when I lived in Burlington, it seemed like the game was played in slow motion.

My new camera (Pentax K100d Super) works well in low light (it can practically take photos in the dark) but fast ('fast' = wide apertures that let in lots of light) telephoto lenses are very expensive....so the $140 Tamron lens I bought from Amazon is just plain 'slow'. So these images are my testing the slow telephoto lens vs. high camera sensitivity in a demanding environment -- the lights in these arenas are pretty funky and do strange things to cameras, and hockey -- even relatively slow hockey -- is a fast moving game.

The home team, Harwood Union, is in yellow. They lost 4-0 (I didn't stay til the very end) despite having many more shots on goal than Northfield.

Kind of a funny photo as the goalie hunkers down while a Harwood forward crashes the net, no penalty was called.

The Zamboni -- an object the camera could get a lock on with no problem. Most of the game photos were taken at ISO 1600 and with a shutter speed of 1/125 (not really fast enough, even for hs hockey) and a f-stop of between 4 and 8 depending on how much zoom was being used. I found that ISO 800 required too slow a shutter speed to be practical.

A crowd shot, I used Auto white balance, it worked OK, but the light did unhealthy things to skin tones, it looks like night of the living dead.

How to take photos at a hockey game: 1) Bring a ladder so you don't have to shoot through the glass (like I did) 2) Use a Canon system with a fancy, fast lens -- which alone probably cost more than all the camera gear I have ever bought in my entire life.

Size does matter: The Pentax kitted out with the very plasticy but affordable Tamron 70-300 lens. There's some photos taken with this lens in natural light (it works better) posted here and there are more images from this game posted here as well.


RIP Bob Enos of A Roomful of Blues

I heard this morning that Bob Enos, trumpeter for the band A Roomful of Blues, died in a hotel room after playing a gig in Georgia (news story here). I had only seen this band once (post about the performance here) but I instantly recalled the intensity of his performance. That night, the band played as true professionals -- a tight, lively, energetic show in front of lots of empty seats, and I distinctly remember Bob Enos' performance on trumpet... A Roomful of Blues is a horn driven band, and Bob Enos was front and center on his horn.


Pretty vacant: 2007 blog year in review

2007 traffic to "Midnight Modern Conversation"

[The title of this post was suggested by a post I saw somewhere, highlighting the unhappy contrast between two performances (here and here) by the Sex Pistols posted on Youtube.]

One of the blogs that I do read regularly, Rough Type (related post here -- I still haven't gotten around to reading the Big Switch yet) brought my attention to a quote from a book review published in the New York Times:
Expression is everywhere nowadays, but true art has grown indistinct and indefinable. We seem now to be living in a world where everyone has an artistic temperament — emotive and touchy, cold and self-obsessed — yet few people have the artistic gift. We are all outsiders, and we are all living in our own truth.
When I read this quote, I felt like the reviewer had spent some time reading this blog, and had also perused my flickr, photoblog, & YouTube accounts... where does this desire to share personal information with strangers around the world come from?

Part of the problem is that digital tools make it very easy to produce lots of media, quickly and inexpensively. I would not have thousands of images on my hard drive if I had to shoot film, pay to have it developed, and then had to scan the images for upload. Likewise, if the only way for me to put together a video was to invest in specialized equipment and software, it would be a lot less likely that I would dabble in video making. But with this 'ease of creation' factor comes a distinct trend towards quantity, not quality, and the rank amateur becomes transformed into the auteur, complete with the artist's usual and expected set of poses, compulsions, neuroses, and tics.

As I look back on 2007 through the prism of this blog, most of the time, it is pretty much ignored by the wider world. This is because it is diffuse, trivial and self absorbed, and is lost in a vast sea of similar digital self-absorption: It's hard to stand out. And, in a way, I'm kind of glad this is so: Celebrity and the glare of the spotlight is the last thing on my mind.

There were, however, a few events that I wrote about/took photos at/made videos of in 2007 and that did attract a small amount of attention from the wider world. I don't use google analytics much but I have had it running on this blog for over a year and so it does offer some insight to what posts & subject matter has been popular over time. [One of the things I have learned from running this blog, is a little bit of SEO/SEM technique, sometimes I do write post titles so that the posts will be easily indexed by google...]

So here is a recap of what was popular among the few readers of this site in 2007:
  • "Would the real Bob Dylan Please Stand Up?" -- this is by far and away the most popular post in the history of this blog -- not that this is saying much. It was picked up and linked to by a Bob Dylan fan site, which produced a surge in visitors from all over the world.
Coverage of cycling was also a subject that drew visitors:
  • GMSR coverage (here, here, here, etc.): The GMSR had almost 900 entrants in 2007, I would have almost expected more traffic from this.
  • The West Hill Cylcocross race coverage/video: The folks at the West Hill Shop really liked the video I made about this race and linked to it from their site. I was surprised at how some of the resulting traffic was from all over the US, not just New England. This video has been viewed almost 400 times on YouTube which is somewhat gratifying I guess... one guy emailed me that he watched it every couple of weeks or so.
  • I wrote a post describing my impressions of my Redline Monocog 1x9, this is proving to be popular, I think there is quite bit of interest in the idea of 1x9 mountain bikes -- ironically, I now think this configuration isn't good for where I live, it's just too hilly (steep hills + lack of gears = shattering, exhausting riding experience). This is an example of a post I wrote thinking that I would be 'googled' and this assumption has been proven correct.
Other topics that caused little ripples of web traffic included:
  • I took some photos at the 2007 Spielpalast Cabaret, I think many of the cast members found them online & shared with their friends.
  • Coverage of the epic Valentine's Day Blizzard attracted some attention.
  • A post I wrote about a painting by Stefan Bumbeck lives on: "Stefan Bumbeck" is a fairly regular search term on google apparently.... which is odd. But I do like the painting.
  • Relatedly, one post I wrote that has kind given me pause in retrospect is entitled "The secret dossier of Haven Parchinski", it turns out that "Haven Parchinski" -- not a bike racer, and someone I've never met -- is also a fairly regularly occurring search term on google. It's kind of peculiar knowing that there is a good chance this person, or her friends and family, (maybe even Tyler Hamilton?) has read this post.
I wrote quite a bit about my trip to Nepal, I thought that other trekkers, and would-be trekkers, would search for this subject matter, but this hasn't really proven to be the case. Perhaps in the autumn of 2008 and there will be some interest as September - November tend to be the prime trekking months in Nepal (between the monsoon and winter).

Going forward with the blog in 2008, I'm feeling bereft of ideas, and lacking enthusiasm for the project. I spent a Saturday night at home (yesterday) and I wasn't blogging... I was reading a Pentax DSLR users forum and scanning EBay for used manual focus lenses instead. (Lest it appear that I live like a hermit, I had been at a party on Friday night, and so was not tempted to go out.)

In November, however, I did notice that someone from Italy did a search for "cyclocross videos" and did wind up on this site. It is small things like this that keeps me at least slightly engaged in keeping the blog going. I may, however, cut back on the trivial day to day posts -- it very much depends upon my mood, energy level, and interest in other things (like learning how to get the most out of my new camera, and I also need to learn more about digital post-processing -- my skills with this are lacking).


The new reality of winter, 2008 version

I went out for a walk in Stowe today just to get out of the office for a bit and take advantage of the sunny and strangely warm weather, I had the camera with me, and sunshine has been hard to come by lately, so it was a rare midwinter chance to see how it would perform in bright natural light.

One has to wonder if this is just the usual January thaw or if it is the harbinger of things to come: There was a lot of snow in December, but it doesn't take too many 50 degrees for it to rapidly melt way. January 2007 was peculiar as well, the ground wasn't even frozen for quite a long time. What does the future hold?


2007 bike race videos revisited: See what you've been missing

I should be outside exercising, I feel very heavy, flabby and sluggish after the holidays, which were characterized by too much rich food and strong drink, ugh. Sometimes I think I should get a down sleeping bag and retreat into some remote Adirondack leanto for some winter camping between Christmas and New Years.

Instead, however, I have been uploading some videos into my new vimeo account, because I was never happy with how these looked on YouTube, it was hard to make out what was going on.

1) Video from the 2007 Green Mountain Stage Race. I wish I hadn't deleted the raw files for this because now I see ways that I could remix and perhaps shorten it -- less is more -- somewhat. Shortly after this event I purchased a USB hard drive so archiving data is easier for me now.

Green Mountain Stage Race Sept. 07 from JG on Vimeo.

2) Video from the West Hill Cyclocross race, Putney, Vermont, November 2007. The video on this is still kind of murky, I think I was experimenting with camera settings to try and find something that worked better on YouTube...

2007 West Hill Cyclocross Race, Putney, VT from JG on Vimeo.

The death of Youtube? Hi-res video hosting at Vimeo

Google is a strange company, they make tons of money from advertising (a crude but effective system) and plan to take over the world...yet they have a very poorly integrated suite of products (I use blogger, YouTube, Google Earth, Google Maps, gmail, docs, Picassa, all to varying degrees, and these products don't really fit together too well).

Google paid a ton of money for YouTube yet the acquisition really hasn't changed YouTube from what I can see -- I am hardly a YouTube power user. It's still fuzzy videos and a largely infantile user base with lowest-common denominator tastes: I am still astounded by what's popular on the site. I also have no aspirations to become a video auteur especially now that I have just invested in a new still camera.

This morning I was listening to VPR and they had a feature on a new video hosting site, vimeo.com, that offers high resolution video hosting along with a larger array of sharing options: I quickly signed up and uploaded my Nepal trekking video -- I do think that the resolution is noticeably better than on YouTube.

Nepal trekking Sept - Oct 2007 from JG on Vimeo.

If vimeo performs as advertised I will use it to host any videos that I manage to come up with in the future -- the higher resolution makes it very attractive. YouTube is being left behind...


Wandering around town...with a new camera

So, I am now the owner of a Pentax K100D Super DSLR camera. I am tempted to refer to it as 'the guillotine' because it has a mechanical shutter that makes an impressive clunk every time a photo is taken... the shutter almost sounds like it could amputate a finger.

This camera isn't as complex as some DSLRs so it didn't take me too long to figure out the basics -- but there are many features and settings to be explored so as to get the optimal output out of the camera. The kit lens has a very different range of apertures than what I am used to and the camera body has totally different sensitivity and white balance settings so I need to learn what works best in what circumstances.

I walked to town today to go to the bank and took the camera with me. These are not the greatest images by any means but they do show Waterbury under a thick blanket of snow on a gray January day. There are images of the same area taken quite recently with my previous camera posted here by way of comparison.


2008: A white start to the new year

A panorama outside my condo on New Years day, I used an umbrella to keep the camera somewhat dry and sheltered from the heavy snow. A few more pictures posted here:


The New Year begins

With a very sedate, quiet and pleasant New Year's eve in Stowe, a nice dinner and a night in room with a whirlpool and fireplace, we didn't even stay awake until midnight, I watched a couple of episodes of the Twilight Zone on the SciFi channel and fell asleep around 11 pm.

And then the new year started with my losing the first Scrabble game of the year in the morning of 1/1/2008.

I look forward to spending time with my new camera in 2008, I'm not sure what this will mean for this small, trivial and mostly unread blog in the coming year.