John and I met up at Drexel University where he teaches and had a picnic. Â I brought lunch for two, snacks for two, desserts for two, and we had conversation fit for a dozen. Â While I was torching the cremeÂ brÃ»lÃ©e, a college student studying near us leaned over to me and said “I wish I could cook”. Â I looked at him and said “I hope you learn to. Â It’s fun and rewarding.” Â He looked at me, I looked at him, and then he said “ok, I’ll leave now”. Â On the way out, John wanted a cup of coffee so we stopped in one of the Drexel coffee shops. Â A fellow in front of us in line was doing a card trick to try to impress someone and I look a picture of it.
Card Person: Nice try but pictures of card tricks never turn out.
Me: I think I got it. *show him my camera*
Card Person: Wow, it did. Â I’ve been looking for someone to shoot a show of mine.
Me: I’d love to, I generally ask $60 an hour for events, how long is your show?
Card Person: About two hours, but I don’t have that kind of money. Â I’m sorry.
Me: Well, what else do you do?
Card Person: I also do fire eating as well.
Me: How about this, you teach me to eat fire, and I’ll give you a touched up set of photos of your total show.
Card Person: Deal. Â How should I contact you?
Me: Here’s my card, that’s a picture of me riding a sheep.
Card Person: I think I can work with you.
Philly Tech Meetup is a meetup.com group that runs monthly technology startup events in Center City. Â Every first Wednesday, they have demo nights and firms present software, hardware, services, and other tech related business plans to create buzz and find investors. Â I was contacted by the organizer of PTM to be their photographer and tonight went to The Quorum at UPenn to get pictures of the meet-and-greet beforehand and then the presentations. Â The room was filled with slightly overweight white and Asian men with a smattering of women and other minorities. Â The presenters were off to one side rehearsing their slides and nervous tics when the organizer approached me. Â He thanked me for being there, introduced me to the members of his staff and introduced me to… the other photographer. Â I didn’t mind that there was another photographer there, so much as I wish I were warned. Â An event that takes place in a single room doesn’t need two people snapping pictures and my time could be fruitfully filled another way.
The other photographer and I exchanged business cards and I saw the camera he was fumbling with and offered him some pointers. Â He kind of ignored me but after complaining about zoom, I switched to my 70-200mm lens. Â My 70-200mm f/2.8 L lens is a bit obscene for a consumer lens and represents the triumph of “I will have this lens” over common sense and budgetary prudence. Â It’s white, well designed and screams “expensive”. Â It’s $800 more lens than I need but I feel that half that value has been made up with in being able to inspire lens envy. Â The other photographer looked at my kit and hung his head a little. Â I was still annoyed that the job had double coverage but at least my dickhat had grown a few points.
Presentations that evening were all for smartphone apps and I strained myself trying to figure out how to properly photograph people talking about smartphone apps. Â My solution was to take 400 pictures in about an hour with periodic attempts at trying to get Stock Art Shots of audience members talking, asking questions, and “interacting”. Â I probably have a shot of someone tweeting about wiki or SnapChatting about Foursquare.
At the end of the evening, the organizer again apologized for there being two photographers and told me we’d work out something for the future. Â On the way home, I brought up the web page for the other photographer and after seeing his work I feel confident that I was not going to be replaced.
Waking up with no power during the day when the weather is mild can be a gentle experience. Max walked in, licked my foot and rose. Most of the lights in my room are obscured by tape so the only indicator of something not being there was my un-illuminated alarm clock. Walking into my office was similar with no obvious tells except for the UPS lights being off and the Minecraft server being at rest.
The freezer was still holding ice, so I popped some in a travel cup and packed my desktop into my car to edit wedding photos at Sam Lodise’s apartment. I had taken 1872 photos and Sam picked some 620 that he liked. Erin later picked some 680 photos she liked with an overlap of about 380 photos. Of those, I wanted to trim down to some 120 or so. Each time I removed one from the set Erin would howl as if in pain at me erasing one of her memories. Sam had a backup of everything. Nothing would be lost but still this indignity was an interesting compliment. We talked and agreed that we only needed one good photo of each person and each key event. After that, we picked a few dozen shots to represent the wedding. As we did successive waves of editing, everyone was represented less and less except for Green twins. Somehow with each pass, photos containing them were skipped.
New Sous Vide
Pat and I stayed up late enough that we were able to drop Clara off at work at 5am. She’s in her residency and her standard shift is at least 12 hours. Pat and I retired and when our day started around the crack of 2pm we went to the largest Wegman’s in North America. Wegman’s home base is in Rochester and the store is quite nice. We purchased seasoned chicken breasts in plastic vacuum packs with the idea that we could save a vacuum step. They had artisanal cheeses and being a sucker for such things, acquire the makings of a lovely cheese plate.
Returning to Pat’s house, the rig was brought to temperature and the food simply dropped in. The elegance of the water bath as a cooking method tickles my love of parsimony. There is also a trade off in precision when cooking via sous vide. One trades thermal precision for temporal freedom. The cook times with sous vide are often 30 minute windows as opposed to the 60 second window during which a steak can go from caramelized to burnt.
We talked, tweaked, salivated and picked up Clara. She was concerned that we’d left the rig running while we were out but once we served dinner all objections dropped. The chicken was either the best or the second best chicken I’ve had in my life, only possibly being rivaled by a plate from The Brothers’ Moon in Pennington where I received two chicken tenderloin pieces that clocked in at $28.00. This plate of broccoli, pork tenderloin, and chicken cost about $6.00 including the power to run the device. Clara was equally pleased and the rig joined the cats as Pat and Clara’s newest family proxies.
That evening Pat and I walked around the High Falls area of Rochester and I took pictures.
This was my favorite bridge shot. Â The symmetry is delicious.
Rarely do I like clashing white balances. Â This is an exception.
Pools of light.
Walking Around NYC
Whit invited me up to New York City and I obliged his invite. Â It was good to see him.
We chatted. Â He left for work, and I walked around.
I’ve picked up some bravery over time when it comes to taking pictures. Â I think today showed that.
I like the reflective highlights of his suit.
I paced the same set of blocks three or four times, trying to get everything which I never would. Â Each pass I saw something new.
I didn’t much change the saturation here.
I have no idea what cut of meat this is.
Hats, oo oh!
Heading south, I took pictures along the high line where I think I got my favorite of the day.
Here’s the rest:
Grounds for Sculpture
I met some former coworkers today and they shared with me the changes that occurred to my former employer since my summary dismissal that was the warning quake of the July Massacre where some 90 other coworkers were let go. Some people have been upon the grim task of preparing the building and facilities for what appear to be the next inevitable reductions which must be a special kind of gut-turning.
One of my dismissed coworkers was enjoying retirement and another was talking about relocating to where her husband worked. Otherwise, the event had an undercurrent “things out there such but I’m glad we are together” which reflects a level of camaraderie that I don’t feel existed previously. Someone brought marshmallow brownies which brought back memories of my previous life as a baker at work and I wondered if I’d continue this tradition with my new firm. We departed with the traditional “we should do this again” which I often assume is a pleasantry but these are engineers and may buck that trend.
After lunch, I shot south to Grounds for Sculpture an art park/sculpture garden to help someone learn to use their camera.
Sculpture and I have a rough past as I find most pieces done after Rodin to be emetic and think that Jeff Koons creates “pretty” not the high art worthy of notation for the future except as an amusing side street. With this in mind, I found Grounds for Sculpture to be refreshing. The two exhibits they had were interesting if one was not a bit saccharine. The outdoor displays were either large and regal, media-sized and whimsical, or small or engaging and each of these sets proved to be better than I expected. On and off storms kept us from moving at the pace I wanted and I feel I have about a 1/3 left for a future visit.
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I didn’t feel well at the start of the day and slept until noon. I dropped off Reuben and Suzie at the registration area and immediately found parking, registered for the day and disappeared into sessions.
Mad Scientist Lab – I learned what cattle prod feels like. Usually my willingness to raise my hand when someone calls for audience volunteers nets me something cool, usually. Here, it net me being hit by a cattle prod. Anyway, I now know what a cattle prod feels like.
Presenter: Please stop asking us to cattle prod your children. I think that counts as child abuse even if you say it’s ok.
Audience Member: But I thought you were evil?
Presenter: Yes, but at scale. It’s hard to be evil when you’re locked up in prison.
They also had made a Jolly Rancher railgun but decided against it because the acceleration caused the wrappers to come off and that’s just not sanitary.
The next few hours were passed walking around and much enhanced by simply popping in on panels that looked interesting and out on ones that weren’t.
If I thought a shot turned out particularly well, I’ll show the costumed person the LCD on my camera for approval and often they’d ask for a card from me. I had four or five on me, I should have brought several dozen more.
Saturday night at the Hyatt’s many lobbies proved to be a massive party. I met up with Suzie around 3 AM to leave and things had just gone from 11 to 10.
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Today was the first full day of Dragon*Con and Suzie dropped out of attending to do other things. Reuben and I met up with Grant who is a fine fellow but with whom there is a storied meeting history. He has no car at college and the last few times we met with him had to pick him up and work around the narrow windows of his schedule.
Reuben and I dashed to Con after a short lunch, made our way through registration, and darted to our first session. My schedule was stacked with science, space, and skepticism bits and Reuben wanted to see some segments on voice acting.
Curiosity and Skepticism – The presenter for this session ran The College of Curiosity which runs field trips in major cities. The presenter had some interesting objects like tektite, trinitite, and a styrofoam cup crushed by 2100 feet of oceanic pressure. I don’t think the session had much of a message so much as a parade of neat stuff.
James Randi and Alice Cooper – James Randi, the patron saint of skeptics, was the magician behind the effects on Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Baby tour. Alice is witty and cogent and told wonderful stories.
*Alice: Everyone in the 70s wanted to be a hero in Rock n’ Roll. I had no problem being the bad guy.
*Alice: One city wanted to present us with the key to the city and he had to work as hard as we could to find a reason to not get it.
*Alice: During one of our shows a live chicken appeared on stage so I picked it up and threw it into the audience. It came back a few minutes later torn apart and I was known as â€œAlice Cooper, Chicken Killerâ€. The thing was, the first four rows, and that’s the farthest I could have thrown it, were all people in wheelchairs.
*Randi: Alice called the magic shop I was in and owner said there was an Alice Cooper on the phone. I said I wanted $100 just to talk to him. Alice agreed, and I ran down the stairs so fast they may have burn marks on them.
Blood Drive – I gave blood and was told by a pregnant nurse that I looked like Ethan Hawke, I’ll take it. Later at the snack booth:
Me: Do you have any low carb snacks?
Nurse: You need sugar, honey.
Me: I’m on a ketosis diet.
Nurse: How low carb is that?
Me: 20 net grams a day.
Nurse: If you can, you want to make an exception if you want your red count to rebound in any reasonable amount of time and not have fainting spells.
I took her advice and had the tastiest Nutter Butter that I can remember.
Stealth Skepticism – The panelists talked about skepticism in popular media. Each panelist was interesting but the unified theme was â€œask smart people questionsâ€ and I was fine with this. Rebecca Watson gave her commandment of â€œa good question is identifiable for being short, having a point, and ending in a question markâ€, advice that everyone followed. One person asked: â€œmy brother is a physics major and believes he can perform faith healing, what can I do to sway him?â€ to which Michael Stackpole replied â€œWaterboard himâ€.
Cryptographic Engineering – I attended this panel because it was done by Bruce Schneier and Randal Shwartz, the security expert and programmer, respectively and just kind of sat in awe as they were smart for an hour or so. I took their pictures a lot and they politely posed.
I walked around and took photos. In the process, I lost track of Reuben frequently.
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UC and Fountains
For the next 9 days I’m going to be on the road for a variety of functions. One part visiting places, one part visiting people, one part “last fling of summer”, and one part helping Suzie move to Philadelphia. The car was packed the previous night and the angel food cake, cookies, and fudge were all properly packaged so with two cans of Pepsi Max I headed into the West at around 8:00am.
“How far away is Cincinnati” is a question with many answers. Googles says 10 hours, my GPS says 8 hours, and history says about 9 hours. This time, everything went well and I made it in nearly 8 hours and met Brad, my host, and the University of Cincinnati where his student group was doing promotion as part of the semester kick-off. I helped them clean up and Brad and I retired to his apartment to plan our evening. We had wanted to do karaoke.
Brad: Let me call my karaoke friend. *calls* Rachel, this is Brad. What’s that karaoke place you like? *pause* ok, they’re generally booked a month in advance? *pause* Ok, good know. Thanks. Let’s ask Google.
We googled karaoke near Cincinnati and found one place but on street-view inspection it appeared to be someone’s house. No karaoke this evening. Instead, we took pictures of the University of Cincinnati as the sun set and then took pictures at Washington Park which has illuminated fountains.
The buildings of UC don’t quite harmonize and each seems to come from a different school or time.
The glass facade of the University Pavilion showed but sunset and bell tower.
Almost stock art.
Part of photography is getting a handle on “recipes”. Â Certain mixes of settings that achieve a certain effect. Â One important fact to me is that water droplets look suspended in air at shutter times faster than 1/2000″.
The above was taken at 1/500″. Â Here’s what going to 1/2000″ does.
Notice how the droplets seem to freeze?
On the other end, if you take a longer exposure of colored water falling, the center part will over expose to white and the outer side will maintain color making it look like fire.
This at 1/160″.
When a sheet of water is launched skyward, there will be a moment where it is suspended as a flat sheet. Â As it falls, the outer area will experience different air resistance than the center and a bulb may develop. Â When this begins to collapse, it kind of looks like a jellyfish.
The last part of the evening was dinner at Adriatico’s where I received what is easily the largest antipasto salad I’ve ever had. The plate was the size of a hub cap and the greens could not be seen from under the massive pile of meats, cheese, and olives on it. The server provided another plate and even after removing most of the meat and cheese I easily had two salads. I’m pretty sure they just threw a cheese and meat party tray through a wood chipper and caught it with a salad bowl. About 2/3s of the meat made it home with me and Brad and I had man time.
Friends of friends are almost always NPCs in my life. They fill ancillary roles as characters in stories or provide a particular expertise in my life and rarely are promoted to the rank of “friend”. Today was my 4th time seeing Brad and I am hopeful that we will reach autonomy.