05 November 2015

The photographer stands tall by casting a long shadow

The sun was quite low above the horizon in the Standard Time afternoon, shortly before sunset. It'd be a reasonable trigonometry problem to determine the exact time given my height, the shadow's length, and solar position data, but there's a good approximation in the picture's metadata and for now I'm concentrating on the perspective and how it appears. It's interesting to see how the legs, lower to the ground, cast very, very long shadows, while that of the head above appears relatively tiny.

28 September 2015

Eclipse viewing

I enjoyed watching the lunar eclipse last night, particularly through binoculars. Photography was challenging, but I couldn't resist trying. First, at moonrise, as our loyal satellite prepared for its, er, starring role later in the evening:
A few minutes into the partial phase, having found that -3 stops of exposure compensation yielded some appealing detail of the lunar surface:
Approaching totality, with one of the nicer examples I can recall of (what I believe to be) lens flare decorating the image. Around this time, I also thought I saw a halo around the moon, but it didn't show up in the collected photos.
And, a very faint moon (too faint for my camera's autofocus to lock: exposure 1 second at f/5.6 and ISO 1600) in the total phase:
Quite a sight, well worth binocular-gazing on the fortunately clear night.

26 September 2015

12 September 2015

The computer must be right. What's wrong with me today?

When I ride my bike, it's most usually on one of a few rail trails with which I'm quite familiar. I have a cyclocomputer (are they still called that?), a watch-sized device which connects to a magnetic sensor to observe how quickly the front wheel is spinning and over how long a time, and hence to determine how fast I'm moving and how far I've traveled. I like being able to use it to track my progress. Earlier this year, though, I found myself pedaling at what seemed like a usual pace, but watching numbers indicating that I was going noticeably slower than usual. The display had to be right, though - didn't it? - so had I fallen suddenly and unexpectedly away from shape?  Why had it become harder to maintain a normal speed? I found it concerning, until I finished my ride and saw that what I'd always thought of as 18 miles (and which a smartphone GPS and topo map still did) was shown instead as about 16.3 miles, and that my elapsed time for the route wasn't abnormal for me. Further investigation showed that the cyclocomputer's setting for tire circumference had somehow gotten reset to its default, which was smaller than that of my actual tire. Once I readjusted that, simple division raised my indicated speed by about 10% the next time I rode. I felt better about both my pace and my device once the accidental bias was gone. I wasn't actually traveling faster, but a more reassuring measurement made it feel that way.

31 May 2015


Now that photographic technology (at least its non-glass parts) has evolved into the digital age, it advances much more quickly than it did in the analog era.  Sometimes, it becomes easy to find what would have been unimaginable a few years earlier.  I tend to be something of a cheapskating late adopter, and find that previous models often provide powerful capabilities to use and grow into, at impressively low cost. In this vein, I recently jumped on the chance to purchase a Canon SX50HS (introduced in 2012), my first venture into the superzoom category. Its then-astounding 50:1 zoom range tops out at 215mm, offering equivalent magnification to what would be a 1200mm lens on a 35mm camera. I was able to pay less than $200 USD for the entire camera rather than the $180K currently quoted for a rare and massive 1200mm lens. Naturally, the image quality isn't the same, but I think it's quite usable by my standards.  Also, it's small and light enough to be reasonably wearable (and, hence, conveniently available) rather than haulable.  I took it out for its first bird walk yesterday and was pleased to be able to collect this shot of a tree swallow peering out from its nest hole.

Capable viewing, looking out from a small enclosure. I can appreciate that. 

16 May 2015

Longest. Progress Bar. Ever?

I've been using a MacBook Pro for a few years, which I’ve been quite happy with except for some annoying behavior when resuming from hibernation. Being Security Guy by habit, I’ve unsurprisingly been using FileVault disc encryption; after typing a password to unlock the volume, I’d often been waiting for a minute or so, sometimes spanning a screen blank and reset button tap, before being presented with another password entry prompt and the chance to enter a useful system. (Deceptive UI indication aside: please don’t provide a blinking cursor in a text box before it’s ready to accept input!) Accumulated impatience having eventually spurred me into action, a web crawl yielded references like this article, suggesting that OS X Yosemite was intolerant of at least some earlier FileVault configurations and recommending decryption and reencryption. I started the decryption on a disk with about 140 Gb in use; though it changed before I got to screenshot the display, the progress bar started out with a caption estimating 43 days to complete the task. That proved conservatively pessimistic, with the operation taking about 10 hours in the actual event. I’m used to symmetric crypto being quick, often invisible inline at human scale; 43 days read more like what I’d expect if a fairly substantial exhaustive search had been required.

25 April 2015

My spelling corrector knows me too well

I was trying to text that "We're having lunch" and it proposed that I meant to say "We're having Linux" instead.  I'm guessing that I fat-fingered an "i" instead of the adjacent "u" on the keyboard and it took it from there, but I could easily be spending some time doing either.

11 February 2015

Taking refuge in accumulated snowfall

Within the last few weeks, the greater Boston area has received a record-breaking amount of snowfall from a series of storms. As part of a larger ongoing project, I've been collecting pictures from the observation tower at the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Concord, MA around the seasons.  I thought this series, showing the effect as the snow continued to accumulate, was interesting to observe.  First, on 21 January before the series of storms began:

Next, on 26 January following about 8 inches of snow around the 24th:
And on 1 February, after perhaps over 30 more inches on the 26th-27th of January:
On 6 February, following about another 13 inches on the 2nd and 2 more on the 5th:
On 11 February, after about another 14 inches on the 9th:
On 18 February, a few days after still another fall of about 14 inches on the 14th-15th:
Once it starts to thaw, I expect it'll take quite a while to unwind the accumulation.  Hat tip to the NWS Boston Significant Weather Archive page for convenient access to records; I've applied some guesswork in response to some apparent notable differences appearing between values recorded among nearby towns. In any case, it's been quite a transition to observe over less than a month.

08 February 2015

Counting nostalgically ... in octal

I hadn't touched homebuilt electronics extensively since the 1970s, when I'd built a microprogrammed central processor named Irving among other projects, and was intrigued with the idea of wiring together some newer components.  I thought a Raspberry Pi kit would be a good basis for experiments, and am now exploring its possibilities. I was pleased to be able to hook it up to a numeric display module that I'd had in a box for nearly 40 years, to see the display illuminate, patch 8 bits' worth of output connections, and write and download the Python code to make its numbers count.  And, yes, 377 wraps around to 000; I waited to watch that.  There's nothing like a table sprawled with wires and pieces that, collectively, do something.

30 January 2015

Snow and a Pileated bonus

New England received a major blizzard this week (though it largely bypassed NYC despite forecasts as models diverged), and we found ourselves in the 30"+ zone.  I dutifully excavated a path through the waist-high white expanse to refill the bird feeder:

I got a nice view of a non-feeder bird today, hard at work during a smaller snowfall:
I've always found the sight of a Pileated Woodpecker impressive, though they've often been easier to hear than see.  From the appearance, though, this tree seems to be a motivating target, so maybe there will be more chances upcoming.