Photography Class

Jess and I found the local camera club and signed up to be in their photography class offered through Park & Rec. The first class was last week and was a bit of overview and instruction on all the features the cameras have, what they mean, and how to adjust them.

Tonight’s class was about lighting and how it will affect the quality and mood of your photos. It’s pretty fun. They ask students to bring pictures each week so they can show them on the projector and provide a light critique to help us improve. Jess and I both received very favorable reviews on our pictures.

I wanted to take a composed shot from a figurine lit with candles. However, options are kind of limited in terms of what you can do when you don’t own a tripod or any other fancy/handy equipment. I was able to get a really nice picture though. I used a stack of books as my tripod, and my background is the carpet and a beige throw hung over a music stand:
IMGP0155Jess took these two pictures of some flowers I gave her in celebration of HollyDay:
IMGP0284c IMGP0275b

HollyDay 2010

We’ve decided to call January 26 a “HollyDay” (Jess’ middle name is Holly), as it marks the anniversary of the day Jess was released from the hospital with a vote of confidence that she was officially no longer dying.

We celebrated by having dinner at an Italian restaurant in Pleasanton, and then swinging by the Cheesecake Factory to bring home dessert.

I think it’s safe to say that things are rather different now than they were a year ago—and rather for the better.

I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m glad Jess survived.

Photography is not Terrorism

I’ve seen a handful of news articles recently concerning law enforcement agencies branding photography as a terrorism related activity.

A new campaign by the Chicago Transit Authority suggests that civilians report photographers the same way they should report unattended packages and suspicious persons (coverage by NBC Chicago: Losing Focus: CTA Warns Against Excessive Photography).

There was also a recent article about photographers in the United Kingdom protesting the police’s ability (under anti-terrorism laws) to stop and search anyone for any or no reason; which, apparently, has been used as the excuse to harass photographers (CNN is carrying this story: Photographers protest over UK terror law). Luckily for them the European Court of Human Rights ruled that this legal power is a violation human rights.

But, on to the main point (there are hundreds of similar articles about photographers being harassed under the guise of anti-terrorism). At first glance we would probably think that it likely for terrorists (or would-be terrorists) to take photographs of the locations they’re planning to attack. It’s what happens in all the movies, right? Well, it is, in fact, entirely wrong.

I’d highly recommend reading through Bruce Schneier’s essay on the matter from June 2008: The War on Photography. He covers the topic far better than I could.

Go read the whole thing (it’s only about a page), but here’s the most relevant excerpts:

Clearly any terrorist is going to first photograph his target, so vigilance is required.
Except that it’s nonsense. The 9/11 terrorists didn’t photograph anything. Nor did the London transport bombers, the Madrid subway bombers, or the liquid bombers arrested in 2006. Timothy McVeigh didn’t photograph the Oklahoma City Federal Building. The Unabomber didn’t photograph anything; neither did shoe-bomber Richard Reid. Photographs aren’t being found amongst the papers of Palestinian suicide bombers. The IRA wasn’t known for its photography. Even those manufactured terrorist plots that the US government likes to talk about — the Ft. Dix terrorists, the JFK airport bombers, the Miami 7, the Lackawanna 6 — no photography.

So why the focus on photography?

Because it’s a movie-plot threat.
A movie-plot threat is a specific threat, vivid in our minds like the plot of a movie. You remember them from the months after the 9/11 attacks: anthrax spread from crop dusters, a contaminated milk supply, terrorist scuba divers armed with almanacs. Our imaginations run wild with detailed and specific threats, from the news, and from actual movies and television shows. These movie plots resonate in our minds and in the minds of others we talk to. And many of us get scared.

Now go read the whole article to see why movie-plot threats are the stupidest thing to guard against.

And don’t harass photographers for taking pictures.

Ninety years without slumbering, Tick, tock, tick, tock…

We got a clock!

Ok, ok. I realize that statement is probably not very exciting without explanation. Mom had asked me if there was anything in particular we’d like as a graduation/wedding/Christmas present. We thought about it and we need things like nightstands and a dresser and such, but felt like it’d be nice to have something less utilitarian—something classy, traditional, nice, and would be with us for awhile. We thought it’d be nice to have a key-wound chiming wall clock. Growing up we had a chiming clock in the living room which was nice. So I mentioned this to Mom and on Christmas morning one of our presents was a list of clock options (so we could pick one in particular that we liked).

Later in the day we sat down and went over the list several times slowly whittling it down. We eventually made our selection and Mom put the order in. Then we eagerly awaited its delivery.

It was shipped in a box within a box:
IMGP0023It was made in Germany. Apparently the Germans are the only ones who still make nice fully mechanical clocks like this.
IMGP0024Here it is in the box. The first language on the instruction manual was German, not something you see everyday.
IMGP0025And here it is on the wall:
IMGP0032We like it. I appreciate the level of skill it must require to build a clock like this. I think if I lived before the era of computers I might have become a clock maker, putting together the gears and stuff is like programming but with metal! Though, there is the problem that if I lived during a time without affordable eyeglass solutions I would’ve had an issue.

Here’s a video of the clock chiming:

(In case you were wondering the title of the post is from “My Grandfather’s Clock“)

New Year’s

Megan and Chad came to California after Christmas. With three Dickersons within a hundred miles of each other we reached critical mass and a bowling trip was induced.

Megan and Chad drove down from Sacramento to our apartment on the 31st. Jess, however, had a migraine that day which wasn’t responding to medication so she got to stay home and be miserable. Megan, Chad, and I drove down to Sunnyvale to meet Mike and Tina. We pulled up while Mike was out walking the dog! We found it quite comical, I tried to take a picture, but discovered that the batteries I had brought were dead.

We went to lunch at Country Gourmet, which was kind of like eating American food at a restaurant in another country—mostly what you’d expect, but not quite. The food was fine though.

Then we headed over to Google so Megan and Chad could get the tour. It was at this point that we started using my phone to take pictures. We discovered why Google is so powerful—it’s because they have these:

Mike showed us what he spends his time doing. This involves complicated tasks like walking up the building supports:

and getting Nerf darts to stick to the ventilation ducts:

Apparently it is these highly developed skills that cause Google to pay him the big bucks.

Megan and Chad needed their picture with the Android statue and his pastries:

12-31-09_1541 12-31-09_1543
At this point we headed off to bowling in hipster central, Cupertino (home of Apple Computers). They’re so hip, in fact, that their malls don’t even need stores, just hallways to walk through and be seen by other hipsters. We walked through a good 100 yards or more of indoor mall hallway without a single store or commercial presence. The bowling alley itself turned out to be more of a club which happened to have a bowling alley in it. While there were families there with kids, I would have bet it looked different 6 hours later as New Year’s parties were gearing up.

There wasn’t enough light to get any worthwhile pictures at the bowling alley, but if I remember correctly, I won with a score of 153. Wii Bowling has really been paying off, apparently.