Friday, February 29, 2008

It's Over?

It's Friday, the end of the week and the beginning of my weekend with Ivana.

30 days ago, I swore to write everyday and I did (except one day). I am happy I did. Some of the content was ok, some not. I know this.

But, I did it. I got to see the evolution of my attraction to Aperture and now I own it.
I also started playing squash again and I enjoy that, too.

So, it's the end of the February blog-o-rama, but maybe I should do a March blog-o-rama?

What do you all think?

Here is another photo I took and processed with Aperture:

Thursday, February 28, 2008



I have no clue what to write.

And, thanks to leap year, I have another day to write.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Thought I Had

My landlord was telling me that he needs to calculate the energy usage from 2006 and give me a bill, if necessary.
"You should be happy that your money is in your bank account", he said.
But I wonder why.
Why? Why are people happy when they have money in their accounts? What is the point?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

3 More Days...


That's the feeling I have about this blog-o-rama.

Don't get me wrong, I like writing and it has been nice to do so everyday.

But I appreciate writing when I have something to say and not because I have to say something.

Plus, the last 2 weeks, I have been going insane trying to really get into Aperture (the interface, the color balance, the highs and lows, etc) and I have spent an ungodly amount of time here.

Sure, I play squash and go running, but I still feel a bit lazy.

The blackbirds are out at 4:30 again which means if I don't sleep with my earplugs (a god send), then I wake up with them.

I found a wasp trying to find a nest near my balcony. If it tries, it dies.

I guess that's all for now.

Monday, February 25, 2008


I played squash again today with Pete.

I really enjoy playing but I can only imagine how I must look, throwing myself around the court with absolutely NO grace.

But what is worse is throwing myself around the court only to just miss the ball.

Which is why I am too tired to think of anything clever to write.

But I had to keep my promise to myself about writing everyday.

And there you go.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Here's my disclaimer: I am not an expert at HRD photography.

HDR or High Dynamic Range is a niche in photography where you try to have a perfect exposure by blending 3 or more pictures taken at different exposure settings to create one picture perfectly exposed.

(did that make sense?)

Basically, with manual photography, the camera reads the amount of light going onto the camera and adjusts the shutter speed for the amount of light going into the sensor so that you can have a "theoretically" perfect exposure. The problem is that most photos include sky and a foreground that do not have the same light levels. So what you get is either a completely blown sky (white) or completely dark foreground (black) and a nice blue sky.

Well, HDR works in blending 3 photos into one so you bracket the exposures: one for sky, one for "mid-ground" and one for foreground.

It's an interesting technique and one that I want to try to pursue a bit just because the effect can me really dramatic.

The following pictures are not the best ever, but it gives you a feeling of what HDR does.


is this:
And this:

is this:

It's a neat effect and it will offer an image that is a bit unnatural because our eyes are not used to seeing something so balanced.

But's a new thing to try and it was fun trying!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Anger Step...

I am experiencing what they call a bittersweet feeling. It's after the excitement and before the acceptance.

I know I am obsessed with Aperture now, and I know that in a few weeks the novelty will fade away and I'll be left with a program that does, in a way, what it should do:

Show me how much I really need to improve with my technique.

Don't get me wrong, I know that I am better than I was 2 years ago, but I have so much further to go.

And I'll keep pounding away on Aperture because it's an investment I've made in my photography and it's forcing me to rethink exposure in every step from turning the camera on to post processing.

And it's bittersweet because of this. I love it. And I am ashamed of my photos.

And I hope that acceptance comes soon.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Nothing to Report

I have nothing to write except that I don't want to break my promise if having a blog a day.

So I'm not breaking my promise.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Why Bother

I did it.
After only a week using Aperture, I bought it. Money well spent, I believe.
Yeah, it had a 30 day trial and yeah I could have held off for another 2o days, but why bother?
It was inevitable. Native Apple image program, hopefully better support than Adobe, it was bound to happen.
Lightroom was ok but not the feeling I was looking for. The interface is a bit clunky IMO.
So, along with the new program comes a boosted desire to photograph anything... so here are two new photos, fresh from my camera through Aperture:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I Won!

This is a great big "fuck you" to Germany.


I got a credit card!

After being insulted by the whole process of having to prove and re-prove my existence for a damn company and then denied the credit card I had worked so hard to get, I applied to an online company and 2 days later (with no real proof of existence) I got an email saying my new card was on the way.*


This feeling dovetails nicely with the shock from looking at my phone bill yesterday. For my computer problem I had last month, I had to spend a lot of time on the phone with customer "service". 

58 cents a minute.

Or as I like to say: 58 fucking cents per minute.

Phone sex is about the same price.

Every customer "service" line in Germany costs money to call and, for a long time, I wondered why.

I think it stumbled upon a decent explanation: the Germans are, at heart, miserable and a complaining lot of people and if they had the chance to call a company and tell this company how crap their product was, they'd never stop calling. They want it all and they don't want to pay for it. High quality?? Of course!! High price?? Never!

So these companies put up a "money wall" to prevent people from really expressing their feelings. "If you really want to tell us how crap we are, you'll have to pay"

Here, it's often only about money.

Germans have to deal with one wall or another, apparently.

And believe me, I know a few Germans. They are really wonderful people. But they complain like I have never seen someone complain before.

But on the other hand, they are the nicest most giving bunch of people too. Maybe the extremes have to exist for them. 

I dunno.

*I have to wonder what kind of company would give someone a card after hardly any question as to what they make or who they are. Kinda shady, I think.

The God Delusion

I walked by this book a number of times in the bookstore near where I work.

This time, I was intrigued.

Richard Dawkins, an apparently well-known scientist, has made a case for atheism and has written several books that support his stance.

This book was a big bite for me to take, and it also flies in the face of everything I was taught to believe in.

But it's quite engaging and I am enjoying it!

In it, he attacks conventional wisdom of both science and religion, bashes religion, and makes quite a case for scientists. He claims that, above all at this point in the book, science is actually more open-minded than religion.

To paraphrase, he sees no difference between God, Santa, Thor or the boogie man.

He systematically, as a scientist would, picks apart theism, agnosticism monotheism and polytheism to a point where you say "yeah, that's right!".

He writes about a prayer experiment where people from other parts of the country were asked to pray for 3 groups of hospitalized patients. One group knew it, one group didn't, and one group received neither prayers or knowledge.

There was a difference: the ones who knew they were being prayed for got sicker!

How strange.

There is plenty more in this book, and I am not doing it justice by siting only this. But he makes very good points and I think at the end of this book, I'll be a better person.

I dunno...I had to write about something, and I may have stirred up a hornet's nest, but it's what I am reading and I think everyone should read it!

Monday, February 18, 2008

IDea part 2

If I could shake my fist at the heavens and curse fate I would.

In fact, I have.

They didn't give me a credit card for some reason.

But I love the letter they sent me I have to paraphrase (but not too much) what they said in the letter:

"We're really sorry we couldn't give you a credit card, but good news, in the next few days, you'll get your very own [name of company]'s bonus point program!"

They can stick that card where the sun doesn't shine.

Why would I want to frequent a company that denies me the credit I deserve??

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Lost in Aperture

I love this program.

Yeah, I know I missed a day and I am not gonna cheat and fake a post. It's wrong. I forgot and you all just have to forgive me. But still, 16 posts in 17 days is ok, I think.

I was caught up in the new Apple photo editing software, Aperture.

See, Apple came out with a kick ass photo editing program before Adobe came out with Lightroom.

The problem was it was a hog for system resources and ran like crap on my old powerbook.

So, Lightroom was the only choice. I liked it, too.

But...low and behold, Apple released a new version (along with a free 30 day trial to hook us) and, well, I am hooked.

The workflow is different, but I like an all in one screen interface. It's fast and a bit more intuitive. 

Both programs are great, though, I just am interested in using native Apple programs since, well, Apple rocks and they know their machines.

So with that all in mind, let me show you a photo I took and processed in Aperture.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday night.

I don't want to write much today. I am happy it's Friday and I am going to enjoy the evening.

Write more later.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Free to Speak

Yesterday was the 63rd anniversary of the destruction of Dresden.
To be honest, I didn't really know much about it til I wanted to move here.
If you are interested, go here.

Well, it's no surprise that they hold memorial services for the people killed in this firestorming. But what is a bit of a shock for me, is that the NPD—the modern version of nazis—hold a parade on the same night to commemorate the atrocities that occurred to the "German victims" during the bombing.

However you want to slice it, it's strange to me.

But I saw it last night. There were more police than parade participants. Apparently, Germany takes the freedom of speech very seriously and the police are there to protect the nazis from the anti-nazi demonstrators.

Go figure. Can you imagine what the police must be thinking? Plus, they had police in from all over eastern Germany, that I could see from their uniforms, so imagine a police office in Berlin having to drive down to Dresden (2 hours) to protect—PROTECT—the fascist, racist nazis who have the audacity to use a catastrophe to forward their agenda. (And in my opinion, a dying agenda) 

I went with a friend out of curiosity and we inched ever so slowly towards the parade to see what they may be doing/saying/etc when, to our surprise, shouting began behind us. We turned to see a small group of people holding an Israeli flag and shouting something I couldn't understand. But in this situation I thought "best not to get between a baby bear and a mama bear" (not terribly fitting, but you can imagine) so we left quickly.

Anyway, I took my camera to the Frauenkirche to take some photos as the bells started ringing when the time of the first bombing raid began.

All in all, I am glad I went to see what happens.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Not Huge News...

...for the PC owners, but Apple released 2 great things: OS 10.5.2 (finally) and Aperture 2.

I am going to go full on into Aperture for this 30 day trial to see if I can use a native Apple program for image editing.


Ok, it's not a huge entry today, but I'll do more tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

They're So Dreamy! ('cept that old guy and the Jesus guy)

I guess it's down to the last few people standing.

Barack, Hillary, Mike, or John. (at the moment)

A twisted Beatles group. I'd guess John=Ringo. (or, the ugly one)

The lesser of 4 evils. (?)

The best one to lead the country.

And it's between the "snake handler", the "veteran", the "experience", or the "hope and change".

A twisted music group. A political Backstreet Boys.

Without writing too much, but also fulfilling my one-a-day (like my vitamins), I wanted to say that I want Barack.

Not because I'm a sexist and I don't want a woman. I think Hillary is pretty darn cool.

I just think Barack would be better. Maybe a gut feeling. Maybe not.

But after reading his website and how he stands on issues, he's good.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Teaching Story

A funny student story:

I was teaching the phrase "to beat the traffic".

The students understood the idea of the phrase.

So, to further practice the phrase, I asked: " what time do I have to go downtown on the weekend to beat the crowds?"

The student, in his very timid manner, said "excuse me, what did you say?"

"What time do I have to be downtown to beat the crowds?" I ask again.

He spells it to me. "K-R-A-U-T-S?"

"No!, a group of people...C-R-O-W-D-S!"

Welcome to my life.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The First Bike Ride

Today was a really nice day. It was about 50 degrees here, so I took my first bike ride down to the "Blue Wonder" bridge to take some pictures of the water foul.

I had a great time just sitting there and watching them all coexist and I was just about ready to get up and leave, when all of a sudden, a group of swans started flying.
Here is what I got:

Saturday, February 09, 2008


Nothing to share today. Write more Sunday

Friday, February 08, 2008


I don't really want a credit card.

OK, I guess I do. See, the thing is, if I use my American credit card, they charge me 12.99 to convert the currencies. How fucked up is that? I mean, it's a damn click of a button and it's converted. Why must I pay MORE to use the card??!

So, I tried the 'ol online credit card companies in Germany and I thought I submitted an application. Nice, I thought, that was surprisingly easy for Germany.

I was so wrong. They emailed mack to me a form with the information I entered and I was asked to take that form to a branch in my city so that they can verify the information.

So I did it but I wasn't happy that I had to do all the work for some service they are offering.

But ok, I did it.

Yesterday I got a letter in the mail saying that now I have to go wait in a line in some city government office to get a new copy of a perfectly valid document I already have proving my residence. How the hell can I prove to some city employee that I live where I live?!!? I have to go and wait in line and studder in my less than perfect German and try to convince some old fart that what I need from them is worthy of them getting off their asses and doing something about it.


And, to make matters worse, I have to also copy my passport and pay stub so they can verify what income I have. I understand this, but I did happen to tell them that I don't make a lot of money. When you choose the lowest income selection what proof do they really meed to give me a 500 euro credit??

So, in a world where service is really the defining element in anything we choose, this company sucks. I have to do all this leg work for them and, this is really the best part: I don't really need a credit card!

And I am always turned off by the complete lack of trust that exists here. You are always at a disadvantage when you need something here because you are automatically at the mercy of whoever you have to speak to to get the whatever you needand they never trust you. It's in their blood, I think. You are put in the position to defend and prove yourself—often for no reason that I can see—just to get what you want.

It's exhausting and it's not necessary, really. Germany doesn't understand that the customer is king. Here, the companies are king and the employees are told, it seems, to make your life as a consumer as miserable as possible.

No wonder no one I talk to here likes going to do anything that requires paperwork or effort.

No one trusts you here. And I guess with a country that gave us nazis and the stasi, I can't really blame them. But I still don't like it. But I have to deal with it.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Just Checking In...

Had a really hectic couple days and will write more tomorrow.

Hey, I told you I'd write every day...but it may not be so wonderful!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I'm Making Lists...

Bob’s revised top 10 list of movies in no particular order:

  1. Before the Sunrise
  2. The Saw movies
  3. Life as a House
  4. The Matrix
  5. The Pianist
  6. The original Star Wars trilogy
  7. Fight Club
  8. Kill Bill volume 1
  9. Closer
  10. Stranger Than Fiction

Ok peeps...wanna know why?

  1. Great dialogue movie! And it’s in Europe and I can totally identify with Ethan Hawke’s character. Not to mention the girl’s character, too. It’s a movie about anyone’s European fantasy about meeting someone and having an all night romance. A bit idealistic and naive, but really cool.
  2. The Saw movies are great. The first one had such a cool story and yeah, they are a bit brutal but the story is great and the idea of “cherish your life” is something we should all remember.
  3. Great drama. Yeah, Hayden Christiensen played exactly the same part he played in Star Wars (a spoiled cry baby) but the story moved me and Kevek Kline played a great part.
  4. “Do you know what the Matrix is?” Need I say more?
  5. I am a sucker for WWII dramas and this one was just super.
  6. Luke, Han, Chewie, Leia. Need I say more?
  7. “You are not your bank account.” To me, possibly the best “fuck you” film of my generation. The book is even better.
  8. Probably not Tarantino’s best, but I loved the style.
  9. Not sure why this one popped into my head but I loved the photography scene where Juila’s Character is taking portraits of Natalie’s character and the emotion in it. Wonderful. I’d love it if Julia and Natalie fought over me...
  10. Ok...newer movie and I loved the idea of a writer-blocked writer having difficulty finding a way to kill her main character only to meet him in person later in the film.

So that’s it. It will change, but that’s my very temporary list.

Feel free to leave suggestions/recommendations.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Check Please!

I admit I have a borderline checking compulsion.

Email made me this way. Chat programs made me this way. Pagers before that, and cell phones.

And I didn't realize it really until my hard drive died. I felt alone. Lost. Panicky. I didn't know what was going on and it really made me feel quite unpleasant.

Modern technology feeds my checking compulsion. I read an article where a woman chartered a helicopter from her cruise ship, where internet wasn't, to the mainland where internet was, so she could check her email. All she had in her inbox was spam but she felt the trip was worth it.

I'm not yet there, but I can sympathize.

Now I can see why the Blackberry is called the "crackberry". 

It's the all-in-one-checking-compulsion-gadget.

I'd probably love one.

But my condition is only borderline, so it is not necessary.

Not yet anyway.

I am eyeing an iPhone for myself in a year or so. 

Monday, February 04, 2008

A Mild Rant

I had a student, in a way, ridicule me for having a DSLR camera.

He visited my photo website and told me he thought most of my photos were photoshopped. 

"Some", I said

It wasn't ridicule per se. But he very smugly, in a way only Germans can, showed me a picture he took with his SLR camera.

"No Photoshop" he said.

"I like pictures that are more natural and 'hand made'." he said.

Stuff it up your kraut ass, I thought.

Because he wasn't really saying his preference, he was telling me, and the thousands of other digital SLR owners out there, that what we do is less creative and less natural and less valid than he and his little bag of filters and "was that the correct exposure?" film camera simply because we use a computer instead of a photo lab to process our images.

Seriously, can we all please get off the dogmatic SLR vs DSLR argument? The pictures look AS DAMN GOOD with either now, and there are some things you can do with a DSLR that you cannot with an SLR and visa versa.

I've seem over-processed images from both platforms. Underexposed film that was push-processed 2 stops to purposely give it a grainy look, or digitally enhanced images to make colors saturated.

They are creative tools and each has a use.

And I don't tell someone with an SLR camera that they are stuck in the stone age (photographically speaking) and laugh when they show me an absolutely plain "nothing special" picture. 

So stop implying that digital photography is somehow less relevant because you are too fucking cheap to spring for a DSLR body because you bought your SLR just before they went out of style.

Stop telling me that photoshopping is "not real photography" because you cannot afford the program, or you are too impatient to learn it.

I'm not sure if that is why he was so anti-digital, but I know often people are so against something when they either fear it or don't understand it. Digital photography is no less relevant and no less valid than any other kind of photography. And the way he spoke to me about the pictures I take was not called for. I am not the best in the world, nor am I the worst. He was curious about the pictures I took, so I let him see.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Nice Picture to Share

OK, 3 in one day...but this was a picture I just processed and found I really liked it more that I thought I would have:

I Like Mike?

(2 in one day because I forgot yesterday)

I have to admit it now, to all of you:

I am not as well informed as I should be about the upcoming presidential race.

It's true. I see clips that are only 10 seconds long and in a certain context and I base my opinion on just that 10 seconds.

It's not right.

For example: whenever I heard Mike Huckabee talk in interviews, I said to myself "ok, not bad, he's actually saying something (unlike most politicians) and while I don't agree with some of what he says, he's saying it as straightforward as he can. So I took his friendly face and friendly candor and, in a way, judged him as an ok guy.

Well.......I went to his website to look at his views a bit deeper.

What his site says:

Faith: it seems that faith is now code for Christianity. 

From his website: "My faith is my life - it defines me. My faith doesn't influence my decisions, it drives them. For example, when it comes to the environment, I believe in being a good steward of the earth. I don't separate my faith from my personal and professional lives.

Real faith makes us humble and mindful, not of the faults of others, but of our own. It makes us less judgmental, as we see others with the same frailties we have. Faith gives us strength in the face of injustice and motivates us to do our best for "the least of us."

I am wondering if he'll be tolerant—or as tolerant as he says—towards people with no faith, or a different faith than his. It's not clear.

Right to life: This is a sticky issue and he is extremely pro life. On his website he is pretty conservative in his views (he was a pastor, wasn't he?) and wants Roe vs. Wade overturned.

My concern is that this can be viewed like prohibition in the 20s and 30s. It didn't stop those who really wanted alcohol. And I fear that this would do the same (but with far messier outcomes). Sure, I am pro choice because, for one, I am not a woman and I have no idea what the gravity of being pregnant is really about so who am I to say they cannot do what they want to their bodies?, and another, I feel that if the mother isn't ready then why force a woman to be a mother when she obviously doesn't want to be?

I could go on and pick apart his views, but they are his views and he is absolutely allowed to share them. I don't agree with some of his fundamental views, but he seems like a nice guy. 

I do not think that religion should be brought into politics for so many reasons—more than I'd care to write, it's destructive, fascist, intolerant, and breeds hatred. Look at the Muslim countries' politics which are so closely tied to religion. I have no problem with people believing what they want, but I don't want it forced on me or a mass of people. That is not freedom.

The idea of this was to be a bit better informed. I used "the internets" and got a bit more informed. I will continue to do the same with the other candidates.

Will all of you?

Would I vote for him? At the moment, no. Do I think he is a nice guy? Yes.

Got Gas??

(I had this written and I forgot to post it Feb 2!)

I keep seeing internet news articles about growing concern that the next president will "do something" about the gas prices.

I have an idea: stop driving so much.

When I was home (different times over the past few years) I walked. It's not so bad. Sure, people may look at you like you are a freak, but it was fine.

In fact, I enjoyed seeing things you wouldn't normally see with a car.

I rode my bike. People actually stopped me and offered me a ride. Someone even offered to "throw the bike in the back of the van and catch a ride".

Here's a thought: I want to ride my bike. That's why bought it.

I know that civil engineering has made it almost impossible and modern culture has made it "un-manly" to walk. I know that people "depend on their cars".

It's not a healthy dependency. It's an addiction. And we all need to detox. And with any detox it will be hard—painful at times, but after the pain, it will be better.

And, sorry to seem insensitive: YOU DID THIS TO YOURSELF when you bought that absurdly huge SUV that has shitty gas milage, when you moved even further away from the cities in where you work, and when you don't try to save gas.

I think gas should be as expensive as it is in Germany: 8 dollars a damn gallon after the conversion. 

Then that would beg the following questions:

Do you really need to drive to the corner market?

Is carpooling "sissy" or inconvernient?

Couldn't this whole issue be why Americans are so damn fat?

Trust me, I include myself in this, I am just angered that people will actually vote on the HOPE that gas prices will go down.

Guess what?: THEY WON'T

And as soon as you wake up, suck it up and realize that you will have to change your lifestyle, the easier it will be.

Friday, February 01, 2008

The First of 28

The first day of my 28 day blog-o-rama and here it is:

I approched this idea, of course, at my breakfast table in the morning after my writing and my crossword (thanks, mom and dad for hooking me!) and it seemed like a great idea at the time. Now, I am in doubt as to IF I can pull it off.

I am forcing myself to write and normally the writing comes out when I  least expect it and it seems to flow in away. Now I am not so sure. But we'll give it a go.

I cannot believe January is over. Just a month ago, I was back from the states and in Prague for new year's. A month ago I was wondering what the new year would bring (still am, actually) and after 31 days I am in no better place. I am trying to get my ass back into the squash courts to play since my shoulder (thank goodness) is finally 90% better and I have these doubts—or maybe fear—that I will not be able to be as active as I was a couple years ago.

The 15 or so pounds I put on during my trip home and during the holidays should be all the motivation I need, but I still don't know why I am so hesitant.

The 'ol Nike slogan "Just Do It" comes to mind.

And I will. Next week, I will start slowly and hopefully by end of March I can be playing with all the graceless form and skill I displayed before my shoulder went tits up.

(side note: I love that British phrase. It makes me giggle inside)

That's all for today. Baby steps....grasshopper.