Friday, December 31, 2010

"Out with the old. In with the new"

I had planned to write about this past year, and what I hoped the new year would bring. Like every other blog out there, I guess. After an hour of trying to formulate something that didn't sound corny, I gave up.

Screw it. Keeping it simple always works.

Goodbye 2010; it's been a slice.

Hello 2011.

Resolutions? Who needs them? I quit smoking without one. If you've read any of my previous blog postings, it should be obvious what's next.

Clean slate. New experiences. New goals. New determination to reach those goals. And maybe a little fun thrown in.

I'm ready.

I think.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

More than just the turkey got stuffed - Week 6 progress

I should have seen it coming after the Christmas morning breakfast of eggs, sausage, bacon and hash browns exceeded half of my daily calorie intake.

Despite switching from working out daily to every two days, I had to work out yesterday to counteract the evil to come in the form of Christmas dinner. On the plus side, the workout yesterday was the biggest calorie-burner for me this month at 459 slayed calories.

Dinner came and went. It was damn good, but I paid for it adding ~2000 calories to the ~1400 I ate at breakfast. And that doesn't even include the 7 or 8 beers later in the evening. It sure adds up quickly. It's no wonder I am the weight I am.

Anyway, the weigh-in this morning turned out to be no worse than yesterday's weigh-in at around 258. This leaves me at around 2lbs over my lowest so far, so all things considered, I'm not in bad shape (no pun intended). Since I'm off work for the Christmas holidays, I have a week to work it off -- again -- before New Years Eve arrives.

My wife bought me some 3 pound weights for Christmas to use with my workouts. I tried them yesterday when I did my YSFE cardio boxing. They even recommend using hand weights with some of the workouts. What a difference. It's too bad that there's no way to account for using weights in the workouts. I'm sure more calories are being burned and not counted.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Spirit -- it's what you make it

Every year, without fail, some people get offended that they are not wished a "Merry Christmas". Instead, they hear "Happy Holidays", or something else, and this is supposedly very wrong.

I used to hop aboard that same bandwagon. It was almost like... I felt I was being robbed of Christmas spirit, or something. Denied my right to have a Merry Christmas.

Over the years I have come to realize that it doesn't really matter what we say.

We're Canadians. We're multi-cultural. If you want to say Merry Christmas, go ahead. If you want to say Happy Holidays, go ahead. If you want to say Happy Hanukkah, go ahead. If someone gets offended by whatever you choose to say, that's their problem.

Christmas spirit is what you make it. Say whatever makes you happy. If you choose to say nothing at all, that's fine too. Life is too short to be upset over something so trivial, and you do get upset by it, then you are ruining your own Christmas spirit.

When it comes to Christmas, there are no rules... except maybe holding the door open for that person whose arms are full of gifts for their friends and family. :)

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Weigh in - Week 5 progress addendum

As I said I would be, I was under 260lbs this morning at 259.2. :)

I must have jinxed myself in the process, as I was unable to get my workout done this evening due to unpredictable people traffic in my house around my usual time. Had I known there would be people in and out of here, I would have done it in the afternoon. Not a huge deal. I was still under my 2000 calories for the day -- by around 25. :)

I think my brain is being reprogrammed when it comes to food.

First, I was out Christmas shopping with my kids this afternoon. When we were done, they wanted ice cream from Laura Secord. I bought them each a single scoop in a waffle cone. I didn't have any. Just as we were about to leave the mall, I thought about picking up some onion rings from A&W because that's what we did last year when we were finished shopping. Then I thought about what that would do to my daily calorie intake... not to mention the sodium. I quickly scrapped that idea.

There was a lot of baking going on in my house this afternoon and this evening, in preparation for the Christmas holidays. My wife likes to make all kinds of goodies for her co-workers and family, and for when we have friends over. Despite the awesome smell in the house, I didn't indulge in the yummy treats. At one point, my wife even offered me some, holding it within reach and I declined.

It seems to get easier the more I refuse to give in to the temptation(s).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Counting Calories - Week 5 Progress

This counting calories thing appears to be working, thanks to the Livestrong.com web site.

A few days ago I broke the 260lb barrier. Unfortunately, I did put 1 or 2 lbs back on thanks to a yummy pot luck lunch at work, but I expect that after this weekend, they will be gone and I will be below 260lbs.

This makes me very happy.

My goal is set at 2000 calories per day. With the exception of two days that I hit nearly 3000 calories (last Sunday, before I started tracking, and Thursday's pot luck lunch), I'm averaging 1450 calories per day, after my workout burned calories are subtracted. Even without the workouts, the average would be below 2000. Knowing that makes it tempting to skip a workout every once in a while. I have to convince myself that if I do that, then it'll get easier and easier to skip.

One thing that is extremely difficult to keep low is my sodium intake. It's almost always over the recommended daily intake. It's crazy. I have to try and keep a closer watch on that.

My workouts are up to around 30 mins long and are supposedly burning off anywhere between 350 and 400 calories per day, according to Your Shape Fitness Evolved. That's more than double than when I started and it's my plan to keep doing that much as a minimum.

My left hip joint is giving me a bit of trouble. It's bothering me for a couple of years now. It feels like it's grinding or needs to pop. It hurts when I stand for a long time or do a lot of walking, but I can really feel it when I work out and have to kick with my left leg.

Anyway, that's the update for this week.

Kudos for Best Buy?

I had some rather unpleasant experiences with Best Buy in the past, and this was no exception. However, when they do something right, it's also worth mentioning.

Earlier this month Best Buy had a promo where you could earn extra Reward Points for purchases totally over certain amounts. One of those was 2000 Reward Points ($20 value) for a purchase totally $100 or more. I ordered a couple of items and the total came to $104.98 before tax.

The first problem I ran into was not knowing where to enter the "2000POINTS" code that entitled me to the 2000 Reward Points. The only field that would accept this code was the Redeem Digital Dollars field. I entered it there and proceeded with the purchase.

A day or so later, I checked my Reward Point balance and there was no record of the purchase, nor was there any "pending" points balance.

I emailed Best Buy inquiring about this. I never got a reply.

I posted the issue on their Facebook page and I did get a reply saying that I should have gotten them and suggesting I check my balance. Not entirely helpful, but it was a response.

I bitched about it on Twitter and a day or two later I got a message from someone who appeared to be a Best Buy rep asking for details. I sent the ma brief summary. They gave me an email address and suggested sending the details to it and I did.

A day or two later I got a reply advising me that my problem was being forwarded to the Reward Zone reps.

This evening a long distance number called my home phone. We don't normally answer them because it's almost always a telemarketer, but my wife answered it anyway. Moments later she handed me the phone and said "Someone from Best Buy headquarters..."

I don't recall the woman's name, but she was apologetic and advised me that I did everything correct in entering the code, and that I did indeed qualify for the points and they had no idea why it didn't automatically add the 2000 points to my Reward Account. She said they were going to look into it, but she also added that she would fix my account so I got the 2000 points that I was entitled to.

I thanked her for the call and that was that.

I think it's pretty cool that a company will actually call someone to resolve a problem rather than let them go through email hoops.

I will add, however, that the call lead me to believe that the points had already been added to my account. I checked an hour or two later and they still did not appear. I'm hoping that it's just a delay and I won't have to update my blog with a rant. :)

I think Best Buy still has a long way to go to improve their customer service (i.e. responding to ALL emails!), but this is a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Livestrong.com

I was searching for the calorie count on various food items today and I came across the LiveStrong.com web site. If you create a profile there, you can track what you eat. So, I figured what the hell... I created an account and started entering what I ate for the day. I don’t know if I’ll do it for the long term, but at the very least it’s making me more aware of what I can eat without overdoing it (not that it’s not sometimes blatantly obvious) ;)

I even passed on having a second Light beer this evening while watching hockey. That’s a first for me, and it wasn’t even going to push me past my calorie intake for the day. :)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fitness hell - Week 4 progress

My suspicion from last week was correct. I have to start keeping a close watch on what I eat.

I weighed myself this morning and was disappointed to see that I gained a few pounds back. It's not like I went crazy with eating, but clearly whatever I ate was really bad for me.

Ugh. Too good to be true. :)

And to top it all off, I burned more calories this past week than the 3 weeks prior: just over 1600. I hate to think of how it would be if I hadn't.

On the plus side, it's looking really good for beating my 2000 cal in 14 day goal that I set for myself; 5 days and 274 cal to go!

I'm really enjoying the cardio boxing routines. That's part of the reason for the increase in calorie burns. It makes for a great warm up.

The Your Shape FE web site is still not fully functional, and it's been at least 2 weeks since I've been able to access their support forums. For some reason I get an error when I try to log into them. There are others with the same problem. At first, the reps in their Facebook page seemed concerned and were passing along info to their support people, but now our pleas appear to go ignored... and the problem still exists.

The leaderboard stats are a little f'd up too. For example, it has me listed twice. The "female" one is not the correct one, obviously. :)

That was yesterday, but it's still listing me twice today.

There have also been some questions about when they're going to post "events" on their web site that we can participate in. No replies to those questions either.

It's annoying when a product is released with virtually no support to back it up.

Here's my current rank:

Monday, December 6, 2010

Kinect & Your Shape FE - Week 3 progress

Since the last update, I discovered that I had entered my weight incorrectly into Your Shape FE when I did the fitness test. I fixed it, and it didn't seem to change the recommended workouts. However, since my weight was incorrect, it miscalculated the calorie burn. Heavier people burn calories faster. Based on the number of calories burned at my correct weight, I estimate it is around 360-400 calories short. Not a big deal though.

After completing the 12 easyier sessions, I went in search of something different. I learned the the Cardio programs will change daily, which makes it a whole lot more interesting. Plus, they appear to be broken down into two or three routines per session, which lets me decide how many sessions I want to do per day. I upped my workouts to burn around 200 per workout. That lasted until the weekend.

I had a little setback (err... night out) on Saturday. I didn't go crazy, but it definitely wasn't part of my fitness agenda. :) Good food. Cold beer. Fun times.

So, on Sunday I was wiped. Not hungover, just tired. I did try to workout in the evening but after a few routines, I was so winded it scared me a little. I had to call it quits.

At least I tried, so the guilt was minimal.

This evening, I decided to re-do the fitness test with my correct weight set to see if anything would change. It didn't seem to affect the recommendations as far as I can see, but it feels better knowing that it's based on my correct weight.

I redid one of the easy sessions for this evening's workout, which is how I determined how much short the total calorie burn was with the incorrect weight. It went well, but it felt like a bigger workout than it was. I didn't feel as energetic. Either I was still in weekend recovery mode, or missing a workout really messed things up.

On to the weight loss for this week. There was none. In fact, I gained about ½ a pound. Should I be surprised? No. Oddly enough, I weighed myself on Friday and it had me about 3 lbs heavier, so in the end a ½ lb is good enough for me.

We'll see how this week goes, but I suspect I'll have to start taking a serious look at what I eat if I'm going to have any chance of achieving a 10lb per month loss. The Christmas holidays sure aren't going to help with that either.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A message to Sens fans

... in particular, the Heatley-hating fans:

It's cool that you're all excited about the game tonight and being able to boo and trash the much-hated Dany Heatley. It's great that you seem willing to display a little energy and emotion for once because we're certainly not known for being anything but comatose.

But what do you say to sharing some of that energy, emotion, and excitement with the home team for once? How about more than a couple of Go Sens Go! chants that don't die the second the other team touches the puck?

Seriously, how embarassing will it be to hear more Heatley boos and jeers at the game than cheers and rallies for the Ottawa Senators?

Very. And to be honest, not too surprising.

Surprise me.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Watt's up?

Not my hydro bill!

Remember my "Killing Watts" post from October 1st? The one where I ranted about our $414.49 hydro bill and our planned efforts to reduce it for the next billing?

That next billing was today and our bill for the last two months is $213.13.

It's kinda hard to believe that changing all of our bulbs to CF bulbs made that much of a difference, so I'd like to think that it was mainly through the efforts of my family being more vigilant about the lights and electronics that they may leave on. Whatever the reasons, they all added up and made a difference.

As I mentioned then, I will be sharing some of the savings with my kids as well.  I decided that they would share in any savings below $250. The point was to make them realize that whenever they leave a light on or the TV on, they'd be cutting into their profits. I'll round it off to an even $20 each. :)

With winter approaching, it'll be interesting to see if we can do it again for the next two months.

Friday, November 26, 2010

My Shape

I'm sort of... round. :)

I've never been a big fan of working out. I don't particularly enjoy exercise unless its a byproduct of something fun. Cycling, for example, I do enjoy, although last summer I didn't do very much of that at all and I'm not sure why.

You would think that being on medication for high blood pressure and high cholesterol and being about 70lbs overweight would be enough to make me wake up. You would think that years ago when my doctor compared my health situation to a house that would fall apart in 5 or 6 years, it would wake me up.

You would think.

And it did, for about 2 years. My doctor was somewhat of a hard-ass, no bullshit kind of doctor. Some hated him. I hated him, at first, but then realized that he's just telling me like it is. I didn't want to hear the speech every 3 months when I saw him, so I did something about it. I lost 45 pounds back then, down to 240lbs. Then I had to switch doctors, for reasons beyond my control.

I put most of the weight back on.

On the plus side, I did quit smoking almost 2 years ago, but the weight remained between 260 and 270lbs.

This past fall, I had the opportunity to try something very cool: Xbox Kinect.

When the official release date arrived, we picked up a few games for it, one of which was Your Shape Fitness Evolved.

Perhaps my head isn't screwed on the right way, but the thought of earning Xbox achievements in exchange for burning calories appealed to me.

Yeh, you'd think that perhaps living a longer life would be more appealing.

Anyway, for whatever reason, this "game" has woken me up.

The first day I tried it, the "beginner" workout that it created for me after my assessment kicked my ass. I actually pulled my calf muscle. I had to put my workouts on hold for a few days to let my calf heal.

When I resumed, I tried morning workouts on a weekend and found that I didn't have the same energy as I did after work, so after work ended up being my chosen workout time of day. Since then, with the exception of a few days, I've been doing my beginner workout and the odd "gym game" or "cardio boxing" session on a daily basis. I try to burn at least 100 calories each time, which works out to somewhere between a 20 to 30 minute workout. It's not much, but it's 100 calories more than I was burning before, and I'm sure it's building muscle.

It really didn't take long before the workouts didn't make me feel like I was run over by a truck. I seem to be adjusting to them quickly, and that's a major plus for me.

In that time, I also bought a digital scale. Our old one was so inconsistent. I'm not 100% sure of what I weighed at the start, but if I estimate my starting weight at around 267lbs, I have now lost 3.8lbs since. That's 3.8lbs in under a month. And, I haven't made any significant changes to my eating habits -- yet.

I've never been to a health club or anything like that, so I can't really compare them with "Your Shape", but to me it does feel like I'm at one and I have my own virtual trainer who motivates me and tells me where and when I'm not keeping up with them, all in my own living room; and without feeling uncomfortable or awkward.

Another plus is seeing and tracking my progress in the game and on the Your Shape web site. Seeing really is believing. :) As of tonight, I have burned ~1400 calories in total and completed the beginner workout sessions.

This is a great start for me. The more I do it, the more I want to do it.

I highly recommend Kinect. If workouts aren't your thing, there are more game-like games available for it that are a lot of fun to play. My daughter really likes Dance Central, and Kinect Sports is my fav and can also give you quite a workout without even realizing it.

I'll keep posting the occasional update of my progress, so if you're interested keep checking back here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Another me

I've been getting emails from a dating web site for the last few weeks. The emails said that people had viewed "my" profile on their web site. It was being flagged as spam by Hotmail. That's nothing new. I deleted them, as I do to all spam.

These seemed a little different.

As I've mentioned before, there are a number of people out on the internet who, for unknown reasons, think that my email address is their email address. It happens for Hotmail and Gmail. I get job offers from HR people, business emails, and forwarded humourous emails that people send to their friends.These aren't spam or phishing scams, these are legit emails. Sometimes I reply to them -- in particular the job offers or business emails -- letting them know they have the wrong person. Sometimes they reply back with apologies.

I began to wonder if these dating web site emails might be legit. Curiosity got the best of me today, and I visited the web site. Throwing caution to the wind, I clicked Forgot Password, entered "my" email address, and clicked Submit.

Minutes later, a message arrived in my Inbox with "my" login and password.

I logged in and there it was. Someone's profile with personal information that they added to the web site.

Now what?

I could have been malicious and changed their info or what they specified as the type of person they're looking for, but as much as it annoys me that people don't take care in entering their email address for things, I couldn't do that. And what would be the point? I'd be the one getting the emails anyway. ;)

Since they had a free account, I a delete account option and killed it. Goodbye me. I hope.

Was I wrong to close their account?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Double Rainbow!

White Westinghouse TA-5723 Answering Machine

Got one of these answering machines and lost the manual?

I do.

Earlier this week I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out how to check my messages remotely. I don't use that feature very often, but I really wanted it on that particular day. It turned out that the remote access code may have reset to the default and I wasn't aware of this.

Not that it would have done me much good. Even if I had gotten into the remote options, I couldn't remember what numbers to press to play the messages.

I scoured the web for information and all I could find was multiple "manual" web sites wanting me to sign up to get information, or posts from people looking for the manual. I couldn't even find a picture of the answering machine anywhere.

Later that evening I came across a quick-reference card that I made years ago. If you have one of these machines, this is for you! (Or for me in the future when I'm stuck again...)

Print this out and write your access code on it if you want. I think the default code is 19 -- that's what mine was set to until I changed it.



The configuration of the machine isn't too difficult with a little trial and error. Just remember that to access the secondary function of some buttons, you need to be press and hold it for a few seconds.

Maybe one day I'll write out detailed information and post it here. In the meantime, if you need to know anything else, post a comment here and I'll do my best to help you out.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ottawa Zombie Walk 2010

Earlier this morning, a friend posted on his Facebook that today was the Ottawa Zombie Walk. It's an annual event where people all get zombified and walk to Parliament Hill in search of brains. I'm sure they leave hungry every time. ;)

Anyway, I checked out the route for this year and noticed that it went right past my sister's bridal shop on Beechwood Avenue. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to grab my camera gear and go zombie hunting.

I called her up and told her that zombies would be walking by at around 2:00-2:30, and said I would drop by to hang out and shoot some zombies.

I arrived at her store about 10 minues before 2:00pm, passing by a crowd of 30-40 zombies outside the Beechwood Cemetary en route.

A little after 2:00pm, they started their march and we stood outside her store watching the spectacle. It was great! Lots of creative zombies fumbled by. Some even posing. :)

One woman, heading the other way, commented as she passed, "What are these kids protesting now?!" My sister responded, "Nothing. They're just being zombies." The women replied, "Well they're good at that" and kept walking. :)

After the two large groups of zombies walked by, I packed up my gear and stood in my sister's shop and chatted. About 10-15 minutes later, more zombies came down the road. I got out my camera again and took some more shots. And again, 5-10 minutes later more arrived. I'm glad I stuck around because I got some pretty good shots of the stragglers.

Here are the pics, enjoy!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

After the weekend thoughts

We went for a family walk along some rural forest NCC paths to feed the chickadees. The parking lot was packed with the cars of others who had the same idea on such an awesome day. We, and others, had to park along the shoulder of the road. Not a big deal, but if people wouldn't leave 3/4s of a car width between their cars in the lot, more people could park there.

The next disappointment was finding bagged dog shit hanging from trees along the path. In total, we noticed three or four other bags of dog shit hanging from trees.

It's puzzling. Why do some dog owners even bother to pick up after their dogs, when all they're going to do is hang the plastic bag on a tree? What's the point? Yes, it's the law to pick up after your dog, but it doesn't get you off the hook if you're just going to leave it anyway. You inconsiderate ass-hats.

Anyway, as I mentioned, the weather was awesome today. Clear, sunny skies, cool enough that you needed a light coat, but wouldn't break into a sweat in the direct sun. We had a lot of fun feeding the chickadees and sharing some seeds with families who didn't bring anything for their kids to feed the birds. I'm pretty sure they'll be bringing some the next time they show up. Their kids seemed to have a lot of fun.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

My 10.10.10@10:10AM GMT Worldwide Moment

I set my alarm clock for 5:30AM so I could be awake for 6:10AM to shoot my "Worldwide Moment" shot. I rarely hear the alarm clock; it's usually my wife who wakes me up during the week.

5:30AM arrived and I actually heard it. In my half-asleep state of mind, I remembered exactly why it was going off so early on a Sunday morning. I turned it off and slowly crept out of bed and hobbled to the washroom.

Why would I ruin a perfectly good sleep to join thousands of other people worldwide, to take a photo at 10:10AM GMT on 10/10/2010?

Because it seemed like a good idea. It was fun. *yawn*

I needed coffee and I needed it NOW.

As I walked back to the bedroom, my wife woke up to go to the washroom. I asked her if she thought Tim Horton's might be open. She said she thought so, and suggested trying a few different ones. I asked her if she wanted one. She munbled "Get me one just in case..." and crawled back into bed.

I now had ~35 minutes to find coffee and return home.

I put on track pants, grabbed my wallet and keys and off I went.

It was still dark. And cold.

Two of the three Tim Horton's I checked seemed open, but only the third one had the drive-thru open. There was no way I was going to get out of my truck for this, so the third one saved me.

I now had ~15 minutes to get home, figure out what I was going to shoot and actually take the shot.
With 10 minutes to go, I was home. My wife was still in bed. I put her coffee on the kitchen counter and started looking around.

I looked out my back window at all of the leaves on the patio. Leaves. Leaves it would be. And I would add my Timmy Ho's coffee in the shot as well. How Canadian. :) But it was still dark and I didn't want to screw this up, so I grabbed my Gorillapod and attached it to the camera.

5 mins to go.

I quietly slipped out the back door, coffee and camera in hand and set up the shot. I fired off a few test shots while waiting for "the moment" to make sure it was focused.

10:10AM GMT arrived.

*click*

A couple more.

*click* *click*

Done.

I think my neighbour was sitting in his backyard having a smoke. Not sure what he thought I was doing out at 6:10AM, in the dark, taking pictures on my patio.

I managed to get two pretty good, focused, shots. This is the one I used.



Yay me. *yawn*

My coffee has been done for a while now and I think I'm going to need more.

Oh ya, Happy Thanksgiving to all Canadians.

(Edit: here's my photo in the Worldwide Moment gallery)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

10.10.10@10:10AM GMT - Worldwide Moment

Can you imagine everyone in the world taking a photograph simultaneously?

Can you imagine the feeling of peace, connection, and excitement this moment would bring?

Can you imagine the impact? … We can … Please join us on October 10th!

Worldwide Moment is a not-for-profit simultaneous photography event to create international peace, art, and cultural awareness.

Don't forget, this Sunday, October 10th, is Worldwide Moment @ 10:10AM GMT! If you have a camera, you can participate. Do it! It'll be fun. :)

Be sure to check out what time you need to shoot for your time zone since it's GMT! There's a link on the Worldwide Moment page, or click here.

For my time zone, I have to be awake for 6:10AM.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Gatineau Park

Sunday turned out to be a really nice day. My wife, daughter and I drove up to Gatineau Park to check out the colours. It was crazy busy.

Our first stop was the Mackenzie King Estate. When we arrived at around 10:00am, it was just beginning to get busy. The professional photographers were out in full force, doing family photo sessions, each waiting their turn at the various deformed trees and monuments for that "perfect" shot. Some of the tourists were shooting photos of the photographers as they shot photos of their clients. I was tempted to shoot a photo of the tourists as they did that but thought it might start a massive chain reaction.

We then made our way up to the Champlain Lookout, stopping at too lookouts on the way. We actually had to park the second lookout and walk the rest of the way because the NCC was stopping vehicles from proceeding all the way to Champlain. It turned out that they were doing that because the Champlain parking lot was full.

The views from all of the lookouts was spectacular. This was the first time I had ever been there in the 28 years I've lived in Ottawa. If you're planning on checking out the autumn colours, the next week or two is probably the time to do it. There's still a fair bit of green, especially below the tree line, but there's enough colour to make it worth the trip as you can see in my photos here.

After walking the trails at the Champlain Lookout, we headed home, but not until after we made a quick stop at the Byward Market to pick up a whole whack of veggies and apples.

All in all, a great 6 hour outing on a crisp fall day.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Killing Watts

I had a near-death experience today; I opened my Hydro bill.

$414.49 for the last two months.

The previous bill was $377, which was the most I've ever paid until this one.

Most people blame their high bill on the rising cost of electricity, or the fact that there is HST added since July.  While the rates have gone up and there is HST added to the bill, both of those combined do not explain why my bill is over $100 more this year than the same period last year.

Looking at my bill, I can see why our bill is +$100 more.  Our usage for the two months is up by around 20% compared to last year. And last year's was up compared to two years ago.

I called my wife at work and told her the news. I told her that I was going to start unscrewing light bulbs on any light that I find left on without a person in the room.

She didn't like that idea. In fact, she really didn't like that idea. She even got a little angry with me.
I tried to justify it by saying "We haven't even reached the darker days of winter yet. Can you imagine what we'll be paying in January and February when we need lights on more often?" Seriously, I don't even want to think about it.

Our kids are the biggest offenders when it comes to electricity waste. For example: Our finished basement has 3 recessed ceiling lights, 3 table lamps, and two small spotlights that point at our dartboard.  The light switch operates only the ceiling lights. When we got home from work yesterday, I went to the basement. The only lights that weren't on were the ceiling lights. On top of that, the Xbox 360 was on, the TV was on, and the digital cable box was on. There was nobody in the basement. My son said he was using it and was going back down. Why he needed so many lights on, I have no idea and neither did he.

We're all guilty of waste in my family, but seriously, I think I waste the least. The only waste from me is leaving my PC on for about 18 hours a day. I've been doing that since the beginning of time. As of today, it is is now off. Everyone else seems to feel the need to turn lights on wherever they go, at any time of day, regardless of how light or dark it is in the room, as well as leaving the TV on when they're going to be away from it for more than a few minutes. The only light I turn on is the one in the room I'm in. I don't turn any lights on in the rooms or halls that I use to get to that room. I walk in the dark.

Anyway, I'm setting a goal for the next billing period. That goal is to cut our usage by at least 50%. In fact, I am going to make it a family challenge and maybe even make it fun and profitable for one lucky person. If we can cut our bill in half, that'll give us some extra cash. What I might do is offer some of that savings back to my family... like maybe a cash prize draw using the names of those who didn't waste in the two months? I'm not sure yet, but I'll work out the details.

In the meantime, we'll be making a stop at Canadian Tire on the way home to pick up a few more CFL bulbs. I also noticed that they have a electricity usage meter on sale for less than $20. I'm really curious how much electricity some things in my house use, even when they're turned off. It might be a worthwhile investment.

Stay tuned.

(Update: we picked up three 6-pack boxes of 13W (60W) CFL bulbs on sale for $5.99 w/ the $5 off shelf coupon at Canadian Tire and already used twelve of them. We're going to buy more tomorrow and grab some 40W as well for the dining room chandelier)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

New Autumn Colour?

If "wet" was a colour, that would be the colour of autumn here in Ottawa. We're approaching a record rainfall for the month of September. *sigh*

I'm really hoping that the weather prediction for the weekend at least stays as is -- cloudy -- so we can take a drive up to the Gatineau mountains and visit the lookouts to enjoy the real autumn colours. Of course, I will be bringing my camera along.

Keeping fingers crossed...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Jupiter on NBC

This afternoon I received an email from an NBC Nightly News rep asking for permission to use my shot of Jupiter on a segment about Jupiter sightings. I said they could, as long as I was given credit.

Here's the short segment; my ~15 seconds of fame. :)

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 

A visit with Jupiter

According to NationalGeographic.com, jupiter is the closest to earth since 1951. Mother nature cooperated and gave us a clear sky tonight so I decided to finally try out the T-ring adapter for my Canon T1i/500D.

I power my wife's laptop from my truck's cigarette light adapter and connected my camera directly to the laptop so I had a decent LiveView, rather than having to stare at the tiny LCD on the camera. This worked quite well.

I started with using just the T-ring adapter on the camera and fired off a few shots of the moon.

Next, I went looking to get jupiter in the scope. It was easier than I expected. Focusing, on the other hand, was not as easy. Lots of trial and error, but I did get a few decent shots.

I tried adding a 10mm eyepiece between the adapter and the camera, which turned out not to be such a good idea. I could't get jupiter in my sights, not could I even find the damned moon.

I then gave the 2x barlow lens a try.

I found the moon and got some good shots.

I then managed to find jupiter. Focusing was hell, but I ended up getting a couple of nice ones.

That shot is cropped, which makes it look a little larger than it was in the original shot.

Overall, it went pretty good. I would have really liked to use the 10mm eyepiece though. If we have any other clear nights this month, I might give it another shot.

Oh yeh, I was pretty happy about was the tracking motor. I managed to get the scope lined up pretty good and the tracking stayed pretty true which made it easier to tweak the focus on the telescope without losing jupiter.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

DIY Lightbox Project

I picked up a pair of clamp-on desk lamps today from Canadian Tire for $7.99 each, along with two GE Energy Smart 26W Daylight Compact Fluorescent bulbs (equivalent of 100W each) for $12.99/pair.

I set up my lightbox in the basement and grabbed a few Hot Wheels cars to shoot. For my first attempt, I think the results were pretty good.

I'll take a little tweaking until I figure out the best location for each light, and possibly change the paper (or even remake the lightbox from scratch) Regardless, I'm happy with it and plan on finding more things to shoot in the coming weeks.

 

RedBubble

I came across another site that lets (i.e. helps) you sell your photography on different types of media: RedBubble.com

So, I thought I'd give it a shot. I uploaded some of my fav shots and we'll see how it goes.

You can find my "gallery" here.

Again, I'm not thinking I'll get rich off this. Just hoping to make a few bucks to add more toys to my collection. :)

On a different note, I built my light box last night. I'll post a pic or two of it once I start using it. First, I need to pick up a couple of small lamps for lighting. We checked them out at Canadian Tire this evening and I found one that I liked, but there was only one and it was an open box.

We'll have to try another location or see what other stores have to offer.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Light Box Photography

I've got a new project in the works.

I'm going to try my hand and light box photography. There's all sorts of different DIY instructions on the web. I'll probably try one of the more disposable ideas using a cardboard box ideas first and see how it goes.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Trailer-Sized Camera

I can’t believe the amount of work this guy puts into taking a single shot. The end results are pretty cool though, and unique.

John Chiara and His Amazing Trailer-Sized Camera 

Be sure to check out the video of the entire process.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Things you may not know about Gmail (or GoogleMail)

Did you know that googlemail.com is the same as gmail.com?

Yep. If you have a Gmail or GoogleMail email address, you can use either domain name suffix in your email address. It would appear that at one time, Googlemail.com was a U.K. only domain for Gmail and then Google gave users the option to switch it to gmail.com.

Did you also know that Gmail (aka GoogleMail) ignores all periods in the email address prefix for Gmail/GoogleMail email addresses?

Yep. This means that "myemail@gmail.com", "my.email@gmail.com", and "m.y.e.m.a.i.l@gmail.com" are all the same addresses.

Every once in a while I get an email intended for another Scott Paterson, whom I believe lives somewhere in the U.K. It would appear that the other Scott Paterson is using the "scottpaterson AT googlemail.com" email address.

Unfortunately for that Scott, he'll never get any email intended for him because I happen to have the "scott.paterson AT gmail.com" email address and anything sent to him shows up in my inbox.

This makes me wonder if the other Scott ever tries to read his email, or if he just uses it to prevent receiving spam, because I can't see how he could ever log into Gmail to read the email. From what I read in the first link I posted above, he would have had to click an option to make the change from googlemail.com to gmail.com. If that’s the case, I’m kinda surprised that it was allowed since I’ve had the “scott.paterson AT gmail.com” for a long time.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Facebook Places knows where Waldo is!

If the latest viril Facebook status is any indication, Waldo will have no place to hide thanks to Facebook Places, and neither will your kids.

Facebook launched Facebook Places yesterday. Anyone can find out where you are when you are logged in. It gives the actual address & map location of where you are as you use Facebook. Make sure your kids know!!! TO UNDO: go to "Account Settings", ..."Notifications", then scroll down to "Places" a...nd uncheck the 2 boxes. Make sure to SAVE changes and re-post this!! Stay safe!

First of all, Facebook Places was launched about a week and a half ago. But that's a moot point.

If you follow those instructions, what you are actually doing is disabling two notifications for Facebook Places. One notifies you when someone tags you, and the other notifies you when someone comments on one of your Places visits.

If you're paranoid about the whole concept of Facebook Places, wouldn't you want to be notified of these things?

As I mentioned in previous blog post, when Facebook Places came out, the default setting is not enabled. I say "not enabled" rather than disabled because the setting for mine was neither enabled or disabled, it was waiting for me to pick one.

Apparently there is some uncertainty about whether or not it really is disabled if you don't pick one, so if you'd like to make sure and disable it yourself, see my original blog post, describing step-by-step how to do that. Or look it up on the web; there are other sites that describe where to find the option in your Facebook Privacy settings.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Parc Safari Revisted

Somewhere around 1973/74, in either grade 3 or 4, I recall that our class had a field trip to Parc Safari. Back then I'm pretty sure it was called "Parc Safari African". There's very little I remember about the trip. I have a very vague image in my head of the deer park that you walk through and feed deer. I remember a red double-decker bus with all the windows replaced by mesh that we rode in through the drive-thru part of the park. It also had ropes running up the side of the bus so the baboons could climb on. I remember us all being told not to stick our fingers out through the mesh because if a baboon grabbed hold, they would never let go. I remember there being a very large picnic area. That's about it.

A few weeks ago, I won 4 tickets -- a "family pack" -- for Parc Safari. Today, we went.

I read a few reviews earlier this week and they were mostly mixed. There were comments such as "In need of upgrading" (it is in fact coming, apparently). The "food is expensive" and terrible. Half the rides either don't work or weren't operating when people went. The drive-thru part of the parc is packed and takes 3 hours to complete, when it should only take 60-70 minutes. The admission is overpriced. Some people, despite the negative comments, did say they enjoyed themselves but would not return because it was too expensive.

Thankfully, I wasn't paying, except for gas for the trip. We also brought out own food for a picnic. Oh yeh, we brought a bag of carrots and celery too to feed the animals.

It was about a 3-hour drive. It's a good thing I have a GPS because we didn't see any signage directing us to the park. Perhaps the GPS took us through the back roads near the end, but I fully expected to see a few large "Park Safari" billboards along the highways. Surprisingly, this was not the case. And they say that this place is one of the biggest tourism attractions in Quebec. Or is the the biggest? I can't recall.

We arrived at around 10:30am. During the drive up to the main gate, there were many signs asking "Do you have enough gas?" The multi-lane lineups were surprisingly short. I expected longer lines since it had already been open for 30 minutes. When it was our turn, we drove up, handed the guy our tickets, he gave us a receipt, a map and a souvenir tour book and told us there were two rules while driving through the Safari park: 1. Stay in your car, and 2. Don't feed the zebras because they bite. Too easy.

We made a quick pit-stop at the washrooms and then headed over to the Safari park after tuning our radio to the English "Parc Safari" station to listen to them talk about their animals. Sandra said she would drive so I could film and snap photos. We passed on buying boxes of food because we brought our own. It wasn't long before the traffic jams began. It wasn't because there were so many cars, it was because of human ignorance and lack of consideration for others. There are signs that say "Stay left to drive through" and "Stay right to observe", or something like that. It didn't seem to matter to anyone. They stopped in both the left and right lanes to feed animals. I read comments such as this on the review sites, so it wasn't too surprising. Now, even that would not be too bad if people would quickly feed the animal one or two carrots or whatever they had, and then move on so others can have a turn. But nooooo.... some would sit there and it was a like a fucking conveyor belt of food coming out the side of their van or sunroof. Sometimes the "whipping boys", as I like to call them, would come along and get the animals moving again.In the case of the giraffes, it was always away from us. It's like we were chasing the damned things at 5kmh through the park. While waiting to catch up to the giraffes, we were entertained by the zebras all walking past the cars looking for food. A few people did in fact feed them. Some of them reached out and pet them. An SUV with the rear hatch open had two little girls sitting back there and screamed at the top of their lungs when a zebra walked behind and poked its head in. :)

Let me explain the "whipping boys". These are young guys working at the park, each armed with a whip. They never hit the animals, but would sometimes crack the whip to get them moving, or prevent them from going in a certain direction. The park is split into gated sections and I think they're main job is to keep the animals from straying into other sections while the gates remain open during business hours. It's quite impressive seeing a small human bossing around a towering giraffe or massive deer or bison. Pretty cool.

Eventually, we did get to feed the giraffes and it was... amazing. To be so close to these giants is indescribable. Way cool. We fed one of them a couple of carrots or celery and moved on to the next. And then next. That's consideration. Helloooo? We got stuck in more traffic jams as people in the left lane would drive ahead, pull over to the right and get the attention of the giraffes who would then walk ahead again and we'd be held back once again. We eventually moved to the left and passed them all to move on to other animals. The more potentially dangerous animals, like elephants and rhinos are all in fenced areas so you can't really feed them. There are no cats roaming around. No baboons roaming around and hopping on cars or grabbing fingers. The drive thru park, for the most part, contains fairly "harmless" animals I would say. All deer, antelope, cows, bison, gnus, ostrich, and the like. Oh ya, all of the signs identifying the animals are in French. No English anywhere on them. I realized it's in Quebec, but come on... many of the visitors at the park are from the U.S. which isn't too far. Hopefully they add English names when they upgrade the park.

So, we continued on through the park, and didn't really encounter any more major traffic jams after the giraffes. We found out that most of the animals don't like celery. Giraffes ate it and a couple of the antelope/deer-like beasties. Carrots were never refused.

There was one scary moment not far from the end of the drive. I don’t know the name of the animals (*ahem*... need English names!), but they were these tall antelope creatures. A herd of them on the road. We, and another vehicle in front of us, fed them as we drove by. All of a sudden, four or five of them near the vehicle in front got very startled or excited and bolted a little. The "whipping boy" was nearby and started doing his job.. cracking that whip to get them to move to the other side of the road. He walked to the mini van in front and spoke with them and then looked at their rear left fender. Sandra heard something about a "baby". Perhaps one of the adult beasties got suddenly protective over one of the younger ones? Then as he walked towards us, again he cracked the whip a few times as he watched them on the other side of the road, the passenger side where I was. A couple of them were looking at him and moving toward him. Sandra asked him if we could move on, and he said something in French. We can understand French, but it wasn't loud enough to fully understand. We think he said something like he was using our vehicle to prevent the animals from charging at him. A few minutes later, he moved back to the next vehicle and we continued on down the road. Pretty freaky stuff.

I'd say it took us about an hour and a half to drive through the park. We parked near the picnic area and ate our lunch before exploring the rest of the park on foot. As others had commented on review sites, a lot of the attractions (rides, stores, food places) weren't open for business. Maybe they're understaffed? Or maybe it's near the end of the prime tourist season? Who knows. The park was pretty clean and did look like they were upgrading and maintaining the different areas.

The first place we headed to was the deer park to feed the deer. We had apples slices that we didn't eat for lunch, and celery left from the Safari Parc. These deer loved celery and the apples. I think we all had fun feed them as they followed us around. Sandra didn't seem to enjoy it as much and was pretty happy when we ran out of food and moved on to see the rest of the park.

The baboons are now on their own fenced off island, surrounded by water. You walk on large wooden decks over their habitat and look down at them. The same goes for apes, bears, wolves, some unknown cat (I think it was an ocelot) and other assorted animals. It's not bad because you can get a nice unobstructed view of the animals to shoot pics. The lions and tigers section was very cool. They have clear glass or plexiglas tunnels that you walk through. One big lion was lying on TOP of it as we walked underneath him. So close. :)

We didn't bother going on any of the amusement rides. Some of them look pretty archaic. It's funny because the guy on the Parc Safari radio even commented that some of them could be "museum pieces".

Sandra and the kids popped into a few gift shops and then we stopped for some ice cream. By around 3:30pm, we were pretty much done and ready to head home. Not the best time to leave because we hit the Montreal rush hour and extra slow downs due to an accident.

All in all, we did have a pretty good day. Would I do it again? Not if I had to pay for tickets. The value of the two adult and two child tickets that I won was just under $100. I honestly don’t feel that it was worth $100. I think a family pass should cost no more than $60 max.

I never did see a red double-decker bus. The rest of the park didn't really drum up any old memories of my first visit either.

I'll post a few pics and maybe some video at a later date, after I've had time to go through it all.

 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What is this?

If you arrived here using www.scottpaterson.org and are surprised that the entire layout and colour scheme has changed, there's a reason for that. (if you got here with that address and the page is black with grey text, then there's a problem...)

This is the same blog, but now hosted on Posterous.com. After a month or so of playing around with Posterous, I decided that I like it enough to switch my domain to point here.

However, if you prefer the old location on Blogspot or wish to purchase any of my photos via Fotomoto (which currently does not work with Posterous), the old blog location still exists and is synchronized with here. You can get to it by using http://blog.scottpaterson.org or its Blogspot address, http://spaterson.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Zoo photos

Here's a handful of my favourite photos I shot at the Toronto Zoo last week. I think posted a few of them on here already.

Enjoy!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

RAW Processing

Ever since I bought my Canon T1i/500D a little over a year ago, I've gotten in the habit of shooting both JPG and RAW for every shot. My reasoning was so that if I got a really good shot, I'd have a high quality RAW image as a back up to tweak and process to make the shot nicer, or fix something if necessary. I rarely ever found a need to process a RAW image, even for shots that I consider to be really good shots.

For a short time, I turned off the RAW format and shot only JPG. More shots per SD card.

I turned RAW back on when we went on our recent family vacation to Toronto and I'm really glad I did. I had a few "accidents" and shot images with totally messed up white balance, and even a few with the wrong aperture/shutter speed, resulting in an underexposed image.

This afternoon I decided to finally start digging through all of the photos I shot on our trip. I'm amazed and how much I was able to fix the underexposed images using the Canon Digital Photo Professional software that came with the camera. They're far from perfect, but they're better than a wasted shot and they turned out better than any underexposed JPG version of the same photo using a few tools that I often use for such things.

Not only that, but I started changing the white balance for a few seemingly good shots and found that they looked even better. Most of the time, I had my camera's white balance set to Auto. It does a pretty good job, but I noticed differences between an "auto" photo shot outdoors, compared to a "daylight" photo shot outdoors. You'd think they were the same, but that's not the case. The same applies to indoor shots with different lighting. Coincidentally, I'm currently reading "Light Science & Magic" and it talks about the fact that sometimes lighting is a mix of different light sources, which can result in incorrect colour. It's cool that I got to see the practical side of that first hand.

Anyhow, rather than hunt and peck through my images, I decided to do them all. All 633 images. It took me most of the day, but I'm really happy with the results. As I write this, DPP is exporting all of my processed images back out to JPG versions that I store on my PC. The original RAW files will remain on the 1TB external drive.

After this experience, I'm almost tempted to turn off JPG altogether and shoot just RAW. Almost. There are times that I do have a need to shoot a quick JPG and really don't have a need for a RAW file, so I think I may end up keeping it on for now.

I may turned off JPG for future trips though.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Checking out of checking in Places on Facebook

Thanks to Misty for bringing attention to this new Facebook feature.

Facebook is adding a new feature called Places, similar to FourSquare that some people use with Twitter. It allows a person to share their location with friends via their mobile phone.

You can read more about Facebook Places in this Washington Post article.

For the most part, it's something you would have to intentionally use and you may not need to do anything else to your privacy settings since it supposedly defaults to Friends Only. The feature that could worry some people is the ability to check-in their friends. Your friend could check you in to locations that you may not want others to know about. However, according to the Post article, "your friends can't start tagging you as being present until you authorize that activity."

If you want to make sure, here how to Disable that feature.

First go into your Privacy Settings:

Then into Customize Settings:

Scroll down and look for Friends can check me int to Places under Things others share:

To the right of that there is a dropdown you can set to Disabled. On my account, this option was neither Enabled of Disabled, it was set to Select One.

If you have no intention of ever using the Places feature, you may as well set the Places I check in to Only Me and disable the Include me in "People Here Now" after I check in option.

Scroll back up and look under Things I share:

Uncheck Include me in "People Here Now" after I check in and then click the the drop-down beside Places I check in and choose Customize and change These People to Only Me.

Save the changes and you're all done.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Toronto Trip - Day 3

Our first stop today was the CN Tower. It took us a while to find parking nearby in the spaghetti mess of streets and missed turns, but thanks to the GPS getting lost was pretty much impossible. :)

After parking, Sandra and Kaitlyn decided to pay a visit to the Leon's store located inside the old roundhouse. Kyle and I hung around outside and checked out the trains.

For the CN Tower, we decided to pay the extra and go the extra height up to the skypod, and it was amazing. The glass floor on the main viewing platform was fun. It seems the popular thing to do is lie down or sit on it and get your picture taken. Kyle and Kaitlyn both sat down.

Once we were back on the ground we went to see a 3D movie on surfing which was included in the price, then Kyle, Kaitlyn and I went for the Himalamazon "ride", which was sitting in side a small "room" that moved while a video displayed on the screen on front. It felt a little like a roller coaster ride. At the start, the woman said if anyone wanted it to stop for whatever reason, to wave their arms. A minute or so into it, Kaitlyn said she didn't like it. I told her to wave, she did, and they stopped it so she could exit. She stayed with the attendant and it started up again for the rest of us. While she was with the attendant, she got to watch the video camera showing us all inside the ride.

Next, we walked up to Yonge Street to grab a bite to eat at one of the hotdog vendors and to snap a pic of the Hockey Hall of Fame building. We decided not to go inside partly because of the time, and also the cost. In retrospect, we probably should have gone to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

We headed back to the truck, paid the $17 (SEVENTEEN DOLLARS!) for parking, and left for the Ontario Science Centre. The layout of that building is terrible, imho. And it seemed that most of the hands-on stuff that we tried didn't seem to work. Anyway, we were there up until around closing. I think I would have preferred the Hockey Hall of Fame.

So, we're done, and we'll be heading home in the morning. Overall, I think we had a great trip here. Kaitlyn is already asking where we'll be going next summer.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Toronto Trip - Day 2

What a long day.

Breakfast downstairs here at the hotel was excellent. Eggs, bacon, sausage, cereals, muffins, bagels, you name it, they had it.

The zoo was awesome. We paid the extra $3.25 per person to get tickets for the stingray petting pool and decided we'd leave it for last. More on that later.

There were a few exhibits that were closed for one reason or another, but not really any of the major animals that you would expect to see, so it really was fine with us. The day was hot, but the only animals that we didn't see because they seemed to be hiding were the lions. That kinda sucked, but even one of the zoo volunteers admitted that they didn't know where they were. That was a little disconcerting. :)

There was lots of walking, but what really burned us out was the walk down to and back up from the Canadian section. It way down a hill and the only way out is back up the same hill.

The highlight of the entire day for all of us had to be the stingray petting pool. It was much better than I expected and was well worth the extra $3.25 each. I thought it might be like where you lined up and got to pet one or two and then they'd move onto the next person, but it wasn't. They had this large shallow pool where everyone could stand around the side and spend as much time as they wanted and pet as many stingrays as they wanted. There was also a nurse shark and a few horseshoe crabs in the pool that you could pet. The shark kept its distance, but the stingrays were everywhere and seemed to enjoy being touched as they swam past. They asked that you only touch them on the back, but the stingers on the tails had apparently been "trimmed" just in case. Here's a tip: if you ever check this out, don't wait until the end of the day. Before you can get to the petting pool you have to remove all jewelry and watches from your hands and wrists, and wash your arms up to your elbows. After spending a day walking in the hot sun, we had a really difficult time taking our wedding rings off. :)

Our day wrapped up at around 6:00pm. We picked up some food at KFC and then headed back to the hotel. Tomorrow's agenda includes the CN Tower and the Ontario Science Centre. Depending on how much time we have, we may also visit the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Here's a few pics from our day. I have tons to sort through before posting more.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Toronto Trip - Day 1

We left home at around 5:45am this morning and arrived sometime around 11:00am.

We decided to first visit Casa Loma. It was awesome. The place is much bigger than I expected and we ended up spending a lot more time than than I thought we would. I can't believe how many different movies have been filmed inside there!  If you ever decide to visit there, take my advice and go in the spring or fall. It was soooo hot inside, despite the large floor and ceiling fans they had running in an effort to keep the place cool(er). Keep in mind that the place was built before air conditioning and I can't see them installing any a/c any time soon.

After we were done there,it was around 2:30pm, so we decided to find a place to eat and head to the hotel in Scarborough to check in. The traffic was pretty bad downtown and we ended up in front of the Royal Ontario Museum, one of the places we planned to visit. We decided to find a place to park, grab a bite to eat and then go to the museum instead. Lucky for us, they had the Terracotta Warriors exhibit, which cost an extra $7 per person to see. My wife really wanted to see it, so we did. Unfortunately, our time was somewhat limited because the museum closes at 5:30pm on Sundays. We had about 2-1/2 hours to see what we wanted to see.

We first checked out the Terracotta Warriors. Unfortunately, photography in that exhibit was not allowed. :( I could have had some really cool shots. It was a great exhibit to see though and we picked up a couple of our own smaller Terracotta Warriors from the exhibit gift shop.

We then checked out an Egypt exhibit, some dinosaur bones and the bat cave before hitting the gift store at closing. I have to say that we found the layout of the ROM to be a little confusing. Everything is very spreadout. But they did have air conditioning! :)

 
We checked in at the Holiday Inn Express in Scarborough. We were here for 5 minutes and we were already impressed. The staff are all super friendly, the place is very clean, and has nice decor throughout. They have free breakfast and free 24hr coffee. :) I'll let you know how good the breakfast is tomorrow. Oh ya... and free internet! (not wifi though)

It looks like we'll be heading to the zoo all day tomorrow, if the weather is good in the morning as the Weather Network says it will be.

I have way more photos taken and will post more once I have time to sort through them.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Perseides Meteor Shower

Perseides Meteor Shower is tonight!

From everything I've read, there's supposed to be between 80 and 100 per hour. I always miss out on this every year, but tonight's weather forecast for Ottawa is clear skies.  I'll be taking my camera out on a tripod to a nearby hill where I'm hoping there will be very little light pollution. I just spent the last hour or so searching for info on the best settings and configuring my camera so it's ready to go.

It's probably a little late to share this info for this year, but here we go:

Digital Camera Settings for Astrophotography http://www.astropix.com/HTML/I_ASTROP/SETTINGS.HTM

This message forum has a couple of links to downloadable PDF references for astrophotography. The thread subject says Canon T1i and astrophotography, but it’s not specific to the Canon. I just skimmed through the PDFs and they look like pretty good references:

Canon T1i and astrophotography http://cs.astronomy.com/asycs/forums/p/47502/451169.aspx

I'm pretty excited about this since it’s my first time trying it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A few more photos

I was browsing through my photos on Flickr and thought I'd share a few other favourites that didn't get posted to Project 52, not because they're not good, but because I chose another photo that week. :)

These are a couple that I shot at the Mer Bleu Bog last fall. The first one almost doesn't look real.

I got this one printed on canvas at work for my home. I still have to mount it on a frame.

Monday, August 9, 2010

iStockphoto, take two?

About a year ago, I thought about trying to sell some of my photos on iStockphoto. I didn't expect to get rich from it, but I thought it might be cool if I could make a few bucks to save and put toward more camera stuff. Part of the enrollment process was submitting three photos for consideration. The powers that be take a look at them and decide if they're good enough.

I was rejected. Twice. I gave up.

I am by no means a professional, but I like to think that I can snap a sale-worthy photo once in a while. Anyone has the ability to get lucky once in a while, no?

A couple of weeks ago a friend suggested in a comment on one of my photos that I should sell some of my photos on iStockphoto. That got me thinking about it again. Have I improved enough to be accepted? Should I give it another try just for the hell of it? Do I feel lucky... err... punk?

I could probably go through them and pick three out the most commented and most favourited photos and submit them, but I’d like to hear from anyone who reads my blog.

So here's the deal. When you have some time to spare, take a look through all of my Project 52 photos. Each of the photos has a number in the title indicating which week it was for. Pick what you think are the three best photos and then post a comment on here with the numbers. I may submit the most popular three to iStockphoto and see how it goes.

Tilt-Shift Photography

Ever since seeing some cool examples of tilt-shift photography, it's something I've wanted to try. Thanks to the Photojojo newsletter article, I have now bookmarked a site with a few different examples on how to make your own tilt-shift lens. All I need now is to pick up a cheap, used lens to try it out.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Week 52 - 52 on 52 for 52

It was just over a year ago that I bought my first DSLR camera -- a Canon T1i/500D. I spent a couple of months familiarizing myself with most of its features, and finishing reading a couple of books that I bought a year earlier: Understanding Exposure, Learning to See Creatively, and Understanding Shutter Speed, all three written by Bryan Peterson. (excellent books, by the way)

After that, I felt that I needed a goal. As you can read in my first project-related post, I've always liked the concept of Project 365 but I didn't think I'd have the time and commitment to shoot and post a new photo every day for a year.

Enter Project 52.

52 weeks, and 4523 photographs later, my first Project 52 comes to an end. Although I still have a lot to learn, I'd like to think that my photography skills have improved since. Overall, that is, there are still some shots that I've posted that don't really do much for me.

On to this week's photo.

I have to thank my wife for the inspiration. I was wandering around my house, searching for something interesting and thought aloud, "I need something 52 to take a picture of..."

My daughter left the room and returned to place a small scrap of paper on the table in front of me. '52' was written on it. "Thanks, but I don't think that's gonna cut it..." :)

My wife said, "What about a deck of cards?"

Bingo.

I fired off about fifteen shots from different angles and narrowed my choices down to two. I tweaked the contrast and color and then cropped it a little. That's it, that's all.

Will I begin another Project 52? I don't know yet. One of my friends thinks I should go for 365.

I think what I'll do is shoot and post when I feel like it. Rather than wait for Sunday to make my weekly post, I'll just post whenever I feel that I've taken a good shot worthy of attention.

Let's see how that goes. :)

If you're reading this on my Posterous site, you can click on the Project 52 tab along the top to see all of the shots I've taken for the project.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Screw Yer Buddy

If you try to access my pool rules site, ScrewYerBuddy.com, and get a Connection Timed Out error, it's due to the DOS attack issues that Posterous was having. They’re working on fixing it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Week 51 - Three x 2

Oops. A day late.

This was a really easy choice for this week.

It turned out surprisingly better than I expected. One of the comments pointed out the two different areas of focus in the photo: the furthest pin and the closest reflection. I have a few different shots of the pins and that's the only one like that. It was completely unintentional and a cool surprise.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Week 50 - Angled Steps

The pickings for this week were very slim. I've got photographer's block, even with the help from The Daily Shoot to try and inspire me.

Another of my DailyShoots gets picked for the project. These are our blog-famous reno'd stairs:

Two weeks left of Project 52. Unfortunately, the really good possible shots will come the week after the last posting when we take a trip to Toronto and visit the zoo and other sights. That's a bit unfortunate. I'm sure I would have a great shot to finish it off with.

I'm still debating whether to start up another Project 52 or go for a 365.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hello from Posterous

I am debating on moving my blog over to Posterous. I really like the way it handles my photographs as well as Flickr sets.
All of the entries have been imported into my Posterous blog. For the time being I'll keep both locations and have Posterous auto-post over to the Blogspot location to keep them in sync. If you're reading this on Posterous, click on the Project 52 or Daily Post tabs and have a look at the Flickr sets. If you're not reading this on Posterous, or you're not sure, click here: http:/scottpaterson.posterous.com

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Week 49 - Hot Dog


Week 49 - Hot Dog, originally uploaded by Twister65.

I threw this shot together quickly for The DailyShoot earlier this week. The assignment was to take a picture of food (duh). I nearly forgot until after we were finished eating supper. As luck would have it, there was a lone hot dog left in the pot.

It was barely warm, but good enough to use for the shot. I don't normally dress my hot dogs up this much; I tend to keep it simple and just put mustard on them. But, as I noted in the comments of the photo, I needed more colour.

I fired off four of five shots before putting the hot dog out of its misery (I ate it) :)

Apparently this month is National Hot Dog Month in the U.S. and tomorrow is National Hot Dog Day.

It is/was a coincidence.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Week 48 - Marbl(u)es


Marbl(u)es, originally uploaded by Twister65.

This weeks pick was easy and was from another DailyShoot.com assignment.

The theme was "blue". I first started with taking close-up shots of my daughter's eyes. By definition, they are blue, but I wasn't able to get them to "pop" and look as blue as I would have liked them to be.

My son suggested his marbles. He got a selection of blue ones, I grabbed a sheet of white paper from my printer, and we went out to the front patio to see what we could do.

After leveling the table, we placed them on the sheet of paper in whatever layout would keep them from rolling around. I fired off various shots with my 18-200mm lens, switched to the 100mm for a few more, and then back to the 18-200mm.

In the end, the best shots came from the 18-200mm. Had I taken the time to use a tripod with the 100mm, I'm sure I could have gotten some good ones.

This was all natural lighting from a somewhat cloudy and hazy sky. The only adjustments I made to the image was a crop and a slight boost to the saturation to bring out the blue a little more, all done in Picasa. :)

I'm very pleased with the results. It's one of those photos that makes you want to keep looking at it.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

More than a pretty face

The other week, Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” was on one of the free movie channels. We decided to watch it and see what the big deal was about.

I have to admit, it was a pretty decent show. But that’s not what I’m writing about.

The guitarist was really good; her name was Orianthi Panagaris. She really kicked ass. My wife questioned whether it was the same “Orianthi” that sings a pop song that she happens to like.

Out came he laptop and my daughter did a search.

Sure enough, they were one and the same.

I’m more of a “rock’n’roll” kinda guy, but I don’t mind most pop songs. I had to find out what else she sings and/or plays.

I found out some really cool facts about her as well as some videos of her playing less pop-like material. To quote Santana from that linked web site:

"It's not cute any more. It's seriously ass-whupping. If I was going to pass the baton to somebody, she would be my first choice."

I had to add her album to my collection. Having recently acquired an iPod Nano, I picked up “Believe (II)” from iTunes. On it, she also does a instrumental guitar duel with Steve Vai.

I love this one listener review from iTunes:

As a fan of heavier music (generally screamo and metal), I was impressed by the skills of Ori, from the first album “Violet Journey”, up until Believe (II), her music is continuously high on my playlist.

She’s like a bridge between the pop and rock gap.

Look ‘er up and give ‘er a listen.