Sunrise Banjo Mitts

I’ve maybe never mentioned on the blog that Beth’s parents are both ministers—well, her father’s a retired minister, and her mother is retiring this month. They are both ordained, and met in seminary. For the past couple of years we and they have all played guitar and banjo for the Easter sunrise service at her mom’s church in Connecticut. The sunrise service takes place out at the end of an inevitably mist covered peninsula on the coast.  In theory, the sun would rise behind us during the service. In practice the mist persisted all the way through. I think the same thing happened last year actually…

Let me tell you, when you wake up at 5 in the morning in April, trod out to the end of an Ocean-misty peninsula, and then clamp your fingers down on five or six steel strings, your hands will get numb. On top of that, my glasses always fog up. It’s kind of amazing that we can play at all. Last Wednesday evening I remembered hand-numbing discomfort from last year. I didn’t have any stashed yarn and I wanted to knit up some fingerless mitts for Sunday morning. So I sat down at the wheel, and carded, spun, and plied about three ounces of wool. I think it’s Romney, but I don’t know. It’s a big random looking sack o’ wool. Then on Saturday I knit these hand-warming accoutrements:

Saturday evening Beth was all, “I can’t believe your’re putting cables on those. You need them tomorrow morning, and we have to get up at FIVE!”

“You gotta go cabled, or go home,” I replied. (Note: I’m making Beth sound more naggy than in reality, just for comic effect; she kindly knit the last three rows and did the bind-off for me while I was taking a shower).

My fingers still got stiff and numb while playing, but I was much more comfortable than I’d have been without these. I knit them two-at-a-time on a 36″ circular US5. The yarn is slightly thinner than worsted, but heavier than what I’d call sportweight. Fleece to bound-off in under 72 hours; they still have a slight sheep-in-the-field aroma. Manly. Total mass for the pair: 1.5 oz.


Happy Birthday Audubon

Yesterday was the 226th anniversary of the birth of French-American bird lover, John James Audubon. One website noted that the painter of birds “would have turned 226 today,” as if an accident or suicide prevented him from doing so.

I thought the Google doodle on the Google main search page in honor of Audubon was pretty cool:

I like the way the shapes of the Google letters almost disappear, but they become clearer if I squint a bit. I wonder how many birders identified all the species in the logo. I think the fourth bird from the left, the black one with a yellow breast and blue throat looks kind of like a Bananaquit. The owl perched on the “l” is a Long Eared Owl. The others I can’t really even guess. I haven’t found a nice high-res version of the logo anywhere.

In honor of old Audbon, here are a few bird photos from my travels around North America over the last four months or so. First, a male mallard we saw in Fort Collins, Colorado while visiting Beth’s cousin’s family two weeks ago. Nice beading action on his head:

Her cousin’s family are also raising a few chickens for eggs:

I helped install the final panel on the roof of the coop, which was fun. Three chickens seems like a pretty good way to get a dozen or so cage-free eggs per week. I bet we’d save money if we raised hens, too. Here Peggy is engaging in a more Audubon-worthy pose–perhaps the chicken equivalent of Blue Steel:

Finally a few mundane species striking nice poses. A questioning seagull in San Francisco:

and an un-shy female house sparrow a few blocks away from the seagull:


The Difficulty of Signs and Non-English Speakers

I realize that there are entire websites devoted to mistranslation, with great examples like

from Engrish Funny.

I've been noticing it in daily life though too. I posted this picture

to facebook a while ago because I was surprised to see a car shop offering to add both "Remot Start" and "Seat Weamers", especially at such a low price. There's an Indian restaurant near my house that has a similar grammatical/spelling error in their large banner sign. So the question is "How do these large public errors get made?"
Continue reading The Difficulty of Signs and Non-English Speakers


Continuously variable aperture

My office mate and I were just talking about the sunny 16 rule, and it occurred to me, "Why don't any widely available lenses allow you to continuously vary the aperture within the mechanically available range? (or are there some that do?)"
If I'm shooting film without a light meter (or digital without a light meter for that matter, but when does that happen?), then I see obvious merits to only having sqrt(2) increments in f-number, and the nice-looking reciprocal-integer shutter speeds that fall close to sqrt(2) increments in time: It makes it easier to quickly calculate the aperture and/or shutter speed that you want in a given situation. You can reckon more quickly if you only have to deal with factors of 2 (or sqrt(2), whatever...). Also it would often be painfully slow to scroll through a "continuous" (or at least much more finely spaced) spectrum of apertures while you're shooting.

However, most cameras now have aperture priority and shutter priority modes. I don't see any reason why I shouldn't be able to dial in an f/2.718 aperture and have the camera calculate the proper shutter speed. Nor do I see why conversely I couldn't set a 0.154 second exposure time and have the calculate an appropriate aperture for me. Of course, the camera could still warn me if the "appropriate" parameters fell outside the realm of possibility for the equipment; that's what my current camera does.

I guess one short answer would be that the current level of discrete f-numbers are finely spaced enough for most purposes, and that maintaining them maintains continuity with the traditions of photography. I wondered though, does anyone (basically meaning Nathaniel 🙂 ) know of a mechanical reason why continuously variable aperture would pose any problem? I can think of only a few highly specialized situations in which this feature would actually be desirable (and that's probably why it isn't generally available), but I thought I'd throw the question out there.



We’re having a Klingon.

I first became aware of online “What will our baby look like?” services when I was in college, about a decade ago. I played with them once or twice, usually using a something like picture of myself and a tiger, or two unlikely celebrities, e.g., Kelsey Grammar, and Dennis Rodman. Most of those turn-of-the-century online services were really pretty crude. If I took two face photos, and layered them in Photoshop or Gimp with 50% opacity in the top layer, I’d get pretty similar results to what most baby-morphers were offering circa 2001. Well, they’ve made some improvements. There are fewer distracting artifacts, like extra ghost ears, blurry eye borders, or baby goatees.

I was, however, quite surprised at how badly a modern baby-morphing service performed this evening when I used two iSight photos of Beth and myself to generate a composite baby image. It turns out we’re having a Klingon:

I’m guessing the auto-skin-tone-detect feature was confused because Beth was back lit in the photo above. I can’t explain how decided to include a saggital crest on our digital baby’s skull, nor why the baby has sharpened teeth…

With a little finagling the baby image maker managed to yield some more reasonable results as well. Here’s an animated tour of the reasonable and unreasonable Sullivan baby faces:

ETA: As per Beth’s recommendation below, I wanted to let everyone know that other than the Klingon baby, all the non-Caucasian looking babies were the result of my checking the “very dark” or “Asian” box on the final page of the baby generator. The Klingon, however, resulted from the “auto-detect skin tone” option. Also, my recommended mental soundtrack for the baby morph video collage is the theme song from Growing Pains.


People watching on the train

There's a guy next to me on light rail who's filing his nails. It's a little odd, when was the last time you saw someone filing their nails? Much less on public transportation?

And how long does it take to file your nails before you're down to stubs of fingers?

I almost feel like asking, but looking over, he has the build of a boxer. Squat. Powerful. And the strap on his bag isn't actually a strap. It's inch and a half chain. You don't mess with a guy using 15 pounds of chain to hold a shoulder bag.

And yet he's also wearing a tie. You have to imagine a story there.