Monthly Archives: July 2008

NJ Weekend

Last weekend, Rebecca, Catherine and I drove down to New Jersey to visit with some of our friends from the days of Gordon. Our base of operations was an excellent Comfort Inn in Paramus, NJ. It had a flat screen HDTV, free wireless and wired internet, huge king sized bed, sofa with pull out bed, and a free hot breakfast. It was a very nice place to come back to at the end of the day.

On Saturday, Rebecca went to visit Jenn, one her good friends and roommates from Gordon. Her primary goal was to help Jenn clean her room. Well, it was more than that, really. It was really more of a full-fledged purging, cleaning and reorganizing in the style of TV’s Clean Sweep. From all reports, the day was a success, and Jenn’s room is a much more serene, organized place.

Catherine and Lucas
Catherine and Lucas

While J and R worked away on the room, I took Catherine a few towns over to visit with our friends Bob and Leah, and their boys Lucas and Andrew. Bob was one of my roommates during my senior year at Gordon. This was my first time visiting Bob and Leah’s house, and my first time meeting Andrew, having met Lucas a few years back. We had a great time hanging out at their house, playing, watching TV, eating sausages and hot dogs, walking to the park, taking pictures. I even managed to take a few headshots and portraits for Bob and Leah for business/personal purposes. Hopefully they find them useful. It was great to catch up with Bob and Leah, and while we were there, we also took some time for a teleconference with Mr. Biggs, another friend and roommate from college.

Spending the day with Catherine turned out remarkably well. She is rarely away from her momma, and even less rarely does she spend so much time with just me. We were together for about seven hours, and I am really impressed with how well she managed. She played with the boys really well, didn’t fuss too much, and was generally cute and fun for everyone. I definitely think it helped to have two other adults around the whole time, as well as plenty of toys and other kids to distract her.

The Ladies
The Ladies

On Saturday evening, we had dinner with Jenn and Matt at Ruby Tuesday’s at the Garden State Plaza mall. This was probably one of the largest, busiest malls I’ve ever been to, and Matt said that it wasn’t even at its busiest! By that time of day, Catherine was reaching the end of her rope, having taken only a 20 minute nap, but we still managed to have a nice dinner in between Rebecca and I taking turns taking her out for walks.

You can see more photos from our weekend in the gallery.

Basement slowdown

Work on the basement has been going a bit more slowly recently. Part of it is that it’s summer time and we’re doing lots of travel, part of it is that we’re trying to balance basement work with other interests and obligations, and part of it is that we had a bit of a setback due to some water damage.

Two issues with the house conspired to damage the bottom portion of the existing wall in our basement. One issue was that our gutter system is not the most effective. It’s old and leaky, and some parts are not well designed. In particular, one of the downspouts emptied right out next to the corner of the house, and the water essentially sunk into the ground and into the foundation wall, eventually working its way down to the cement floor of the basement. It didn’t flood, but what it did do was make the cement floor very moist. This isn’t a huge deal for the most part, because we’re using DriCore and our subfloor sits up off of the concrete on impermeable plastic feet. However, the existing drywall that the previous owners had put up on the outside walls was installed so that the bottom of the panels touched the concrete, and when the concrete became moist, that moisture wicked right up and soaked the bottom portions of our wall. In most places this just resulted in discoloration to the wallboard, which is easily fixed with Kilz. In a few places, however, the wallboard was significantly waterlogged and started to disintegrate. So to fix the problem, we took a few steps.

First, we did some work on the gutters to make them a bit more effective. I rerouted the downspout at the front of the house so that it ran around the corner and headed to the back of the house, dumping the water safely out in the back yard instead of right into the foundation. We also cleaned out and tightened up the gutters in the front where most of the water was getting dumped. Next, inside, we cut an inch away from the bottom of all of the wallboard in the basement so that it was no longer touching the concrete floor, thus preventing any future water damage. Finally, we ripped out some of the more damaged sections of the wall and replaced them with Mold Tough drywall, which resists mold growth and water damage. I’ve also placed some Damp-Rid buckets in the basement to help absorb any additional excess moisture. We still have some work to do with the drainage situation in our yard to keep as much water away from the foundation as we can, but all in all I think these changes will be very helpful.

Thankfully, since the basement hasn’t been finished yet and we hadn’t started painting, the water damage wasn’t such a big deal. All we have to do now is tape, goop, and sand the newly-installed drywall, and then we’ll be back to the point where we can start priming and painting. After that, we install the flooring, molding and trim, and after that, the final electrical work and final inspections.

Phew!

NECCC: Photography Galore!


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UMass Campus Center
UMass

On the weekend of July 11-13, I traveled to UMass Amherst to attend the 63rd annual conference of the New England Camera Club Council. This was my first time attending a photography conference of any kind, as well as my first experience with anything camera club related. Here are my reflections on the weekend in 5×5 format.

Five things I liked:

  • Opportunity to photograph models outdoors, with signed model releases, so I can use the photos in my portfolio. Unfortunately, most of the models didn’t really fit what I’m looking for in my own portfolio, but I do think I got some good shots that I’ll be able to add.
  • Session called “Behind the Scenes of Nature Photography” with David Middleton. He showed various iterations of a scene until he reached the “final shot” and described how he got there. It was pretty cool to be able to hear his thought processes, and the criteria he used to decide what to eliminate and what to keep in various shots. As a bonus, David was a very entertaining and listenable presenter. Great personality.
  • Session called “Modeling Perspectives” with Peggy Arbene, Skip Hoyt, Paul Smith, and Gordon Yu. They went over how to do lighting, backgrounds, pose models, and how to assess and plan for a portrait shoot. I don’t have a whole lot of experience with portrait photography, and I got a lot of useful information in this session.
  • Session called “Digital Workflow: The Rest of the Iceberg” by Jim Craner. Offered some nice tips on how to organize and manage large collections of photos, and how to plan for various conditions out in the field. Jim also had excellent presentation technique (as he said, thanks to his many years of teaching middle school), and wasn’t afraid to demonstrate his technical knowledge in an educational and palatable way.
  • Opportunity to to essentially immerse myself in photography for a whole weekend. I carried my camera around with me everywhere, and stopped at any opportunity that I felt like photographing something.

Five things I didn’t like:

  • Didn’t receive the pre-arrival packet until after I got home from the weekend. It contained such useful information as where to park, a map, a parking pass, information on extra things to bring to the dorm, etc. This would have made my arrival and time on campus a bit less stressful. It took me about an hour from the time I drove into the campus to the time I settled in to my dorm room. I realize that I registered late for the conference (July 1), but still, that should have been enough time to get a packet out to me before July 11. Perhaps in the future they could send the contents of the packet via email, as a PDF or something. That would be more expedient.
  • NECCC website wasn’t very useful during the weekend. They should have kept it up-to-date with information on schedule changes, happenings, photos from the events, and information on the models. In general, I didn’t get the impression that the NECCC is a very internet-savvy organization. They should be using things like Facebook, Twitter, flickr and some sort of Wiki software to help organize and distribute their information, build an online community, and draw in the younger and more tech-savvy crowd. It also wouldn’t hurt for them to hire the services of a professional web designer and developer. I can recommend several good ones.
  • There was a wireless network on campus, but the NECCC didn’t promote it in any way that I could see. I had to ask about it at one of the registration desks and then get a slip of paper with information on how to access the network. This would be another thing that could help draw in the tech-savvy crowd.
  • The dorm and dining hall were located on one side of campus, while the conference was located in another part of campus. This required either a long walk or a bus ride, and the bus rides and bus stop locations weren’t strategically placed. For example, I would have expected a sign right outside of the dorm that said “Shuttle Bus” along with information on the schedule and route. I eventually found one of these posted somewhere inside, but this was after I had already gotten through most of the weekend. Even more annoying, at lunch breaks, I had to walk all the way over to the dining hall and then all the way back to attend the next session.
  • Most of the models that they hired to do the model shoots were not dressed very tastefully, at least in my opinion. I don’t know whether that was the models’ decision or the organizers’, but in any case, I don’t think I’d care to use most of the model shots in my portfolio. I realize that other people may have different goals and tastes for their own work, and if the reactions of the other photographers were any indication, it seems like most people were okay with the models’ choice of wardrobe. Still, I would have preferred some of them to wear more modest and/or classy outfits.

Five things I learned:

  • Photographers who are trying to take photos to be entered in a contest are a very tense bunch. Always concerned about the subject appearing exactly the way they want, getting into conflict with others who are trying to photograph the same thing. Sure, it’s nice to get a good shot without distractions in the background, but have a little patience. Lighten up a bit and enjoy!
  • Perhaps as important as a photographer’s skill in image capture is his or her ability to get to the right place at the right time. Many an impressive photograph are impressive in large part because the photographer had the funding and wherewithal to get to an incredible location at the right time.
  • I’ve definitely learned that my interests in photography tend toward photojournalism. For example, I was more interested in photographing the photographers who were photographing the models, than I was in actually photographing the models themselves. I just don’t have the interest in setting up a perfect shot with everything in the right place. I prefer to capture situations as they occur, and try to tell the story of what was happening as I saw it, and usually that doesn’t involve waiting until everything is just right.
  • I’d rather take photos of regular people like friends and family than photos of professional (or semi-professional) models. They tend to have more personality and are more fun to work with. There were a few exceptions to this, however, most notably Audra, who is a recent mom.
  • I learned how to observe and prepare subjects for portrait shoots, how to interact and how to give direction and suggestions on how to pose.

Five photos of models:

Five photos of other things:

You can see a selection of other photos I took over the weekend in the gallery.

Build Guild: Web geekiness in Salem, MA

Last week, I attended the inaugural meetup of the Build Guild, a Salem, MA area meetup of web geeks. The meetup was held at the Salem Beer Works. Here are my reflections on the event in 5×5 format:

Five people I met (for the first time):

Five good things:

  • Location was theoretically convenient; only about a 10 minute drive under ideal conditions. (This time, I spent a few minutes getting lost on the streets of downtown Salem, literally just blocks away from the venue. I don’t drive into Salem often, okay?) Certainly used less gas than it takes to get to Boston or Newburyport.
  • Good food at the Beer Works.
  • Enjoyed talking to various geeky people about geeky and non-geeky topics.
  • Gained insight into the working habits of non-corporate developers.
  • Great hosts Marc and Angelo made sure that everyone was welcomed and enjoying themselves.

Five not-as-good things:

  • Venue was a bit on the noisy side.
  • Sometimes I couldn’t tell who the Build Guild people were, since we had spilled into the general bar area and mixed with the regular restaurant patrons.
  • Got crowded at the peak and was hard to move around and interact.
  • I got lost on the way there (this is the City of Salem’s fault for poor signage, not the Build Guild’s).
  • Low lighting didn’t make for the greatest photographic setting, at least not with my camera (this is the Beer Works’ fault/choice to set the ambience, but I can still complain, can’t I?).

Five Observations:

  • Salem has a lot to offer young hipsters: coffee shops, bars, restaurants, social opportunities, public transportation, cheap apartments.
  • Apparently many (most?) large corporations no longer retain their own development staff. Put another way, most of the people I talked to that evening were freelancers or worked for design or consulting agencies. This made me feel a bit out of place, coming from a company that has a large, in-house development staff. I’m also speculating that another reason I saw more freelance/agency types is that many corporate-employed developers don’t see the need to go out and meet with developers from other companies. In many ways, I don’t really need to attend an event like Build Guild as much as others. At work, we have a large group of developers with diverse talents and interests, and a lot of experience, so we are constantly in the process of learning from each other. We also work only for one client, our company, so there is no need to look for gigs or other outside work. And since we rarely hire outside help or outsource any services, there isn’t much point in receiving sales pitches from people with services or software to sell. However, I believe that it’s still good to attend these things because how else can one learn about what else is out there, what ways other people are doing things, what technologies they’re using in their day-to-day work?
  • I actually spent less time talking about web development than I thought I would, and more time talking about topics like corporate organization, business process, and random things like photography and videography. Next time I’ll have to see if I can push Perl on anybody. 🙂
  • I’ve never thought of myself as a videographer, but after talking to Jason Hawkins for a while, I think I’ve come to realize that I am a dormant videographer. Videography and video editing takes a considerable amount of time, and since that’s something I don’t have right now, it’s simply something I don’t engage in. However, if I do ever get back that kind of time, it’s something I’ll definitely want to look in to.
  • Everyone says this, but it’s really surprising and awesome how many quality web design people there are in this area.

Five Photos I Took At Build Guild:

DSC_0028 DSC_0047 DSC_0050 DSC_0076 DSC_0110

See more of my photos from the Build Guild at flickr.

July 4 Weekend

Patriotic Catherine

I hope that our American readers had a terrific July 4 weekend! We were on Martha’s Vineyard for the weekend with my in-laws. Though Rebecca, Catherine and I were all suffering from colds, we still managed to have a good time, with a trip to the beach, many games of croquet, sitting on the porch and rocking/swinging, and doing some web surfing thanks to the new wireless connection at the cottage. I also enjoyed a great many photographic opportunities. You can see more photos from the weekend.

This week I’m on my own, as Rebecca and Catherine are staying down on the island through this coming Sunday. I hope to get some work done in the basement, and am also looking forward to the Build Guild meetup of web developer/designer types in Salem on Tuesday night, and the NECCC Photography Conference this coming weekend.