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Experiments in Starry Sky Photography

Wed, 2014-08-27 16:15
This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

I’m not much of a night photographer for a variety of reasons, such as “wandering around in dark, isolated places with expensive gear and when you are a smallish woman is not recommended” and “I never carry my tripod because it’s awkward and extra weight” but thankfully I have friends who mitigate the first and cars that mitigate the second, so then it all works out.


My photographer excursion to Crater Lake is one of those rare times it worked out. We had a “wait, it’s too nice to go to bed” bit of folly, given that our plan was to get up at 4am to catch the sunrise. Alas, the lake was in cloud at sunrise, so those photos never happened, but the night ones totally did.


Here they are before editing:

The view from our "hotel" at Crater Lake (original)Our "hotel" at crater lake (original)


This was 30s exposure at ISO 3200, which is still rather noisy for my tastes, even with some post-processing to clean it up a bit. I think in future I might have to try cranking that down a fair bit.


Below is my first attempt at processing the photos base on what I knew to do off the top of my head. They’re not bad, but as I said, I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to practice night photography, and that includes processing as well as the physical taking of photos. You can definitely see some more colour and definition even in the small versions I’ve put here so you can see them all at once:


The view from our "hotel" at Crater LakeOur "hotel" at crater lake


So I read through a night photography tutorial and these are the images that resulted:


Our "hotel" at crater lake


The view from our "hotel" at Crater Lake


The first one’s maybe not that different from my own attempt, but the second one really pops, no? I guess I need to spend more time reading photo processing tutorials. Processing has been my weak point in terms of just getting it done, but it’s pretty impressive to see how much more I got out of that last image with a little help, I think.


[Note: I somehow failed to schedule this post when I was written, so that's why you're getting it so late after the photos were uploaded, in case anyone who follows my flickr stream was wondering, but I doubt anyone actually pays that much attention.]



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The WTF necklace

Mon, 2014-08-25 16:02
This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

This one barely counts as a maker-y thing, in that all I really did was string some letters onto a faux-leather strap, but I think it’s hilarious and needed to be shared:


Necklace with the letters WTF on it. WTF Necklace


Actually, this was much harder than it should have been. The necklace strap came pre-assembled and had to be disassembled so I could thread the letters on, which normally wouldn’t be too hard but I can’t find the relevant jewelry pliers so I wound up using these round ones which were totally unsuited. And then once I got it off, it turns out the darned letters have holes that aren’t quite big enough to easily thread the pleather through (or equally, the pleather was a bit too sticky for the length of threading required), so then I had to MacGyver this threading implement with a piece of wire that had been originally used to hold the bead in the package. My original plan of wrapping the wire around the pleather didn’t work because the wire was too thick, and then I wound up accidentally stripping half the wire inside the bead when I tried, and finally I had to find a needle and poke a hole in the end of the pleather and convince the wire to get into this much smaller hole so that I could hook it around and finally get the darned beads on the strap.


So, um, yeah. Totally easy, of course!


I can’t really take credit for the idea exactly: I saw a gal at defcon with a beautiful monogrammed purse that said WTF all classy-like (in as much as one can) and then beads were on sale when I went in to get stuff at the craft store and I was going to get my initials (which are funny enough in and of themselves) but then I decided I needed this too, because I am such a classy individual.


The instagram-clone filters prove it:


Necklace with the letters WTF on it. WTF Necklace


The thing that bugs me about this is that the holes in the beads aren’t exactly at the same height, so my necklace has a kerning problem. Can you see it? I really can, but I suppose I don’t actually have to look at my own necklace all day, and everyone at work is much too polite to stare randomly at someone else’s chest, so I figure it’s only the font geeks who’ll catch it.



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MicroView: the bad, the good, and the awesome

Thu, 2014-08-21 07:17
This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

I backed this cute little thing on kickstarter called the Microview, which is basically a teensy arduino with an oled display attached. It was too adorable to pass up: I’ve wanted a little programmable necklace for a while, and this meant that project would be really easy to build.


My MicroView (Adorable Arduino with OLED display) My MicroView (Adorable Arduino with OLED display)


I’ve been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the MicroView and it finally came today. So I popped open the instructions page and the first thing I see is a big apology. Uh oh…


So I check my email and sure enough, there’s an email about a big problem. Short version: they sent out a whole pile of units without bootloaders, so it runs the demo but won’t run any new code. Both of my MicroViews, it seems, are in the affected batches. More details here:


https://www.sparkfun.com/news/1575

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1516846343/microview-chip-sized-arduino-with-built-in-oled-di/posts/959475


So that’s disappointing, but they’re shipping out replacement units, and I suppose I can wait a bit longer to play. It’s not like I don’t have other toys to play with.


But here’s the super awesome news: it’s possible to dissect the unit and fix it!


So… with a bit of hacking, and assuming I don’t break anything, I may have double the number of MicroViews by the time this is done, and I’ll have had an excuse to dissect my new toys.


I’ve never been so pleased about receiving a defective product. :)


In the meantime, I guess I can play the tutorial game:


 Connect a jumper between pins 5 and 8 MicroView running the tutorial “game”: Connect a jumper between pins 5 and 8



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Book review: Stormdancer

Tue, 2014-08-19 04:53
I haven't really kept up on reviewing much of anything lately, even though I still read lots of books and try makeup and stuff, but life is busy and I'm pretty sure I'm less likely to regret missed reviews than I will other things, so I don't feel that guilty.

That said, here's a book review:

Stormdancer (The Lotus War Book One) by Jay…
Stormdancer (The Lotus War Book One)
by Jay Kristoff

It was a snippet describing this book as "Japanese Steampunk" that made me curious enough to request this from the library. I'd personally describe it more as "feudal Japanese dystopia" than steampunk, but I seem to have a penchant dystopian young adult stuff, so that works out ok for me. There are some robot-suits and flying machines so it fits the bill if you're looking for steampunk rooted in something other than victorian England culture. Frankly, it's worth a read just for that cultural quirk, although the technical-cultural aspects are barely touched upon in this volume.

Stormdance is mostly the tale of Yukiko, daughter of the famed "Black Fox" -- a hunter whom the shogun has sent on what seems a fool's errand: he is to find and bring back a "thunder tiger" (griffon) in a land that is so polluted and poisoned that there are barely any animals left. As Yukiko accompanies the hunters on their quest, the way she sees her father, other people, and the world winds up irrevocably changed, and she soon finds herself on a quest of her own...

I admit, I found this one a bit hard to get into: it starts with lengthy descriptions and more Japanese-style pacing than I'm used to in my young adult novels, and I found having to learn terminology sent me on enough tangential trips to the glossary that I had trouble immersing myself. But once I did, it's a great story with a few great characters and a fascinating world.

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Back from defcon!

Fri, 2014-08-15 07:37
Back from defcon. Almost recovered from con crud.

Defcon is a con that doesn't have a great rep among women, so I'd given it a miss despite being curious until I'd collected a posse. It worked out well.

I was expecting the exhaustion, the chaos, but I wasn't expecting to feel artistically inspired.

I spent hours searching for a robot army and, when I found it, the robots danced with me.

I went to an elevator talk which wasn't about pitching to CEOs but was rather about hacking elevators. All other elevator talks are going to be disappointing now, but elevators are going to be more interesting.

I played a game that started with soldering a badge and meeting strangers that somehow plunged me into a little augmented reality that I was desperate to see more of.

I designed a t-shirt that a whole bunch of people wore, and more people asked me where to buy one.

I discovered that casinos are pretty much all the migraine triggers at once and that as a result it was sometimes more relaxing being on the con floor than leaving it.

I talked about teaching and learning through games. I learned a few things through a game, including that there are still times where my desire to make games is much greater than my desire to play them.

I wish I'd gone sooner, but suspect I also made the right choice by waiting until I had backup.

I came home with a head full of things I wanted to build... and also full of congestion and mucus so it hurt too much to do anything.

... but I got back to building a game today, so maybe I'll get some of these other grand plans in motion too.

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