Saturday, September 13, 2008

I was swept by a real blast from the past when I trashed all the old AOL disks

A Blast from the Past When I Trashed All the Old AOL Disks
After my little disruption with the DSL, when I couldn't even find the old modem password when I needed it, I decided it was time to clean out the old box of computer stuff. A lot of these old packages spilled out. It was as if the entire and history of AOL marketing flashed before my eyes. 1045 hours free -- wow! Measuring online access in hours -- wow! AOL's nasty habit of conserving bandwidth by bumping people offline -- not so wow.

Online access for dummies -- including me.

AOL was an easy low-tech (or was it non-tech?) way to get online when we bought our state of the art, Windows 95 Sony Vaio desktop in the fall of '97. It was still chugging along ten years later, three years after a hard drive replacement, though by then as a backup for an iMac. We carried AOL over to the iMac, inadequate as it was, because it seemed silly to have to get an Ethernet modem for an obsolete PC and figured we'd go DSL when we got a second Mac, which we eventually did. But we stopped upgrading after AOL 5.0 because we didn't need all the marketing bloatware that just overtaxed the PC's modest capabilities. When we finally made the switch to broadband, we kept the AOL account temporarily -- until we got all our email transferred, we told ourselves. Of course, that hasn't actually happened yet because there's always something more important to do, but that's why it was there as a limited backup when the DSL went down. Agony. We really used to live with that? I really started blogging and posting photos on Flickr using dial-up access? Hard to believe. Inertia is such a powerful force.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Internet is great until it isn't. Temporarily out of commission.

It Ain't Working
Our DSL kept conking out, we'd restart the modem and it would work for awhile and then stop again. Eventually it slowed to a crawl -- and then died again, apparently for the last time. Working our way through the labynthine ATT support structure... Back soon, I hope.

3:30 p.m. Update: Back up. ATT came and swapped the modem, which was still under warranty. Took forever because I couldn't find our user ID and password for the modem itself. The tech tried to reset it and that got us caught in an endless loop that took almost an hour to sort out, and by then I had found the scrap of paper where I wrote down the password. The tech says this happens all the time. He suggested I write it on the bottom of the modem, since we'll only need it if something is wrong with it -- and it wouldn't do anybody else any good even if they did find it. Seems like a good idea...

Monday, September 08, 2008

South Madison Farmers' Market has new Sunday hours at the Labor Temple

I had my last watermelon of the summer yesterday at the South Madison Farmers' Market.

SouthMadFarm-smThey decided to no longer go head-to-head with what they call the "Wal-Mart" of markets on the Square Saturday -- the Dane County Farmers' Market -- and have moved their weekend market to Sunday at the Labor Temple grounds at Park Street and Wingra Drive. They've also expanded to three markets a week -- at the Labor Temple Tuesday and Sunday and the Villager mall on Thursdays.

SouthMadBikes-smThey're located right along the Wingra Creek Bike Path, so take a back pack next time you ride the path. You can also get your bike checked out by volunteers from the FreeWheel Bicycle Collective, located at the Villager mall on Park Street. They hold an “Open Shop” on Thursday nights and Saturday afternoons. During these times, anyone in the community can use the shop to maintain bicycles in a facility staffed by helpful volunteers.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sun sets on the 2008 Ford Ironman Wisconsin and its indomitable competitors

Sun Sets on the 2008 Ford Ironman Wisconsin
I took this Sunday evening on Old University at Walnut Street a little after 8:00 p.m. It was more than four hours after the first winners of the 2008 Ford Ironman Wisconsin had crossed the finish line at Monona Terrace, and people were still passing each other heading in and heading out on the marathon course, the final leg of the grueling triathlon. But these runners were all winners. Finishing late is a relative thing in the triathlon. For most mortal humans, finishing at all is an incredible accomplishment.

Putting the magic of theatrical lighting to work for my camera by gelling my flash

Bring It On, Fluorescent Lights! My Camera Is Ready For Anything.
If you're shooting color photos under fluorescent lights, there aren't too many good solutions for coping with the color cast of the lights. You can set your white balance on fluorescent and the colors look pretty good -- but people's eyes are deeply shadowed from the overhead lighting. If you use fill flash to open up the shadows, your subjects will look blue, the background green. You can turn off the fluorescents and use bounce flash if there's a low, neutral-colored ceiling, but bounce flash has its own challenges. What if the ceiling is too high, or the wrong color? The ideal solution would be to filter your flash to match the fluorescents. But how do you do that?

You do it by covering your flash head with a gel filter to match the ambient lighting. Now I can say, "Bring it on, fluorescent lights! My camera is ready for anything." I finally got some Rosco gels for my strobe, so I can use fill flash in any lighting situation, working with the ambient light instead of trying to overwhelm it. (It's especially nice in fluorescent environments, with the flash dialed back to provide just enough light to put some spark in the eyes. No more blue people.)

The Magic of Theatrical LightingIn Madison you can get free sample packs of Rosco gels that are big enough to to cover the flash head of shoe-mounted flashes at John S. Hyatt & Associates, which provides lighting solutions for theatrical and architectural applications. They're upstairs at 122 State Street. When you go there, you'll find this cool example of the magic of theatrical lighting, which uses gels to create all sorts of visual effects. This lovely design is projected onto onto the carpet in front of the door by a theatrical lighting unit.

Want to find out more about gelling your flash, such as which gels to use for which lights, how to attach the gels and where to find them? There was a definitive post on this topic in Strobist a couple of years ago. Here it is. It will tell you all you need to know, both in the post and in the extensive comments.

Note: Gelling the flash should work with all digital SLRs. Just set the white balance to whatever the ambient light is -- fluorescent or incandescent (not flash), and you're good to go. Point-and-shoots are a bit more uncertain. Some point and shoot cameras override any manual white balance setting and revert to the flash setting when the flash is used. If that happens, your filter would be the problem, not the solution.