Primexecutor = Primeape + Executor

In the spirit of the supposed Pokemon Month this December, we got together and brainstormed some Pokemon hybrids. We mixed Primeape and an Executor to make a Primexecutor. Sebastian came up with the concept and drew it up what came to mind.

I cleaned up the drawing and colored it in Photoshop. These are the steps:







"Yeah Fat Squirrel!"

Later today I will have submitted my last paper and finished my last final (and the last thing I need to do other than packing) before the break. I will repost this photo in celebration. Maybe it'll brighten your day. Ithaca weather blows.

Kevin Fact 6

Apparently, I do not have much patience. It doesn't go well with the fact that I have a short-temper. This is not a good week. It is almost over.

Fall 2009, In Summary

I just realized I didn't learn anything substaintial this semester. This fall was filled with a lot of "busy work" and a lot of sub-par or terrible professors and TAs that I have little respect for the class. Most of them, anyway.

At the end of this writing-intensive semester, with a total 8 classes, 4 of which are liberal arts, I summarize it as follows:

Technology in Society (STS 2501)
Introduction to Wines (HADM 4430)

Communication and Technology (INFO 2450)
Energy Seminar (MAE 5459)
Fluids and Heat Transfer Lab (MAE 4272)

Introduction to Linguistics (LING 1101)
Professionalism in Engineering (MAE 4300)
Introduction to Nuclear Engineering (MAE 4580)

What a terrible semester. At the very least, though, at least we suffered through the tough classes and endured through the crappy ones together. Cheers.

What Are You Giving Up to The Big Google?


I wasn’t surprised by the amount and kinds of information Google has on me. I also wasn’t surprised that Google announced the Dashboard feature, which Google claims is an attempt to be transparent and to give the user “choice and control” over users’ own data. The only thing that surprised me was how long it took. Google Dashboard went live on November 05, 2009, many, many months after Google’s control over the flow of information and advertising has been challenged by users and technology industry analysts.

Google’s attempt to become transparent will benefit users to be sure, but this merely leads naïve users (not in the technical sense)—which is, unfortunately, the bulk of its user—to believe in a sense of control, and that the mere presence of this control results in users willing to give up even more information to the Almighty Google. In other words, because users believe they control their own information, it is perceived to be safer to use more of Google’s services and inadvertently provide Google with even more information. “I can quit anytime,” as an addict might say.

I have had a Google Account since the Gmail beta days, with my earliest Google e-mail dating 07/10/2004. Checking my Google Dashboard, I see that Google has a ton of information on me: 2 analytics accounts over 3 website profiles, 152 contacts entries, 1 blog, 2 calendars, 132 documents, 17185 e-mail messages at 3485 MB (47% of the quota). 15 Picasa web albums, 6415 shared items in Google Reader, 321 Gmail Task Items, 112 Google Voice calls, 308 Google Wave messages, and 22542 total Google searches.

Ironically, even though I have much of my digital life embedded and integrated with many of Google services, I am known to be very critical of Google among my circle of friends. I would argue that it is important for us, as users, to know what we are getting ourselves into and what exactly we are blithely handing over to Google on a daily basis. If we agree that the benefits outweigh the risk in both the short and long term, then we can use Google. Google hasn’t been about search since the beginning, but the first thing that comes to mind when people say “Google” is search. Instead, Google is fostering new media for online advertising, whether through e-mail, searches, calendars, blogs, or profiles. Advertising is its cash cow, and there are many ways and services in which Google implements it. We need to understand this, and not just use whatever happens to be popular and free. (Yes, I am a hypocrite.)

Weather Widgets Galore

I haven't changed my Dashboard in so long now. I'm looking at it now, and I find that 6 out of 11 of my widgets are related to the weather. I do not know why I am obsessed about knowing the weather.

I am trying to build an intuition for temperature in Celsius instead of Fahrenheit just because it is fun.

What are some of the cool widgets I am missing out on? Let me know!

New Season, New USuMBS Banner

Although I loved my previous USuMBS banner that has been up since the cold months of last spring, I am updating the website with a photo I had taken a few years ago, during my Winter Break trip to Taiwan.

The beef noodle bowl at its best.

Daily Revelations: Technology

"Yo, Kevin. Why do you have so many devices?" asked one of my housemates last week.

Quick answers are, I don't know, and, I am a hypocrite.

I am a firm believer that technology makes life more complicated and tense. We put up with the added stress because of a misplaced feeling of self-importance and a desire to own shiny devices. In the end, life is more complicated with cell phones and other mobile devices, and the supposed added benefit they offer in our lives is suspect.

Like I said... I am a hypocrite.


I have experienced emotional and mental awakenings over the past few days, in more than one instance. I was forced to return to what I'd like to call my bible of sorts, the Dao De Jing (Tao Teh Ching as it is transliterated in my own copy, from Shambhala Library). I do not have a literal interpretation of "religious" texts (because doing so would be ridiculous!). Instead, I read for spiritual support, and after reading through all 81 verses in the text, several struck a chord, notably:


He who knows how to guide a ruler in the path of Tao
Does not try to override the world with force of arms.
It is in the nature of a military weapon to turn against its wielder.

Wherever armies are stationed, thorny bushes grow.
After a great war, bad years invariably follow.

What you want is to protect efficiently your own state,
But not to aim at self-aggrandisement.

After you have attained your purpose,
You must not parade your success,
You must not boast of your ability,
You must not feel proud,
You must rather regret that you had not been able to prevent the war.
You must never think of conquering others by force.

For to be over-developed is to hasten decay,
And this is against Tao,
And what is against Tao will soon cease to be.


As for your name and your body, which is the dearer?
As for your body and your wealth, which is the more to be prized?
As for gain and loss, which is the more painful?

Thus, an excessive love for anything will cost your dear in the end.
The storing up of too much goods will entail a heavy loss.

To know when you have enough is to be immune from disgrace.
To know when you stop is to be preserved from perils.
Only thus can you endure long.

What I Didn't Post...

.... during my annual voluntary disconnect from the Internet, which I do in times of stress or misery.

1. I renewed my Zune pass.
2. I realized that my recent (~ over last 5 years) ineptitude is a result of the lack of music practice. Back on the piano this semester.
3. I've discovered love, and it does hurt.
4. Linkin Park calms me when I'm feeling down.
5. I resorted going to the library to borrow books for help with homework.
6. I falcon-punched my wall because of this particular homework.
7. Taiwan is the 15th largest user of nuclear energy in the world today.
8. is actually pretty cool.
9. A Five Guys opened up in Ithaca.
10. I'm really digging Windows 7. Half of me is ashamed. The other half is all giddy.
11. My netbook gets better WiFi reception than my MacBook Pro.
12. Maroon 5 tickets purchased!
13. Guinness is my new favorite beer.
14. Order a Zune HD 32GB black.
15. K'naan.

Fighting This Cold With My Mind

I began having a sore throat two nights ago, and now the sore throat moved on to being both a runny nose and nasal congestion. The cough phase is soon about to kick in. I hope this'll pass by Sunday. Sunday is a religious day, after all. (So is Saturday, depending on your calendar.)

MAE 4300 group meetings two nights in a row have forced me to drink coffee for dinner last night and only one banana (thanks, Taylor) tonight. Lack of sleep as a result of falling behind in my work does not help my recovery.

Instead, I will employ my mind to fight this cold (and using DayQuil capsules merely supplementarily).

In other news, a small praying mantis flew into and landed on my shirt yesterday (by Stimson Hall). Today, a small dragon fly landed on my shirt (by Weill Hall).

(Photo from my South Street Seaport set.)

Most Prolific Writing Semester Ever?

This semester with my 21 credits and 8 classes will be the most torturous one during my time at Cornell. Among the 8 classes, four involve weekly one-page summaries or responses. This is on top of the work I'm still doing for Engineerography Blog (which, I'll admit, has taken a hit lately).

Although writing is still somewhat of an awkward and unusual activity for me, I'd like to think that I'm starting to get good at it. Maybe.

This photo "Contemplative" comes from my POTD (Photo of the Day) collection of last year. I'm trying to revive the project to a certain degree, but it's going along sluggishly.

Kevin Fact 5: Help Policy

My policy about helping my friends, teammates, and subordinates (for lack of a better word) is to help those that make an effort to help themselves. I will go out of my way to assist (with physical help, reminders, suggestions) those that work hard, and try. Antipathy falls on those who are disinterested, lazy, or apathetic. People that know me know this fact.

Now, you know this fact. Now, you know me better.

On Hiring...

CIT HelpDesk Mac Team is hiring! Starting $9.25/hr.

HelpDesk Training

Tomorrow is the big day when freshmen start moving in. In these past two days, we've been getting back on track and starting to focus on the future.

And today's HelpDesk training, presentations, and group activities evoked nostalgic memories of running summer camp counselor meetings and having fun.

I remember when I used to have fun. It was quite a while ago. Yeah...


I have not woken up prior to 5:00 am since my last day of work with National Grid. But I intend to keep the same sleeping schedule as I have been throughout the fall, spring, and summer, waking up around 5:30 and sleeping no later than 23:00.

I guess I just need to find my groove back.

National Grid Term 2 Reflection

See National Grid Miscellany.

I returned to National Grid at Hicksville, Long Island and began the second term of my co-op assignment almost immediately after leaving Cornell for the summer. I continued my work with the Power Engineering Department that focuses on power generation. The department provides engineering support on maintaining and improving the eleven steam units in five power stations and several other gas turbine sites that produce electric energy by burning fuel oil or natural gas. Specifically, I was a part of the Plant Project Engineering & Mechanical Design group, but I also had the opportunity to work with members from other groups in the department.

Upon my return this summer, I was able to follow up with the senior project engineer I worked with previously on several of the projects I was involved in last time. It was fulfilling to hear about how projects from the fall turned out. In addition, I continued my participation with the development of a company-wide plant maintenance program for pressure and safety relief valves by studying industry standards, managing data, and meeting with plant managers. We were evaluating the costs, procedure, and framework for routine inspections of these valves in all the power stations. Field trips were frequent, and I had an opportunity to revisit many of the power stations on Long Island.

For the most part, I was able to pick up where I left off last time. But the difference between this work term and my first one was clearly evident. Though I was given fewer assignments this summer, I was simultaneously involved in a number of longer-term, more involved projects and had a vital part in AutoCAD drawing revisions, data management, thermodynamic calculations, and pipe analysis. I worked more independently than I had previously, which was particularly welcomed. I was also given more responsibility in my work, and I had to collaborate with other engineers on work statuses and keep them informed of the issues I encountered, on my decisions, and on how I attacked certain problems.

I discovered that between the assignments I was given and the more substantial projects I participated in, the things I learned at Cornell proved very useful in intuiting and understanding operating processes and components. Classes like Thermodynamics, Heat Transfer, and Fluid Mechanics had immediate applications to the type of work in which I was involved. While I was excited to see that the classes I took and the things I learned in school had a positive impact on my ability to perform at work, I was more excited to discover that there is always more to learn on the job. I have learned about how plant processes work and how project engineering applies to everything we do.

But the greatest things I have learned while working at National Grid had little to do with engineering or technical learning. I consider myself fortunate to have been surrounded by many interesting people who shared their stories with me and who taught me countless things about various topics. Working at National Grid in Hicksville, Long Island has given me opportunities and experiences that I don’t think I would have otherwise had. I enjoyed working with the people there; it was a pleasure.

National Grid Miscellany

Tomorrow will be my last day with National Grid. As with all things that come and go, this departure from real-world engineering and from co-workers will be bitter sweet. These last two weeks have been my busiest. I have been trying to tie up loose ends and prepare my open projects and pending assignments for others to review and access. I have so far been unsuccessful.

I also haven't gotten around to writing my Job Summary for this summer work term. Last time, I was able to spend a good week revising and writing a decent essay, Term 1 Reflection. This time, unfortunately, I will probably spend no more than a few hours on it, basing it off the previous version. This biggest difference between the two terms is probably that I had more independence this time around, working on a few bigger projects (ones that I really have little idea how to do), rather than many simpler ones (ones that were fun, but often too quickly completed).

In other news, I think I will start keeping a scrap book / book-bound personal journal of my life, in addition to my public USuMBS Blog. I have been keeping a work log and writing down miscellaneous facts and ideas during my two co-op terms. It's nice to look back and reflect.

Note: photographic memory is not an indicator of intelligence.

On Backing Up

Many years ago, back in the early Windows XP days, I was burned once when my PC's hard drive failed on me. Of course, only after I had lost some files, after reports need to be rewritten, and after my personal family photos were irrecoverable did I make it a point to be meticulous about my own data storage and data recovery protocol.

Anyone who knows me knows about my plethora of external hard drives that sit on my desk at school, in addition to the Drobo sitting at home, and other miscellaneous hard drives and flash drives. I have calculated that I have about 7.5 TB of storage that is readily accessible to me, 6 of which are for archiving and backing-up.

From my experience, I believe the best and most comprehensive back-up procedure is one that's: (1) redundant, (2) easily accessible, (3) offsite, and (4) automatic. If any of the four is not fulfilled, then the system is merely superficial and cannot protect against most practical cases.

I am guilty of not fully satisfying (3), i.e. if my house blew up one day (knock on particle board), I would lose about 90% of my digital life. And apparently, my (4) isn't as automatic as it could've been.

Last night, while copying from the external hard drive with my most precious data (the silver one) to my 4 TB Drobo, the external hard drive suddenly failed on me, right as I was transferring several GB of digital photos. How's that for irony? I know have digital photos that I will likely not recover. I know I lost a few miscellaneous video files. But I know that my school documents are safe (absolutely always backed up in several places at any one time since it IS my bread and butter). Still, I am not completely certain what else is lost.

All I can say is, @#$%. Geez.

Water Diet?

About seven years ago, I resolved to ignore any desire and to forgo any offer of fast food to the extreme of even refusing to enter a McDonald's to use its restroom. For the first few years, I was successful, but later on, I was more relaxed on this personal dietary policy. I started to participate in base fast food affairs again, but to a point. Then a few years ago, I returned to my fling with Dunkin' Donuts. It doesn't help that I've only recently taken coffee somewhat seriously. Still, I don't routinely drink coffee as a casual beverage or for its bitter, over-sweetened flavor; I only drink it when I need it (on the order of once a week), which is different than my approach to alcohol. With alcohol, it's completely reverse. I do not drink beer or wine, etc., for their utilitarian effect, but for flavor and taste (mainly because light-weights like me can't hold alcohol well, but then again, I am stereotypically not expected to).

I am now turning to devoid myself of soda (I had unsuccessfuly tried this before), potato products, and junk food (namely sugar conglomerates like soda, chocolate, and cookies). I was going to declare it a vegetable-and-water diet, but it wouldn't be correctly named. I don't know what kind of name it deserves besides simply "eating well," but I do know that I'll get right on it as soon as possible ... just after I finish these last two Entenmann's donuts for breakfast.

(I've been consistently drinking about 2.4 L of water a day.)

Bike Ride in Western Brooklyn

Click to enlarge.

Today was an unsuccessful attempt to break my personal record of about 26 miles from the Bike Ride in Southern Brooklyn with Chin. I managed to go only about 25 miles today, but this time there were slopes involved (kind of). In did three laps in Prospect Park. (There was apparently a race going on, but casual cyclers were in the way. At least I was.)

Today's neighborhoods include Flatbush, Park Slope, Bay Ridge and Fort Hamilton.

This map was generated using

Google Map of Brooklyn, for context.

Deceptive Statistics (Is There Any Other Kind?)

In the New York metropolitan area, we are blessed with having a plethora of inferior newspapers, from the New York Daily News to the New York Post, to the Metro and AM New York, just to name a few. (I consider The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal quality newspapers.)

Starting this week, I began picking up the free Metro and the free AM New York, which was intended to be nothing more than a newspaper (if you can really call it that) to be read during one's commute. The Metro is has about half the number of pages as AM New York and it is just about the most poorly written newspaper I have ever read, anywhere. (Even the English Taipei Times in Taiwan is better written.)

The following comes from yesterday's AM New York and today's Metro, respectively. While there is probably nothing wrong with they way they portray things, it just goes to show that statistics really can be made to show anything. Click to enlarge:

From the AM New York, though, I was exposed to Ken Ken number puzzle, which I find particularly entertaining.

Bad Day Starts Before Midnight

1. I had trouble sleeping last night. I went to bed a bit late, at around 9:30. I couldn't fall asleep. Habitually using the iPhone as my alarm clock, I had the iPhone nearby so I decided to browse the App Store and go through my iPhone Settings. I inadvertently locked my SIM card out of my phone, which apparently happens after three failed attempts at unlocking it. (The default passcode in the United States, it turns out, is 1111, according to Apple's support pages.) So there I was stuck, unable to place or receive phone calls or do anything else over the cell network. I had my WiFi though.

2. I still wasn't able to sleep, now especially with this problem on my mind. Not sure what this Locked SIM problem was, I searched online to find solutions. Someone somewhere said it was possible to reset the passcode (using a PUK, or Pin Unlock Code) by either going to AT&T's website or calling Customer Service. My problem was I hadn't created an account. So I attempted to create it ... until I get to the step to validate my phone by sending it a text message (which I couldn't receive because I was locked out!). It was an interesting Catch-22.

3. By that time it was around 12:30. I figured I'd try to sort it out in the morning and I tried to go back to sleep. After rolling around in bed for another hour or so, I decided to look up the AT&T Customer Service number and try giving them a call (still on my SIM-locked iPhone). I had GV Mobile (which uses Google Voice) on my phone, and I wondered if it would place my (800) call. Well, it turned out it wouldn't because the way Google Voice works is by calling both the number I wanted to dial and my own phone and then connecting the call; I had forgotten about that. Then, I remembered that Skype can place (800) number calls for free. Tried Skype over my WiFi and it worked. Surprisingly, after being on hold for what felt like 10 minutes and listening to a barrage of AT&T advertisements, I was talking to someone on the other end of the line.

4. I straight up asked him for my PUK, which I had to memorize because I did not have a pencil or paper ready, and I couldn't directly type in the code while in the Skype app. In the end, the code worked. Great!

5. By 2:00 am I decided to go to my computer and charge my iPhone, which was at its 20% marker with its bright red battery indicator. By 3:00, I was on the sofa and managed to sleep about a sound hour, before needing to wake up for work at exactly 4:18.

6. I made it to the subway a minute or two early, looking forward to continuing my half-sleep on the train. Maybe I was expecting too much. There were two real-live hobos, one on either end of the train car, and there was a disheveled man sleeping lying down on one of the benches. There was spit everywhere on the floor around him. To add to the mental discomfort, one of the train doors was jammed so it kept making a disturbing mechanized moan whenever the doors tried to open. There were also two guys who got on the train shortly after I did, who sat across from one another, and who were speaking loudly in a non-English language. I guess I could have easily moved to another car. But it was routine; I had my usual spot and I did not want to leave it.

7. Desperately needing a coffee more than most other days, I made my trek to the usual Dunkin' Donuts. The sky was dark and gray, and it was raining pretty well. Then, I went to catch the LIRR, which was also non-routine this morning. Track change caused confusion. The people were divided between two platforms, not knowing which is the correct one. Do we trust the modified sign, or do we trust the physical train waiting where it usually sits? It turned out it was the latter.

8. I saw perhaps the saddest thing I'll see today as I walked the mile from the Hicksville station to the office. I saw and heard a pigeon slam into the sidewalk from out of nowhere. I have no idea why it happened. Through its beady eyes, the bird looked as if it were crying. Even I, who usually detest pigeons, felt some compassion. I probably should have attempted to rescue it. I feel guilty that I did not.

Bike Ride in Southern Brooklyn

Chin and I went for a bike ride in Brooklyn today, which, for me, totaled to a little over 25 miles. We were out for about 5 hours, not all of it actually riding. (I had only planned on go 13 miles today. Geez.)

In the past, I had ridden along Belt Parkway to the Floyd Bennett Field and US Navy Reserve area only once. Last time (probably about 3 years ago), I was too afraid to continue across the Marine Parkway Bridge by myself. Today, on a whim, we pushed forward and visited the dismantled Fort Tilden and the beach on the Rockaway Inlet.

We passed through the Coney Island (with Astroland!), Brighton Beach, and Sheepshead Bay neighborhoods.

The map was drawn using, recommended by Btan.

Google Maps, for context.

Virtual Taiwan Trip

My sister and mom flew out of JFK last Friday night to Taiwan.

Equipped with two digital cameras, an iPod touch (with charger!), and a Lenovo S10, my sister will have more than enough to keep us updated on her adventures. She has been writing extensively about what's going on over there, with commentary and photos.

mpcow BLoG of RSTs

It's like a virtual Taiwan trip for me, while I am at home manning the fort and at work making the bucks.

Minimize to Dock Icon in Snow Leopard

I just check out the Mac OS X Snow Leopard settings and you can minimize windows into the icon in the dock, rather than to the right half of the dock. It's nice if you have one or two open windows per application, but it can get pretty uncanny if you have, say, 23 open Photoshop files.

This goes hand-in-hand with the new style of Exposé in the later builds.

Day Trip to the Highline, Etc.

1. I saw two Maseratis today. I have never seen one before today.

2. We went to go see the newly opened Highline Park ( from 9th Ave and 14th Street to 20th Street. We doubled the walk by going back because it was incomplete and was too short of a walk in the park. A few photos here on Flickr.

3. Back at 14th Street, we went to 12th Ave and walked the Hudson River Park up to 23rd Street.

4. From 12nd Ave we walked crosstown to Union Square, down Park Ave where there was a street festival, and onward to 2nd Ave.

5. Someone on the street asked if we knew where Ave A was. Surprisingly, we actually knew where to direct her. (Do you?)

6. I was wearing my Dragon Day 2009 t-shirt in the Lower East Side, and someone mumbled, "Cornell." Wow.

7. For lunch we had three styles of potato--home fries, French fries, and mashed potatoes.

8. Over three-and-a-half miles today.

Omega S1 ("Small Car") CAD Page

I woke up this morning with the urge to update my page with the Omega S1, or "Small Car," I had created last fall at work on AutoCAD. See "About One Real Week of Work."

I had intended to put up step-by-step drawings of my progress. Then I realized all my files were on the Lenovo netbook that my sister took with her to Taiwan. I guess it'll have to wait. In the meantime, though, it might go something like this. Most of these were taken on the iPhone.








Apartment Lease Starts Today

My apartment lease in Ithaca starts today. I should go up there and visit sometime this summer.

What's up with Tumblelogs?

For someone who made the switch to an actual blog, is having a tumblelog (via Tumblr) redundant? It was fun as it lasted, as they say.

I use this blog to post personal thoughts and ideas, I use Twitter (@USuMBS) to share daily musings, and I use Engineerography Blog to write about a more topical and public matter. I even use Flickr to organize and share my personal photos. (I have a Picasa Gallery that is dead and a MobileMe Gallery that I am not sure how I should use it. And I don't do videos [yet].)

Then, I aggregate everything to Facebook. I think that's being plenty virtually social. But is there anything else that I should jump on the bandwagon for? I may just give up on finding a niche for my tumblelog. Does anyone actually read it? Hmm.

Blogger Retrospection

I started looking back at my older posts on Blogger. This post will have been my 218th post here, taking into account everything. Already this year, I have posted 63 times already, with an average of 10 to 11 posts a month, or about 3 posts per week. That is a good amount, I think. Whether the content I choose to share or write about is worth your time is another matter.

I remember I had wanted to move away from Blogger (because, frankly, it sucks as a blogging engine) several times, as in "The Move to Tumblr" and "BLOG@WP."

Then, one day, on April 10, 2008, I felt the urge to write, "Revisitation." But my return to blogging (posting regularly) really began with this post from April 13, 2008: "Damn You, Apollo."

Now, writing for USuMBS Blog and Engineerography Blog has become a habit.

Fail Me Once, Shame on You; Fail Me Twice, Die

After having an brandless SD card (2 GB) fail my sister for the second time, I decided to give it the treatment. I killed it. But hey, let's turn this into a learning experience:

1. Never buy or accept brandless memory cards for your invaluable digital photographs.
2. So that's what it looks like... Unsurprisingly, its a Samsung inside.

Google Voice, Yay

I just got my Google Voice invitation late last night. I just set it up and was trying out the pretty cool automatic transcription feature for voicemail.

This is what I said:

Hey, this is a test of the Google Voice voicemail box. Good bye.

And this is what I got:

hey this is a test of the go over your sweet voicemail box alright

More Rain in the Forecast

Looking up the forecast for Hicksville on my iPhone, I was dismayed to see the following. There is more rain in the forecast. Boo...

This is turning out to be a really unproductive summer.

White-Naped Crane

I don't usually do this, and I probably shouldn't, but here's a side-by-side comparison of "White-Naped Crane." Photoshop can be amazing.

Just in case you're interested, here's some information about this bird.

Unedited "Nikon" E-mail: Part Two

Back in May, I had posted an Unedited "Nikon" E-mail, which provided a new photographer some pointers. This time, I talk about color calibration and some lighting conditions.

1. Color Calibration

Getting in to color calibration is a whole other mess. You can't just compare it with what you see on the back of your camera's LCD. If you really want to get into the proper way of calibration (which is very expensive), keep in mind you'll need to to calibrate everything down the line, from your camera RAW output image file to your LCD monitor to other people's LCD monitor to your printer to Kodak's printer
service, etc.

What you see on your screen, once you touch it up perfectly, might not be what other people see on their screens at home. So my personal rule of thumb is that if it is for the web, color calibration isn't that important. (Even if you are perfect, other's people's monitors
probably aren't.) If you are printing it yourself, then you have to deal with other problems. You have display profiles and printer color
profiles, etc. It's complicated. I don't know how to do it all.

There are external USB color calibrators for your monitor ($70+, maybe) if you're interested. It takes the ambient light and adjusts
accordingly, but then, of course, the color of your photo is affected by how the screen or print is lit. (That's why real photo galleries
are very meticulous about controlling lighting and positioning, among other things.)

Doing it by eye might be okay, but it's no where near what it actually should be. Apple has a built in calibrator you can use by eye. You can adjust the colors and the levels of contrast, etc. I don't know about Windows. (You can't simply download color profiles because each
monitor is physically different and your individual room lighting conditions have other needs.)

These are at the low end of things: (the Huey)

2. Poor Lighting Conditions

Problems with the situation you described is very common, when the sky is overexposed and the subject is underexposed. Shooting on a
cloudy day is actually preferred because everything is lit evenly (for the most part). Sun actually messes things up. Clouds actually act as a natural light box.

The easiest way to counter your problem is to shoot at different times of day or on different days entirely. (Photography is about waiting
for the right moment, and not showing up at a place and expecting things to be perfect for you. But I understand.) Otherwise, there are
processes called tone mapping or HDR that you can look into. Basically (with a tripod), take multiple shots at different exposures. You can then merge them together in post-processing and manually adjust the the level of shadow and highlights you want. Because you have multiple exposures, you have more detail over the range. (In Lightroom, you can adjust the highlights and shadows of your photo otherwise. If an image is whited-out, you have lost detail at the high end, and if an image is too dark, you have lost detail at the low end. Use your histogram to help you judge. You can recover some of the detail in post, but if it's blown-out, there is no information for you to recover. Very helpful to know and use:

Another option you have are polarizers. They are considerably expensive for such a small piece of glass. For example,

P.S. I'd advise against shooting in "Green" Mode (aka Automatic) because then you wouldn't get a feel for the mechanics of photography. Plus, once you're good enough, you wouldn't want to shoot green anymore. Otherwise, you're basically buying a DSLR for the bigger sensor (which does deliver sharper images with more detail), but you're still treating it as a point-and-shoot camera.

P.P.S. You don't want to be using flash ever unless you have a reason to. I see plenty of people with their smaller cameras having the flash turned on trying to take a photo of, say, the full moon. The light from the flash sure as hell isn't going to reach the moon. Light from a flash also has a maximum "focal length" distance that they can reach. Light photography (strobist) is a totally different way of shooting. I really only use flash if it is an emergency or if I'm using it as a fill light to bring out the subject. My personal tip is use flash when you think you don't need it, and don't use it when you think you do. For example, a flash late summer afternoon at the park can help bring out the face of a subject, and flashing when you are shooting fireworks just isn't going to cut it. Do you see what I mean?

Cornell LDAP on iPhone 3.0

My friends, now that iPhone OS 3.0 is out, we now have LDAP support for the iPhone and iPod touch. We can search the Cornell Directory on the go. How exciting.

First, go to "Mail, Contacts, Calendars" in your Settings application. Add Account. Other. Under Contacts, select "Add LDAP Account".

The server name is going to be "", and the description can be whatever you want to appear in your Contacts application. No user name or password is required. I didn't have luck with connecting via SSL. Continue the setup without SSL.

You can hit the Save button from here. Just in case though, the Search Settings at the bottom should be automatically filled out to be "o=cornell university,c=us". The Search Scope is "subtree". This is probably fine for most cases.

More Cornell LDAP instructions here.

Testing a search:

Snow Leopard Wallpaper

In case you didn't know, the Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard's default wallpaper was called Aurora. Now, it's called Leopard Aurora, and the new Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard's default wallpaper takes the name Aurora. Very creative, Apple.

Here, I submit to you, the Leopard and Snow Leopard wallpapers (for a 15" MBP). Click for full-size.

Very subtle changes, and nice vignetting.

Another thing I noticed... Quick Look can now open in full screen mode by holding OPTION + SPACEBAR. Pretty neat.

Hi-Speed Scrubbing

The coolest iPhone 3.0 update is the way scrubbing is improved in the iPod application. If you touch and hold the scrubber, you have the option of changing your scrubbing speed. It reads, "Slide your finger down to adjust the scrubbing rate."

Scrubbing the traditional way is dubbed "Hi-Speed Scrubbing". It proceeds down to "Half Speed Scrubbing" and "Quarter Speed Scrubbing" when the finger is near the middle of the screen. Finally, below that is "Fine Scrubbing".

Pretty awesome. And podcasts (and I'd imagine, audiobooks) now have a 30-second step back button as well.

(The Casino Royale soundtrack rocks.)

Pre-iPhone 3.0 Update

Once the iPhone 3.0 firmware update is released this Wednesday, I'd imagine a few of these iPhone apps will become obsolete or replaced. Back in December, I posted screenshots of my home screens. I'm going to do it here again.

This Week in AAPL and MSFT

Playing around with iPhone 3.0, I checked out the new Stocks app feature of landscape charts. Following E3 and WWDC, I found this interesting. You see the trend, but also note the stock price and scale.