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    Dave’s: Abandoned Towers (belated launch announcement)

    2012 - 02.05

    By now it’s hopefully the case that Karin has announced the launch of AbandonedTowers.com, the website that we’ve been talking about off and on since October when she took it over as managing editor.  In the last 6 weeks (especially) I’ve been working really hard behind the scenes to fix up the site and make it launch ready.  Karin seems to be really happy with the results (which is good considering the effort involved).

    So if you haven’t been yet, you should head over to Abandoned Towers Magazine (www.abandonedtowers.com) and check it out.  If you’re not interested in actually reading any of the content, you should try clicking around a bit and seeing what there is to see.

    As of the moment of writing this (2pm Feb 1st) the official launch announcement has not gone out over the internet, so we’ll see what kind of spike in site visitors we get.  If things go well, we can hopefully significantly increase the $4.89 in ad revenue the site generated in January (which is slightly higher than the $4.57 from December).  We’re optimistic given that during those periods the site hadn’t significantly changed and new content was not being posted.  With the launch, the site is dramatically changed and new content is being posted frequently.  So we’ll see, it’s not going to make enough money that it’ll pay a morgage or anything, but it could get to the point where the amount it brings in is actually meaningful.

    Feel free to promote the site to all your friends, or really just everyone ;-)


    2011 - 11.10

    Those of you who are now, or historically have had an addiction to Facebook games, or even just used them to pass the time may have played Gardens of Time.  It’s one of those games where you need to find an object on the screen.

    I hadn’t played it in a while, but went in to give my “neighbours” the assorted help and items they’d requested.  I wonder if that makes me like State Farm?  Regardless, they’ve added a new feature “weekly challenge”, so I thought I’d check it out.

    It’s a new “scene” where you have 60 seconds in order to find as many of the 51 items as you can.  This isn’t totally new game play as they’ve had scenes like that before, but most of those had over 60 items to find, which given the time limit seems highly unlikely at least and impossible at most.

    So after more attempts than I care to admit, I finally managed to find all 51 items in the alloted time (I had peaked at 49 items before finally doing it).  So I was quite pleased with myself.

    Anyone out there remember the old Solitaire that shipped with Windows 3.1 (or maybe it was 3.0 that it came with originally).  The first time you completed it, and those cards start bouncing all over the screen.  I bet you got someone to come and watch it with you.  It was silly, but it was nice to have your accomplishment recognized in some form.

    So back to Gardens of Time, there was no congratulations, no cascades of cards either (although that would have been a little odd, funny, but odd).  Instead of any recognition you get the same normal score screen as before.  The only difference this time is that because I finished the level I got a “speed bonus”, no completion bonus, just a speed bonus.  Was it a huge bonus?  Nope.  Three thousand points, yup 3,000, because I completed the level with 2 seconds to spare.  Just to put it in context, here’s the scoring summary:

    Base score: 42,840 (51 items found)
    Chain bonus: 535,500 (51 items in a row)
    Speed bonus: 3,000 (2 seconds remaining)
    Total: 581,340

    Yeah, so that speed bonus accounts for 0.5% of the total score.  Feels good to finish it… but I had hoped for a little more hoopla.  Good thing I can create a little all by myself!

    Pedometer Check

    2011 - 09.20

    Last time that I uploaded my pedometer data to the tracking program I was disappointed to see that my average daily steps had fallen from 4,509 to 4,371.  This bothered me, and I’ve been working on reversing the trend.  Today after the upload my daily average steps for the year are now up to 4,521 (3.39km).  I’m pretty pleased with that.  Keep in mind that’s the average of everyday over all of 2011 so far, and includes all those lazy weekends when you don’t leave the house or the couch.

    The big change that has made this happen is the reintroduction of Disc Golf into my weekly activity calendar.  I like Disc Golf, and enjoy it.  Fundamentally it gives you a reason to walk around (potentially a lot).

    For the record my actual long term daily target is 4,200 steps/day, so I’m happy to still be above that and to still be able to increase it.  I know that they recommend that you do 10,000 steps/day but with these more accurate pedometers it’s difficult to do.  So I picked a goal that seemed achievable but not necessarily easy.  If I keep the golfing up, I might make it to 5,000 steps/day, we’ll see.

    Award Winner!

    2011 - 09.10

    Not quite an official press release, but it is a scan of the information from the Burnaby Writer’s Society bi-monthly newsletter.  Collecting the 3 place prize is everyone’s favourite new author: K.E. Abel.  Note: the K does indeed stand for Karin with an “i”, but typos like that really don’t diminish the accomplishment or her greatness.

    Burnaby Writers Society, Writing Contest 2011: Fire

    BWS’s 2011 contest on the theme of FIRE

    Our judge was BC poet Peter Trower. Peter, who has worked for years as the poetry editor for Raincoast Chronicles and has reviewed a lot of submissions in his time, said he was amazed at the high quality of work submitted for the 2011 Burnaby Writers Society contest, and had difficulty picking the winners. He was impressed to see a sestina among the entries. He knows of only one person that wrote sestinas well, Earle Birney.

    Winners and finalists will read from their work at our September 20th Spoken INK awards night, La Fontana Caffe, #101-3701 East Hastings (at Boundary Road), Burnaby .Readings begin at 8:00 p.m. Everyone is cordially invited to attend.”

    from http://burnabywritersnews.blogspot.com/2011/08/contest-results.html

    Blueberry Glaze

    2011 - 09.04

    Regular readers may remember that Karin went blueberry picking a while back.   One of the things which she wanted to make in addition to jam was pie or tarts.  White Spot apparently does a fresh blueberry pie while they are in season and she just loves it.  So the goal was to approximate it.  Unfortunately this did not happen in a timely manner, mostly because I refused to spend $2.00 on Blueberry glaze from the store (it was on SALE for that price), and on top of it you still needed to supply your own sugar.  No thank you!

    This week her mother went blueberry picking again and provided Karin with a small supply of new fresh berries.  She had already baked the tart shells, so the only thing missing was the glaze.  Tonight, I made it.

    So the glaze recipe really is very very simple, and I would recommend that you experiment a little yourself if you’re feeling it.

    1 cup/250ml – sugar
    1 cup/250ml – water
    3 tbsp/50ml – corn starch (heaping tablespoons)
    1 cup/250ml – berries [optional]

    1. If you’re lazy, throw everything in a sauce pan over medium-high heat stirring frequently with a whisk, bring to a boil and allow to thicken before removing from the heat.
    2. If you’re less lazy, add the sugar, 3/4 cup water and 1 cup berries (if using) to a saucepan and bring to a boil.  The berries will add colour and flavour to the glaze, making it a ____berry glaze instead of just a generic glaze.  This is optional.
    3. Combine the corn starch and the remaining 1/4 cup water, stir well until completely combined.
    4. Add the corn starch mixture to the sauce pan, stirring while bringing it back to a boil.
    5. The glaze should thicken, remove from heat.  Depending on what you’re doing you may choose to allow it to cool at this point.
    6. You may either pour the glaze over things now, say a pie crust filled with fresh berries, or you can add the berries directly to the glaze, stirring until completely coated, and then spooning into tart shells or onto pound cake (that’s what we did).
    7. All of this should take less than 15 minutes.  Enjoy.

    Below you’ll find a few pictures of the end result.  It should work find with pretty much any fruit or berry.

    Blueberry tartsBlueberry tartsBlueberry tartsBlueberry tartsBlueberry tartsBlueberry tarts
    Glazed Blueberries on pound cake

    Blueberry Glaze, a set on Flickr.

    Normally Karin’s the take pictures of food I made person in the family, but the camera’s been used a lot in the last couple of days so was really handy, so I figured why not.

    The Classroom

    2011 - 09.03

    Duh Duh Dugh!  Definitely the storyline for the week has been unpacking Karin’s classroom and getting it ready for students next week.  Normally you wouldn’t think this would be a big deal, but last year Karin’s school underwent seismic upgrading which means that her classroom needed to be packed up to be moved to a new school/classroom, and this time last year unpacked and setup, then at the end of the year (June) packed up and moved back to her old school (but a new classroom).  That’s probably a little hard to follow, here’s the timeline:

    • June 2010: old class packed up for moving to new school/class
    • August/September 2010: unpacking at new school/class
    • June 2011: packing at formerly new school/class
    • August/September 2011: unpacking at old school in new classroom while construction is still ongoing to finish the seismic upgrades

    So she’s back at the old school, in a new classroom, HER classroom.  She’s organized, and it shows.  Here are some “after” shots of the classroom setup (there’s still a bit of work to be done, but the heavy lifting is finished).  Perhaps Karin will post the “before” pictures in the next couple of days.



    Her desk and area:



    The pop machine last year’s class made for her:



    View out the windows near her desk:



    View out the windows at the other side of the classroom:



    The bulletin board on the cloakroom (I did the papering):



    Another bulletin board, and are those expertly assembled Ikea Ivar shelves?  Why yes they are:



    Another bulletin board, and are those expertly connected computers?  Why yes they are:



    Rolling cubbies with books in front of the radiator:



    Full room shots:





    So it took a lot of work this week, most of it by Karin, with help from her mom, and minor contributions by yours truly.  The results thus far are very impressive and satisfying, should be a great year!

    The downside is that Karin has a very sore back from all the work she’s been doing, so hopefully that will pass quickly, hopefully.

    Photomatix: Review

    2011 - 09.02

    As mentioned earlier we bought Photomatix to do some High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography.  We decided to do that after we tried it out a little bit and posted some pictures to Flickr as mentioned before.

    The trial version of Photomatix is the same as the full version except that it adds watermarks to the final version of the image, which effectively renders it useless, unless you really want to advertise the fact that you used the trial version.

    Anyway, when doing the original HDR photos of the arbutus trees and foliage I planned ahead a little bit.  When you are saving a file in Photomatix you also get the option of saving the settings that you used to manipulate or perhaps more appropriately combine the multiple exposures into a single exposure.  The end result is an XMP file.

    “Ok, good.” I think to myself, now if I buy the software later I’ll be able to remake these same HDR photos without the watermarks, as I have saved the settings I used to make them in the first place!

    1. So you’ve bought the software
    2. You previously saved the settings used to make the HDR photo as an XMP file
    3. You open Photomatix
    4. Now what?

    I spent a lot of time on number 4.  I thought, I’ll just go to “Open” and select the file, and automagically things will just happen.  Well that fantasy didn’t last very long, as the “Open” dialog doesn’t allow you to open .xmp files.  Huh!?!?  That’s helpful.

    Drag and drop the file into Photomatix?  Nope, doesn’t work either.

    I probably tried a few other things too, it turns out what you need to do is go through the same process of loading the original source files (I guess that what they were is not stored int he .xmp file, or Photomatix simply isn’t set up to make use of it) into Photomatix as though you were making a completely different HDR image.

    After it has loaded the bracketed photos into the HDR image for you to manipulate prior to processing it, you’re hoping that somehow you’re going to be able to make use of the .xmp file that your past self thought was pretty smart of it for having the forethought to create.

    Well it turns out that you can use it, but it’s still not anywhere near as simple as it should be.  There are a few different types of HDR image within Photomatix: Tone Mapping and Exposure Fusion and within those there can be a couple of different sub-types as well.  The downside is that you need to select the appropriate mode and sub-type and then go to a drop down box and select “load settings” before you can load the settings you’ve previously saved.

    It works, but it’s cumbersome and clunky.  Realistically I should be able to include the .xmp at the beginning when I’m loading the bracketed photos, so that it would default to that settings file and the type of HDR composition used in the settings file when presenting the intermediary HDR for manipulation.  Of course that’s only assuming that you couldn’t use the ideal method of just loading the .xmp file and having it load the bracketed photos used for the HDR automagically based on the values in the .xmp file.  But really there’s no excuse for having to pre-select the appropriate type and sub-type of settings before it will let you load the settings file (it literally has a pop-up that tells you that the settings file doesn’t contain settings for that type/sub-type).  On some level it’s good for you to know, but even if they really thought that was important, why couldn’t they instead add to that pop-up: “These settings are for type/sub-type and not the currently selected other type/other sub-type, would you like to load these settings which will result in a change to the type/sub-type or would you like to load a different settings file for the currently selected other type/other sub-type?  [Do it anyway] [Load other] [Cancel]”

    Of course if you never save the settings with the intention of using them to recreate the same image, or to use for other images to apply identical settings, well then you’ll never encounter this issue.

    Is it annoying?  Yes.  Is it bad design?  I’d say so.  Is it a show stopper which makes the software not worth using?  No, I don’t think so.  Especially if you know what to expect, which obviously I didn’t, and came in with unrealistic expectations of how easy it would be to recreate those previous HDR images.

    The final result of all this is actually that I’ve redone all those earlier HDR images so that they no longer have the watermarks, which means I can order prints of them now.  You can see the updated images on Flickr.

    Night Views (Burnaby)

    2011 - 07.31
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    Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)
    Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)
    Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)Night Views (Burnaby)

    Night Views (Burnaby), a set on Flickr.

    Via Flickr:
    Various photos taken on an interesting weather night in Burnaby near the full moon. Assorted bracketed exposures which eventually will be used to try some HDR cityscapes.

    These were taken just after we got back from Sooke, it was near the full moon and the clouds were doing some interesting stuff.  I decided that I’d see if I could do some more HDR stuff, but with the cityscapes instead.  I haven’t done anything with the pictures yet, so we’ll see how that turns out, but some of them are sufficiently interesting on their own.  Various exposure levels are used to achieve these effects, but no post processing has taken place.

    All pictures are taken from our balcony, most using our tripod.

    P.S.  Karin took some pictures at the same time, but she hasn’t uploaded any of hers yet, so I’m not sure how they turned out.

    10,000 Step Challenge

    2011 - 04.13

    A few interesting things have been going on over here, and out of them, I’ve decided that this week I’m going to actually do the 10,000 steps a day thing.  Back in the good old days it didn’t seem like it was that difficult to do, but with these new fancier and smarter pedometers it’s much harder to actually get to that total.  We’ll see if I can keep it up for the whole week (with a possible pass for Friday, as we have other plans).  I started on Monday, and Karin decided to join on Tuesday!  I’ll let her post separately about how well she’s doing.

    Monday: 10,021 steps (4,993 aerobic ones over 44 mins), 460 cals and 7.51kms

    Tuesday: 8,632 steps (6,890 aerobic ones over 59 mins), 371 cals and 6.47 kms

    Wednesday: 13, 325 (7,597 aerobic ones over 71 mins), 596 cals and 9.99 kms (as of this writing anyway)

    I decided that since I didn’t meet my target on Tuesday that my punishment was to have to exceed my goal by twice the shortfall, so I needed to hit 12,736 to make up for Tuesday’s shortfall, and I’m pleased that I was able to do that.  I don’t know if I’ll keep doing this indefinitely but at the moment I’m enjoying the sense of satisfaction from the accomplishments!

    In order to hit the Monday goal, I did shopping at Costco, went to the gym and did almost 2,000 steps worth of pacing in the condo.  Tuesday, went for a good walk to the liquor store at Broadway and Lillouette, and carried Karin’s purchases back in a backpack, so it was probably a better workout, but fewer total steps.   I also played some Wii Fit Plus, but didn’t manage to register enough “steps” before midnight.  Today, I walked to my bank (essentially Brentwood) and did some shopping at Winner’s and Save-on, then walked home (with a whole bunch of cake mix which was on sale and creme de tartar for making buttercream icing).  That got me to about 6,000, and then some condo cleaning, vacuuming other general activities and a quick shopping trip to Brentwood  got me to the 8,500 level.  The rest is courtesy of 40 minutes in the gym.

    Hope I can keep up with it tomorrow, and hey if anyone else feels like jumping on the bandwagon for the rest of the week that’s cool.  Taunting messages (“tweets”) with your current step count are encouraged (but of course it’s not a competition ;-)

    21,152 Steps

    2011 - 02.09

    Pretty much everyone in the family has pedometers these days, and mostly we have an Omron from Costco.  Because of the Disc Golf tournament this Saturday I was able to rack up a new record of 21,152 steps.  It’s a personal record at least, not sure if anyone else can top it.  Supposedly that means that I burned: 991 kcal, 54.6g fat and walked 15.86km.

    Karin previously had the record with 17,000 steps from the summer when we went to the PNE, there’s a bit of a funny story attached to that total, but I’ll let her tell it.

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