Saturday, December 31, 2005

Updated Site Feed

I updated the feed for this site yesterday, so you may want to re-subscribe, if you use that service.

If, perchance, you do not know what a feed is, let me try to explain it:

On this site, as in many others, there is a small orange square in the menu bar to the side. On this site it is above the button that says “I power Blogger” and beside the button that says “Get Firefox...” If you click on that button in Internet Explorer, you will get a bunch of text that does not make much sense. If you have a more advanced browser, such as Firefox, you can bookmark the page that opens, and when you click on it, it will show you the latest headlines.

Its a pretty cool little trick that a great many websites are offering. If you do not have Firefox, you can download it from this website simply by clicking on the aforementioned button underneath the archives section.

In addition to that feature, there are many other advantages to the Firefox browser. For example, it has a much higher security rating than Internet Explorer.

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Sweet Photos

I have spent the better part of two hours looking through the photos at Dan Chung's Blog.

He is a photographer for a London newspaper called The Guardian. If you have a moment, and you enjoy photographs, go check this out. There are photos from events like Live8 in London to a very moving series from when he went on a trip to Niger.

I am quite stunned at, not only the quality of the photos (from the camera quality perspective), but the creative angles he finds to shoot from.

Great find!

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Friday, December 30, 2005

Digital Photography Tips For Beginners

There is an excellent article over at Macworld that gives a ton of great advice on how to capture the moment. It is not to technical, and is aimed squarely at those who wish to capture the moment without becoming a “professional” in the process.

I don't think it even mentions using the Mac as a platform, so Windows users, this is for you too.

This article will help you get the most out of the camera you have, and it is written in a down-to-earth fashion. I picked up a few things from it, I hope you can too.

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

“How's that [new iPod]?”

In yet another somewhat misleadingly titled article, experts are warning that many listen to portable music players at volumes that are way to high. According to the article, this is, in large part, due to the earbud style of headset. Because it lets in a big percentage of outside noise, users tend to turn up the music more. 110 to 120 dB (Decibels) on average.

I am an avid music listener, though it is usually on my computer that I carry out this activity. I have a laptop, so I find that more portable devices tend to work better for me. One time (I think 2000 or 2001) I went to CES (Consumer Electronics Show), and saw the Shure booth. Yes, they have some of the coolest wireless systems known to sound technicians, but I saw the earbuds associated with the in-ear monitors for musicians and tried them. On putting them in my ears I was impressed with how quiet it became inside my head.

I could hear clearly the music that was playing, and the buds were small enough to be practically invisible. This link is to the brand I have. There are other good brands, though. Yes, you will spend some money, depending on what you want. You could spend $100 bucks now, and have your hearing later, or not spend the money, and not be able to listen to any music later in life.

A side advantage to this style, is that in-ears tend to seem louder (because they are closer to your eardrum, and because they create a closed space in your ear), so the end result is longer battery life. I have found that, compared to my studio quality Sony headphones (which list at about $100), my $70 Shure headphones take 50% of the output volume from any given device (and they are more accurate with frequency response).

If you got an iPod (or other personal music player) for Christmas, look into this style of headphones. They are quiet, sound better than most any other type of headphone, and are well worth the money spent.

If you are considering a noise cancellation headset, try these first. I have used them many times on planes with a very pleasing result.

For the most pleasing result, it is possible to get ear-moulds (just like for hearing aids). This is what most musicians are doing, and it gives the most comfortable fit, along with the best isolation possible.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Email Etiquette: 5 Rules

Etiquette is important in email, just as it is with the rest of life. I have collected here, some of the things that bug me most about emails I receive from people. If you feel like I missed something, bring it up in the comments.

Only sending forwards:
There are, believe it or not, people who still do this. Typically, they send forwards of forwards of forwards (etc.). When I get emails from a fellow human being, I appreciate that person putting some thought into letting me know how they are doing, and actually typing out a message. Most of these just click forward, select the entire address book, and hit send.

If you really want to share something like this with your friends get a blog. Copy. Paste. If your friends want to read it they will. If everyone did this, it would save countless terabytes on email servers around the world, as well as reducing spam. One way spammers get your email address is mass emails that are not sent using the BCC field.

I don't mind the occasional forward from someone who actually talks with me from time to time--but they should not be the norm.

Poor (If Existent) Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar:
Not everyone is an English Major. That is fine. Just do the best you can. It is very difficult to read anything without punctuation (this includes caps at the beginning of the sentence), using a spell checker is easy enough, and if you can use a computer, and you don't have a handle on grammar--good luck in life. Over-use of smilies and text messaging “words” is out too--they serve a purpose, but I don't want to wade through them in an email.
Come to think of it, over-use of anything gets tiring. It is fine to be casual, just be careful how casual you get.

Giving My Email to a Corporate Entity:
Someone did this to me recently. The amount of spam in my account has tripled. Company A says that if this person gets six people to create accounts, said company will give this person a $600 (US) piece of software (or, an iPod--it varies). That is all well and good, but in order to create an account, one must enter six more email addresses. Its good for the spammer company, not really for anyone else. Inboxes are filled with spam, no one can unsubscribe (not even using the link provided--which is not recommended).

If someone asks you for someone else's email address, its a good idea to know (with at least 90% certainty) how that data will be used. I look at email addresses like I do physical ones. If someone asked me for six of my friends addresses I would laugh in their face. I don't know if I have enemies I would do that to.

The Work Email:
I have friends who frequently write from work. Its fine with me if they do that, but that email goes into the corporation's official record. If you reply to that email at the same address it is not a private conversation. For my part, its not a problem, but I have seen some, um... er... questionable material on coworkers email screens.

Large Attachments:
I have probably violated each of these rules at different times, but this is the one I have infringed on most. (Though, in my defense, I would have gladly removed anyone from the list who said they wanted off.)
Many people still have dial-up. Think about this before clicking the “Send” button. Do(es) your recipient(s) have a dial-up connection? If so, do you know them well enough to know if they mind waiting 17 minutes to download that 4 MB picture of your mother-in-law asleep in front of the TV (if they want the photo at all)?
One option is to provide a link to the file, which they could download at their discretion. If that is not possible, you could send a short email describing what you want to send them, and ask if they want it.

General Rules:
Etiquette is all about treating other people how they want to be treated. Think about what you are sending, before you send it. Think about your audience. Think about the limitations of their computer and/or bandwidth (for mass emails, use the lowest common denominator).

It does not take a lot of work to think these things through, and when one gets in the habit, it takes even less time. You may not get thanked for your thoughtfulness, but that is not the point.


Ran across this today. Could not resist sharing it:
“I don't like composers who think. It gets in the way of their plagiarism.”

--Howard Deitz

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I have mentioned here that I was planning a post about some of the various and unique foods that grow here in Brazil. I finally got around to it. There are more pictures on my Flickr page, if you want to see more.
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The acerola is a fruit that is about the size and shape of a cherry. None of the ones I have eaten have been sweet. I have not eaten many, so I don't know if they are supposed to ripen more, or not.
They do have a rather pleasant bitter flavor, which, with a bit of sugar is very good. Typically these are served in the form of juice.
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This very odd fruit (called Jackfruit in English) is about the size of a basketball, and is covered with short, spiny green things. They are not really sharp, as in cactus, but they are a little sharp. The edible part is around the seed, and has the consistency of garlic, or similar. Not much flavor here. In the lower center of the photo there is a seed with the meat on, and a seed without the meat.

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The pitomba is also about the size of a cherry. However, the seed takes up such a large portion of the fruit area, that there is almost no fruit at all. Even so, there are many vendors on the streets who sell these, so they must be pretty popular. The outside of the fruit (the skin, or peel) is sort of like a leathery orange peel, but thinner, and not connected to the fruit like an orange peel is. The fruit itself gives kind of a dry feeling on the tongue, but is quite wet. I think it sort of recalls the flavor of lemon in a way, but not as strong by a long shot. This might be one you just have to try yourself, as I am having difficulty coming up with descriptors for it. I am open to suggestions in the comments (though, it would help if you have actually eaten this...).
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Here is another fruit that has a difficult flavor to describe. It is also the only fruit of these that I have a strong distaste for (that said, I would rather eat this than panelada). The piqui [Portuguese] (good Scrabble word, by the way--if its in your dictionary) is eaten after being boiled. There is a thin coating of flour-like (in texture) meat on the seed, and this is what is cooked and eaten. The smell is very distinct and pungent, and reminds me of--well, it just reminds me of the first time I ate the fruit. One must scrape the meat off the seed with their teeth, and its kind of grainy and a bit flavorless to me, but my wife likes it, as do others around the house. If you get the opportunity to try it, do. I don't want to discourage anyone from trying new things just because I don't like them.
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This is a fruit called bacuri. It is evidently a very good fruit to make juice out of. I don't remember its flavor, as this photo was taken almost (maybe over) a year ago.
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Here is probably the oddest fruit I have ever seen, touched, or eaten. Cupuaçu (coo-poo-a-su). It grows in a nut-like enclosure about a foot, to 16 inches long, by about 6 inches wide--on trees, I am told. This first picture shows the removed fruit of one enclosure, as well as the inside of half of one of the nut-like enclosure (I was going to use nut-case, but did not like the connotations that went along with it.).
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Update: This post has been revised and added to at my new blog, it can now be found  under the title "The Fruits of Brazil."

Monday, December 26, 2005

Driving Classes?

I have no desire to own a high end sports car. At least not unless I can actually afford the insurance, and maintenance on such a purchase.

That said, I would LOVE to drive one on a closed course. I ran across a video today, that is nothing less than incredible. Its just over 10 minutes long, so it will take a bit to download, but its is well worth it if you love sports cars, driving, etc.

All the narration and dialogue is in Japanese, so don't ask me to translate it for you.

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The Darker Side Of Brazil

If you share any interest with me in the country of Brazil, you may be very interested in this article at the BBC News Website. While I do not see the corporate side of the corruption here on a daily basis, I have been asked for a bribe from a government official. The fact that I have been asked for a bribe did not surprise me so much as that I have only dealt with three government agencies since I arrived (well--not including customs).

Street vendors, and menial task jobs are a way of life here, as the article says. I was watching a sidewalk being paved a few weeks ago, and was amazed at the size of the crew doing the work. At home in the States, the crew would have been half the size, and they would have had machines to do most of the tedious parts of the labor. Here everything is done by hand because--at least it seems this way to me--it is cheaper to pay a laborer than it is to buy a machine that would take the place of five of them.

The article talks about much more, and is very well written. If you have questions for me post in the comments, and I will do my best to answer.

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Friday, December 23, 2005

Eight (yes: 8) GB of Compact Flash Goodness

This one is for the pro-level digital photographers out there. Transcend has released the new card and says that it will reach speeds of 120x.
When you have 500 RAW pictures on your card I suppose that transfer rates start to matter more, so that 120x comes in handy real quick like. Transfer rates are (read/write) 20/18 MB per second. UDMA compatible.

More info here.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Apologies for the long absence...

The phone company said it would only be 72 hours that they needed to take the DSL away for.

Over three weeks later, they got it together. I will be writing entries tomorrow.

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