October 2007

October 30, 2007

New Toy: Canon 40D

Canon 40DI've been shooting my venerable Canon 10D for 4.5 years now; it's been a great camera and honestly, it's still better than I am. In most ways, my photography is not limited by the camera. However, I'm a gear junkie as much as a photographer; it's been hard to resist all the exciting new cameras that have come out these past few years, so I finally gave in and bought the new 40D.

I haven't had a chance to really put it through its paces yet, but so far, I love it. One of the limitations I did run into with the 10D was the frame rate; when I'm shooting the kids or an event like a sailboat race, I often missed the "decisive moment" because the 10D was a just a little slow at 3.3 frames-per-second. The 40D's 6.5 fps feels like a machine gun by comparison. Perhaps more frustrating on the 10D was the relatively small buffer size. I'd be blazing away and all-of-a-sudden the camera would stop taking photos once the internal buffer filled up; I'd be sitting there fuming and waiting to get another shot just as the naked supermodels appeared with an honest politician, Bigfoot, and Osama Bin Laden dancing with them. By the time I was ready to shoot again, they'd all be gone. The 40D has a much bigger buffer, so with any luck, I'll be able to get a snap of the elusive Bin Laden...

I'm looking forward to really messing with it some more. Watch for more photos soon...

Posted October 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

October 20, 2007

The Confident Hope of a Miracle

Categories: Books and such

The Confident Hope of a MiracleAt John's recommendation, I read The Confident Hope of a Miracle by Neil Hanson recently. This book is a fascinating read about the "true story of the Spanish Armada." Before reading the book, I didn't know much beyond the fact the small English navy defeated the huge Spanish Armada due to smaller, faster ships. Hanson does a great job laying out the political and economic framework that lead up to the battles, the technology of the day, and the personalities of the players, intertwining these to show how they affected the outcome and ultimately, history.

While I learned many things in the book, a few tidbits stood out. First, almost no ships were sunk via direct engagement. I had always envisioned the Spanish fleet going down in flames as English ships raked them cannon fire. In reality, the crews and crown preferred to capture enemy vessels as prizes, so there was less incentive to simply sink enemy vessels; also, given the ships were made of a floating material, it was just plain hard to sink a ship. Most of the Spanish ships were damaged heavily and the lost to storms, mostly after the engagements as they circled back around Ireland trying to return to Spain after running up the English Channel and failing to land. (They couldn't return via the English Channel because of the prevailing winds; as a fleet their ships could not sail closer than 90 degrees to the wind.)

Another surprise was how ill-prepared England was. Elizabeth was frugal, to say the least, and did not keep a standing navy, relying instead of privateers. Moreover, she was hesitant to spend enough to outfit the fleet, so that the fleet was starving, even in sight of England, and didn't have enough powder or shot to continue the fight. In fact the English really only had sufficient powder because they had a lucky capture of a Spanish ship loaded with powder. The Spanish Armada was really defeated with Spanish powder. Even after the victory, Elizabeth kept her purse strings tight and didn't pay the crews. The crews were turned out, wounded, in their battle stained clothes and typically no prize money, left to beg or otherwise find their way home.

Finally, it was interesting to see how completely outclassed the Spanish ships were. The English vessels were "race built", sleek and low to the water; by contrast, the Spanish ships were castles at sea. The English ships could sail closer to the wind and were much faster, giving them the freedom to dictate the terms of battle. Furthermore, the English cannons had much longer range and were set on wheeled carts so they could be retracted after firing and reloaded quickly; the Spanish cannons were fixed and had to be reloaded from outside the ship. As a result, the English could sustain a much higher rate of fire (something like 3-5x I think); no English ships were lost to Spanish fire.

Hanson's writing is excellent and engrossing. The book provides great insights into this well-known, but little understood event. I highly recommend it.

Posted October 20, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

October 19, 2007

Sad news

Categories: Travel

Dan Bergin

I just got some horrible news. In the big windstorm we had yesterday, a kiteboarder died on Lake Washington; the victim was Dan Bergin, skipper of Papa, the boat I sailed on last September. Apparently, it was a freak accident, but I don't have more details. I'm in a bit of shock. I just saw Dan a few weeks ago at the Seattle Boats Afloat Show. He told me about his new boat, and we were trying to find a good time to go see it.

I really respect Dan and the way he lived his life. He was an Annapolis graduate who served our country flying EA-6B Prowlers off of carriers, flew for Delta Airlines, and then left all of that to pursue his passions of skiing and sailing. He really enjoyed life and people; he was fun and irreverent most of the time, serious and professional when needed. It's fitting that was doing something he truly loved until the very end. In the talk he gave about long distance cruising at the Boats Afloat Show he reminded everyone to actively pursue their dreams. He did. It was a good reminder for us all.

I'm glad we met and am sad I didn't know him better. I will try to live a little more like Dan every day. Rest easy, Captain Dan.

[Update: Here's a link to Dan's obituary in the Seattle PI.]

Posted October 19, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

October 15, 2007

I'm still alive

Categories: Admin

I haven't abandoned the blog, although I know it looks that way. Things have been a little crazy with work and home stuff lately; nothing bad or anything to be worried about. I have a bunch of posts in the queue and hope to get back to writing more regularly Real Soon Now.

In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves...

Posted October 15, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 5, 2007

All's Well

Our sad Xbox came back today, happy again. Again, I think Microsoft did a good job here with a bad situation (even throwing in a one month free Xbox Live Gold card).

So, our lonely copy of Halo 3 finally met it's mate today. Andrew (10) happened to be home sick today (he really is sick -- swollen lymph nodes and a positive strep test are hard to fake), so he was pretty happy to kill Grunts, Brutes, and Hunters all afternoon. Even on our analog TV, it looks great.

Posted October 5, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)