Archive for the ‘photography’ Category

Spidersammy and Sophiepony ride again

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

In teaching Sammy and Sophie the value of coins and what money buys, it’s hard to come up with anything for the penny. (I’ve long advocated retiring one cent coins.). Fortunately, horsey rides at Lozano’s remain a penny. Hiho and away.

Happy 5, Sammy

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Dear Sammy,

Today you turn five. I can’t believe those words are true: It seems impossibly fast. As I type this, you’re building “a machine to blow out dust” using your new Tinkertoys, and you were thoughtful enough to make sure that we didn’t get dust on my phone. Earlier today, as we spent the day together with you home sick from school, you surprised me with your wide range of knowledge and interests, from Mickey Mouse to bugs to stars to sushi. You always make me proud.
Love eternally,
Your dad

Learning to Surf

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

The four of us spent a week in Maui with Georgia, Nathan and Penny. It was a wonderful trip, with highlights that included rainbows, a trip to the aquarium, a luau, a glass-bottom boat ride, some amazing meals, poke tasting, and (on our last full day) a surf lesson. Kimi arranged for a sitter for Sammy and Sophie, and Georgia dropped us off at Lahaina at the Royal Hawaiian Surf Academy to meet Josh, our instructor for two hours. After reviewing the basics on the sand, we took our 11-foot longboards out to the water, in a gentle, shallow spot right behind King Kamemeha’s elementary school — the bunny slope of Hawaiian surfing.

Perhaps it was the gentle waves, or the length of the longboard, or Josh’s prowess as an instructor, but both Kimi and I managed to get to our feet on the first attempt. It looked a little something like this.

(All photographs by Ric Larsenfull set is up on Flickr. Music by Slang, “Field Guide To Snapping,” off their album The Bellwether Project. This is my first time using Microsoft Movie Maker, so there are five or six effects and transitions that I should have passed on…)

“I’m making a snail museum”

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Rain + bushes => snails

Moon Jelly (or UFO)

Monday, February 15th, 2010

“I’m helping”

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Kimi made banana bread last night. Sophie helped.

We ate up there

Friday, January 1st, 2010

A photograph of the Space Needle in Seattle at nighttimeThere’s a maxim my dad told me when I was a kid, after dragging us into some tourist trap of a restaurant by some beach somewhere: “The better the view, the worse the food.”

There’s another rule of thumb engineers talk about also: “Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick two.” (Meaning you can’t have everything — there’s always a compromise that has to be made with either the schedule, the budget, or the quality.)

Well, the Sky City restaurant rotates at the top of the Space Needle in Seattle, where we ate this evening. It seems to defy both rules: The view is truly magnificent yet the food was good too. I had the clam chowder followed by Dungeness crab mac and cheese, and it was sublime. The other entrees chosen by our group (my wife and my sister-in-law, plus my two kids) all seemed delicious as well, if not especially gourmet. Kimi’s crab cakes were perfect, and Tomi’s French toast with espresso creme was wonderful.

As for that second maxim: The food was good, but it wasn’t fast or cheap. The speed didn’t bother us — more time to enjoy the view. We were planning on riding up to the top of the needle regardless, and since no restaurants were open nearby on New Year’s Day, it seemed prudent to eat there.

The maxim I will pass onto my kids is this: “The better the view, the more you’ll pay for it.”

Great treat to start the new year, though! Happy New Year, readers. (Both of you.)

The Letter V

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

Sorry, every other letter in the alphabet, you’re fired. The letter V has completely dominated popular culture.

Vvvv vvv vv, V vvvvv, vvv vvvv vvvvvv vv’vv vvvv vv vvv vv “v.”

[Collage of images involving the letter V from popular culture, including V, True Blood, V for Vendetta, others]
(Click to enlarge)

In the collage, roughly from left to right:

  1. Supermodel Anne V (Sports Illustrated photo), wearing a v-neck bathing suit, from her 5-year SI run.
  2. Actress Morena Baccarin as Anna in the new “V” series on ABC.
  3. The energy drink V.
  4. XKCD illustrating Valentine’s Day (V Day). (Notice that the bottom half of a heart forms a V.)
  5. The band Live’s album V.
  6. V logos for Virgin brands as well as the TV series “V” look similar.
  7. The annual music festival in the UK.
  8. The victory gesture with 2 fingers; Churchill (his arm, at least) and Nixon are demonstrating here. Nixon is really demonstrating three Vs.
  9. The graphic novel V for Vendetta, written by Alan Moore, drawn by David Lloyd, which later became a movie.
  10. In the HBO series “True Blood,” adapted from the Charlaine Harris novels, vampires are known as “Vs,” and their blood is a drug known as “V” (reminiscent of “X” for ecstasy).
  11. Visitors, visitors, everywhere. In addition to the current “V” series (where the Visitors are called “Vs”), there was the original two-part 1983 miniseries, a three-part 1984 miniseries, a short-lived 1984 TV series, and various novels and comics.
  12. Thomas Pynchon’s first novel, V.
  13. The V subway train, familiar in orange to residents of New York.
  14. The Gibson Flying V, made famous by Lonnie Mack and Jimi Hendrix.
  15. V Day (or V-J Day), and the world’s most famous photograph of a kiss in Times Square.

And there are probably a dozen more I could have included if I had thought of them.

Hello, Jack-O-Lantern

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Kimi carved this at a pumpkin-carving party at Bob P.’s place today. Nice work, sweetie!

Halloween dry run

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Just a test.

First bicycle ride for Sammy

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

Sophie counting chins and ears

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Sam the Bear

Friday, July 10th, 2009

His aunt Erin gave Sammy this bear for Christmas in 2007, along with a book about him, confirming the bear in question really is Sam the Bear. Sammy the boy and Sam the Bear are inseparable. One time we went on a trip and didn’t bring Sam the Bear. There won’t be a second time.

Natural Bridges, Santa Cruz, CA

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Saturday was the beginning of the heat wave, so we head to Santa Cruz for some beach time.

When heading down Highway 17, usually I expect the least traffic at the crack of dawn or after noon. But even waiting until noon didn’t help, and it took over two hours to get there (when normally it’s about 45 minutes). The slowest traffic was on the surface streets in Santa Cruz, and even trying some offbeat routes didn’t help. We stopped downtown to eat the Walnut Street Cafe to give the tangle some time to disperse before heading to Natural Bridges. (It costs $8 to park now! How on earth can it save the state money to close these parks when they charge what should be enough to break even? I was happy to pay if it meant helping out the state during the budget crisis.)

As it turned out, we got there right after the morning fog burned off, and there was a bit of a wind, so it was a great way to cool down.

I experimented a bit with the new video feature of my new iPhone 3GS.

Now that’s after upload to YouTube, and that process seems to introduce a lot of artifacts. On the plus side, iPhone video is convenient — I will amost always be carrying my phone — and it’s not nearly as sensitive as the Flip to shake. But the brightness changes are jarring, and the overall image quality is not as good. (You can view my other video tests on my YouTube channel.)


^^^^^ Sammy typed that. Pardon the intrusion.

After the sun started to sink, we headed to the wharf for bread-bowl clam chowder and to watch the seals and sea lions and pelicans. Sheets of mist draped the pier, giving the whole scene a surreal and wonderful edge.

Armed with salt water taffy from Marini’s, we headed home at 9, and once again ran into crushing traffic. While everyone else slept in the car, I tried every trick I knew to take the non-beaten path, but wasn’t able to get home until 10:30pm.

Worth it.

Living is easy with eyes closed

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

[photo of Sophie Mack, 20 months, eyes closed, Mountain View, CA, June 9, 2009; photo by Kimi Mack]

Sammy puts toy dinosaurs in the water test video

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

A second test video, in which Sammy dunks three toy dinosaurs in water. They are expected to expand to 600% size over the course of several days. (“Just add water!” it says on the package — and then wait three days, they don’t use the big font size about that part.)

This one was shot with the Mino Flip HD as well (see previous post), using the tripod. Here I have problems keeping Sammy in frame, there appear to be a couple of audio sync issues, and the low light is a little more problematic. However, for a device smaller than a pack of cards, dealing with the fact that it was dusk in a room with no lights, it’s not too bad. As I learn to use the zoom and position the thing properly, I expect the quality to improve.

Mino Flip HD: Preliminary review and test video of my daughter Sophie

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

At Costco today, I bought myself an early birthday present, a Mino Flip HD, which is a video camera in a small form factor — about the size of my iPhone. (You can read this PC Mag review for more details.) Costco carries the 60-minute Mino Flip HD in black with a bonus tripod for under $200.

We do have a video camera, and it has more features than I’ll ever use, but it uses mini tapes, and it’s difficult to capture the video on computer to edit or publish here. It’s also not as ultra-portable as the Mino Flip HD. I’ve been interested in it ever since I saw David Pogue review it on The New York Times “Circuits” show a few months ago.

The package includes a soft pouch and wrist strap, plus composite cables for quick playback on your TV set (but that’d be in SD, obviously, given the cable). The product itself is well-designed in terms of UI, stripping down the feature set to only the bare essentials. It has only the most minimal controls, to make video capture simple.

I took two quick test videos, one of Sophie and one of Sammy. The first test video, of Sophie, quickly showed that I don’t have a steady hand and should really use the tripod.

For the second test video, I used the tripod, which helped the stability a lot.

The light wasn’t great for either test, and it looks like the Flip did a better job of handling low light conditions than our handheld Canon camcorder.

The Flip does capture in HD (see below for specs), and it was very simple to use the built-in USB to transfer the videos to my computer. After installing the software (automatic the first time you attach the Flip to your PC), transfer only took a few seconds.

The supplied “FlipShare” software is a little too stripped down. While it has very basic editing (titles, clip beginning and end, organize clips into a single movie, add music) and has functions for uploading to YouTube and other sites, there’s not enough control over the file conversion.

My one minute Sophie sample file was 70 megs in the native MP4 (H.264/AAC) file format, at 1280 by 720 resolution. FlipShare can convert to WMV on a PC (or apparently to MOV on a Mac). So I had it convert for me, but the version it produced for sharing via e-mail or uploading to a web site was 10 megs, in 640 by 360. It didn’t offer me an option to change that resolution or compress further. Ten megs a minute isn’t bad, but is too big a file size for uploading here to

The YouTube upload is seamless, however, and it’s painless to embed (plus I don’t have to pay for hosting — thanks, Google!). The first test is below.

See, I wasn’t kidding about the jerky video. Sophie is now 18 months old.

Overall I haven’t used the Mino Flip HD enough to give a full review but I’m cautiously optimistic.

Tell me about Fall

Friday, December 12th, 2008

Sammy Mack, Mountain View, CA, October 26, 2008

For Barbara

Friday, December 12th, 2008

My Aunt Barbara called me last week. She told me she checks this blog every day, hoping to see a picture of Sammy or Sophie. I can’t help but feel I’ve been letting her down lately.

So, this is for you, Barbara…

Sammy and Sophie, laughing on the couch, Mountain View, CA, December 12, 2008

Not the greatest shot, I know. (The one I liked best is next.) But this is the one Sammy wanted to give you.


Friday, November 7th, 2008

I have been so remiss in updating the blog that I have not really described how quickly Sophie transitioned from cruising to walking. She’s firmly in the middle of an adorable stage where she has almost figured out walking entirely, but wobbles to and fro as she goes. A few weeks ago she’d handle a step or two. A week later she was good for ten steps. Then twenty. Now her record is probably thirty.

Sophie peeks through a toy slide, October, 2008, Mountain View, CA; photo by Tracee Z.