Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

Electronic Image Destabilizing

January 21, 2010

Do you understand all the automatic settings on your electronic equipment? Recently, I was reminded to not assume that the current settings are appropriate, when one of them did the opposite of what it was supposed to.

I was shooting video of a mini-conference in which a lot of the footage was of one person at a time standing and speaking behind a podium, in front of a white board. The camera was a Panasonic consumer MiniDV camcorder that was bought several years ago on a budget (it wasn’t mine). I was using a tripod and did a lot of head-to-waist shots with occasional zooms or pans when the speaker got close to the edge of the frame.

Fairly often, the shot would jerk somewhat up and down again, as if the tripod head were loose and shaking. It was a consumer-level video tripod (a Velbon), but I thought I had tightened the pan/tilt head about right to prevent slipping. I fiddled with it a few times, then started looking through the camera’s setup menus. There was an icon on the LCD that said “EIS”, so I looked up what that meant, since I understood all the other information on the screen.

I found out that “EIS” means Electronic Image Stabilizer. With it on, the camera analyzes the image and when it detects something moving up and down rapidly, it concludes that there is camera shake occurring, so it shifts the image in the other direction to compensate. It’s a poor man’s Steadicam for hand-held shots.

But the EIS backfired on my tripod-mounted shots. Whenever one of the speakers would wave his arms up and down to emphasize a point, the camera would lock on to the arms and try to keep them stationary, moving the podium and white board up and down instead! So it destabilized my stable shots.

I turned off the EIS, and my shots were stable for the rest of the event.

Math Cartoons

November 30, 2009

Here are a couple of cartoons I drew in April, 1987 for the St. Olaf College Math Department newsletter, the Math Mess. I have no idea what software I drew them with.

Disappearing Rainforest Cafes

February 23, 2009

For years, Bridgette and I thought it would be fun to visit a Rainforest Cafe some day. The stories of animatronic animals and simulated storms sounded like a memorable experience.

When we got married in 2003, the nearest one was about 45 minutes away in congested Tysons Corner, VA. So we put it off for a few years. In 2005, we went to look up their hours and discovered they had closed that location.

Dave&Bridgette with animatronic elephant

The next closest Rainforest Cafe was about an hour away, in Towson, MD, near Baltimore. Finally, in October, 2007, for our anniversary, we got to that location. We got there soon after they opened, so it was almost empty when we were seated, and we had a great time. Every twenty minutes or so, there was a simulated storm and the animatronic animals would panic at the thunder and flashes of light.

Bridgette with a Volcano!

We ordered a towering chocolate cake called a Vocano for dessert, which featured one of the servers hustling out of the kitchen with it, lit sparklers on top, yelling, “Vollllcaaaaaaaanoooo!” It was better than the happy birthday rap you get at a lot of restaurants (to avoid paying performance royalties on the Happy Birthday song, which is still under copyright, BTW).

After lunch there, we went to the aquarium in the Baltimore Inner Harbor.

For Valentines Day, 2009, we thought we’d go back to the Towson Rainforest Cafe and the Inner Harbor. When we looked them up on the web to find out when they opened, we discovered that the Towson Rainforest Cafe had closed a month earlier. The nearest ones are now in New Jersey and Tennessee.

It seems the Rainforest Cafe may be modeled after the world’s rapidly disappearing rainforests a little too realistically.

We did, however, get to the Inner Harbor Cheesecake Factory for dessert. There was a rather long wait, but it was shorter than driving to New Jersey.