Away for the Weekend

Tomorrow morning, my friends and I depart for a weekend getaway to a cottage for the weekend. I am excited and I cannot wait to eat, drink, and be merry with fantastic company.

I am trying to minimize the amount of electronics I bring along (since I always seem to bring the entire store) and I am only bringing the following:

  1. My iPhone: Not so much for making calls or tweets, but just to be able to stay in contact if necessary and to play all of the music that I have downloaded in preparation.
  2. My Kindle: I am going to spend a lot of time sitting around and relaxing with a cool drink during the day, and what better way to relax than to read my many books?
  3. My SLR: I’m going north to beautiful scenery over a lake with friends. Do I really need to say more?

So it’s still a lot more than most people ever bring along, but I’m a digital native, sue me.

Have a great weekend, folks!

Facebook Photo Comment View is Back!

When Facebook revamped its photo gallery feature, it removed one of my favourite features – View All Commented.

In short, you could view which photos in a certain gallery were commented. That way, you can go through comments and easily respond all on one page.

Well… it’s back!

Excitement! It works exactly as it used to, so thank you Facebook gods, for making my life that much easier.

Handing off the SLR

While away on vacation, I would love nothing more than to have more pictures of myself actually enjoying the change in location and scenery. I bring a rather nice camera along with me (Canon T2i with an 18-55mm and a 55-250mm lens) that take wonderful pictures… in the right hands. I always hesitate to hand off the camera to a stranger (or even friends!) because the picture that they will take will (usually) not look the way I would have imagined it.

Is that a douchey way to think? Of course! But what do you expect? They aren’t me and they won’t know what sort of shot I am looking for.

What is a guy to do?

While on vacation in Miami, I could only think of one solution: eliminate any variables that you can control before giving up control of your camera.

Before handing off my camera to the waiter to get him to take my picture, I did several several things:

  • Switch the lens to “Manual Focus”
  • Set the right shutter speed
  • Set the right aperture
  • Set the right ISO
  • Turn on the LCD viewfinder

My trick was to make it as simple as a point and shoot camera is to use, without having to have them fiddle with any of the settings.

Once you get used to asking people to take pictures of you with your SLR, you will be able to finally have pictures of yourself in front of the camera for once!

I Came for the Post-Apocalyptic Setting, I Stayed for the Nerdiness

I finished reading The Oblivion Society by Marcus Alexander Hart on Friday. I enjoyed reading it, especially when you have gems like this:

“I’m with you,” Bobby agreed. “Let’s eat already. I feel like somebody did an ‘rm star’ on my stomach.”

It makes me sad that I read that, understood it, and laughed so hard that my fellow subway riders probably thought I was crazy.

Of course, there was this as well:

“We should all find souvenirs,” she said. “Look around. There’s probably some stuff we can use in here. At the very least we should all find something to wear to keep warm.” “Hell yeah,” Sherri said, loosening the belt on her coat. “I call dibs on the first thing anyone finds that’s black and encrusted in metal studs!” “Fine,” Bobby said. “I’ll let you know if I find Dennis Rodman.”

And don’t even get me started on all of the Canada-related puns on the billboards they kept running into. Oh boy.

Great read.

The Cake Isn’t A Lie

Yesterday, I tweeted out that I was going to give CakePHP a try over the weekend, with the end goal of creating a plugin for CakePHP to be able to send emails via PostageApp.

CakePHP!

Welp, I’ve done the bare minimum to give it a try – I went through the ‘create a blog’ example they had in their documentation.

What you end up with is a pretty simple web page that lists all of the posts (title and body) that are in your database, and you can add, edit, or delete posts as you see fit. It was pretty darn easy to set up, and it gave me a much better understanding of the MVC coding process.

I’m going to fiddle with it some more until I can actually add functionality to it (thinking of adding comments) and some sort of layout. If you want to check out what I’ve built so far, here’s the link: hellocake.upatom.com

Feel free to add/edit/delete posts on the site, and even feel more free to leave me weird messages!

Let’s see how far I can get with this!

Tracking Ye Olde Expenses Using Google Chart Tools

Since I’ve started my hunt for a proper place to live downtown, another activity I’ve proactively started is to be a lot more careful about where and how I spend my money, in an effort to be able to afford rent and have enough money to continue to save.

Bob Newhart, why am I so broke?!

As a way of making myself accountable, I have created an expenses page that tracks my month to month expenses, which I track through Quicken Essentials.

I create the chart using Google Chart Tools, which is a pretty nifty way to display all your data using JavaScript. Though it’s a bit difficult to integrate it into WordPress posts, I took the simplest solution (NOT having to pull and parse data from custom fields) and just passed the data into the header manually.

Here’s the code I used:

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<script type="text/javascript" src="https://www.google.com/jsapi"></script>
<script type="text/javascript">
	google.load("visualization", "1", {packages:["corechart"]});
	google.setOnLoadCallback(drawChart);
	function drawChart() {
		var data = new google.visualization.DataTable();
		data.addColumn('string', 'Month');
		data.addColumn('number', '2011');
		data.addRows(12);
		data.setValue(0, 0, 'Jan');
		data.setValue(0, 1, 2610.62);
		data.setValue(1, 0, 'Feb');
		data.setValue(1, 1, 1973.72);
		data.setValue(2, 0, 'Mar');
		data.setValue(2, 1, 3303.36);
		data.setValue(3, 0, 'Apr');
		data.setValue(3, 1, 2836.86);
		data.setValue(4, 0, 'May');
		//data.setValue(4, 1, 882.64);
		data.setValue(5, 0, 'Jun');
		//data.setValue(5, 1, 882.64);
		data.setValue(6, 0, 'Jul');
		//data.setValue(6, 1, 882.64);
		data.setValue(7, 0, 'Aug');
		//data.setValue(7, 1, 882.64);
		data.setValue(8, 0, 'Sep');
		//data.setValue(8, 1, 882.64);
		data.setValue(9, 0, 'Oct');
		//data.setValue(9, 1, 882.64);
		data.setValue(10, 0, 'Nov');
		//data.setValue(10, 1, 882.64);
		data.setValue(11, 0, 'Dec');
		//data.setValue(11, 1, 882.64);
 
		var chart = new google.visualization.ColumnChart(document.getElementById('chart_div'));
		chart.draw(data, {width: 920, height: 240, title: 'Monthly Expenses',
		                  vAxis: {format:'$#,###', minValue: 0, maxValue: 5000}
		                 });
	}
</script>

Just drop that into your header file (copy and paste the header from header.php and drop it into your template file to isolate it to particular pages) and create a div with the id that matches whatever you put into this line:

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var chart = new google.visualization.ColumnChart(document.getElementById('chart_div'));

And if we used that, you would use this to place your chart anywhere on the page like so:

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<div id="chart_div"></div>

Ta daaa!

My eventual goal is to be spending less than $1500 a month, before rent, which ensures that I am saving at least SOME money. Well, here goes nothing.

Enjoy watching me waste my money, thanks for reading!

Look What Popped In Today!

What a lame title, I know. It’s been a long day, spare me!

Anyhoo, I received a mysterious package today from Brampton, ON and I didn’t remember making anyone mad recently, so I checked for ticking noises. I cautiously tore off the brown paper packaging, and I was pleasantly surprised to find this:

Popchips!

Well whaddya know, I had completely forgotten that I received the Klout Perk for this! Popchips sent over a nice box of goodies; billed as the healthy chips that have been never fried or baked. Might be just the escape I need while I try to cut back my junky eating habits.

It came with a nice hand written note telling me to enjoy along with a bunch of coupons, a fact sheet, and a passcode to send this very care package out to my friends.

Thanks Popchips and Klout!

PS. If you wish to receive one of these care packages, just let me know!

Handwritten noteChipclip!CouponbookTaste that chippy rainbow, I guess.

Lessons From Shooting With the SLR

Shooting with a Canon T2iIt has been just about 3 months since I have bought my Canon T2i, and I have done my best to really get to know it better. I have done quite a bit of video in the past, and I have done some video with SLRs as well, but there are just tiny little tips and tricks you figure out along the way.

Here are a few for the beginner videographers to help you along your journey to shooting better video!

Tip #1: Autofocus in video sucks with the T2i.

Seems rather silly, but autofocus on the T2i in video mode is… well, it’s shoddy. It is slow, it is loud, and it opens up your aperture as wide as it can while it does it, and will whitewash your entire video. Instead, get comfortable using manual focus and zooming in to check on the focus. At least that’s how I do it.

Tip #2: Invest in a good microphone.

This is especially important if you have people speaking on camera. I recently filmed an interview with Wes and Darcy of Dealpage, and we were on the roof of my office building on a rather windy day. If I didn’t have a mic, I am pretty sure my audio would consist of bits and pieces of their answers, but mostly the wind blowing right into the mic. And nobody wants to interview the wind.

The mic I use is a Rhodes VideoMic. I’d love to buy a wireless lavalier mic in the future, but for now it isn’t viable for me.

Tip #3: Don’t cheap out on the SD card.

When I took the camera to Austin for SXSW, I had JUST purchased the camera along with this cheapo 32GB SD card from Canada Computers. Worked great for photography, but when you used video mode and you moved in the slightest, you would memory buffer right out. Why? The SD card just wasn’t fast enough. Instead, invest in a card that gets at least 30mb/s and memory buffer issues should be a thing of the past.

I bought the SanDisk Extreme 16GB card, best purchase ever.

Tip #4: Auto settings are versatile enough for most situations, but get comfortable with manual settings.

This is something I have only recently started fiddling with, because for the most part, auto exposure settings were just good enough for anything I was doing. However, setting it to manual is the best way to control image quality and the look and feel of your video. Get some practice down by shooting a still scene and changing the settings until it looks right to you. Soon enough, you’ll get comfortable enough to change the settings on the fly and while on the move.

This has been the largest effect on my work, simply because being able to change the settings at will has given me the control I need to make it look just the way I want it to look.

So there you have it, a few nifty tips I have picked up along the way, and I hope they help you out too!

Awesome Link: OliviaTech

I love discovering useful and/or educational content that is well made. That’s why I was quite happy to discover about OliviaTech, a blog of Olivia Speranza, sharing her tips and tricks about audio, lighting, photography, and videography. This is my favourite kind of site to stumble upon, because you immediately learn a million things.

There’s an even better part: her video tutorials and reviews!

She has a collection of very professionally made videos on YouTube and Vimeo that educate us amateurs about different equipment and techniques. They’re short and they pack a lot of good, educational content.

Thanks Olivia, you’re doing great work!