The Lifestyle

January 29th, 2007, 8:44 pm PDT by Greg

Day one of the eating-real-food resolution went well. I had salad from the salad bar at the convenience store in Cornerstone for lunch. I could see making a habit out of that. I got some vegetables at the grocery store to save a little money on it.

I made scalloped potatoes (from my mother’s recipe) and spinach for dinner. Scalloped potatoes take far longer than I was comfortable with: there might have been some non-real-food snacking before they cooked. Cooking takes a long time. That’s clearly going to be the limiting factor in this plan.

Eat (real) food: check. Not too much: I miss potatoes, and may have moved into “too much” territory. Mostly plants: check. I feel good about that.

And, while at Save-On-Foods (a necessity, having no “real” food in the house), I’m about 95% sure I saw Fred Ewanuick (Hank from Corner Gas). He had a beard, so I wasn’t entirely sure, but passed him several times in the aisle and got a good look. Apparently he grew up in Port Moody, so it’s not too far-fetched. He bumps Andy Dick out of the top spot in the “celebrities I have seen out in the world” ranking.

I’m still holding out hope for running into fellow Vancouverite Sarah Chalke. Mmm… Sarah Chalke.

Clean Livin’

January 29th, 2007, 12:28 am PDT by Greg

I just read Unhappy Meals from the NY Times. It was actually really interesting, and if you’ve got some time on your hands, I’d recommend it. The first line strikes me as something that’s far too simple and obvious to ever catch on:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

I have really been eating crap for the last little while. I should definitely get some more real “food” into me.

Clearly I could stand to eat a little less. (Or several of my shirts have spontaneously shrunk.)

On the subject of “mostly plants”, I have been there for a while. But, at the end of the article, I was introduced to a new word: “Flexitarianism“. There’s a word that describes the thing I am! I feel like I should subscribe to a newsletter or something.

So, I’m going to try to get back into the habit of cooking. A late New Year’s resolution.

The Wheels on the Bus

January 25th, 2007, 10:46 am PDT by Greg

As most of you know, I take the bus to work every day. I really have no general problem with it, and enjoy the 20 minutes of reading/music every morning and afternoon. But, let’s face it: there are some annoyances.

As such, I present Greg’s (incomplete) Bus Rules:

  1. If you’re standing: Look towards the back of the bus. Is there empty space there? Look towards the front of the bus. Is there a clump of people crowded together that can’t get by you? Congratulations, you’re retarded! Move!
  2. Don’t wait until the bus comes to a complete stop to start making your way to the door. If you do, don’t be surprised, yell, or bitch when the driver takes off when you’re just about to get to the door after 15 seconds. Exception: You’re old/frail/crippled/have an inner-ear infection, so standing up on a moving bus is a significant danger.
  3. Gentlemen: Close the gates. I’m sure you have a large, manly sack. Air it out on your own time, and keep yourself on your seat.
  4. If you fail to observe the above rule (or otherwise can’t keep yourself confined to one seat), don’t be surprised if you find me snuggled up to you. Especially if it’s cold. Also don’t be surprised if I shuffle imperceptibly in your direction every time you adjust or shuffle in the slightest.
  5. Mothers: Yes, I guess you can flip up those front two seats and park your SUV-style stroller. Don’t then take your bastard offspring out of the stroller and plop them on the seat beside you. You just paid one fare and took four seats. Leave the kid in the stroller. Or put them on your lap. Or walk there. Or find a local crack dealer to babysit the kid. Pick any one, doesn’t bother me.
  6. Put your shit on the luggage racks. This seems to be overlooked particularly in the 5-wide bench at the back: there’s a whole big space back there.
  7. Okay, this one is pretty minor, but annoying. If you’re standing and two people are trying to have a conversation across the aisle, don’t stand directly between them unless the bus is so crowded you have no choice. Take a half-step.
  8. If somebody at the front of the bus gives their seat up to an old person and the old person then gets off, the original occupant has dibs on the seat. No swooping in.

Proposed additions welcome.

I’m to old to exercise

January 23rd, 2007, 7:39 pm PDT by Kat

The fact that I feel this way probably means that I really need to exercise! My friend Lisa and I have started going to the gym. We’re starting off slow – two days a week. On Mondays we have a yoga class and on Thursdays we have a spinning (cycling) class.

We started last Thursday. I didn’t really know what to expect from the spin class. For everyone that’s never taken one, it’s done on stationary bikes that have tension control. The instructor yells out stuff to do, and it’s like your riding a regular bike. You go up hills by increasing the tension, do sprints by pedalling as fast as you can, stand up and pedal, and pedal with no hands. It’s freakin’ hard, especially if you haven’t done any exercise in years. When the instructor yelled out that we were half-way through, I thought I was going to die – I thought we were almost done with the hour-long class. But, I stuck it out, and Lisa and I walked back to Biology on wobbly legs. Surprisingly my legs weren’t really sore the next day. However, my butt was bruised from the seat. This weekend I bought one of those jelly seat covers in the hopes of easing the pain.

Yesterday was my first ever yoga class. I was really surprised how out of breath and sweaty you can get doing yoga. The instructor did say that we were going to do some more strenuous stuff, so I hope I was supposed to be sweaty and out of breath. If not, I may just be REALLY out of shape. There’s also a lot of balance involved. I fell over a couple of times. Lisa and other people in the class did too, so I don’t feel so bad about that. And today, I’m sore. I think that’s a good thing though.

I also resisted the urge to buy fries from Wendy’s on my way home yesterday. Instead I had a veggie burger for dinner. I think it would have been better with the fries.

My trip home and back

January 17th, 2007, 9:09 pm PDT by Kat

I haven’t blogged in a LONG time. Looking back, I think my last blog entry was at Thanksgiving. Sorry. I guess I just felt like I wasn’t doing anything blog worthy before my trip home. My life was pretty much school, dinner, sleep, repeat. Then I went home for December and I was too busy to blog.

My trip home was great. I think Greg and I cooked once, or at most twice, the entire time I was home. I got to everything on my list except for Feenies. Maybe in the spring. A few highlights:

  • Spending time with Greg and my family.
  • Hot Pot Birthday dinner for my Ama.
  • Christmas Day at Kelly’s
  • Body Worlds 3 – You’d think that with 7 Biology degrees among Tina, Oli, and me that we would actually know something about organs and stuff. Not so much. Thank goodness Pam was there! It was pretty spectacular though.
  • Bubble tea!

Going back to Vancouver after getting used to being in North Carolina has made me realize how lucky I was to live in Vancouver. It’s a beautiful city with tons of stuff to do and extremely good food. The one thing that I did notice though was the dampness. It was freakin’ cold! Being back at SFU also made me realize what a great lab the Williams Lab is. I’m extremely happy to have been part of the lab. I’m also really thankful for all of my Vancouver friends. I miss you guys! Luckily Kelly and Suyoko are coming to visit me in Chapel Hill in about a month. Yippee!!

Following my month-long working vacation at home, I went to the annual meeting of the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology, which was held in Phoenix this year. Oh, and Francois flew out from Holland, so it was really good to be able to hang out with him. And, Dana drove out from Tuscon, which was also great. It was also fun introducing the Williams lab to the UNC group. It was like a huge Williams lab reunion! I think everyone got along really well. I stressed a lot about my talk and ended up giving only a mediocre talk. Oh well. I’ll do better next year.

Being back in NC has been okay. I’m in the middle of my main experiment, and all is going well.

My friend Lisa and I have resolved to go to the gym this semester. We’re starting slow with 2 trips per week: a yoga class on Mondays and a spinning class on Thursdays. Tomorrow is our first day. I bought new pants and shorts. I think I may get new shoes this weekend. Hopefully we’ll be able to motivate each other to keep going to the gym.

I’ve also been going over to my friends Matt and Kyla’s place on Wednesday nights with Lisa and Brian to watch Top Chef. It’s a great show – kind of a mix between America’s Next Top Model, Iron Chef, and the Real World. It’s nice to have something fun to do in the middle of the week. Plus, it means that I have friends in NC! Yay! 🙂

That’s about it. Now you can see why I haven’t blogged in a while. Nothing too exciting… but hey, I’m still alive!

Takin’ Pictures

January 14th, 2007, 11:38 pm PDT by Greg

I decided I should make better use of my camera. Perhaps it was a New Year’s resolution.

Anyway, I have gone out the last two Saturdays looking for stuff to put in front of my camera. I took a few pictures around, but I’m going to concentrate on the panoramas because I think they’re neat.

Last Saturday was close to home. I started by going up to SFU. I did a full 360° panorama in the AQ (drag around the panoramas to scroll).

Then, I went down to Burnaby Mountain Park. I set up the tripod again and did another 360° among the totem poles.

They day was pretty overcast, so there aren’t exactly any spectacular colours in those, but they aren’t bad.

This week, it was overcast again, so I went downtown to a camera shop. On the way back, I put on my sunglasses. Then I though “hey, sunglasses mean sun!” Sun means light and light means colour.

So, I cranked onto the highway and went to the most obvious place in the city to take a panorama: the Cypress lookout. I got a nice panorama from the lookout, and it even managed to stitch together without much lens flare, which was nice since I wasn’t carrying my lens hood.

I think the last panorama was my favourite. I drive around the north side of Capitol Hill, took the road as far as it goes, parked, and set off on-foot into some kind of mini-port that’s there for the Chevron refinery.

I found a good place and took a panorama facing north towards the Burrard Inlet. It’s a neat viewpoint: the light is good and the water/mountains/sky effect is good. And there’s this weird overgrown houseboat lookin’ thing sitting there.

I showed the picture to Kat who remembered a floating McDonalds at Expo 86 that looked a lot like that. Sure enough, that boat is the remains of the McBarge (!). I found some more McBarge info out there too.

Lessons learned

January 5th, 2007, 11:37 am PDT by Greg

It’s snowing again in Vancouver. I learned several things today on my way to campus.

First, one shouldn’t leave one’s umbrella in one’s office and think “it probably won’t be that bad tomorrow anyway”.

Second, don’t walk out to the bus stop on a snowy day and forget your wallet, especially if you left your umbrella in your office the night before. You’re just going to have to trudge back and get it.

Third, don’t sit in the back of an articulated bus when the roads are slippery. You have too much information back there. For example, you notice things like “I seem to be moving sideways” even though you know full-well that the back wheels don’t steer, so the only way that could be happening is if you’re starting to fishtail.

Kudos, to the bus driver: he did seem to know what he was doing. Still, I don’t think I have ever considered kissing the ground when I got safely off a bus before.

So I’m here. We’ll see if I learn “if it’s snowing, fuck it, stay home” when I try to get off the mountain. Here’s a pic out of my office window, taken with my phone:

05-01-07_1121.jpg

Update 5:00: Home safe.

Stupid DSLR Tricks

January 1st, 2007, 8:51 pm PDT by Greg

As many of you know, most of my pictures come from a Canon Digital Rebel XT. I’m very happy with the 18–50mm f2.8 lens from Sigma that I’m using with it.

As someone who (1) likes taking pictures and (2) is a geek, I’m always on the lookout for novel things to do with my camera. Over the last few days, I have been collecting links. I thought I should share them.

Pinhole cameras

Pinhole cameras are about as simple as you can get: film with a small hole allowing light in. But why limit yourself to little boxes and film when you have a perfectly good instant-gratification digital sensor lying around?

As it turns out, you can make a quite nice pinhole camera with a camera’s body cap. Throw in a toilet paper tube or two, and you can have a zoom pinhole as well.

Bellows

I’m sure most of you can picture olde-timey cameras with the lens on a set of bellows. Well, they make new ones too: they are view cameras and are just the thing if you want full-control over the image you’re taking, and want to record on a large chunk of film for high detail. This may be a good time to note that a set of bellows will do at least as much as tilt-shift lenses, including the fake miniatures fetured on Boing Boing.

Once again, why piss around with film if you don’t have to? I’m pretty sure my local London Drugs won’t process a 4×5″ negative anyway. You can buy a set of bellows for a regular SLR that does the same job. For US$2500. Then buy an expensive medium-format lens.

In the lower end of the scale, one can buy a Lensbaby for US$150 or $270 (depending on the model). Or, the right kind of person can make a set of bellows out of a toilet plunger.

Panoramas

I have experimented with making panoramic images before. The idea is to take a series of pictures from one location and stitch them together with software like Hugin to stitch them together. The results can be quite impressive.

Shooting panoramas of landscapes is easy, but when you get up-close, parallax becomes an issue: you have to hold the camera still (over just the right point) while you turn it. A special tripod head is required to do this right. Panoramic heads typically run US$400 and up and are probably worth it if you need to do that kind of thing professionally. A KingPANO can be had for US$150 and looks like it might be fun to play with.

Others

I have also run across AquaPacs for underwater photography. On the other side of panoramas are object panoramas. You can buy an object turntable or make one with Legos to assist with this.

I also ran across a couple of general camera-hack sites: DigiHack and DIYPhotography.

So…

I don’t own any of these things (nor have I made any). I have been thinking about getting a KingPANO for a while, so I might order one of those some time.

Another trend here is using the camera’s body cap to attach crazy stuff as a “lens”. I might stop by a camera shop and see if they have spare caps (from dead cameras or something).

Anybody else got cool stuff to add?