August 22nd, 2010 by Jeff 2 comments »

Let’s see, what’s happened this week of note?

I have internet. Finally. Problems with the way the cable was originally run meant that the tech wasn’t even able to pull the raw cable out of wherever it was stapled to the inside of the wall. (Normally, when houses are built by intelligent species, about a foot of coax cable is looped inside the junction box We destroyed the junction box and a good chunk of drywall trying to get enough slack to splice in a connector. Why the hell didn’t they just put the connector in when they built the house? Not my problem, though, since it’s still under warranty and someone will fix it.

I bought a table from a church thrift store in the war zone (which the locals were more than happy to help me move into my garage) and a nice office chair to go with it. My computer is finally put together, and the whole setup is chucked next to the wall closest to the cable jack. It works. Don’t knock it.

Went on a hike today, on the La Luz Trail. Google it. I’ll wait.

So yeah, the trailhead starts at 7000 feet (2150 m). From there, it goes up. And up. And up. Six miles later it’s at 10,000 feet, and then clings to a cliff face for another two miles before stopping at the top of the world’s longest tramway. It’s one of the tougher hikes in the area, and originally our group of four had planned on a shorter hike. But for some reason we went on this hellraiser instead. I think they call it “La Luz” because it’s like the light you supposedly see at the end of a tunnel right before you die from exhaustion. But the views from up top are certainly beautiful.

My camera is still in storage, so no photos for you yet. Give it a few more weeks.

migration patterns

August 10th, 2010 by Jeff 2 comments »

Second day on the job. Still no computer access, so I’m resorting to coffee shops to update. Going back to Winning was out of the question, since they kicked everyone out promptly at 10pm… right after I had posted that I found somewhere to use the net. The stingy bastards even shut down the wireless point five minutes before closing.

Right now I’m sitting in Satellite Coffee by the university. Not as bad as I’d originally thought. Before that I parked on a nearby street and asked the owner of a small bookshop whether they checked the meters after 6. She replied that no, they didn’t, and on a whim I went inside. “The Book Case,” as it’s called, is one of those beautifully, chaotically cramped used bookstores which is impossible to navigate while carrying a backpack or other bag, which I suppose is one way to cut down on incidental theft. I think the name may be based on “basket case” or “nut case”. It’s fantastic.

Then went to a cute little place called “Frontier Restaurant.” Apparently a staple of local college students, it serves anything from green chile burritos to cheeseburgers cafeteria style.

Still looking for furniture for my new place. I did get a very nice bed set at a consignment store; the seller told me it was “mission style.” I told her I wasn’t interested in the Kama Sutra, but that I’d buy the furniture anyway. There were some other interesting pieces at some other shops, but most are quite a bit more expensive than I’d expected. Even a basic sofa and loveseat set is over a thousand bucks. Looks like I’ll be blowing my first few paychecks on getting this place furnished. But I did find an artisan carpenter who makes some fantastic handcrafted wood furniture. The guy really knows what he’s doing, and some of his stuff is actually cheaper than the mass-produced crap in all the stores. Problem is that it takes him several weeks to make things. There are a few things in his warehouse, but since they’re made to order I’d have to buy an existing style of table or chair if I want anything now.

First update from abq

August 9th, 2010 by Jeff No comments »

I’m finally getting my coffee fix and my internet fix after having arrived at my new place on Saturday afternoon. Starbucks failed when they closed at 8pm. Then en route to Borders I get there just as their cafe is shutting down at 9. The place I’m in, Winning Cafe, isn’t even usually open past 5 during the summer, but since there’s live music they’re open. Right now I hear drums, a keyboard, a guitar, a trumpet, a bassoon, and chanting. Perhaps I should put the word music in quotation marks. It’s more like atmospheric rock jazz instrumental native alien fusion. Must be from Roswell.

Seeing as how Comcast still sucks quite hard, they won’t even be around to think about looking at whether or not I can even GET cable at my place until the end of this week. I’ll likely be incommunicado for at least two weeks. Almost everything is still in plastic totes stacked in my living room. I bought a bed/endtable/dresser set, which should arrive tomorrow so that I don’t have to sleep on the mattresses on the floor. But I have no other furniture. No couch, no table, no chairs. No computer desk. No real office at work. No clue what I’m doing yet. But at least I have found a good cup of coffee.

Butterfly exhibit

May 5th, 2010 by Jeff 1 comment »

These were all taken last Friday, which was the last day of the butterfly exhibit at the local botanical gardens.

If you can identify any of these species, please do so. Unfortunately, there are about 175,000 known species of butterflies and moths, so if you have a field guide you might be looking for a while.

Someone had set their blue jacket down, and this guy landed on it. Because the upper part of its wings are bright blue, these butterflies are attracted to bright blue objects (it’s a mating adaptation). I first thought this was a Ulysses, but the underside wing markings don’t match. Update: This is a Morpho peleides. Thanks Heather!

Unknown species

Unknown species

Quite a few of the butterflies had tattered wings, showing just how fragile they really are. I was told this is a Postman butterfly, named because in the wild it travels the same route between flowers every day.
Probably Heliconius erato but might be Heliconius melpomene

Heliconius charitonius

Heliconius hecale? (Tiger Longwing?)

Unknown species

Papillio anchisiades?

Human optics

April 23rd, 2010 by Jeff No comments »

I suspect this will only be of interest to a few of you, but if you work with photography or optics at all, it’s useful to correlate the performance of constructed optical systems with how the human eye works. What is the maximum resolution of the eye?

The following two links go over how human optical performance is measured, and the limitations in human optics. In a few ways, human eyes are superior to any CCD or CMOS sensor ever created; even in the presence of a very bright light source your eyes can detect a lot of detail in dark areas of the image. On the other hand, even a very basic consumer camera has a larger effective aperture than your eyes. It’s a very interesting read, and gives plenty of detail for jumping off into biology if you’re curious.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

April 10th, 2010 by Jeff 4 comments »

Heather originally wanted to spend all her time at the Grand Canyon, but since she’s interested in all sorts of snakes, lizards, amphibians, insects, arachnids, and other things that crawl and slither, I insisted that she visit the Desert Museum in Tucson. I hadn’t been since before I left for Japan to study abroad, and the museum has undergone many changes since then. The most noticeable difference is how many of the enclosures have switched from using walls to using wire fences. It opens the area up and makes it look more like the real desert. The museum also features a new hummingbird exhibit, a honeybee display, and some more hands-on presentations dealing with fossils and the local strata. There are plenty of large animal exhibits, and of course the entire area is a xeriscape garden.

I popped my el-cheapo 70-300mm Tamron on, and went to town. About halfway through I remembered the thing had a macro mode, so I grabbed a couple quick shots of some flowers as well. I’m quite happy with the results.

Plenty of solitary honeybees buzzed around collecting pollen, and I was able to snap off a few photos. One of the nicer things about solitary bees is that they avoid stinging people unless trapped or threatened, so you can get quite close. I snapped the switch on my lens into macro and got to it.

The red ball attached to this bee’s rear leg is a pollen basket:

Around the time we got to the hummingbird exhibit, Heather wanted to try out the Tamron, so I gave her that and put the 60mm macro on.

This little guy parked himself on a branch in the hummingbird exhibit. I waited while others got their shots, and he kept flying out to the feeder and back to the same spot. I started about 3 feet away, set the camera to continuous drive, and kept moving closer. When I finally stopped (because I had fewer than 30 shots left on my card) I was literally inches away, well within macro range. I’d taken 200 photos just of this one bird.

Apparently the 60 macro is a pretty good general-purpose lens too. Who knew.

Grand Canyon trip

April 9th, 2010 by Jeff 1 comment »

My friend Heather came to visit from Pennsylvania last weekend, and I’d promised her we could go up to the Grand Canyon since she’d never seen it. We had planned on couch surfing with some strangers in Flagstaff for a few nights, but they backed out at the last minute. My uncle Kevin pulled through and gave us both a place to crash, and we were able to spend a full day at the GC. Thanks again!

Unfortunately it’s tough to explain to someone who has never been there just how vast the canyon is. Even pictures don’t really do it justice. I took a few pictures with the widest lens I have, the stock 18-55mm, but none of them turned out well (too much barrel distortion). So you’ll just have to use your imagination. These are some of the more interesting vignettes.

On the way back through the east exit, we drove by a scenic outlook of one of the tributaries, called the Little Colorado. Sunset was approaching and we got out to take some last-minute photos.

This work by Jeff Hiner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.