Saturday, April 30, 2011

Some Assembly Required

One of the gifts I got last Christmas (though it may have just been an early birthday present) was a tangle of wires, resistors, LEDs and this thing that looks like a giant Triscuit cracker. It was from Brad and Jodi and at the time, it seemed like more than I could handle. I put it in a drawer and forgot about it.

Brad and Jodi were visiting this week. We always like to tackle an interesting project. I'd say that this was good luck. I know Brad would say good planning. Below is the beginnings of everything needed for a great project. Coffee, a schematic or two, parts, tools and (of course) balloons!
The ingredients of FUN
As it currently rests, the the assembly looks pretty much as below...
Let's hope we were being graded on function over form
WTF? I know. This looks strange, even for me. It's a flash trigger with breadboard and a few extras thrown in for good measure. It was ordered from this site for anyone intrepid enough to want to make their own.

The essence of what we built (and here I say "we" in the sense that Brad was Dr. Frankenstein and I was Igor) is an adjustable delay unit or timer. The kit came with a photo-gate which triggers the timer (and then the flash) when it's line of sight is broken (by a passing person or object) and a sound detector which can be calibrated to detect varying degrees of vibration (like a clap, volcanic eruption or the popping of a balloon).
What's it good for?
Balloon Pop
Balloon Pop with H2O
Lots of things, really. I've only had a chance to test it with a couple of things so far. Leo and Anwyn were very helpful filling balloons and quite patient as Brad and I taped foil over all the windows, set camera angles and focus, adjusted settings etc... I'm thrilled with the first results. 

Haven't had a chance to use the photo-gate yet. I'll have to get back to you on that one. Here is the picture gallery.
Flash Bang

Monday, April 18, 2011

Back in the Real World

I have been back from Honduras for a month. Enough time that I've come off the high of the trip and been able to do some thinking about what, if anything, I've learned.
  1. Beware the Atlanta airport. Perhaps I underestimated it's dangers. Before Brad left for his final flight we went to a restaurant, celebrating our triumphant (i.e. Live) return from the murder capital of the world. I had a bottomless Dr. Pepper and a delicious tasting veggie burger and fries. A couple of hours later, my stomach began to have some serious misgivings. I was sick all the way home and for two days after my return.
  2. Sunlight and adventure are an awesome combination. After recovering from suspected food poisoning, I felt like a new man. The cliche makes it hard to understand my meaning. The morose lethargy that I normally struggle with through the beginning of spring was gone. I had energy -- for myself and everyone around me. I was shocked to see others walking around like zombies and complaining about the weather. The contrast was astounding.
  3. I don't like to feel like a tourist. I was a tourist and I know that. But, I didn't like the immediate deference when I encountered people. Conversations never felt sincere except with other travelers or people that didn't speak any english. Maybe the struggle to communicate was enough cause people to abandon their tourist manners as I've come to think of them. I would prefer to be incognito and have to struggle a bit more than to be surrounded by luxury.
  4. I like scuba diving. It was an amazing experience. Underwater travel is, by it's nature, alien to me. I loved exploring not only the flora and fauna, but also the way my body works in completely different conditions.
  5. I don't like scuba more or less than other things I've tried, but it is a lot more work. I've run into this before. There are three main factors which keep me from new physical activities: There is a lot of equipment involved, I can't do it very close to my home, and it requires detailed planning. Any one of these might be overcome. Two or more and it takes outside help. I'm glad to have a couple of friends who have capabilities and interests sufficiently different that they can pull me along past some of these barriers.
I've done some hard work with my pictures and narrowed the trip down to a scant 32 which you can view by clicking on my lizard friend.

I did some image clean-up and colour correction and a few of them look much nicer than the originals. I only had to sacrifice an extra 4hrs to get there.
In particular, this one is much better. I had to save the .raw file at different ISO levels and blend them to get an exposure that worked for the light and dark parts of this picture.