Monday, December 17, 2007

Happy Holidays

Holiday Light

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mark Twain on Heaven

Best Friend

Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.
-- Mark Twain

The beautiful statue above is near a headstone in the Mont Vernon, NH town cemetery. More...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Word Problem

Word Problem

Dave never rakes the leaves in his backyard until the day after Thanksgiving. His neighbor Norm's maple tree leans over Dave's backyard. Norm's maple is the last tree in New Hampshire to lose its leaves each Fall. This year an early snow covered the leaves in Dave's backyard. Then Norm's tree dropped its leaves on top of the snow. By Friday this will be a mushy, leafy mess. How many excuses does Dave need to avoid raking this weekend?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Enjoy the long weekend!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Foliage Report


Over the weekend, we visted the Woodstock, Vermont area. The foliage was definitely "past peak", but it was still gorgeous. Apparently, peak foliage is late all over. Southern New Hampshire is just peaking; as are parts of Massachusetts. Western Mass. must be beautiful about now.

My point is there's still time to get out there and enjoy it. It's a great show this year.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Tucker Brook Flows Again

Tucker Brook Falls

Tucker Brook -- in Milford, NH -- was dry for about two months. We've finally had some sustained rain and the falls have come alive again. I shot this photo yesterday morning. It's an eight second exposure.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Milford Labor Day Parade

Here are some photos from the annual Milford Labor Day parade. Guess which of these folks are authentic presidential candidates.

Barack Obama

Mitt Romney

Mad Bavarian Brass Band

There are more pictures on Tabblo too.

Friday, July 13, 2007

High Dynamic Range (HDR) Imaging

Hay Bails

If you are an amateur photographer you have no doubt been disappointed, perhaps many times, by the shot that didn't turn out like you expected. Maybe it was a beautiful sunset that ended up with muted colors. Maybe it was a cloud-filled sky that became completely blown out. Or maybe it was a backlit subject that turned into an undifferentiated, monotone shadow. Each of these examples is a problem of exposure. The subject is either underexposed or overexposed. In the worst case, a single image can suffer from both underexposure and overexposure.

There's plenty of advice on how to deal with exposure problems:
  1. You can get better at the craft of photography. Many exposure problems can be avoided simply by developing your technique.

  2. You can buy more expensive equipment. All cameras are not created equal. Your $250 compact digital camera is not as capable as an $800 DSLR. For example, the DSLR probably has a better sensor with a higher dynamic range. And a DSLR lens can accept a wide range of filters that might improve your exposures.

  3. You can just avoid backlit subjects and other tricky lighting situations.
I've listed this advice from best to worst. Number 1, "get better at the craft," is the best advice. You can always improve your technique and there are plenty of good resources out there. For example, I've just finished Bryan Peterson's Understanding Exposure. It's a great explanation of how the camera works and includes many tips on avoiding exposure problems.

Number 2, "buy more expensive equipment," is decent advice if it's important to you and it's in your budget. However, there are limits to even the best equipment. The dynamic range of the human eye is significantly better than the best camera. In fact, this discrepancy is the source of much disappointment. Your eye sees a beautiful high-contrast scene, you snap a picture of it, and your camera -- even the best camera -- simply can't handle it.

So those who have overestimated the benefits of Number 2 often shrug their shoulders and suggest Number 3, "avoid backlit subjects and other tricky lighting." The trouble is this is the one bit of advice that is really bad. There is another approach to handling tricky lighting; it's called High Dynamic Range imaging (HDR or HDRI).

Industrial Canyon

HDR is really a two step process:
  • Step 1: When you capture the image, you make multiple exposures of the same scene. You'll need a good tripod for this. Just set your camera on the tripod and take 2 to 5 shots at different Exposure Values (EV). In fact, many cameras have a feature called Auto-Exposure Bracketing (AEB). AEB makes this step very simple.

  • Step 2: After you've loaded the exposures on your computer, you use special software to combine the exposures into a single HDR image. The HDR image stores the complete dynamic range of all the source exposures. HDR software can use this information to produce an image that is more faithful to what your eye perceived in the first place.
I guess I'll leave the technical discussion at that. I didn't certainly didn't intend for this to be a complete tutorial on HDR. If you are interested in a tutorial, you can start with this excellent one over at Tabblo and you can search the web for more.

My real object in writing this is to share the fun I've been having with HDR. All the accompanying images were created from multiple exposures made with my Canon PowerShot S2 IS camera. I used Photomatix to create the HDR images (again, there are other software options besides Photomatix). For more HDR samples you can check out my HDR set on Flickr. I still have a lot to learn about HDR, but I'm really enjoying having one more photographic technique up my sleeve.

Wilton Sunset

Friday, June 08, 2007

Make Your Own Caption

Make Your Own Caption

I was walking past Castro's Back Room in downtown Nashua this morning when I saw this guy dragging his cigar store indian out to the front of the shop. I snapped this picture as quickly as I could. I think it's a funny image, but it really needs a good caption. Can you think of one?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Memorial Day

World War II Memorial
The New Hampshire and New York columns of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. The Washington Monument is in the background.

The World War II Memorial was dedicated in May 2004. It honors "the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the U.S., the more than 400,000 who died, and all who supported the war effort from home." It is a beautiful memorial and a "fitting and proper" tribute to those who served, but sometimes I fear we miss the point.

As Abraham Lincoln said in another time:
"It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled ... have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract ... It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought [have] so nobly advanced."

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Red Sox vs. Tigers

Gary Sheffield at Bat  Daisuke Matsuzaka  Fenway Park

On Monday night, the Red Sox beat the Tigers 7 to 1 at Fenway Park. Dice-K mastered the defending American League champs and pitched the first complete game of his MLB career. It was a great night for a ball-game.

For more photos, see my Red Sox vs. Tigers set on Flickr. 

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Road Trip Photos

Washington Monument

Ten states. Ten days. Over 2800 miles and 400 pictures. We have just returned from a road trip to visit friends and family. And we did lots of sightseeing along the way. We visited Gettysburg, the National Zoo, the D.C. monuments, Williamsburg, the Outer Banks and more. I won't post all 400 pictures, but as I sift through them, I will add the best ones to this set on Flickr.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Subversion Links

I've been working on a software project at home for the past several weeks. Until now, I haven't had the project under source code control. A few days ago, I installed open source Subversion and I'm very happy with the results.

I installed the Windows version of CollabNet Subversion from openCollabNet. The current version is 1.4.2. Installation is painless. You just have to answer a few questions including whether to install Subversion as an add-on to an Apache server or as a standalone server (svnserve). I chose the standalone option and my server was up and running in a matter of minutes.

One tip: You will want to check out the instructions for running svnserve as a Windows service. This lets you can automatically start your Subversion server when you start Windows. You can also use the services UI to stop your server, for example, when you back up your repository.

Although CollabNet Subversion includes a command line client, you can pick from a handful of GUI clients too. I chose Subclipse, an Eclipse Team Provider plug-in. If you've experienced the way Eclipse integrates with CVS, Subclipse will be very familiar. The preceding link brings you to a page with information on Eclipse update sites where you can get the version of Subclipse that's right for your version of Eclipse. And How to Use Subversion with Eclipse is a good tutorial for Subclipse beginners.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Waterfalls in the Souhegan Valley

I have lived in New Hampshire's Souhegan Valley for more than twenty years. For most of that time, I was unaware of the beautiful waterfalls in the area. These are not grand, attention seeking, drama-queen-type waterfalls. They are unassuming, yankee-type waterfalls tucked away in town forests and at the edges of farmers' fields. But they are beautiful just the same.

Here is a concise guide to the local waterfalls I've visited. It is a guide I wish I had years ago.

Lower Purgatory Falls

Purgatory Falls

Location: Off Purgatory Road, Milford (map).
Height: Approximately 10 feet.
Directions: See the Purgatory Watershed Conservancy page for directions. There are directions to both the lower falls, pictured above, and the upper falls. The upper falls are nice, but the lower falls are more accessible.

Tucker Brook Falls

Tucker Brook Falls

Location: Tucker Brook Town Forest, Milford (map).
Height: Approximately 10 feet.
Directions: See the Tucker Brook Town Forest page. The Savage Road entrance is closest to the falls.

Old Reservoir Falls

Old Wilton Reservoir Falls

Location: Off Isaac Frye Highway, Wilton (map).
Height: Approximately 25 feet.
Directions: From Nashua, take Route 101A west to Route 101. Continue west on Route 101 to Isaac Frye Highway in Wilton. Go 1.5 miles north and park where stream runs under the road (this is just before Putnam Road). You can park at the mouth of the dirt road on your right. Walk .25 miles down the dirt road to the falls. The road is private property, but the owner welcomes visitors. Just be quiet, considerate and carry out your own trash.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

From the Milford Oval to the Oval Office

Senator John McCain

If you are a regular listener of NPR's All Things Considered, you'll be hearing about Milford, NH for the next several months. As part of their presidential primary coverage, the show's producers decided to focus on one town in New Hampshire. And they've decided to focus on Milford. As reported in the first segment on March 22:
In many ways, Milford is emblematic of New Hampshire: It traditionally votes Republican, but has many independent voters, or "undeclared voters," as they're called in New Hampshire. Milford voted for George W. Bush in the general election in 2004 and 2000; it went for Bill Clinton in 1996 and for George H.W. Bush in 1992.
Check out the link above for the full story.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Spring in New Hampshire

Spring has sprung. I've got the photos and a poem to prove it. The poem is by Robert Frost, once a resident of New Hampshire and, I imagine, often inspired by scenes like these.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

John Backus, 1924 - 2007

As reported in an AP story printed in the Washington Post, John Backus died on Saturday at the age of 82. Backus, an IBM Fellow, led the team that developed FORTRAN, the first widely-used, high-level programming language. He also contributed to the development of the Backus-Naur Form (BNF), a language for describing the grammar of programming languages. Software developers, even those who have never used FORTRAN or BNF, owe John Backus a huge debt of gratitude.

As quoted in the AP story:
"Much of my work has come from being lazy," Backus told Think, the IBM employee magazine, in 1979. "I didn't like writing programs, and so, when I was working on the IBM 701 (an early computer), writing programs for computing missile trajectories, I started work on [FORTRAN] to make it easier to write programs."
Backus claimed to be lazy. In reality, his hard work hastened the development of the software industry we know today.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Internet Memory

A co-worker recently told me she has been reading my blog. She told me I have "quite an imagination." I knew there was something wrong. When I asked her what she meant, she referred to my cool drawing of Elvis Presley. My ... er ... what?

It turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. She had followed a link from this post in Bob's blog to another blog called Axis of Elvis. Bob clearly said Axis of Elvis was my blog and there is even a link to Runtime Log from Axis of Elvis. So it is reasonable to assume I own Axis of Elvis.

But I don't.

The explanation is simple. I originally called this blog Axis of Elvis but I quickly grew tired of the name. I renamed the blog, but held on to the Axis of Elvis address for several months as a way to redirect traffic to Runtime Log. After a while, another blogger contacted me about the Axis of Elvis address. He asked if I would be willing to give the address to him. In exchange, he said he would link to Runtime Log. I agreed.

In the month's since, there has been almost zero activity on the new Axis of Elvis. There was a cool drawing of Elvis Presley there, but now it's gone. In retrospect, maybe I shouldn't have transferred the address. The new owner could write strange and vile posts in that space and people might assume it is me. Then again, he could do something really creative and people might assume it is me. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Any how, it is two years to the day since I started Runtime Log (nee Axis of Elvis). I am marking my two year anniversary by reflecting on how Internet memory is like human memory. Links last forever. It's just that, after a few years, the links don't always take you to the right place.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

How to Make Snow

First, set the outdoor temperature to -38F. Then, boil one pot of water ...

Video courtesy of the Mount Washington Observatory.

There are lots of other Mount Washington videos on YouTube. I think my favorite is Wind Sledding.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Sunrise at Odiorne Point

This week was school vacation week in New Hampshire. On Tuesday my son and I drove out to Odiorne Point in Rye to take pictures of the sunrise. To be honest, I'm not a morning person. I don't see many sunrises, but this one was incredible. See for yourself on this tabblo:

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Amazing Grace

We went to see Amazing Grace last night. It's the story of William Wilberforce, the British MP whose long campaign resulted in the abolition of the British slave trade in 1807. It includes great performances by Ioan Gruffudd (as Wilberforce) and Rufus Sewell (as Thomas Clarkson) among others. I think Albert Finney's electrifying performance alone makes this a must-see movie. He has a small role as John Newton, a slave trader who, after repenting, became an Anglican priest and wrote the hymn Amazing Grace.

All of this might sound dry as toast, but it is a great movie about a largely unknown chapter of history. From our vantage point it can be hard to understand why such an obvious evil as slavery was so difficult to abolish, but the issue was entangled with other concerns of the day -- concerns like war with France and the revolutionary movements cascading across Europe. The movie effectively explains the broad historical context without ever becoming just a documentary. It's a reminder of the horrors of slavery, the ability of men (even great men) to defend great evil in the face of fear, and the rare courage it takes to not only speak truth to power but to tirelessly work for change.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Franklin Pierce, 1804 - 1869

"The important work of moving the world forward does not wait to be done by perfect men."
-- George Eliot
Last week, the U.S. News magazine cover story was The 10 Worst Presidents . The article ranks New Hampshire's Franklin Pierce as America's fourth worst president. This of course is just the latest such poll, but Pierce is a perennial "favorite" on 10 worst lists. President from 1853 to 1857, he was a Northern Democrat with Southern sympathies. He supported the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 which effectively repealed the delicate Missouri Compromise of 1820. The Missouri Compromise had, for thirty years, regulated the expansion of slavery in the western territories. The Kansas-Nebraska Act "established that settlers could decide for themselves whether to allow slavery". The results were guerrilla warfare in "Bloody Kansas", an emboldened pro-slavery faction, and eventually, the Civil War.

In a way Franklin Pierce is a symbol of nineteenth century New Hampshire's ambivalence toward slavery. Although there were no slaves in New Hampshire in the early 1800s, by Pierce's time the growing New Hampshire textile industry depended on a steady supply of cheap cotton. Many New Hampshire citizens, indeed much of the North, seemed willing to turn a blind eye to slavery in the South as they reaped the economic benefits from afar. But in 1856, possibly because of the disastrous Kansas-Nebraska Act, New Hampshire voters demonstrated a profound change of heart. Abandoning the Democratic platform, they backed John Fremont of the newly formed Republican party. Fremont was strongly opposed to slavery. Of course, Fremont lost to James Buchanan, but in 1860, New Hampshire voters again backed a Republican, this time a man named Abraham Lincoln.

In his own bumbling manner then, Franklin Pierce achieved the opposite effect he intended. The Missouri Compromise was a devil's bargain that tried to preserve the union at the expensive of protecting slavery. Pierce's support of the Kansas-Nebraska Act tipped the balance in favor of slavery. Without condoning Pierce's policies, we can thank him for speeding up the inevitable: Civil War and Emancipation.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

We're All Americans Now

We're All Americans Now

The Granite Town, a history of Milford, NH, includes lots of interesting tidbits of small town life. This one recently caught my eye:
A human interest event that occurred [in 1913] was the death in October of "Jimmy the Reb," whose real name was Edward T. Bartol. Born in Louisiana in 1842, Bartol had served on the Confederate side in the Civil War ... He had lived in Milford for twenty-five years when he died and had no relatives in the South to claim his body. Two local Civil War veterans' organizations, the Grand Army of the Republic, and the Sons of Union Veterans made arrangements for his funeral and burial ... The two organizations placed a gravestone to mark the resting place of Milford's only Confederate veteran. A Confederate flag was placed on the grave one year, but there was some objection to this, so eventually an American flag and flowers were placed there each Memorial Day.
I took the picture above this weekend. Apparently, to this day, veterans' groups still place an American flag on Bartol's grave.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Henri Renaud, 1890 - 1957

It's been seasonably cold in New England this week. Daytime temperatures are stuck in the teens and twenties. When the wind picks up, it numbs faces and sends people scurrying for cover. I say it's about time. Although I've enjoyed this mild winter as much as anyone, there's been something missing; a figurative cloud hanging over us. The cold weather this week has set things straight.

Believe it or not, one of the things I've missed is cold weather running. I realize most people don't understand the attraction of running outside in the cold. When I run during the day at work, people question my sanity. I could try to convince you we cold weather runners are an incredibly hardy lot, a cut above the rest, but I'd be lying. After all, most of us depend on layers and layers of high tech clothing to stay warm. Compared with Henri Renaud, we are pampered pretenders.

A hundred years ago, Henri Renaud could be seen running through the streets of Nashua, New Hampshire on cold winter nights. Still in his late teens, Henri was employed as a mill worker by the Nashua Manufacturing Company. Since he had to be at work by 6:30 AM and didn't get home until after 6:00 PM, he had to train at night. After a meager supper, he would hit the streets. I'm guessing he did so in all kinds of weather. I know he didn't have the benefit of the high tech running clothes we have today. People must have thought Renaud was crazy -- until he entered and won the 1909 Boston Marathon.

Although Henri Renaud must have trained through the cold 1909 winter, the weather on race day was a different story. According to the April 20, 1909 edition of the Nashua Telegraph race day was hot:
The temperature rose to 97 degrees, with the sun melting tar in spots. Ninety-one of the one hundred sixty-four entrants did not complete the distance, and nine men who led at various times during the first twenty miles all dropped out. Renaud was in fifty-third place in Framingham, twenty-eighth at the half way mark, and third after twenty-four miles. But, after he passed his last two opponents, he turned on the burners and won by almost four minutes.
In an interview Renaud said:
"When I started I was nearly choked with dust, but when we got going a little, I did not mind it so much. I ran my own race and refused to be coached by anybody, for I knew just what I could do and how fast I could run the distance. Some fellows wanted me to drop out, as they said I was all in when I reached Wellesley, but I am an American for speed, and a Frenchman for gameness, and I guess that will hold them for a while."
Remarkably, the city of Nashua has largely forgotten Henri Renaud today. There is no monument, park or school building with his name on it. He is well known in local running circles, but I think his story, if it were better known, could be an inspiration to everyone in the area. Despite working long hours during the day and unfavorable training conditions, he worked hard at his sport. Despite hot temperatures on race day and doubters on the sidelines, he ran his own race and won the Boston Marathon. Henri Renaud is an unsung local hero. Perhaps he is an American hero.

For more on Henri Renaud, see Allan Rube's Henri Renaud page.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Long Exposure Experiments

I didn't intend for this to be a photo blog -- really I didn't -- but lately I've spent a lot of my precious free time playing with photography. The following tabblo is a result of some experiments with long exposures. It's a bit of a gimmick, but I'm having fun slowing down the shutter speed to capture the motion of water.

I may eventually get back to writing longer posts. I have a lot on my mind about software development, about our home improvement experiences, and about a few other topics of general interest. But good, thoughtful writing is hard. It is so much easier to step outside and snap some pictures. I hope you enjoy them.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ice Storm Photos

I'm sure you've heard about the ice storm that recently hit New England. Where I live, it wasn't too eventful. The roads were relatively clear and we never lost power. And we finally got a change in scenery. It's not the real white stuff, but ice is nicer than drab grey and brown.

Here are some photos.

Ice Storm Ice Storm Ice Storm

And my here's my Ice Storm set on Flickr.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Five Things You Didn't Know

Pete tagged me to participate in the "Five Things You Didn't Know about Me" game. I'll play along:
  1. In 1979, I hitchhiked across the USA -- from Massachusetts to California, then up the coast to Oregon and down to Arizona. This sounds dangerous, but we met lots of very nice people, especially in the heartland. The only time we had anything like trouble was when we got a ride from a weird guy in Reno, Nevada. He promised to take us to Phoenix. Instead we drove around Nevada so he could say goodbye to his friends. When we were just outside Las Vegas, he stopped the car and said, "I just remembered. I can't go to Arizona. I'm wanted there." He left us in the desert and drove back in the direction of Reno.

  2. The first new car I bought was a 1983 Honda Civic Wagon. It had a 5-speed manual transmission. When I picked it up at the dealer in Tewksbury, Mass., I had absolutely no idea how to drive a manual transmission car. Somehow I drove it about 30 miles to Gardner, Mass., where my father taught me how to use the clutch and shift. I have driven "a stick" ever since.

  3. I once slept on the streets of Lowell. In the early 1980s, mortgage rates got as high as 18%. Housing prices were relatively low, but the interest rates were a huge barrier for first time home owners. The state of Massachusetts subsidized a limited number of low-interest loans on a first-come-first-served basis. The state gave 24 hours notice of the availability of small pools of these loans. When I heard about some loans becoming available the next day in Lowell, I grabbed my sleeping bag, drove to downtown Lowell, and camped out in front of the bank for the night. I think I was second in line, but by sundown there was a queue of twenty people. It was fun night and, thanks to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a small price to pay for becoming a homeowner.

  4. I've never bought a lottery ticket and I never will.

  5. I've worked full-time as a software engineer for 25 years, but it wasn't my first career choice. When I was in high school I wanted to be an architect. Usually, that meant going to a liberal arts school and then on to graduate school in Architecture. For some reason, I thought it would be better to get a degree in Civil Engineering first. I also took summer jobs working in a steel fabrication plant, at the Army Corp of Engineers, pouring concrete. I thought an architect should understand the materials, project planning and engineering before he started sketching buildings and bridges. In retrospect, I was naive. Mature industries like construction tend toward specialization rather than generalization. In any case, after undergraduate school I drifted into Software Engineering. I found a home in a very young industry, where generalists were still valued. Over time, I learned to be a software architect, but I still get to build software when I want. In a way, I've ended up exactly where I planned.
I won't tag anyone specifically, but I'd love to hear from the same group of people Pete mentioned. Roy has already joined the fray. Anyone else?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

New Hampshire Photos on Flickr

Photo by Tim Somero

I've been knocking around Flickr for about a year now, but I never really felt plugged into the community. Flickr is just so big. However, I recently discovered some cozier communities within Flickr.

The New Hampshire group has about 350 members interested in photographing (or just viewing photos of) the Granite State. The group is very active. Many members contribute photos to the group and there are even a few organized projects. For example, the Cupolas, Steeples & Vanes project is busy capturing some of New Hampshire's unique architectural features. The New Hampshire group even has a separate blog . The New Hampshire Photo Tour blog highlights the best work in the group.

Even closer to home for me is the Souhegan Valley group. This group has only fourteen members, but I think their photos are very good.

If you appreciate the beauty of New Hampshire, check out all the links above. If you have another passion -- from Architecture, to Cows, to the Red Sox - try searching all the groups on Flickr. You're bound to find a group that's more your cup of tea.