Indecisive as All Hell

Given the untimely demise of my trusty Canon Powershot S400, I'm in the market for a new one. And I've basically narrowed my choices down to two of Canon's best-selling point-and-shoot cameras: the Powershot SD800IS and the SD900.

But which?

SD800IS: poorer optics and sensor (corners are blurry), but has image stabilizer and wideangle lens
SD900: better sensor, better lens assembly, more solid build and looks nicer

I've been agonizing over this for the past 2-3 weeks, as a friend knows very well, lending a sympathetic ear to every morsel of information I gather. I read numerous reviews on the two models, compare side-by-side photos, and even took photos of my own while at the local Future-Shop-esque consumer electronics store. (Of course, I didn't ask them any questions, because why burden them with the thought processes of making up answers when they don't know them? I already know more about these cameras than they do.)

And I think I've finally decided on the SD800IS.
At least for now.

Of course, I've "decided" on the SD800IS before, but changed my mind to the SD900 not three hours later, and then promptly repositioned myself carefully on the "undecided" fence.

I think most of all, I think I'm just frustrated that any current camera model I buy is going to definitively have worse raw image quality than the Canon S400 I bought some 4 years ago. And that just makes me mad. We're supposed to be going forward, not backwards.

Perhaps I'll just try to develope a photographic memory and leave it at that.

[2007-02-02 update: I just realized what an ugly beast the SD800IS really is. And then I remembered that the power button isn't easy to get at, especially with one-hand operation. It could be that, after all this research, it all comes down to the power button design. I'll go check out some real models today and play with that.]

Sniper Photography

A recent discussion regarding having a lack of image stabilization (IS) in our cameras gave me a nice collection of techniques to use to get that steady shot when lighting isn't optimal.

I have a pretty steady hand when taking photos -- I just have learned how to steady my hand/arms/body pretty well. So while the IS feature not as vital for me, it is useful to have in my camera for my girlfriend, random people who you ask to take a photo for me, and people suffering from Parkinsons. I basically trained myself after several years on how to hold the camera and take the shot to minimize blur.

I hate it when people hold the cameras like ... two hands on the camera, index fingers on the top corners, thumbs on the bottom, and hold it out from their body almost as if they're trying to push it away from them. I mean, hello, how could you possibly get a steady shot like that??

At least for a pocketable point-and-shoot camera, you need to hold it with as much of your hand as you can -- you have to kind of "palm" it, or rest it on your palm -- and the shutter finger can't have any of the camera-holding burden at all. Keeping your hands and elbows close to you, or resting them on a table or against a pole/wall, is essential. I actually relax my hands and arms (though still snug on the camera) to remove that "exerting force" muscle jitter (you know what I mean, I know you do). And sometimes, I even slowly exhale just before shutter time. Occasionally, I'll look away a bit from the LCD when I take a longer picture (ie. over 1/5s) -- so that I'm not worrying and trying to immediately compensate for any camera movement I see.

In really critically dark photos, I put the 2-second timer on, so that the actual pressing of the shutter release doesn't cause vibrations. Yes, it really does make a difference.

Yeah, I'm anal about it. But my pictures turn out clear, and that's good enough justification for me. Huh, I wonder if any photographers take those pills that snipers take to lower their heartbeats and stuff.

Every Man

Every once in a while, I hear someone make a general requirement of men's belongings. That is,

"Every man needs a ___________."

Sometimes I agree, sometimes I think they're full of it. For instance, a nice shaver I think is something every man should have; a crystal wine decanter, not-so-much.
A decent skincare product, yes;
a full set of wrenches, perhaps not.

So I ask of you, what would be in your list of things a man must have?

Another Day, Another Bag o' Pills

Good news! My pneumonia is about 95% healed, and I went into the doctor's today to see about longer-term health issues. Foremost on my list is the asthma I've had since childhood, which I've been wanting to find a better solution to than just puffing up the inhaler whenever I need it. (Since coming to Taiwan, I've been needing them more and more often, which I attribute to Taipei's fantastic pollution.)

So he puts that cold stethoscope to me, listens for a while, and what did I get?

amoxillin (500mg)

Nearly the same prescription for my nearly-gone cough, just to make sure it's done and dealt with. Lovely. Of course, he did add on one more item:

This Pulmicort -- or Rhinocort, in other countries -- is actually a nasal spray. I haven't tried it yet, but I don't really want to spray stuff in my nose; I'd much rather inhale a packet of powder like the SereVent Diskus or Advair Diskus I've had before.

I'll bet my drug dealer doctor is really liking me now.

Minimum Requirements

Clipped from one of my insightful conversations with C.

Ben: But on my table, I do have soy MiLK. And this place is good -- first time catching them, because they're only open 7am-11am. I mean, you must have pretty good business to warrant opening only 4 hours a day.
C: ew
Ben: You don't like soy milk??
C: geez nope don't like soy milk
Ben: WTF is wrong with you? You are defective.
C: i'm not really asian, i guess
Ben: Yeah. I think you're an impostor. I'm going to ask your parents to revoke your Asianness.
C: i gain it back by listening to honger music
Ben: Haha, okay. Re-instated.

And with nary another statement, a man's ethnic group re-accepts him.

Cold Shoulder

It's been a bit chilly/cold recently in Taipei -- and by chilly, I mean dropping to about 12-13C -- and I have to say ... I like it.

You see, you get to dress in more layers. That in itself gives you more options on what to wear as you bundle up for the outside shivers and seeing your breath pillow out in the nippy air. And it's the only time we really get to break out our jackets around here!

I miss home during the holidays, and when it's cold. Bah ... maybe after I finish watchin the latest episdoes of Las Vegas and Monk.

Planning for Tết

Now that 2007 is in full swing, it's time for me to start thinking about Tết, the Vietnamese New Year. Us 4 have our tickets booked for Ho Chi Minh (Hồ Chí Minh) City to explore Vietnam for 9-12 days. I somehow have doubts that we'll be able to cover the full 1700km+ between HCMC and Hanoi (Hà Nội).

Given that ... here to go, and what to see?

Walking Bag of Chemicals

Okay, as we head into the weekend, let's play a rather unconventional game! I went to a specialist last week and he prescribed some medication for me. So let's all guess what I have! This is what I'm on:

Amoxillin (500mg)

Taken orally, 4 times a day: after each meal, and once before sleeping. I've been on this for about a week now -- I revisit the doctor each time after the 3-day prescription runs out. (It's a restriction of the Taiwanese medicare system.)

[Edit: let's add on another set for a different ailment. Try this on for size, though some of the typing got cut off.]
MethylEphedrine 2--
Prednisolone 5mg
Cimetidine f.c.20--
Cyproheptadine Hc--
Tren 250mg

Third Time Not-So-Lucky?

Weddings are rife with superstitions and traditions, and they not only affect the bride and the groom of the day, but those around them in how they conduct themselves over that period.

"Three times a bridesmaid, never a bride."

I know a few girls who recite this, half believing it, half not. (Note that it's said you can break the three-times curse by going and bridesmaiding seven times!) And then it got me to thinking, is there an equivalent that applies for the guy's side? Sort of a:
"Three times a groomsman, never a groom."

I wonder ... because I've been a groomsman twice already, and best man once.

PS: I might also point out that many people are okay with being the bridesmaid the third time, thinking it's still under the radar. But if you read it carefully, it's the third time you're a bridesmaid that the "curse" kicks in ... so you're really only allowed the role of bridesmaid twice. The third one lands you in a lonely house an old maid with lots of cats.

PPS: It turns out that the original purpose for bridesmaids was to confuse and act as a decoy for the bride, in case any evil spirits or avengers wanted to harm the bride. Kind of takes away from the honour of it, doesn't it?

Constituo, Ergo Sum

I recently read's article "You Tube vs. Boob Tube" which talks about some differences between TV (one-way) and online (two-way) media. In it is an interesting quote from some guy:

"If you aren't posting, you don't exist," says Rishad Tobaccowala, CEO of Denuo, a new media consultancy. "People say, 'I post, therefore I am.'"

I'm not sure I agree with such a generalization. I mean ...

I post to Blogspot, but mostly to share thoughts amongst those who already know I exist. I post to Flickr, again to share photos with the world, but again mainly to people I already know. I post to Apple Discussions, certainly not to show people I exist as a Mac user. And I post to DPReview, because I have questions in my mind that only specific people could probably answer with any certainty.

You? You post to exist?

(I'm posting now, only because I can't sleep. And I'm sure I'm not losing sleep because of this issue.)

In Loving Memory, 2003-2006

To celebrate the coming of a new year, we had take-out thin-crust pizza at my place to start. Then at 9:30pm, after watching a Jackie Chan movie at home, we took a short walk from the apartment to a Starbucks near our intended point for the Taipei 101 fireworks. With the other 500,000 people.

It was there, standing in the middle of the intersection of 信義路 (HsinYi Road) and 基隆路 (Keelung Road) -- which by then wasclosed off to vehicle traffic -- that we stood ground with our Smirnoff Ices and watched 188 seconds of fireworks spewing off the (current) world's tallest building. Of course, we hadn't considered that the wind that evening was coming at us, so some of the later bursts were obscured from our view by the smoke. Plus, little bits of ash and fireworks paper snowing upon us afterwards.

But not everyone made it into 2007. My faithful companion of 3.5 years, who's travelled with me to three continents and countless events, finally refused to wake up from her afternoon nap that day. Try as I might, I couldn't get my S400 to work again.

Happy New Year to ya.