Winter 07 Finals Week

Filed Under School Week Journal

Finals week is never fun. It was made even less fun by Iris getting deathly ill on Saturday night. I had just returned from studying at school for my math final, which was Monday at 8 AM. Iris had just read a fever of 103.5, and I took her temperature again and it read just over 104. Minutes later, she had a fever of 104.9, so we threw her into the car and sped to the hospital. Hours later, the doctor finally said she either had an ear infection or a virus, but her ears did not look very different so he wrote us a prescription for amoxicillin and sent us home, but we did not fill it yet because it was a maybe. Sunday, Iris was still very sick with a high fever, so I got absolutely no studying done.

Monday, Liz took off work and watched Iris at home. My math final (45 to 65% of my grade, depending) was more about me getting it over with than anything. I was dissatisfied with the grade I received, but overall I had an A/B in the class walking in so my C on the final earned me a B in the class. Liz called our doctor and got an appointment to see her Tuesday evening. Great.

Back at home, of course, we were both busy taking care of Iris. She still had a fever of 99 to 102, depending on how much acetaminophen she had in her system. But, she still was not complaining of pain in her ear (we asked!) so we were not reaching for the ’script. We took her to her doctor’s appointment (one hour total), and in fact, she had an ear infection. So, I filled the prescription (hour and a half wait in line there). Back at home, made dinner. Before long, it was bedtime and I had done no studying. Great.

Tuesday, I stayed at home and took care of Iris (and got absolutely no studying done!). That night, also no studying was completed. Wednesday I had a final in my Chemical Engineering class, so Liz had to take another day off work to watch Iris. I had about fifteen minutes total to study for that test! Yay! Good thing it only counted for 25% of my grade and was not cumulative. I struggled through it, but those tests are really approachable for me (it’s all about units man). Back at home, I had to hobble through another “final” which was due in my seminar class (a schedule of classes for my major… don’t ask). Then, I started studying for my organic chemistry class. Yay! At least Iris’s fever had subsided and she could go to school Thursday.

So, I had alot of the wrong things on my mind going into my last and most stressful test: Second Quarter Organic Chemistry. Ask anyone who has taken this class, it is a definite breaking point for many science students. I had a poor grade going in (middle C), so I almost expected to fail. The test started, and of course it was at least ten percent harder than the example final he posted. Then the next nightmare happened: my pen died. AGGGH! Let me explain a bit first: the problems in these tests you work in pencil. But.. BUT… if you want a regrade, only work done in PEN is able to be regraded. So the smart students (ok, all students) work in pencil then overwrite final answers in pen, then erase. So here I was with a dead pen and a bunch of work in pencil. Damnit! An hour and a half in, I had reached the end of my rope and was completely stuck at step one for two of the big questions. I glanced ahead of me (this is a no-no, but I was feeling safe tucked in the crowd) and there was this sorry looking asian girl, who had not opened her test yet, twiddling her pencil nervously. I know that feeling. I KNOW that feeling now, I kept thinking. Eventually she got up and left. I stayed and tried to struggle through one of the synthesis problems (acid catalyzed reverse-aldol condensation… yeah, go figure he never lectured on REVERSE aldol condensation). No luck. I bailed at two and a half hours of test. I felt like that guy in “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” who leaves the poker game owing a million pounds to the mafia… I even had that “I Wanna Be Your Dog” song going through my head.

I could not sleep for two nights.

My weekend was no good.

Monday morning I had a dentist’s appointment, and I picked up my chemistry test afterwards. Somehow I eked out a C+ on the final, so I earned my C. I fully expected to fail that class! YAY! Winter quarter OVER!

Summer 06 Panoramic Pictures

Filed Under Travel

I was going through our old pictures to try and find a new banner image, and rediscovered all the panoramic pictures that we took last summer. I thought I would take a minute and share them all with you.

Forewarning though, these images are large, over a megabyte each, so if you are on dialup they will take a while to completely load.

First, a little introduction to the craft. Panoramic images, or “pans” are made several different ways. For these shots, I have taken several images and “stitched” them together into one large image. I have been working on this for years, and have become very skilled and quick with the process. There are two complications with panoramic images. One, correcting for spherical aberration (an artifact whereby the image is compressed in the center of the image and expanded on the edge. All modern lenses have this problem to some degree). To imagine what is going on, think of light entering a lens and coming out onto the film or CCD as a series of concentric circles: the distance between two points on any one point on one circle is not necessarily the same as that for another. Also, you are projecting “rays” from a focus point onto a flat surface: the projection from zero to five degrees is not the same area as one from five to ten degrees. This makes matching edges a delicate balancing act, not so cut and dry as you might expect (and as I originally thought when I was learning this craft). The trick I employ is to fade edges together in the middle of their convergence zone using the erase tool. Two, correcting for saturation and white balance. This is the trickiest part, and one where a better camera and better software would help, but I can get things pretty close with just Photoshop. I will try to illuminate the salient technical points for each image below. Anyways, on to the pictures!

general sherman tree

This first pan is a vertical pan. It was taken in Sequoia National Park, and the subject is the General Sherman tree. It is one of the largest living things in the world. This image is composed of three separate shots. The color balance turned out poorly, if you see the magenta tone of the sky. White balance took some back and forth but worked well; I ended up having to make the base of the tree very dark for it to look correct. Correcting for spherical aberration worked well, owing mostly to the closeness to the object (I was about twenty meters from the tree).

These next two pans are from Yosemite National Park, and were taken on a drive through the mountains on our way to Mammoth Lakes to see my old friend Jeff Kane.

olmstead point

This is a picture of Olmstead Point. It is composed of three shots. As you can tell here as well, the far left shot has poor saturation and white balance. This was in the original picture and there was nothing I could do to save it. Since the three shots do not cover a wide angular distance, the spherical aberration was very small.

Tenaya Lake

This next image is of Tenaya Lake. Liz braved the early summer mosquitoes for this shot! I was quite surprised none of them were in the shots, as she brought at least five back into the car with her. There are two main pictures that make this pan, but Liz took five separate shots so I had some choices for balancing colors and brightness. The picture itself is quite stunning with the sky being almost the perfect tone to balance the grays of the mountain.

Jackson Lake

This image was taken a few weeks later in Grand Teton National Park. The story was that we had driven from Salmon, Idaho to here and were tired, it was late, and we were surrounded by storm clouds. We were not sure if it was going to dump a foot of snow on us or golfball sized hail, so we frantically threw the tent up, then walked down to the lake. We were greeted by the most majestic double rainbow we have seen in years. Obviously, this is two images, and to preserve the natural colors I did not touch the original settings that the camera took the images under. This is a good example of using blank space creatively too, as you can see the black text area and gray area in the upper right.

Sweet Grass Hills

This next pan was taken at the tail end of our trip. This is actually the view north from the road in front of my mom’s family farm outside Chester Montana, looking north to the Sweet Grass Hills that are just a few kilometers from the border with Canada. This is composed of three shots, which sucks because they were almost stitched perfectly edge to edge, which lead to the not-so-even look to the surfaces in the pan (spherical aberration again). Also not helping is that this is a picture of the sky, and that this part of the road is in a slight basin, which means the horizon sort of wraps around oddly. I did my best! The shot-series itself is amazing, and we took several other shots in the minutes before this that were amazing as well. There is a reason they call it big sky country!

Mesa Verde

This is the last pan we shot. This is from Mesa Verde National Park, looking to the north-east (into the rockies, towards Telluride). The storm itself was actually gaining intensity and spilling towards us (not moving towards us, sort of falling on us). Minutes after this shot, it started raining so hard we almost had to pull off the road. The pan is composed of four shots, and is executed quite well. The white balance had to be toned down a bit on the rightmost shot to get it to match the leftmost shot. Spherical aberration is minimal. You can also see creative camouflage of the empty space at the top of the picture (look close). Take a close look there as well, you can see quite well how I erase the edge off the image on top, exposing a soft edge that overlays the bottom image without being a glaring line. This technique also balances the spherical errors for each image, creating a more realistic image. Another thing you can see in this picture is how skew from horizontal (and how steep the terrain) the image is. Look to the far right: that is the desert, which is perfectly flat!

Well, I hope you enjoyed these pictures, and I hope that you learned a few things along the way!

Little Upgrade Fun Here…

Filed Under Us

Ahh, it has been so long since I upgraded web software! It was so exciting. Upgrading to Wordpress 2.1.2 took all of fourty minutes, including the time it took for me to figure out how to backup my databases, and get a cup of coffee, and make the little “MASSIVE CONSTRUCTION” webpage, etc.

I will be working on a new theme today, maybe one that is not so… dark. We shall see. Keep posted!

Winter 07 Week 10

Filed Under School Week Journal

Ah. Last week of classes. Did I get a break? Hell no. I had two HUGE homework assignments due on Friday (again). My engineering assignment included three problems that required computer analysis to complete, so I ended up turning in like fifteen sheets of paper. I am not kidding. The math homework was just a slog: work through one page of calculations, rinse, repeat.

My Engineering professor finally gave us back our second midterms, two weeks later, and I got a B+. I am ok with that.

Chemistry? Oh yeah. Iris’s school was closed Tuesday, so I took Iris for the day to school. I tried to get her to sit still for the hour and twenty minute lecture, but it was no good for either of us. She was quiet but definitely bored, but I could not take any notes to save my life. Maybe when she is a bit older.

I am going to find that Paul Briggs Character…

Filed Under Daris


Recall my previous post. I have discovered a new lead through free info gleaned off Intellius… this dude in Tucson, who with this lady Anne had a child September 25th 2005.

At least it is SOMETHING. Sheesh, this guy must have turned into a luddite!