The Butterfly Pavilion

January 22, 2008

I found The Denver Digital Photography Meetup Group and went to the meetup at the Butterfly Pavilion and it was a nice trip. If there was any organized group stuff during or after (besides heading to the Rock Bottom Brewery after for lunch, but I don’t care for their food), I must have missed it. It would be nice to talk with other photographers and exchange tips and get some feedback on my techniques, etc. Maybe next meetup.

I was experimenting with a circular polarizer, but the side effect is I can’t see very well through the lens, so a lot of my shots were out of focus. I’ve also found that the autofocus doesn’t always catch what I want it to, so I tried manual mode … still not so great. 🙂

So, out of the 238 shots (that made it home), I have 15 below that were decent enough to look at again. More than I expected, actually, considering I was doing a *lot* of multiple shots and making minor tweaks between each shot (trying to get better with managing my exposure stops with the polarizer, etc).

Hopefully some of these look OK … feedback is always welcome.

Black and Red Butterfly 1 Black and Red Butterfly 2
752×500 (1/60) f/5.6 f(35)=300mm (flash) 752×500 (1/60) f/5.6 f(35)=300mm (flash)
 
Tiger butterfly Black and Red Butterfly
752×500 (1/60) f/5.6 f(35)=300mm (flash) 752×500 (1/60) f/5.6 f(35)=300mm (flash)
 
Brown Butterfly Two Butterflies
752×500 (1/15) f/5.6 f(35)=300mm 752×500 (1/60) f/5.6 f(35)=142mm (flash)
Hanging Fruit Hanging Flowers
752×500 (1/125) f/5.6 f(35)=300mm 752×500 (1/125) f/5.6 f(35)=157mm
 
Orange Flower Pink Flower
752×500 (1/320) f/5.6 f(35)=300mm 752×500 (1/80) f/5.6 f(35)=300mm
 
Horizontal Red Flower
752×500 (1/80) f/5.6 f(35)=142mm
 
Small Red Flowers Large Red Flower
500×752 (1/60) f/5.6 f(35)=187mm 500×752 (1/60) f/5.6 f(35)=142mm (flash)
 
Small Red Flowers 2 Big Flower
500×752 (1/125) f/5.6 f(35)=187mm 500×752 (1/60) f/5.6 f(35)=142mm (flash)
 

These are all re-sized down from JPG-Basic (and then re-sized again for the thumbnails), and are untouched from the camera. I’ve not post-processed anything yet. I do have RAW (Nikon) versions of each of these as well.

Advertisements

Proof That Autism Can Be Defeated!

January 16, 2008

Ok, maybe not completely defeated, but the news we got today just reaffirms my belief that hard work, building a great support team, and aggressive therapy can make the difference. That said, did we do everything possible? I don’t think so, but then again, if you think you’ve done it all, maybe you are missing something else. To put it in a sports metaphor, go 110% and leave it all on the field … but know that there is always something more you can challenge yourself to do better next round.

We followed up with J’s developmental evaluation (from early December 2007) with the therapists today. The ladies at Developmental FX are just awesome, and they really care about what they do. They did his developmental evaluation back in August 2006, where they couldn’t even do age appropriate testing (he was physically 4 years old) and pegged his development at 22 to 29 months of age (mental, speech, physical, etc). Keep in mind that those numbers were similar to the speech eval that was done at University of New Mexico Hospital in March 2005, and he had made _progress_ in the 3 months with us prior to his 2006 eval. Scary, eh?

Well, we have the “final” report, although we would like to work in inputs from J’s biological parents (where he is now), but they still haven’t submitted their forms or made an appointment to meet with Developmental FX yet. In a nutshell, Developmental FX was very happy (and maybe a little surprised) at how much J has grown. They now estimate him to be around the 52 month (4 years, 4 months) developmental stage. At the time of the eval, that puts him only about a year behind!

Through hard work, a great support team (both professional and personal), LOTS of positive re-enforcement, education (for us and J), a (very) little medication, the GF/CF diet, and just plain challenging him to develop and grow, we managed to do over 2 years of developmental growth in about 15 months. Something like 176% growth and developmental rate? I’ll take that! I think his rapid ascent makes it pretty obvious that _he_ was not the problem, but rather it was his old environment and lack of a good support team. Reading his old reports, he had some pretty good early intervention support, but somehow, it just didn’t stick.

Could *we* have done better? Probably! We did have quite a few hiccups along the way, and other external events that made it difficult for him to focus and increased his overall anxiety. As we got closer to what became the transition back to his parents, his anxiety level was visibly high — huge increases in his door fixation, thumb sucking back in full force, even some behaviors that were completely gone came back (like the head shaking) and more frequent hand flapping. He even lost some of his language and looked “lost” more often. It’s really sad to see a child fall apart right in front of your eyes.

Naturally, this report is bittersweet. We are very proud of the work we have done, the progress we’ve made together, and the foundation we’ve helped him build. At the same time, we can only hope that he continues to get the same support and dedication that we’ve given him over the last 20 months. Now that we are no longer directly in the picture, we have to rely on information that trickles back from his support team as well as others who we have crossed paths with and have taken an interest in him (he’s a really likable kid). As much as we’d like to continue to be involved in his day-to-day, the emotional trauma and mental distress that bouncing between the households was causing would more than counteract any benefit we could add — and that’s something that we think and grieve about every day.

We still believe that J has the ability to be mainstreamed, but he still has a long way to go. We know that his parents are busy and work and all of that, but we hope they can find a way to keep giving him the attention he will need to succeed and have a quality life (meanwhile, not ignoring his little sister, A). If they don’t help him succeed, it will be everyone’s loss — he’s a bright kid and has a lot to offer.

The take away from this? If you have a child with autism, DO NOT GIVE UP! Anything can happen, and if you WORK HARD and be open to new ideas, talk to your community and support professionals, build a network (personal and professional), you have a great chance of giving your child the ultimate gift — a quality, and independent life. There are no “do-overs” or “I’ll do it tomorrow”, only do it now. To quote our Jedi master Yoda, “there is no try, only do”.

Seriously, though, you are your child’s only true advocate. You may build a fantastic support network, but they are only there to support you help you and your child. The effort you put in will bring you rewards that money cannot buy.

Whether it is or isn’t someone’s fault that your child has autism, or that $deity is to blame or whatever is all TOTALLY IRRELEVANT. The issue at hand is WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO NOW! And that can only be TAKE ACTION. Time is running out, so get to it.

We did it in a short time, with no forewarning, no training, heck, not even a clear timeline or future. If we can, so can you.

Love your children and work your a$$ off now … you can always sleep next year. 🙂

add to del.icio.usDigg itStumble It!Add to Blinkslistadd to furladd to ma.gnoliaadd to simpyseed the vineTailRank


More Gluten Free / Casein Free (GF/CF) Links Added!

January 14, 2008

Thanks to a friend sending me a link to Hormel’s site, I finally got motivated to add a bunch more of my GF/CF links to my blogroll.

I hope some of these help you find more resources out there, but BE CAREFUL — manufacturers can change ingredients, manufacturing facilities, and processes at any time. Also, the web is never the final authority — CALL or WRITE the manufacturer or distributor and get the bottom line (in writing, if possible) from them.

Also, keep hounding your local grocery store to carry these products. Thanks to pressure from “the people”, Deby’s Gluten Free (soon to be renamed as “8 Free Foods”) will have a handful of products in our local King Sooper’s stores.

King Sooper’s also carries Boars Head meats, most of which are GF/CF (according to the rep I talked to a few months ago). Unfortunately, the KS near us doesn’t stock Boars Head yet, but we’re pestering away.

Also, in case I hadn’t mentioned it yet, Smuckers Jellies and Jams are supposedly all GF/CF (again, spoke to rep back in Sept 2007, so please re-confirm), as are Welsh(?) juices.

Sadly, our involvement with the GF/CF world will be largely from the outside looking in now. J and A have been rather abruptly transitioned back to their biological parents (for various reasons, not the least of which was the emotional trauma and mental/developmental damage the kids were experiencing from the bouncing between very different households). The generally accepted presumption was the kids were going to transition back to the parents at some point, and due to a series of events, that transition had to be a little more quick and final than expected.

To say we miss them dearly would be a gross understatement, and we’ll be cleaning and re-organizing the house for many weeks to come. They spent nearly 20 months with us, so they have left a very significant footprint in our home and hearts.

This saga is not over yet, as we still have court assigned custody issue to work out (among other things), and I think the training and life experience we’ve had through this will keep us active in the Autism advocacy arena. But for right now, we need to spend some time healing before we can engage again.

add to del.icio.usDigg itStumble It!Add to Blinkslistadd to furladd to ma.gnoliaadd to simpyseed the vineTailRank


What Makes Someone “Interesting”?

January 12, 2008

That was the topic at tonight’s philosophical discussion group (not the Thursday Socrates Cafe meetup, but another organized by John).

The discussion wandered around the concept of “what *is* ‘interesting’?” What makes something interesting, and what makes someone consider something interesting.

I think most of us agreed that determining if something is “interesting” lies with the beholder. Just as everyone has different views and opinions on things, that naturally translates to a level of interest.

One person suggested that he finds watching baseball uninteresting and wouldn’t do it by choice. He likes to *play* baseball, but from the observer point of view, it does nothing for him. He also mentioned that he doesn’t care for football, either, unless a team that he may have mild interest in is doing well and perhaps are in the playoffs.

This led me to suggest that perhaps “interest” has at least two components: intellectual and emotional. Also, I offer that the combination of the two must aggregate such that the level of “interest” is sufficient to overcome the inherent inertia of inaction.

This becomes apparent to me when you consider situations like the watching football only if the team is winning or is in a game of significance (i.e. a playoff game, the Superbowl, etc). Another example given was noticing a skydiver … it may be of mild interest to the observer, however, once the parachute opens, that interest may wain. But, what if the skydiver is a friend, the emotional component is likely increased sufficiently such that the observer’s interest level remains high enough to continue monitoring the activity.

However, I do not believe having sufficient “interest” is the only reason to pursue something or participate in an activity. For example, some work tasks aren’t exactly something of great interest, or perhaps a school assignment, or just cleaning the kitty litter box.

So, what makes someone “interesting”? Assuming that “interest” is from the observer’s point of view, a person or thing cannot be “interesting” in of itself, but rather it must satisfy a collection of intellectual and emotional stimuli of the observer in order to qualify. As these stimuli can expand and contract as the observer learns more about the subject, or as a result of time decay (or increased curiosity). “Loosing interest” could be a function of time decay or learning enough about the subject to realize that the emotional or intellectual stimulation is no longer prevalent enough to continue actively participating.

We also explored the observation that the typical human interest has an odd attraction to negative or dark attributes. For example, casual observation of the major media outlets clearly shows they have a disproportionate amount of negative news to positive news. Some postulated reasons for the gravitation to such dark actions like murder, theft, or revenge include:

  • Determining the “why” a person performed such actions (i.e. understanding the human condition)
  • An inherent desire or temptation within most people to perform a similar action. Obviously most people are not murderers, but most people *have had* an occasion where they would have the desire or temptation to act out of anger or frustration — just not enough to overcome the barrier of common sense or morality and take action. Perhaps also described as an unconscious jealousy of the perpetrator’s ability to act?

In the case of the person who proposed the topic, if he wanted to present himself as more “interesting” to other persons, he should probably find out what those persons found interesting and look inward to see if he had any overlap. If not, all is not lost, as he might just realize that something he hadn’t considered might actually be interesting to him after all, and that in itself could provide a basis for a conversation.

add to del.icio.usDigg itStumble It!Add to Blinkslistadd to furladd to ma.gnoliaadd to simpyseed the vineTailRank


Remove Tourists From Your Pictures … Legally!

January 7, 2008

Yep, it’s no longer necessary to pack your .45 to get rid of those pesky tourists when trying to take pictures while sightseeing. “Tourist Remover” by snapmania.com is a free tool that claims to allow you to take multiple shots from the same perspective (sounds easier with a tripod), and the “stuff” that is not-common across at least 2 shots will be removed from the composite image.

This really interests me, so I’m going to sign up — it’s a web access only tool. I shoot a lot of multiple images, so I’m hoping I can find a couple of images of the same framing that I can get some shots uploaded and test. It looks like you get 100MB free storage and the web application has all of the expected refinement and effect/enhancement tools, too.

In the meantime, they have 4 sample images to test the function with. You have to login to the the site and select the “Demo: Tourist Remover” folder, highlight all of the images, and hit the “Remove Tourists” function button (on the far right … on my window, I had to shift to the right to get to the button). Don’t forget to enable the site for a pop-up window! This brings you to a new page where you are recommended to order the images from most clear to least clear of your desired subject matter (left to right). Finally, hit the “Create” button to get your job submitted — my job was #333 in line.

It ran pretty quick and my notification e-mail was in my inbox right away.

The resulting image is placed back in your webspace on snapmania.com in a folder called “TouristRemover” (who wudda thunk?). Checking out the sample image, and it did indeed remove the people in it, but neither the source or final image is very sharp upon zoomed inspection.

Final answer is that I really need to upload some higher quality images to see what it will do.

add to del.icio.usDigg itStumble It!Add to Blinkslistadd to furladd to ma.gnoliaadd to simpyseed the vineTailRank


Fun Guitar Stuff

January 7, 2008

Wandering around, I came across a piece of software (haven’t gotten to try it yet, however) called “Guitar & Drum Trainer” from Renegade Minds. It allows you to play mp3’s and slow them down to make the track easier to learn. It also has some fun live graphs and charts while the track plays.

I’m curious about combining a tool like this with some good old fashioned cheater tabs (like at guitaretab.com). While learning to play (some semblance?) of the track, you can play along at a speed more comfortable to your skill level and then speed up to true tempo. I’m thinking this would be much easier than struggle trying to keep up with the track from the start.

Also, from guitartab.com, I found guitartricks.com. Seems like a neat concept … video lessons contributed by various instructors in many different musical styles. As of this writing, they are doing 24 free lessons and then only $10.95/month for full access. I’m curious how the quality of each lesson is (video, sound, and instructional effectiveness) … maybe I’ll give it a shot one of these days.

add to del.icio.usDigg itStumble It!Add to Blinkslistadd to furladd to ma.gnoliaadd to simpyseed the vineTailRank


Trying To Capture The Holiday Lights

January 5, 2008

After my meeting last night, I drove around downtown for a bit in search of the building they have lit up for the holidays (shown on the news and stuff as filler video). I finally found it, and after circling a few times in the dark, I found parking.

Even with a tripod, I’m still moving too much (I think) for clear shots, but I did get a few that are tolerable. Here’s one:

Holiday Lights

(Focal length: 38mm, 1/1.3 sec @ F/5, 0 EV, ISO 200)

And a fun one out of focus (intentionally)

Out of focus fun

(Focal length: 200mm, 1/2.5 sec @ F5.6, 0 EV, ISO 720)

It seems my Nikon D70 won’t let me use the timer in Manual mode, so I’m sure I contributed a bit of shake from handling and button pushing. Does this *really* make me want a new 18-200mm VR Nikor lens? YES! And I really need to get around to getting a remote control “clicker”, too.

Also, a new body would be cool, with a larger LCD screen. The D70 is a great camera, but the tiny LCD screen is hard for me to see how I’m doing and do course corrections in the field (when you need to do it).

add to del.icio.usDigg itStumble It!Add to Blinkslistadd to furladd to ma.gnoliaadd to simpyseed the vineTailRank