Greetings from Seattle

My flight arrived last night in sunny warm Seattle. What a lovely place the Pacific Northwest is. Most of the spring flowers are at the end of their bloom peaks and it’s a lovely sight. This is such a wonderful place to be.

Summer is heating up

The temperatures in northern Michigan are finally rising and for many that we know, their schedules are heating up just as quickly. That is certainly the case for Jen and I. Today Jen leaves for Orlando for most of the week.

She get’s back Thursday and the following Tuesday, I hop on a Jet bound for Seattle for a long week. I’ll be spendng some time out there assisting Ricardo (Jen’s dad) after his foot surgery.

A few weeks later we hop back onto a Jet bound for Alaska for 9 days. There’s also that expense paid trip to a warm sunny Caribbean island that we have to take this year. At least we don’t have to worry about being bored. πŸ™‚

I’m stepping out of Point and Shoot

I’m selling my beloved Nikon Coolpix 995, so if you know of someone that’s interested in a good deal on a great little camera, have them take a look here. This is the camera that I’ve been carrying around for the last two years and enjoy so much. Why would I sell such a great camera?

As you may know, I forsook film long ago and will not ever again touch it. Not because it’s not good, because results can be achieved with film that will likely take at least 5 more years to accomplish with digital cameras. However, I’m a computer guy, so I want my photos to all end up on the computer, and I’m more than satisified with the performance of digital versus 35mm film.

In the digital camera world, there’s two classes of camera: P/S (point and shoot) and SLR (single lens reflex). Point and shoot digicams are ones that do nearly everything for you. You point them at something, push the shutter button and wait while it captures a good picture. SLR are the “pro” cameras. They’re big, heavy, require seperate lenses, and are terribly expensive (thousands of $). You do most of the work, push the button and it instantly captures what you are looking at.

The lower end of the digicam P/S market (~ $200) are selling like hotcakes and you seem then everywhere. They’re cheap, the photo quality is good for the price, but if you ever want to do anything with the photos, like say, print them, you will almost certainly be disappointed in the results. It’s generally accepted that quality is closely related to price.

The midrange of the market is the “sweet spot”. For $300-500 you can get a fantastic P/S camera that takes great pictures, even in the hands of a novice. The 8×10 prints are every bit as good as a 35mm enlargement. That’s the class my Coolpix 995 lives in, a great camera that makes it easy for photography amatuers like myself to take great shots you can print and share.

The high end of the P/S market pushes from $700-1000 and includes some excellent cameras that take fantastic photos. For the last couple years, I’ve patiently watched these cameras rapidly evolve, anticipating an upgrade when a camera significantly better than mine arrived. This would have been the next logical step in my photography growth.

However, something outside the Point and Shoot world finally happened that changed the rules. In the DSLR (digital SLR) world, the price point finally crossed the high end of the P/S market. Now, instead of spending close to a $1,000 on a high end P/S, I can buy a Canon EOS-300D or Nikon D70 for that same money. These new SLR cameras have nearly all the functionality (and more in cases) of a $3,000 DSLR camera a year or two ago.

What this means is that instead of packing along two pounds and a tiny bag of camera gear on my trips, I’ll be toting along a substantially bigger bag that weights more. I used to shake my head at pro photographers packing 10-15 pounds of photo gear into the outback. To get a photo you can blow up to hang on the wall, that’s the price you had to pay. Fortunately, the newer DSLR cameras are quite a bit lighter and so are the lenses so it won’t be quite so bad.

So, can you expect to see better quality photos on my web site soon? Not because of the camera upgrade. πŸ˜‰ The 995 is more than capable of capturing excellent photos for that purpose. The studying that I’ll be doing, the books I’m reading, and the time I spend practicing my photography skills will make that difference and my skills will continue to improve.

The difference moving up to the D70 will make is in what I can do with the photos. I have several “Wow, I show those?” photos in my library that are of sufficient quality that I’d like to blow them up and put them on my wall. However, the quality they were captured at is insufficient for this purpose. By stepping up to the D70, the capabilities are enhanced significantly beyond even the most expensive of the P/S cameras.

Spring in Michigan

Yes it is the end of April and this is what mother nature has in store for us. I can only hope that my flower bed doesn’t go into hiding.

Aprilsnow.jpg

Variety, a spice of life

While I dearly love the Seattle area, there is much to be said for life in Northern Michigan. While a native puget sound resident might not agree, there really is not seasons there. It’s spring in northern Michigan (finally) and the stark browns and whites of winter are faded away and replaced with green and all manner of flowering colors.

When the world is green all the time, the value of spring is diluted. Here, the hibernating world is springing to life. Jen’s flowers are all popping up, the grass is turning green, and the trees have buds on them. The sidewalks are dotted with people and pets. You can’t imagine how much more beautiful and special the spring season is until you’ve had a real winter.

ShopSafe is cool!

I’ve had a MBNA credit card for almost 10 years and have been very pleased with their service. Over time they have slowly inched my credit limit skyward and yesterday I noticed it was up to $42,000. So, I logged onto their web site to find the “lower my limit” button and couldn’t find it. What I found instead was the coolest new feature called ShopSafe.

ShopSafe is a free service that allows you to generate a temporary credit card number, with specified time and spending limits. The number is only valid for one merchant, with a capped limit and for a pre-defined number of months. How cool is that? Anyhow, I ended up calling them to get my credit limit drastically reduced. Since I never carry balances, I can’t imagine needing such an absurdly high limit.

Today I’m putting together a computer system for a client and needed to purchase $1,200 worth of computer equipment from a vendor I have never dealt with. Rather than giving them one of my credit card numbers, I logged onto my MBNA account, created a one time ShopSafe number with a $1300 limit, and gave that to them. Once they authorize the transaction, the number will not work for any other merchant, and they can’t charge me for any more than the limit I set. That’s very, very cool.

You could also use it for recurring transcactions, such as a magazine subscription. You could set the max amount to the annual subscription limit and a 12 month time limit. After your subscription expires, your vendor cannot overbill you or automatically re-subscribe you without you giving them a new number. Cool. πŸ™‚

We’re no longer pregnant

Yes, that is far from pleasant tidings. Our pregnancy just miscarried. We are going through the process of grieving and restoration. If you want to help us during this process, we welcome your prayers.

Did you know that more than 1 in four pregnancies end in miscarriage? Did you know that 1 in four zygotes (eggs) have a chromosomal abnormality? And did you know that 10% of sperm have chromosomal abnormalities? The latter statistics are best case, for healthy couples who aren’t exposed to known environmental factors (drugs, tobacco use, etc) that increase risk. I had no idea.